THE BIBLE Millions Read It But Few Understand It WHY?
Clayton D Steep
What a paradox! No other book on earth is so widely read and so rarely believed.
TAKE the biblical account of David and Goliath, for instance. Even casual readers of the Bible recognize those names. Young David used a simple slingshot to defeat Goliath, a 9-foot-tall warrior. The Bible hails David's deed a great and — for men — an unexpected victory:
Can You Believe It?
Perhaps you have read of some recently published reports that David may have found his huge opponent a pushover. They conclude that Goliath was possibly in bad health, suffering from multiple endocrine neoplasia — a glandular disorder that caused his gigantism, rendered him weak with low blood sugar, restricted his vision so he couldn't clearly see David, and generally made poor old Goliath a degenerate physical specimen. Not only that, the disease, it has been postulated, may further have contributed to the demise of Goliath by producing a cyst on his forehead. When the pebble from David's slingshot penetrated Goliath's brain, it killed him instantly. The evidence for this diagnosis? Have Goliath's skeletal remains been discovered, exhumed and analyzed? Has some archaeologist unearthed and deciphered a long-lost medical report by Goliath's personal physician? Or maybe an autopsy was performed by the local coroner and the results have finally been uncovered after all these centuries? No, these conclusions came solely by studying the only piece of evidence that exists: the biblical account of the event in I Samuel 17. Now what does the Bible really say? The Philistines were at war with ancient Israel. Both sides were facing each other across an open field. Now let's give the Philistines some credit for military strategy! They would not have sent forth as their ultimate weapon an awkward, overgrown, poor-visioned weakling. Goliath had the reputation of being a champion (verse 4). The sound of his voice sent shivers through the ranks of the opposing armies (verse 11). His bronze coat of armor probably weighed around 200 pounds. In addition, he had a heavy bronze helmet and bronze leg armor (verses 5-6). Just the head of his spear weighed some 25 pounds (verse 7). This was no weakling given to attacks of low blood sugar! There is absolutely nothing in the biblical account to indicate Goliath had the slightest health problem. People have assumed that David killed Goliath with a pebble. The Bible describes it as a stone, not a pebble (verses 40, 49). What is more, David didn't kill him with it. He only knocked him down. Then he slew the fallen giant with Goliath's own sword (verses 49-51). Here, then, is a graphic example of how not to read — or study — the Bible! The Bible means what it says. It interprets 'itself. "Don't believe me; believe the Bible," editor in chief Herbert W. Armstrong has repeated time and again over the years in the columns of this magazine and on radio and television. Good advice. Take the Bible for what it says. Don't try to reason around it. Don't make excuses for it. The stone from David's slingshot hit its mark precisely. God doesn't need our help in the form of human rationalization and interpretation to make the biblical record easier for the natural mind to accept. To one degree or another, most people who read the Bible either assume it says what it clearly does not say, or they misinterpret it, or ignore what it says altogether.
Consider this biblical example in the news: Long ago the Bible warned against eating the fat of certain farm animals (Lev. 3:17). Through the thousands of years that have since gone by, a small number who read this warning believed it. Most who read it did not. Today, scientific research into health and nutrition has found physical reasons that thoroughly justify such a law: a fatty diet contributes to heart disease. Studies also point to a link between a fatty diet and certain types of cancer, not to mention other health complications. How many unfortunate individuals, readers of the Bible, over the years have died prematurely of heart disease, cancer or other maladies merely because they did not believe what they read in their own Bibles concerning the eating of animal fat? And, even more significant, if non belief of that one physical law has led to so much needless suffering, how much more are people needlessly suffering because they do not believe the far more important spiritual laws in Scripture?
We Are Mortal
One of the most quoted verses in the New Testament is John 3:16: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (Authorized Version). Many have read this verse. But how many believe it? Taking this verse exactly as it is written — without trying to force some other meaning into it. The clear message of this verse is that a person does not already have eternal life. He must believe on the Son to receive it. And if he does not receive it, he will perish. He will not live on in "hell fire" or some other place. To perish is just that — to die, to cease to exist. This teaching of the apostle John agrees completely with what the Bible says in Romans 6:23: "The wages of sin is death [not life!]; but [on the other hand, in total contrast] the gift of God is eternal life." Eternal life is not something we naturally have. We were not born with it. It must be given to us. We are born mortal, needing to put on immortality (I Cor. 15:53). Those who are dead are asleep in their graves awaiting a resurrection (Dan. 12:2). "For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing," declares the scripture (Eccl. 9:5). That's what the Bible says. Why then don't most ministers preach it and most people believe it?
Three Days and Three Nights
When Jesus was asked to give some kind of sign to prove who he was, he replied that he would give only one sign: he would spend "three days and three nights" — no more, no less — in the earth (Matt. 12:40). Who believes Jesus, though? Some have done considerable mathematical gymnastics trying to squeeze Jesus' specification of three days and three nights into the Good Friday — Easter Sunday tradition, which time frame is a mere one and one-half days in length. Unlike many, Jesus knew how to count. He was aware of exactly how long he was going to be buried. The biblical record is clear. How can so many read it without believing it? If you would like to learn more about what the Bible really does say concerning the death and resurrection of Jesus, read our eye-opening booklet The Resurrection Was Not On Sunday. It will surprise you.
