Sunday, September 5, 2010

365: The Bible: In Review

Revelation 20-22
"But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death." - Revelation 21:8

John sees an angel coming down from heaven. This angel also has the key to the abyss (along with the "star" from earlier chapters). The angel grabs the dragon (who is now being called Satan) and tosses him into the abyss. The dragon is locked away for 1000 years. John says that, after this 1000 years, the dragon will have to be set free again for a short time.

For these 1000 years, those who had not received the mark of the beast were resurrected and "reigned with Christ". I wonder if those people who died before the tribulation started were resurrected.

After the 1000 years are over, Satan is released (why?). He again goes out to the "four corners" of the earth and starts deceiving people.The army Satan gathered encircles the cities of Godly people. However, God finally intervenes and kills all the people who were deceived, and throws Satan into the lake of burning sulfur.

John then sees a great white throne, with an undescribed someone sitting on it. He also sees the dead, "great and small", gathered around the throne. The person on the throne (presumably God) starts reading names out of the book of life. John says that even death and Hades gave God their dead. What? Who are death and Hades? They are obviously not Satan, because after they give up their dead, God throws them into the lake of burning sulfur (Satan is already there). Anyone who's name is not in the book of life is also thrown into the lake of fire.

Next, John sees a "new heaven" and a "new earth" descending from the sky. God explains that he is making everything new (why?). God's conditions for getting into this new earth are quite strict though. He says that anyone who is cowardly, unbelieving, vile, murderous, sexually immoral, a magician, an idolater, or a liar will not be allowed onto this new earth, but they will be cast into the lake of fire. What happened to Jesus? I thought Jesus saved us from our sins. Now if we lie, or if we're even cowardly we're going to be tortured forever?

John goes on to describe this new earth, and the new Jerusalem upon it (he's taken "in the spirit" again). I'll spare you the boring details, but the city is basically made out of precious stones and metals. The twelve gates to the city are each made out of their own pearl. Either those are really tiny gates, or there are giant monster clams in this new earth. John says that this new city does not need a sun, because God's radiance will light it. Of course, no one is actually going to live in this city, because everyone (the bible says) has sinned.

John is then shown a clear river. On the sides of this river grows the tree of life. Jesus then says that he is on his way soon, and blessed are those who keep the words of prophecy in this book.

An angel also tells him not to "seal up" the words of prophecy in the book, because the end times are near. Then it's back to Jesus (the "Alpha and the Omega") who says again that he's coming soon. We get it! The end times are near. Except for not really, because this book was written 2000 years ago.

The book ends with Jesus(?) warning that if anyone adds or removes anything from this book they will suffer the wrath of God. The bible says that "he who says these things" (Jesus) says "Yes, I am coming soon!".

The end.

Revelation: In Review
Well I think Revelation is officially the craziest book in the bible. My biggest question is, where do people get the tribulation story? People have made this incoherent blathering into a rather interesting story.

First of all, the "beast" and the "prophet" are never formally introduced (besides the beast being described as having seven heads). And certainly neither one is introduced as the "antichrist". You could make these people (the beast and the false prophet) be whoever you want them to be. And indeed people have, from Ronald Reagan to Obama.

Second, the rapture is never mentioned in the book of Revelation. The only thing that vaguely resembles people's vision of the rapture are found in the book of Matthew and (some claim) 1 Thessalonians. And neither of these references mention people being taken up, leaving their clothes behind, which seems to be people's modern vision of the rapture.

People seem to have taken what looks a lot like incoherent rambling and made it into something way more than it actually is. Most of these visions aren't even said to be metaphors. The locusts with human faces and woman's hair is the first example that comes to mind. There is no indication that a true bible believer shouldn't be expecting grasshopper-people to invade the world at some point.

This letter to the editor is short today. But it's relevant:
A recent letter to the editor with a closing statement saying, "the Bible was written by men -- not God," is by someone who is totally misinformed. Let me attempt to clarify a very basic teaching of Christianity.

Yes, the Bible was written by men. but to say "not by God" tells me this person has never read the Bible from cover to cover.
And what exactly is reading the bible from cover to cover supposed to do for you? It's like reading the crazy for yourself is supposed to give you some magical revelation that God exists. Are you sure you've read the bible from cover to cover?
The Bible was written by men who were inspired by God. Have you never heard the Bible referred to as "God's word"? Perhaps that is why the Bible is known as the "Holy Bible."

