Recently several people have raised questions about antichrist ruling the world. These people had been exposed to denominational programs promoting the idea that Christians believe that an antichrist is about to take over the world and rule from David’s throne in Jerusalem.
We have repeatedly pointed out that Jesus did not promote a physical kingdom and He was not concerned about the kingdoms of this world. Jesus made it very clear that He was not establishing an earthly kingdom when He said, “Give to Caesar (earthly government) what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s” (Matthew 22:21).
So what does the Bible say about the antichrist and what about the number that is associated with him?
The word “antichrist” is used only five times in the Bible and all five uses are in the two epistles of John. The word “antichrist” is not found in the book of Revelation. According to John anyone who denies that Jesus came in the flesh is an antichrist (1 John 2:22 , 4:3, and 2 John 7). In other words “antichrist” refers to anyone who denies that God became human and dwelt among us (John 1:14). Historically there have been many antichrists, not just one (1 John 2:18).
Also it is important to note that John does not associate a number with an antichrist. The number 666 is found in Revelation 13. The meaning is unclear, but perhaps it is the symbolic number for a Roman emperor.
Jesus said His kingdom was “not of this world” (John 18:36). Attempts by denominational teachers to politicize the Bible and predict an antichrist ruling the world are not helpful. As John wrote two millennia ago, “…many antichrists have come.” We are waiting for the coming of Christ, and we don’t know when that will be.
–John N. Clayton © 2017
Time magazine (October 23, 2017, page 14) had an interesting article about a Japanese problem called “karoshi” meaning overwork death. The term was coined in 1978 and became widely acknowledged in the 1980s.
Japan has a working culture in which many employees put in as much as 80 hours of overtime in a month. Japanese researchers claim that the annual fatalities from overworking are at 10,000 deaths a year. South Korea and China are also facing the same problem, and Turkey reports similar data. I suspect that the same problem is occurring in the United States.
Why is this happening? Is it perhaps the emphasis on things and materialism that has fueled a willingness to work more hours than our bodies can physically tolerate? Overworking contributes to heart attack and stroke. It also leads to stress and poor nutrition which cause even more physical problems. The Time article concludes that “a lifestyle is taking its toll.”
Christ taught us not to worry about the things of this world. Spending time in prayer, meditation, study, and service to others not only has spiritual value, but it has physical value as well. Maintaining a survival-of-the-fittest belief system can lead to overwork death, and it is destructive in more ways than we thought.
–John N. Clayton © 2017
We have reported on challenges to freedom of religion in the United States. A growing number of religious freedom challenges have taken place on college campuses, specifically orchestrated to attack Christianity.
At Florida Atlantic University a student named Ryan Rotella refused to participate in a class exercise in which students were to write “Jesus” on a piece of paper and then stomp on it. He was suspended from the class and told not to return.
At Missouri State University Emily Booker was required to write to state legislators urging passage of homosexual adoption laws. She refused, and the university threatened to withhold her degree.
Several graduate-level counseling programs require students to counsel homosexual couples rather than refer them to other therapists for relationship counseling. At Missouri State University and Eastern Michigan University, students were expelled from the programs if they referred homosexual couples to another counselor.
You can read about those cases in Citizen magazine for October of 2017 (page 30).
Another case that is very disturbing involves Community College of Baltimore County in Maryland. A young man named Brandon Jenkins applied for admission to the radiation therapy program. Even though he exceeded the minimum requirements, the college denied him admission because he was a Christian. When an interviewer asked him what was the most important thing in his life he said that God is. When Jenkins asked why he was denied, the director and coordinator the radiation therapy program told him, “this field is not the place for religion.”
The job of a college or university is to educate students for the area of work they choose. It is not to tell them what to believe or force them into actions which go against their conscience. A young person should not face religious freedom challenges just to get an education. Students and parents can find help concerning religious freedom on campus at this website.
–John N. Clayton and Roland Earnst © 2017
Something that amazes me as I answer the questions and hate mail from our website is the incredible ignorance of not only the Bible but of the evidence for God’s existence.
Atheists are fond of saying “there is no scientific evidence for God’s existence.” Then they attempt to vilify Christianity by pointing to things done by people who claim to be Christians. With the growing number of atheist websites and the increasing participation of the media in these claims, people have embraced the idea that these notions are true.
You can find evidence for God’s existence in virtually every discipline of science. Genesis 1:1 gives us a series of choices that we must focus on to support faith in God. The account tells us that the universe had a beginning, that the beginning was caused, and that God caused it. The first two statements are scientifically addressable. Science has shown that there was a beginning. The evidence that time, space, and energy are not eternal is overwhelming. In our printed magazine, on our websites, and in our courses, we offer evidence for these statements. These choices do not require the Bible or any assumptions about God, so the assertion that we are just “spouting scripture” is not true.
