28 October, 2007

Immortality of the Soul - Absurdities To Consider

Believers in the concept of an immortal soul should consider some "difficulties" that exist if in fact all men have immortal souls:
1) Why did God not reveal that all men have immortal souls right from the beginning? The book of Genesis is silent about such a doctrine. There is no mention of eternal torments for the souls of the wicked in Genesis, or in Exodus, etc... Would not something so important and vital to the well-being of all mankind be revealed right from the beginning? Many Christians point out that the doctrine of immortal souls and their eternal torment in hell was something that was hidden from the Hebrews and only in the New Testament was this "truth" fully revealed. If this be the case, then one must admit that God kept this "truth" a near-secret for thousands of years, waiting only for Jesus and his disciples to appear and reveal this truth to their listeners. Do you have any idea of how many ignorant, wicked "souls" from Adam to Christ entered an eternity of suffering and torment simply because it wasn't time to reveal this truth to them during their eras?
2) If all men have immortal souls, it begs the question: when exactly did these immortal souls come into existence? Does an unborn baby have an immortal soul? Does a fetus have an immortal soul? Does a fertilized egg at conception have an immortal soul? If so, what do these immortal souls look like if the unborn baby dies in the womb? Does the soul of a stillborn baby instantly gain full adulthood in appearance when they reach heaven (or hell)? Do the souls of these dead babies have fully developed brains when they reach heaven (or hell)? Where will they have gained the knowledge to speak and the powers of memory and reason? What does instantly elevating a dead baby into the presence of Jesus in heaven do to the core doctrines of the Christian faith, such as, "Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him." (Hebrews 11:6) and "If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved; for with the heart man believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation." (Romans 10:10)?
3) If an immortal soul comes into existence at the moment an egg is fertilized in the mother's womb, then that would mean that our immortal soul at one point did not exist. If this be true, then why is it inconceivable that this immortal soul could not once more cease from existing? In other words, if our soul at one time did not exist, why cannot that state of non-existence repeat itself?
4) If immortal souls have bodies -- fingers, toes, eyes, etc. (based upon Luke 16 and the parable of Lazarus and the rich man) then what use is there for a resurrected body? If the soul has a physical appearance, with human appendages, then the body rotting in the grave is of no further use, and reuniting the immortal soul with its resurrected body at a future date would be useless. William Tyndale, who first translated the Bible into English made the point:

"And ye, in putting them (the dead) in heaven, hell and purgatory, destroy the arguments wherewith Christ and Paul prove the resurrection....if the souls be in heaven, tell me why they be not in as good a case as the angels be? And then what cause is there of a resurrection.... The true faith puteth forth the resurrection, which we be warned to look for every hour. The heathen philosophers, denying that, did put that the souls did ever live. And the pope joineth the spiritual doctrine of Christ and the fleshy doctrine of philosophers together: things so contrary that they cannot agree....And because the fleshy-minded pope consenteth unto heathen doctrine, therefore he corrupteth the Scripture to establish it."

William Tyndale was able to see what most in our day cannot. A resurrection of those who are still alive (in heaven or hell) is no resurrection at all but an empty show.

Consider what the Apostle Paul had to say concerning the necessity of the resurrection:

But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. 1 Cor 15:13-18
5) The belief that the righteous and wicked go to their reward in heaven or hell not only destroys the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead, but it destroys the core doctrine of the necessity of Jesus' death. If Abraham and Lazarus and all the ancient faithful were rewarded for their lives of righteousness BEFORE Jesus was even born and died, then why did Jesus have to die in the first place? Obviously Abraham got to "paradise" without Jesus, so why does one need Jesus in the first place?
6) And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire. Revelation 20:13, 15

What purpose is the Final Judgment if all men and their immortal souls are judged immediately upon death? What sense is there in calling back the dead from "hell"? If the "damned" are sent to a fiery, eternal torment when they die, then what is the logic of judging them a second time at the "Final Judgment"? Will there be new evidence that will exonerate some of the damned so that a new "final" verdict will move them from hell to heaven? Will new witnesses come forward to testify that some of the wicked were in fact righteous and that they were assigned to the fiery torment in error? If not, then what purpose does it serve to raise the dead? Is not their future fate the same as the one they were experiencing prior to the Final Judgment?

