How much of what you believe about religion is really true? How do you discover doctrinal truths? And if you do finally find the right doctrine, are you courageous enough to face and accept it?
In a back-page ad appearing on a fairly recent number of the Plain Truth, we tested the Bible knowledge of our readership. Ten true-or-false questions were posed to our Plain Truth readers — without the benefit of a handy crib or answer sheet neatly tucked away elsewhere in the tabloid. What doctrines were true and false to our readers is a little astonishing to say the least (see box on next page for the results) — just one more eye-opening revelation confirming the extent to which even this Western world of Christianity has been virtually engulfed by a plethora of paganism. One of the seven major, incontrovertible proofs of the true Church of God is its knowledge concerning "The Real Truth About Pagan Doctrines." I propose to answer each and everyone of these ten doctrinal questions straight out of the pages of your own Bible.
The Real Source of Your Religious Beliefs
But first, why do you believe the things you do about the Bible? How did our Plain Truth readers arrive at their various doctrinal beliefs as shown on this short ten-question quiz? How did we all come to our religious convictions and beliefs? Was it by actually studying the Bible for weeks, months and years — oftentimes on our knees, comparing, searching, praying for guidance and then living by what we found there? Let's most of us not kid ourselves. If such is your case, you are a very rare person indeed! The majority of our readers would have to admit that their religious beliefs, if they really would sit down and stop to think about it, came from anywhere but the Bible. The actual sources were first of all parents, perhaps an aunt, an uncle, grandparent, friends, various denominations of "churchianity," books about the Bible, even concepts almost automatically "read into" the Bible, etc. Frankly, people believe what they are taught — true or false! A human being is not, of himself (or herself), a rational being. Rather, as a little baby, he openly and freely admits into his little mind any and everything that is taught him. Think about it! You were a little baby once. You were utterly helpless — utterly dependent upon your parents for your very survival. As a growing young child, you innocently and eagerly believed most of what your parents said to you. For example, you firmly believed Aunt Bessie's soul went to heaven if your parents said so! And that is about how most of your convictions, beliefs and concepts about the Word of God got lodged into your mind — other people were by far and away the main source.
There Is a Source of Truth
If you had been taught the truth of God from infancy, you would believe it today. But regardless as to what you have been taught — irrespective of what you believe about any biblical subject — there is a way for you to find out whether or not you are believing biblical truth or doctrinal lies. There is a positive, absolute and unshakable source of truth! Jesus said: "Thy word is truth" (John 17:17). The apostle Paul wrote: "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness" (II Tim. 3:16). Peter wrote: "For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit" (II Peter 1:21). Everywhere in the Bible, God gives cross-checks, balances and especially corroborative points on vitally important doctrinal truths. The Bible — the one source of absolute spiritual truth — is simply filled with consistent scriptures ("here a little and there a little") on the most foundational doctrines of God.
Truth Is Ego Shattering
To believe that we could actually be wrong about something — almost anything — is unfortunately a very ego-shattering experience for some (if not most) human beings. The exposure of even false religious myths and biases can be so psychologically disruptive that it is tantamount to complete ego destruction. When the doctrinal or religious security blanket is gone, so is the particular niche of comfort into which we can conveniently creep when some challenging new thought comes along to disturb our: mental processes. We do have our first line of defenses against truth, and they are far more effective than any radar set or military advance-early-warning missile system. They unfailingly tell us that we are not wrong, but right after all! Most people stubbornly resist any new truth with a whole series of first-line defenses and several backup systems to boot. But when truth finally exhausts all their defenses, they are forced to resort to that one-and-only tired old excuse: "Just who do you think you are? Where did you get your authority from?" If all else fails, people tend to fall back on this "put-down." Actually, according to the Bible, admitting that we have been wrong all of our lives about major doctrines and revered religious concepts should be the first step to becoming a really mature human being. It is a very vital and real part of a spiritual process called repentance. Are you willing to burn your doctrinal bridges behind you when you discover new truth in the pages of your Bible? Or are you going to continue to cling to illogical, shopworn, old religious myths that are completely inconsistent with the true biblical teaching? Truth sometimes has a price on it — albeit not a monetary one. "Buy the truth, and sell it not," advised wise old King Solomon (Prov. 23:23). Sometimes not going along with the long-believed opinions of family and friends brings with it some religious persecution. Sometimes it takes a little courage to free your mind from doctrines and concepts that common sense tells you are totally illogical and do not even square with what you know about nature and science, much less the Bible. True biblical doctrine just rings true! But regardless of what you choose to do about truth, it is still there! And the Bible is an ego-shattering book. It exposes and explodes most of the major doctrines of mainstream, Western-world "Christianity" as sheer myths.
