What are the Holy Scriptures?

The Holy Scriptures are found in the Bible. The Old Testament books are the Jewish Scriptures. The New Testament books are the Scriptures that explain how Jesus Christ fulfilled the prophecies of the Old Testament. Both testaments form a unified story about the creation, fall, redemption, and restoration of humanity and all of God’s creation. This story is a true revelation from God Himself and inspired by the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Scriptures are the only sufficient, certain, inerrant, and infallible way that we can know the true God, His standard for righteous living, and His plan of salvation. General revelation from nature shows God’s goodness, wisdom, and power, so there is no reason why people should say that there is no Creator. Still, this natural general revelation is insufficient to provide knowledge of God and His will that is necessary for salvation. Therefore, God revealed Himself at different times and in various ways to declare His will to His Church. Afterward, He had people write down His specially revealed truth to preserve and propagate it. Therefore, the Holy Scriptures are necessary now that God no longer reveals Himself in His former ways.

The Holy Scriptures of the Old Testament are the following Hebrew books: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 & 2 Samuel, 1 & 2 Kings, 1 & 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. The Holy Scriptures of the New Testament are the following Greek books: Matthew; Mark; Luke; John; Acts; Romans; 1 & 2 Corinthians; Galatians; Ephesians; Philippians; Colossians; l & 2 Thessalonians; 1 & 2 Timothy; Titus; Philemon; Hebrews; James; 1 & 2 Peter; 1, 2 & 3 John; Jude; and Revelation.

The books commonly called “The Apocrypha” were not divinely inspired and are not considered Scripture. Therefore, they have no authority in the Church and have no use other than as ordinary human writings.

The Holy Scriptures’ authority comes from God Himself, for He is their author. The Scriptures’ authority does not come from any person or the Church. Therefore, the Church receives the Scriptures because they are the very words of God. The Church’s testimony may persuade people to regard the Scriptures highly. However, the full persuasion of its truth comes from God the Holy Spirit, who bears witness to it.

The Holy Scriptures are complete, and nothing more should be added to them. Nevertheless, the Holy Spirit may illuminate people’s understanding of the Scriptures and how to wisely apply them today.

Some things in the Scriptures are not immediately plain and clear to everyone. However, all that is necessary to know and believe for salvation is clear and plain so that anyone may clearly understand it through ordinary means.

The human authors penned the Old Testament in Hebrew and the New Testament in Greek. God the Holy Spirit inspired the books in these languages. However, God’s people have a right to read and understand the Scriptures, so they should be faithfully and accurately translated into other languages.

The best interpreter of Scripture is Scripture. If a portion of Scripture is not immediately clear, readers should consult other portions that address the same doctrine to form a clearer picture of the Scriptures’ teachings.

The Scriptures are the supreme judge for all religious controversies. Opinions and the decrees of councils should be accepted or rejected based on a faithful interpretation of the Holy Scriptures.

The Mark of the Beast and COVID Vaccines

So many conspiracy theories are circulating about the COVID vaccines. One of these theories is that the vaccines are somehow the Mark of the Beast in Revelation. The conspiracy is that these vaccines somehow have the ability to implant microchips into patients so that the Antichrist can track what we do, and Bill Gates is somehow involved.

Revelation is a difficult letter to interpret, and it still perplexes and fascinates both Christians and non-Christians alike. As I wrote about before, there are different views on Revelation and the end times that are within the scope of sound doctrine.

I could be wrong, but do you think ancient first-century Christians in Asia Minor (the recipients) thought about microchips and vaccines when they read Revelation? Several biblical scholars see several allusions to Old Testament passages in Revelation. Does anyone else see the relationship between Revelation 13:16 and Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and Matthew 21:12? Let’s look at those three passages:

And it was allowed to give breath to the image of the beast, so that the image of the beast might even speak and might cause those who would not worship the image of the beast to be slain. Also it causes all, both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave, to be marked on the right hand or the forehead, so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name. This calls for wisdom: let the one who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man, and his number is 666.

Revelation 13:15-18, ESV. Emphasis mine.

Here is the Shema found in Deuteronomy:

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

Deuteronomy 6:4-9, ESV. Emphasis mine.

Here is Matthew’s account of Jesus driving out the money-changers from the Temple:

And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. 

Matthew 21:12, ESV. Emphasis mine.