Whether the cause of the beginning was God is a more complex issue because it is rooted in understanding God’s nature. Quantum mechanics, the work of Einstein, and modern work in physics have given us wonderful tools to understand the cosmos. The Bible becomes a necessary tool as we consider whether the biblical description of God fits the evidence that we see in the science disciplines. Most people have not fully grasped the concept of a being outside of time and space with the capacity to design intelligently all that we see around us. Their concept of God is simply too small, and that is true of atheists and believers alike.
Our primary goal is to encourage people to examine the evidence for God’s existence with an open mind. If people realize that materialism and naturalism may not hold all of the answers to the mysteries of creation, they may gain a mustard seed of faith that can move the mountain of disbelief.
–John N. Clayton © 2017
A newly released study indicates the dangers of long-term marijuana use. The bottom line is that it alters brain cells.
The study was published in Jneurosci (The Journal of Neuroscience) on October 16. The researchers focused on the ventral tegmental area (VTA) of the brain. Dopamine and serotonin receptors are concentrated there. Those receptors give a person the sensation of pleasure.
The scientists conducted the study on mice in their “teen” and “adolescent” stages of life. The mice received injections of THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) every day for a week. THC is the principle psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. Marijuana (as well as opioids and alcohol) stimulates the VTA to release dopamine resulting in an experience of pleasure and the desire for more. There is a GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) cell in the VTA which acts as an inhibitor. When the brain releases GABA, it serves to restrain the desire for pleasure and keep it under control.
In the week of receiving THC, the GABA neurons lost their ability to control the desire for pleasure. They were in a state of “long-term depression” (LTD). This caused the dopamine to remain longer in the VTA giving a sense of being “spaced out,” and leading to addiction.
The researchers stated that the long-term effect of the THC was to remodel the brain’s synapses resulting in reduced “synaptic plasticity.” The synapses carry electrical or chemical signals from one nerve cell (neuron) to another. This “synaptic modification” is changing the brain at the cellular level.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-5 defines cannabis (marijuana) use disorder as a “problematic pattern of cannabis use leading to clinically significant impairment or distress.” In other words, marijuana impairs the ability of people to do things they need to do or even want to do. We have cautioned before about the dangers of long-term marijuana use and the consequences of legalization and wide-spread availability. This study confirms that danger.
–Roland Earnst © 2017
On October 6 NASA’s daily space news website apod.nasa.gov contained pictures of a Martian global aurora. Because Mars has virtually no magnetic field, the radiation level goes sky high during solar storms. In the latest storm, radiation levels doubled–which would have been dangerous to life on Mars.
Earth’s magnetic field is very strong, and deflects radiation coming from the Sun. The radiation is deflected toward the poles, which is why we see the auroras near the poles. By deflecting the radiation, the magnetic field protects life on the Earth from dangerous levels. The more we learn about the cosmos, the more we see factors that make life possible on Earth. Our magnetic field is one more example of the design of our planet.
Looking for life in space is not just about whether there is water on a planet. There are a huge number of other factors that must be present. A strong magnetic field to shield from radiation is just one of those factors. Of course, an atmosphere suitable for life is also a requirement. NASA has a space probe called MAVEN (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN) orbiting Mars. The purpose is to find out if Mars lost its atmosphere due to not having a strong magnetic field.
The Martian global aurora is just one more reminder of the blessing of life on planet Earth. It also indicates that life on this planet is no accident.
–John N. Clayton © 2017
We have two important books—the Book of Scripture and the Book of Nature. We believe they both have the same Author. By studying both books, we can learn about God.
In Psalms 19 of the Book of Scripture, we read about the important message of the Book of Nature. Verses 1 and 2 tell us that, “The heavens declare the glory of God. The skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech, night after night they display knowledge.” The Psalmist tells us that the Book of Nature is more than written words. It’s a book that actually speaks.
He continues in verses 3 and 4, “There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out to all the earth; their words to the ends of the world.” We have to translate the written words of Scripture into the languages of the world’s people. The language of the Book of Nature is universal and even speaks to the illiterate. Since the Book of Nature speaks in all languages, Paul could write, “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse” (Romans 1:20).
Of course, the Book of Nature can’t tell us everything we need to know. Nature tells us that God exists and it tells something about His qualities. Salvation comes through hearing the Scriptures (Romans 10:17). The Bible tells us about Jesus–God in the flesh. It tells us of His sacrifice for our sins. It tells us what we should do to receive the free gift God offers.
The important point to remember is that nature points beyond itself. The more we learn about the natural world, the more the Book of Nature speaks to us. It tells us there is a powerful God of wisdom to create such a complex, fine-tuned, dynamic universe. Nobody can honestly say they don’t know the language. “Their voice goes out to all the earth.” Since the language is universal, those who refuse to listen are “without excuse.”