A Book of Opposites
It is a book absolutely fraught with what I've always referred to as "diametric opposites" — many times totally opposite to the various bizarre "doctrines and beliefs" of even the religion that is supposed to be based on a biblical foundation. So open up your Bible and discover that it does not say what you probably always thought it did — but often the exact opposite! No better example of this incredible irony can be found in all of the Bible than in the shocking "Sermon on the Mount" which contains the basic, down-to-earth fundamentals of real Christianity — the very heart, root and core of the teachings of Christ. Again, the very basic doctrines of this world's Christianity, believe it or not, are in direct opposition to the simplest and clearest teachings of Christ found in the 5th, 6th and 7th chapters of the book of Matthew.
Heaven Is the Reward of the Saved?
The overwhelming majority of our Plain Truth readers (who took this little quiz) believe that "Heaven is the reward of the saved" — a place for Christian retirement. And without any exaggeration, many millions in the Western world fully expect "to get to heaven" someday. They have, in many cases, been imbued with this false concept (both consciously and unconsciously)
If you had been taught the truth of God from infancy, you would believe it today. But regardless as to what you have been taught — irrespective of what you believe — there is a way for you to find out whether or not you are believing biblical truth.
since early childhood, having accepted it without question — yet never having seen a shred of real, tangible biblical proof. Perhaps some of them actually saw and heard a "death-bed repentance" of a "departed" loved one who claimed to have seen a "vision" of heaven — and then accepted this as absolute proof positive that this friend or relative "went to heaven." But millions do not realize that anciently a great and powerful spirit being became virtually obsessed with the idea of "getting to heaven." This great spirit — called in the Bible "Satan the devil" — has managed to instill this tenacious, selfish, grasping desire to "get to heaven" in the minds and hearts of these millions. He is called in Revelation 12:9 "the great dragon" who has deceived the whole world. He even inspired one of his ministers (see II Cor. 11:13-15) to ask the question, "Dear Reader: Are you willing to settle for earth?" However, the first few verses in the "Sermon on the Mount" dispel and put to rest the idea that heaven is the Christian reward, and, as a bonus, teach a very vital lesson on how to study the Bible. In verse 3 of Matthew 5, Christ said: "Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (Mark, Luke and John all refer to it as the "kingdom of God"). Now skipping ahead just a couple of verses, Jesus continued: "Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth" (verse 5). Does Christ then mean to imply that "the poor in spirit" are going to heaven while it is very clearly stated that "the meek" (a very similar quality of character) are to remain on earth? No! It plainly says: "The meek shall inherit the earth." Jesus said so; and so did David (cf. Matt. 5:5; Ps. 37:11, 22, 29). The truth is that Jesus never promised heaven as a reward for the saved! The saints (true Christians) shall rule and reign on the earth (Rev. 5:10) for a period of one thousand years (Rev. 20:4). Jesus promised all overcoming Christians that they would rule over the nations on this earth with Him (see Rev. 2:26; 3:21). Now read Matthew 5:3 again, very carefully. "Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." That little word "of" makes a very great deal of difference in understanding this verse. Christ promises His elect a kingdom ruled by God, but from heaven. It is a kingdom of heaven, but not a kingdom in heaven — and there is a great distinction! The proverbial example I've always used to illustrate this principle is the Bank of Morgan. If Jesus had said: "For theirs is the Bank of Morgan," would that mean that He was promising (to the saved) the stocks, bonds, securities and wealth inside of Mr. Morgan? Of course not — that would be ridiculous! The truth is that both "the poor in spirit" and "the meek" shall inherit the earth! The "kingdom of heaven" is a kingdom ruled by heaven, which is to come down out of heaven — to this earth! As I already pointed out earlier, only Matthew used this expression anyway — Mark, Luke and John all called it "the kingdom of God." Matthew, writing initially and primarily to the Jewish people of his day, used "kingdom of heaven" for a very vital reason and purpose. Many Jews regarded themselves as already being, since Sinai, the Kingdom of God. The literal Kingdom of God (or Kingdom of the Messiah — Christ) will be a spiritual kingdom far transcending the scope of any earthly, physical kingdom of men on this earth — then or now. Matthew wanted to be doubly sure that his Jewish audience understood the important difference.