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24 October, 2007

Who are the Christadelphians?

First Century Patterns
The Christadelphians are a small religious body who have attempted to get back to the faith and character of the early Christian church. We have been in existence for nearly 150 years. The name "Christadelphians" comes from two Greek words and means "brothers in Christ".
Col 1v2, Heb 2v11

We are located in many countries throughout the world with large groups of Christadelphians in the United Kingdom and Europe, Australia and New Zealand, North America, South East Asia and Africa. Like the early Christians, we meet in homes, rented rooms and, in some cases, our own halls.
Acts 1v13-14, 2v46-47, 18v7, 19v9, 28v30

We are a lay community patterned after first century Christianity. Each congregation is called an "ecclesia" (the New Testament word for church). We have no paid clergy or church hierarchy. Members of each congregation are addressed as 'brother' or 'sister', and all are involved in organising our activities. All members contribute their time and energy voluntarily in service to God. A strong common belief binds our brotherhood together.
Rom 12v4-8,1Cor 12v4-27, Gal 3v28

We accept the Bible as our only guide and believe it to be the inspired word of God. Membership is extended to those with similar beliefs after being baptised (fully immersed in water).

A Brief History
Many believers since the apostles have held the same faith as the Christadelphians. There have been countless independent communities around the world who have eagerly studied the Bible and accepted its simple teachings.

The Christadelphians trace their history to the mid-1800s. In 1830, an English physician named John Thomas sailed to America. On the voyage, the ship met some unexpected bad weather and nearly sank. For the first time, Dr Thomas faced the reality of his own mortality and was dismayed to discover that he was not sure what lay beyond death. In the midst of the storm he vowed that, should he survive, he would not rest until he had found a satisfactory answer.
He did survive and kept his vow, beginning a life-long search for the truth. It soon became evident that many of the doctrines that were popularly taught and believed were inconsistent with the Bible. Dissatisfied, Dr Thomas devoted himself to a careful independent study of the Scriptures. He made no claim to any vision or personal revelation.

The work of Dr Thomas attracted the support of others in America and Britain who were convinced of the truth of his conclusions. Together they formed the Christadelphian community. Since then, Christadelphian communities have been established in many countries all over the world.

Our Beliefs
The Bible
We believe that the Bible is God's only revealed message to mankind, given to bring responsive individuals to the obedience of faith. The Bible is our only authority and we teach that it should be read prayerfully and with care at every opportunity.
Acts 17v11, Rom 16v26, 2 Tim 3v16-17, 2 Pet 1v20-21

There is only one eternal, immortal God. Jesus Christ is his only begotten son and the Holy Spirit is his power.
Isa 45v5-7, Luke 1v35, Acts 1v8, 1Cor 8v6, 1Tim 1v17, 2v5

Man is mortal and a sinner before God. His whole being is prone to sin and the punishment for sin is death the end of all life.
Jer 17v9, Mark 7v21-23, Rom 3v23, Jms 1v13-15, Rom 6v23, Ecc 9v5-10, Psa 146v4

In his love, God sent his son, the man Jesus into the world to save men from their sins. Those who believe in him will not perish, but have everlasting life.
Mat 1v20-21, 3v17, Luke 1v35, John 3v16

The only hope of life after death is the resurrection of the body and everlasting life in God's kingdom on earth.
Psa 49v12-20, John 11v25-26, Acts 24v15, Rom 8v22-39, 1 Cor 15v12,50, Rev 5v10, 20v4

Sacrifice of Christ
Jesus was sinless. He died to show God's righteousness and to redeem those who receive this sacrifice by faith. God raised him from the dead, gave him immortality, granted him all authority in heaven and on earth, and set him as the mediator between God and man.
Rom 3v21-26, Eph 1v19-23, 1 Tim 2v5-6, Heb 4v14-16

Return of Jesus
Jesus will return to the earth soon. Then he will raise many of the dead, judge them with the living, and give his faithful followers everlasting life in the kingdom of God.
Dan 12v2, Mat 25v31-34, Luke 21v20-32, John 5v28-29, Acts 1v11, 2 Tim 4v1, Rev 22v12