You cannot pick and choose what you will believe about the Bible. Accept it as God's word, because, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom."
Keep digging that hole. The bible is God's word because people say the bible is "God's word"? Or because it's referred to as the "Holy Bible"? That's really your argument?

"You can't pick and choose what you believe about the Bible." Therefore you believe in seven headed dragons, grasshopper-people, and eyeball-covered angel-monsters? The fear of a petty, man-made God that can never be proven is the end of wisdom, not the beginning.

The Bible: In Review
I've divided the bible into several subjects that I find relevant. This will also count as the "New Testament: In Review".

God/Jesus: The New Testament doesn't seem to have changed God's basic nature, as a petty and unjust being. God sends his son (or himself, depending on what you think about Jesus) to suffer a finite torment for the "salvation" of all of our sins. All we have to do now is believe in this being and we will be saved. Jesus also claims you have to do many other things to be saved, including eating his flesh and giving away all your money. But we'll ignore these for now and just include that with "believing in Jesus".

This is (as I said) both petty and unjust. Petty because Jesus's death was unnecessary. If God wanted to break the rules and forgive people, he could (and should) have just done it. Unjust, because people who have an affinity (for whatever reason) to believe in Jesus are not punished, irrespective of their crimes/sins. While people who (for whatever reason) are unwilling or unable (based on lack of evidence of his holiness) to believe in Jesus are punished.

To add insult to injury, the bible says in several instances that God chooses who he will allow to hear the message of Jesus. The universal salvation of Jesus is not so universal. It seems that God has merely made a loophole in his own rules so he can allow arbitrarily decided people into heaven. This is really no different from the Old Testament. Is this what we would expect from an all powerful - all just super being?

Satan: Based on at least the New Testament, Satan is a "bad guy". In that he will take every opportunity he can to kill people. Unfortunately, it seems like Satan only operates under the express consent of God.

First of all, we know that Satan can be defeated completely whenever God wants him to be. In Revelation he is cast into a lake of fire, never to bother humanity again. Why isn't this happening now? Why does God let Satan persevere?

Second, and along the same lines of logic, why does God let Satan go out and deceive people (causing their eternal doom)? The first example that comes to mind is God/Jesus letting Satan out of the abyss after 1000 years to roam the earth for awhile. Why doesn't he immediately cast him into the lake of fire? God ends up having to kill the people that Satan deceived.

In short, why does God let people be eternally damned if he has the power to prevent it by killing Satan? Is this what we would expect from an all powerful - all just super being?

Heaven/Hell: These concepts are still only vaguely described. And their short descriptions don't seem to match what people think of Heaven and Hell.

When we die, the bible seems to say that we stay dead until the end times. It's only after people are "resurrected" that they eventually go to heaven/the lake of fire. This is in direct contrast to what everyone (or everyone I know) thinks today. For example, when people say their dead relatives are "watching over them from heaven", they're not (in my opinion) making a biblically accurate statement.

"You just haven't read the bible": I look forward to immediately shooting down this ridiculous argument everywhere I hear it. If anything, after reading the bible I found Christianity to be less legitimate. Some portions of the bible are followed to the letter, while others are dismissed as being "only for a certain time in history", or said to be a metaphor.

This causes the bible to be 100% up for interpretation. Both the "God loves everyone" and "God hates fags" theology can be legitimized with the bible.

Conversion: It's probably obvious at this point, but I've not been converted. As I mentioned before, I think reading the bible has convinced me once and for all that it doesn't accurately describe the universe, the divine, or anything else for that matter.

What now?: At this point I don't plan to stop writing this blog. Obviously, I have no more bible to read, but I plan to continue doing the occasional news story (albeit not every day). Also, if I feel I have not done a particular verse/chapter justice, I may (in the future) go back over it to do a more in-depth study. If this seems at all interesting don't unsubscribe!

That being said, I may take a week or so off to relish in the fact that I don't have to write this blog every day :P. There will also probably be some big changes to the layout and/or title of the blog.

E-Word Today: For dividing the bible into 365 sections.

Bible Gateway: This is where I looked up all my bible references.

Commenters: Thanks to everyone that has commented on any of my posts. Special thanks to gmal and Brent Aucoin for commenting every day for months at a time.

Friends/Family/Co-workers: Or anyone else that had to put up with me making time to write this blog. You know who you are ;).

If you have any other questions/comments, or feel like I should include something in this blog that I've forgotten about, let me know in the comments!


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