The Book of Nature speaks to all who will listen, and that is the message of the DOES GOD EXIST? program. Science and faith are friends.
–Roland Earnst © 2017
One of the problems both skeptics and believers have to deal with is the meaning of words. Words have different meanings depending on where you live and when you live. The phrase “he is gay” has a whole different meaning today than when I was in high school in 1955.
The July issue of Reader’s Digest carried an article about the differences in English word usage and meanings in today’s America. The magazine gave examples of words that mean different things in different geographic locations.
There are also different words used for the same thing in different parts of the country. While in some areas the phrase is “you all” in the south it is more commonly “y’all, ” and in Pennsylvania, it’s “yinz.” In the west, it’s called a drinking fountain, while easterners tend to call it a water fountain, and in Wisconsin, it’s a bubbler. In the west, they are fireflies while in the east and south they are lightning bugs. While in other areas of the country they may be traffic circles or roundabouts, in Massachusetts they are rotaries. In some areas it’s soda, and in others it’s pop. There are many other differences, but you get the idea.
Can you imagine the trouble we have in trying to understanding the full meaning of the Hebrew or Greek words of the Bible texts? It reminds us that when we are dealing with Scripture, we need to consider some important things. We must keep in mind who wrote it, to whom it was written, why it was written, and how the people of that time and place would have understood it. Failing to consider those things has caused many misunderstandings.
Here is one final thing to consider. Not only does the meaning of words and the words we use vary, but also the way we pronounce them can be different. How many syllables do you think there are in the word caramel?
–John N. Clayton © 2017
It never ceases to amaze me how some skeptic attacks never seem to go away. One of the more bizarre has to do with Noah’s son Ham. Some atheists claim that the story of Ham was invented to justify the persecution of people of color and the use of slaves.
They base their attack on the story recorded in Genesis 9:20-29. After the flood of Noah, Ham discovered his father drunk and naked. Ham told about it, exposing his father to ridicule. Noah’s other sons, Shem and Japheth, discretely covered their father to avoid embarrassment. When Noah recovered his sobriety, he cursed Ham and blessed Shem and Japheth. Some skeptics claim that the name Ham means “dark or swarthy” and that this is an attack on people of color.
However you interpret the story of Ham, it has no relevance to Christianity. Jesus did away with all such boundaries. Passages like Galatians 3:28 make that clear by telling us, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” It is highly unlikely that the intent of the name of Noah’s son Ham referred to skin color or that such characteristic would be passed on to all his progeny.
The message we should take from the story is that we need to care for one another and support each other even in weakness. Instead of quietly covering his father and keeping the incident to himself, Ham disgraced his father. Galatians 6:1-2 tells Christians to gently restore those who sin and bear each other’s burdens. There is no place for disgracing, shaming, or making fun of someone who fails. And there is no excuse for treating anyone differently because of skin color.
–John N. Clayton © 2017
One of the things high-school chemistry students have to learn is how to use a periodic table of the elements. As we worked with the chart, I almost always had a student ask me how the natural elements of the periodic table came into existence. Our textbook simply said that the elements were produced by “the event that produced the universe.”
Dr. Timothy C. Beers is the chair of astrophysics in the College of Science at the University of Notre Dame. The Notre Dame Magazine for Autumn 2017 contains an interesting article about his efforts to understand the processes that formed the natural elements of the periodic table. Dr. Beers calls it “Galactic Archaelogy.”
Beers was the first scientist to identify “carbon-enhanced metal-poor stars.” These stars appear to have formed very early in the creation of the universe, and thus they give a window into the past. When the universe was created, only hydrogen and helium were present. Beers and his fellow researchers are working to understand what is called a rapid neutron-capture process. When neutrons bombard the lighter elements, some of those neutrons latch on and create heavier elements. As we watch that process taking place, we see that producing the elements heavier than hydrogen and helium requires a more complex process than anyone could imagine.
The Bible simply says, “In the beginning, God created the heavens (outer space) and the earth (elements that make up our planet).” God doesn’t tell us how He did it, but Genesis 2:3 tells us that God created (did a miraculous event that humans cannot do) and made (did an event that we can do and understand). The team that Dr. Beers leads is trying to understand how God did it.
Understanding how God created the stuff that makes up our bodies is a part of seeing the handiwork of God. Dr. Beers says, “I think human beings want to know the story,” and he says that his work will surely produce a religious response. The design of the natural elements of the periodic table is amazing. Learning how God formed them is a rich source of data about God’s design and creative wisdom.
In Proverbs 8:22-23 wisdom speaks of the creation, “The Lord possessed me in the beginning of His way, before His works of old. I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the Earth was.” Knowing how God did the marvelous creation we see around us includes the very large such as the Grand Canyon and the very small such as quarks. Understanding how He made the elements is one of the most astounding evidences of design we can see in the cosmos.
–John N. Clayton © 2017