Has Time Been Lost?
Many Bible readers have heard that the Sabbath was made for the Jews. That's not what Jesus said! Jesus proclaimed: "The Sabbath was made for man" — not just the Jews (Mark 2:27). It was made holy at the beginning of human history, 2,000 years before the first Jew walked this earth (Gen. 2:1-3; Ex. 20:11). The Sabbath was included among the Ten Commandments, which have been more universally discussed, recited and memorized than any other code of law. They have been featured in books, movies, wall plaques, even charm bracelets. Millions have read them at one time or another, lauded them, acclaimed them. But, the fourth commandment — the one about the Sabbath? Few believe it. Jesus said he is Lord of the Sabbath (Mark 2:28). It is his day — the true "Lord's day." Looking into the future, far ahead of his time, Jesus announced that those who would be living at the "end of the age," just before his Second Coming (Matt. 24:3), should still be concerned about the Sabbath (verse 20). The Scriptures foretell that in the world tomorrow, when the government of God is ruling on earth, the whole world will worship God "from one Sabbath to another" (Isa. 66:23). The importance of keeping the Sabbath, the seventh day of the week, is referred to in the Bible more than 100 times. Yet which day do most Bible readers observe? Sunday, the first day of the week! If you wonder why, read our free booklets Which Day Is The Christian Sabbath? and Has Time Been Lost?
Whose World Is This?
It is often supposed even by readers of the Bible that this is God's world, this is his civilization. Now does that really make sense? Look at the world. It is torn by strife and conflict. Crime, disease, accidents, uncontrolled elements of nature, to say nothing of more personal tragedies, make life difficult and cause many to even doubt that God exists. This, "God's world"? How can it be? As one prisoner of war who had just witnessed the execution of dozens of women and children screamed, shaking his fists toward the heavens, "God, if you exist, you are not worthy of my worship!" Well, God does exist and he is worthy of worship because he is not to blame for all the human misery. Where does the blame rest? Why do we humans inflict such tragedies on one another? The Bible explains how God created the first human beings and revealed his way to them. They rejected that way of giving in favor of obedience to a different spirit being — a great fallen angel named Satan who encouraged the way of getting, of selfishness. Humanity, in fact, chose Satan as its "god." The real God stepped into the background. He withdrew his hand from involvement in the direct affairs of mankind (except for his special intervention in certain cases) until humanity finally learns the hard way. Then God will put an end to Satan's misrule. Everyone will finally recognize God as the real God and his way of giving and outgoing concern for others as the only way that really works. Until then, the Bible teaches Satan is "the god of this world" (II Cor. 4:4). Jesus called him the "prince of this world" (John 12:31; 14:30). It is he that deceives "the whole world" (Rev. 12:9). Satan and his demons are "the rulers of the darkness of this world" (Eph. 6:12). They have guided "the course of this world" (Eph. 2:2). It is they who are responsible, together with human beings, for the mountain of woes throughout history. It is they who shall bring human governments into the final worldwide conflict (Rev. 16:14) in which all animal and human life would perish if God did not intervene and take the rulership of our planet away from the present "god of this world" (Rev. 20:2-3). How can anyone read the Bible and miss that truth? Many do.
Why Did Jesus Speak in Parables?
It is widely assumed that whenever Jesus spoke in parables he did so to illustrate his teachings, to make them clearer, more understandable to the multitudes who heard him. Jesus gave no such reason. When his disciples had asked him about a parable he had just used, "he said unto them, Unto you [his disciples, his own followers] it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without [the unconverted masses], all these things are done in parables" (Mark 4:11). Why? To make what he said easier to comprehend? No, just the opposite! Hear what Jesus said! He often used parables "that seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them" (verse 12). The popularly held concept is that Jesus tried to "save" everyone in his day and that he told his Church to do likewise. That is not what the Bible says! Often, when he employed parables, Jesus intentionally left the masses in their self-deception. He himself said so! Certainly, he told his Church to carry his message to all nations, but as a witness (Matt. 24:14). Nowhere did he say to try to convert the nations. "For ye see your calling, brethren," Paul wrote to the Greeks in Corinth, "how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called" (I Cor. 1:26). Simply put, everyone on earth is not now able to come to God to be converted. Jesus declared, "No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him..." (John 6:44; see also verse 65). The Father of whom Jesus spoke has not been drawing the majority of people. It ought to be obvious from the condition the world is in! Jesus pointed out that the majority of humanity are walking in the way of destruction and that now only a few are finding the way to eternal life (Matt. 7:13-14). What? The majority of humanity lost — not finding eternal life now? Is that possible? Is that fair? Are the masses going to lose out altogether on salvation when most of them have not had an opportunity to so much as hear the only name by which, according to the Bible (Acts 4:2, 12), they may be saved? The answer is plainly revealed in the Scriptures. God is not through with them yet. By the time God's plan is finished, everyone who has ever lived will have had an opportunity to understand and to accept or reject eternal life. But now is not the time when everyone can understand. And God made it so for a great purpose! Why not write to our nearest address for a free copy of the highly informative article "Is This the Only Day of Salvation?" You will not only come to understand how God is working out his plan of salvation, you will also discover the answer to our original question: why is it that millions now read the Bible, but so few understand or believe it?