Before I delve too much into this topic, please allow me to go back into my post history and retrieve a posting which, if you read it, will give you an idea of where my beliefs come from and what is the core of my belief. This link will take you to the post entitled, “Religious Beliefs.”
On the RV Dreams forum, one of the members, a friend of mine with whom I’ve shared Chocolate Chip ice cream, made a comment on his beliefs in Christianity. It should come as no surprise to many that I differ from him and many others. Let me explain.
Over the years, I have taken at least a serious passing interest in the different religions, and thus have given some study and thought to them. Just as there are significant differences between Judaism, Christianity and Islam, there are also significant differences within each religion.
There are numerous “sects,” if you will, within Judaism that I won’t even begin to try to list. Instead, allow me to provide a link to a Wikipedia posting about Judaism:
Within Islam, there are at least three major sects, being Shia, Sunni, and Sufi. For more on Islamic sects, see this link:
Within both Judaism and Islam, there are differences in beliefs between the various sects of each religion. They tend to differ on interpretations of each of their “holy” books. Those differences can lead to violent confrontations as we have seen within Islam in Iraq.
But, this posting is going to focus only on Christianity. Based on my beliefs and those of the church of Christ, the early 1st century church was the model that we follow, and the tenets of those beliefs are solely within the Bible, but not just certain portions of the Bible. Beyond the 1st century church, there was the development of the Catholic Church and then the reformation movement brought about the Protestant churches. Both the Catholic Church and the Protestant churches have seen their own splits, based on various beliefs.
Therefore, it is not surprising that in the early 1800’s there was what we refer to as the Restoration movement within America and beyond. That movement was to get back to the Biblical idea of the church of the 1st century. Since the churches of Christ consider themselves “restoration” churches, they don’t consider themselves as denominations. That is not to say there aren’t differences within the churches of Christ because there are. Each congregation is autonomous and none have any kind of hierarchy above the local congregation.
Thus, we have some congregations that don’t believe in children’s Bible study classes. I’m sure that there are more, but at the moment, I can’t think of any. But look around at the various churches. There are differences even within the Baptist church that makes each seem to have different beliefs than their counterparts.
Now, knowing of the differences between “sects,” if you will, of the Christian churches, my comment comes from the forum comment by my friend. In that comment, he referred to what the Christians believe, but I have to differ with him. He mentions that the belief is that in the end of times, there will be the “Rapture,” then a 1000 year reign of Christ upon the earth, and then a new Heaven and new Earth.
I contend that there will be neither Rapture nor 1000 year reign on earth. Let me quote 1 Thessalonians 4: 16-17.
“16 For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven, with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first;
17 then we that are alive, that are left, shall together with them be caught up in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
Verse 17 is a key to my beliefs as it states we will be “caught up in the clouds” and then “and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” This passage seems to contradict the book of Revelation, at least based on what many read into that book of the Bible. To me, “so shall we ever be with the Lord” says nothing about returning to earth.
Now, for the most controversial part of my statements, one which may either cause discord or a search for discovery. Suppose I were to tell you that the book of Revelation is NOT a book foretelling future events? But that it is a revealing of Jesus Christ?
For many years, because I had never sat in an adult Bible class studying the book of Revelation, I had no desire to read that book because I considered it a book of doom and gloom. Then a few years ago, our Bible study class undertook the book using the Bible and a commentary written by a long time church of Christ preacher. That book is entitled, “As A Lamb Slain” and was written by one Floyd I. Stanley of Rogers, Arkansas.
His father had advised him to NOT publish the book until after he had reached at least the age of 50. That way, he would be forced to obtain more maturity, especially within the study of the Word, and thus have a more valid commentary of Revelation. Mr. Stanley’s daughter told us that her dad was tempted to publish earlier, but adhered to his father’s wishes. As well he did, because his book later did need some minor revisions.
That book is no longer sold in bookstores. However, his family does still occasionally have an additional printing done. Over the last several years, we have bought several copies from them to give to friends and family members, as well as Bible study participants.
The study of Revelation is a difficult one because there is so much of its dialogue that is figurative language, difficult for most people to understand. Let me give an example. Did you know that the beast with 7 heads and 10 horns is the nation of Israel? The 7 heads refers to the 7 Herods of Israel and the 10 horns refer to the 10 kings (Caesars) which were over Israel.
There is far too much for me to relate here as to the study of Revelation, but as I read through “As a Lamb Slain” again, perhaps I can comment more on what it says and perhaps on what it means to Christians. Until the coming of Christ, let us not take offense with each other, but study the Word as best we can so we can obtain more understanding.