Are you aware that the Hebrew cryptogram (the sum of the numerical value of letters in a Hebrew word or phrase) for Caesar Nero equals 666? There are alternate manuscripts that read 616. Guess what an alternate spelling of Caesar Nero totals? 616! I’m sure the recipients were not thinking about Bill Gates!

Could it be that the Mark of the Beast is referring to apostate Jews making a mockery of the Jewish religion as they recited the the Shema every day? These apostates’ hearts were far away from God because they rejected their Messiah. Could it be that buying and selling refer to the mockery these apostates made of the temple?

The Romans granted Jews some degree of freedom as part of their political arrangement. As Christianity became recognized as a distinct religion from Judaism, both Jews and Romans persecuted the early Christian church. Could it be that the Jews were guilty of adulterating the covenant they made with God with Rome?

Speaking of adultery, in Revelation 17, we see a harlot seated on the Beast. Take note of what she is wearing and compare it with the priestly garments in Exodus 28.

And he carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness, and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was full of blasphemous names, and it had seven heads and ten horns. The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and jewels and pearls, holding in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the impurities of her sexual immorality. And on her forehead was written a name of mystery: “Babylon the great, mother of prostitutes and of earth’s abominations.” And I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of the martyrs of Jesus.

Revelation 17:3-6, ESV. Emphasis mine.

“And they shall make the ephod of gold, of blue and purple and scarlet yarns, and of fine twined linen, skillfully worked. It shall have two shoulder pieces attached to its two edges, so that it may be joined together. And the skillfully woven band on it shall be made like it and be of one piece with it, of gold, blue and purple and scarlet yarns, and fine twined linen. You shall take two onyx stones, and engrave on them the names of the sons of Israel.

Exodus 28:6-9, ESV. Emphasis mine.

Could it be that the harlot of Babylon is another reference to apostate Jews? In the Old Testament, the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem and exiled the Jews. Could it be that the apostate Jews are ironically portrayed as Babylon for persecuting faithful Jewish Christians (see Acts 6:1-8:2)? As for the apostates’ judgment, the Beast (i.e., Rome) with whom they have had a love affair is to attack them (Revelation 17:15-18). The Jewish age came to an end in 70 AD with the destruction of Jerusalem. The faithful remanent of Jewish Christians were preserved and the gospel of Christ went out to the Gentiles (see Peter’s vision in Acts 6:9-23 and also Romans 11).

Also, consider that the Beast’s seven heads in Revelation 17:9-11 is further evidence that Nero is referenced. The seven hills is a reference to the seven hills of the city of Rome. The heads of the Beast represent different Roman emperors. If we start with Julius as the first emperor (as many ancients did) and count forward through the first five that have fallen, the sixth one in line is Nero. Rome had a civil war after the seventh king, Galba, who was emperor “for a little while” (approximately seven months). Rome nearly collapsed after that civil war. An eighth mentioned is Vespasian, who resurrects the empire and “goes to his destruction.” Under Vespasian, Rome attacked Jerusalem and destroyed the temple during the First Roman-Jewish War in 70 AD.

Also, note that there appears to be a standing temple in Jerusalem in Revelation 11. There is no temple in the city by the book’s end (Revelation 21:22).

Could it be that the events leading up to the destruction of Jerusalem in the late 60s of the first century and ending in 70 are the key to interpreting Revelation? I believe the internal evidence from the text demonstrates that is the case. Debates continue whether John actually wrote Revelation in the 60s. If so, then this book is a prophecy about Christ’s immediate judgment of unfaithful Jews with His second coming in the distant future to judge the nations.

Today’s majority scholarly opinion is that John wrote Revelation around 95 AD, but this may not rule out a narrative that starts in the late 60s and ends with the second coming. If John indeed wrote Revelation c. 95 AD, he could be describing the future second coming of Christ in types based on the events leading up to 70, linking the theme of Christ’s judgment found in the two events together.

Why do people today think that Revelation is written to them? Yes, it is written for them to apply its principles today. The book is not about them or else what would be the immediate context for the original recipients?

There are certainly many things from Revelation that we can apply to our lives during this crazy time. Rejecting a life-saving vaccine is not one of them, though. My conviction is that the COVID vaccine is not the Mark of the Beast. No one is making anyone renounce God when taking the shot, and no, there are no microchips in the shot either. Do as you wish, but I urge you to take the vaccine if it is suitable for your health. Let’s all do our part to knock COVID out and end this pandemic.

What are the Different Views on the End Times?