Kingdom of God
The kingdom of God will be established on earth. Jesus will be king in Jerusalem, his dominion worldwide and his government will bring eternal righteousness and peace.
Pss 72, Isa 2v2-4, 9v6-9, 11v1-9, 61, Jer 3v17, Dan 2v44, 7v14,27, Acts 3v21

The Promises
The Gospel is inseparable from the promises which God made to Abraham and David in Old Testament times. These promises find their fulfilment in Jesus Christ.
Gen 13v14-17, 22v15-18, 2 Sam 7v12,16, Luke 1v31-33, Gal 3v6-9,16,26-29

The Way of Salvation
The way to enter the kingdom of God is by faith. This involves belief in the Bible and obedience to its requirements that men and women confess their sins, repent, be baptised and follow Jesus faithfully.
Mat 16v24-27, Mark 16v16, John 3v3-5, Acts 2v37-38, 4v12, 1 Thess 2v13, 2 Tim 3v15, Heb 11v6

Some Important Differences
Often we are asked, "How are you different from other Christian groups"? Apart from our distinctive organisation (with no clergy or hierarchy), some of our doctrines are quite different from most churches.

For example, we reject the doctrine of a 'Trinity'. This doctrine developed in the 300 years after Jesus died as a result of disputes within the orthodox church. The Bible teaches that Jesus was the Son of God but nowhere does it speak of him 'pre-existing' in heaven as "God the Son".

We also reject the idea of an "immortal soul" that goes to heaven at death. The Bible teaches that the only hope for eternal life is through a resurrection when Jesus returns.

Another difference is that we believe that baptism is essential and for adults only. We believe that sprinkling of babies is not baptism.

We also believe that the Bible uses the 'devil' as a symbol of sinful human nature, and so we reject the doctrine of a supernatural tempter.

Our Way of Life
The Bible gives effective direction to our lives. We try to rely fully upon God and develop a faith which is active in prayer and good works. At the same time, however, we recognise that salvation is by grace.

With God's help, we seek to please and obey him every day, striving to imitate Christ who faithfully obeyed his Father. We therefore endeavour to be enthusiastic in work, loyal in marriage, generous in giving, dedicated in preaching and happy in our God.

A widespread custom amongst Christadelphians is to read the Bible every day using a reading plan which enables us to systematically read the Old Testament once and the New Testament twice each year. Of course, many read much more widely than this.

We may also attend one or more evening Bible classes each week. Every Sunday, we attend a service we call the "Memorial Meeting" or "Breaking of Bread". This is similar to the "Communion" of some churches. All members partake of bread and wine and an 'exhortation' is given based on the Bible. Attendance at this service is the focus of our religious life.

We also have Sunday Schools and Youth Groups; a weekend away at a Bible Study camp is always popular with Christadelphian young people.

Some members travel overseas on mission work; others care for the elderly in our nursing homes and hostels. There are several monthly magazines to read (and write).

The Christadelphians are a close-knit community working in God's service in whatever ways we can.

Hard copies of this leaflet are available from:
Bethel Publications, P.O. Box 285, Beechworth, VIC 3747, Australia.


08 October, 2007

When Exactly Was Jesus Born?

The short answer is that nobody knows exactly. The year that seems to have the most votes in favour of it is 6 BC. In any case the birth of the Lord must have been at least during or before 4 BC because that is the year of the death of Herod "The Great." Here is a timeline taken from Wikipedia the online Encyclopedia:
  • c. 6 BC – Suggested birth (earliest)
  • c. 5 BC – Herod the Great's death (earliest)
  • c. 1 BC – Herod the Great's death (latest)
  • c. 6 AD – Suggested birth (latest), Quirinius census
  • c. 26/27 AD – Pontius Pilate appointed governor of Judea
  • c. 27 AD – Suggested death (earliest)
  • c. 36 AD – Suggested death (latest)
  • c. 36/37 AD – Pilate removed from office
The consensus favours a date between 4 BC and 6 BC as the date of our Lord's birth. However, the exact date isn't really of that much importance. The fact of his birth, his life and work, his sacrifice and his resurrection are what really matter. The fact that he will soon return to fulfill his prayer, "Thy Kingdom come; Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven" is of primary importance to us while speculation about the exact year of his birth, while of interest, is, relatively speaking, of little importance.


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