Many people wonder how the world will end, considering all the terrible things today. The chances are that someone will come across this post with the same concerns and anxieties. It is in our nature to want to know the future. Scriptures about the end only add to our interest, excitement, and imagination when details about these events are encrypted in symbolism.

Perhaps Christianity’s most widely debated major doctrine is eschatology, the branch of theology that deals with the end times. Revelation and other Bible passages about the end times are interesting but often controversial. These passages can create a very intense and heated debate. The end has not occurred yet, so it is difficult to correctly interpret what the Bible says about the future with great certainty.

Eschatology is much broader than the study of the world’s fate before Christ’s return. Heaven, hell, the eternal state of the earth, and the eternal state of humanity are among the subjects of eschatology.

Christians agree on at least four things about the end times:

  1. The souls of all who are saved in Christ will be present with Him in heaven after death.
  2. Christ will physically return in the future.
  3. The resurrection of the dead will occur after the return of Christ.
  4. Christ will righteously judge the living and the dead when he returns. The saved in Christ will dwell in a restored creation, the “new heavens and earth.” The unsaved will be in hell.

The Church universally accepts these four teachings about the end times. However, it remains divided over how to explain and defend those teachings. The systems are largely defined by how they explain the timing and nature of the millennium kingdom in Revelation 20.

  • Premillennialism: Christ will return to establish a future, literal millennium kingdom before the new heavens and earth. The 1000 year time period is usually, though not always, thought to be a literal 1000 year period.
  • Amillennialism: The millennial kingdom refers to the present-day spiritual reign of Christ. There is no literal kingdom until Christ’s return. The 1000 years is usually thought to be symbolic of a very long period.
  • Postmillennialism: The millennial kingdom refers to the Church’s gradual expansion over the earth before the second coming of Christ. The Church, reigning with Christ, spreads the gospel to the nations through the Great Commission, and Christ’s teachings transform cultures over time. Many contemporary postmillennialists, like the amillennialists, believe the 1000 year time period is symbolic of a long period over which the world is gradually converted to Christianity. However, some have thought that it is a literal 1000 year Christian golden age preceding Christ’s return.

Some people are facetiously called panmillennial, as in “everything will pan out in the end.” So-called panmillennials are not necessarily indifferent to understanding the end times. They choose not to side with a particular system because they see aspects of truth in each of them.

Different schools of thought have formed within these three systems. There are different opinions regarding the timing of the events, particularly the events described in Revelation.

  • Futurism: All (or most) of the events will occur in our future.
  • Historicism: The events are a prophetic outline of Church history that occur between the first and second coming of Christ. The events, therefore, are unfolding today.
  • Preterism: As the Latin-based name suggests, preterists believe the “end times” events have already occurred in our past. Preterists within the scope of sound doctrine (usually called partial-preterists who are either amillennialists or postmillennialists) still believe that the second coming of Christ, the resurrection, and judgment occur in our future at the end of the millennium. Everything else, though, has already (or mostly) been fulfilled.
  • Idealism: The end times events do not occur in space or time but are symbolic of what happens to the Church throughout time until the second coming of Christ.
  • Eclecticism: The end times events do not neatly fit a particular timeframe. This approach may combine futurist, historicist, preterist, and idealist interpretations.

Furthermore, there are different approaches to interpreting the entire Bible as a whole. These interpretative frameworks play a role in one’s understanding of the end times. Though there are more than two frameworks that Christians hold to, the two most common are dispensational theology and covenant theology.

  • Dispensational Theology: God has divided redemptive history into different dispensations. Israel and the Church are distinct groups, and he will deal with each separately. Most dispensationalists today believe that modern Israel is the rebirth of biblical Israel. God is drawing history to a close as He fulfills remaining promises in their literal (or sometimes wooden) sense to the Jewish people. The popular Left Behind book series portrays this view.
  • Covenant Theology: Redemptive history can be described in terms of covenants. Since there is one redemptive history that unfolds through these covenants, there is no distinction between Israel and the Church. Today, Israel consists of messianic Jews and Gentiles who have been adopted and grafted into Israel’s family tree through Christ.

So, when we consider all these possibilities, there are four major views that most Christians divide over.

  • Dispensational Premillennialism
  • Covenantalism 
    • Historic Premillennialism
    • Amillennialism
    • Postmillennialism

Though only one (or perhaps none) of these is the truth, it is healthy to discuss and debate these issues.