Heaven Makes No Sense
Jesus talked of a coming resurrection of the dead in John 5:25-29: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live.... Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation [Greek, judgment]." But the resurrection itself presents a perplexing dilemma to people who believe that the dead go immediately to heaven when they die. If Christians who die "in the Lord" are already in heaven — living in beautiful mansions and sporting white wings and the whole bit — why bother with a resurrection? If they have been released from this sin-sick world, from their old, worn-out, disease-ridden, corruptible bodies, and if they have been with Jesus Christ in heaven — why would Jesus take them out of heaven, bring them back to earth, plunge them back into their graves, and then go through the fantastic, laborious effort of resurrecting them? Doesn't really make sense, does it? I could go on and on, easily taking up this entire article just answering the first question, and I wouldn't get to any others. The scriptures I have presented are only a few of the literally dozens of plain scriptures (and sometimes whole chapters) in the sacred Word of God which absolutely prove that the "get-to-heaven" idea of this spiritually darkened world is of purely satanic origin and strictly nonsupport able in the Bible. One important verse I should include
Most people stubbornly resist any new truth with a whole series of first-line defenses and several backup systems. But when truth finally exhausts all their defenses, they are forced to resort to that tired old excuse: "Just who do you think you are?"
here is John 3:13: "And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he [Jesus] that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which. is [at the time John wrote his Gospel] in heaven." And that includes the great patriarch David — a man after God's own heart (Acts 13:22). The plain Word of God (which is to judge each of us) says through the mouth of Peter: "Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day" (Acts 2:29). Verse 34 nails the lid on the coffin of this crazy idea that the saints are already in heaven: "For David is not ascended into the heavens." This is plain biblical teaching, utterly incapable of mistranslation. No interpretation needed — it says what it means; it means what it says! Oh, I know that there is a scripture on heavenly mansions in John 14, but those mansions (or offices) are being prepared of God in heaven now to be brought down to this earth at Christ's second coming. These verses are covered in technical detail in our booklet What Is The Reward Of The Saved? Most of the scriptures that seem to indicate that there might be something to this heaven concept are fully and completely explained and expounded; including the one about the "thief on the cross" (Luke 23:43), Paul wanting to depart and be with Christ (Phil. 1:23-24), Paul supposedly being bodily in the third heaven (II Cor. 12:1-7), etc. Be sure to read this free booklet and get the answers to all of these "difficult-to-be-understood" scriptures. If you have questions concerning Enoch and Elijah and those verses that supposedly show that these two great men of God "went to heaven," be sure to read another free booklet entitled Where are Enoch and Elijah?
Man Has an Immortal Soul?
Skipping all the way down to question six (I'll not take them in order for purposes of continuity of subject matter), we come to the question of the fabled and much-believed doctrine of the immortality of man's soul. I'll just quote directly out of the Bible some of the surest scriptures on the subject — both Old and New Testament. "The soul that sinneth, it shall die" — that's mentioned twice (Ezek. 18:4, 20). Solomon wrote: "For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have all one breath; so that a man hath no preeminence above a beast... " (Eccl. 3:19). And: "For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing" (Eccl. 9:5). And in verse 10: "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest." Solomon's father, King David, taught exactly the same doctrine. "For in death there is no remembrance of thee: in the grave who shall give thee thanks?" (Ps. 6:5.) Also: "Put not your trust in princes [rulers], nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help [by comparison with God]. His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day [that he dies] his thoughts perish" (Ps. 146:3-4). Death is the absence of life, the cessation of life — not the continuation of life under different circumstances. In Romans 6:23, God tells us through the pen of the apostle Paul that the wages of sin is death. And the "golden scripture" in all of the Bible instructs us: "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" (John 3:16). Death and life are opposites, not the same thing. There is a great gulf between them as the parable about Lazarus and the rich man explains (Luke 16). Paul continues on in Romans 6:23 to tell us that "the gift of God [not something you already have] is eternal life."
The Soul Doesn't Make Sense Either
Some astounding questions would be precipitated if the pagan doctrine of the immortal soul were true. Why, if the "soul" immediately departs to go to its "heavenly reward" at death, did Jesus Christ resurrect His beloved friend Lazarus? Why, if the whole purpose of Jesus Christ was to save our souls, did He call Lazarus back into his frail, human body, when he had been experiencing "heavenly bliss" for four whole days? (See John 11.) Does this make sense? Is it logical? The answer is obvious! Again, why would God want to grab all those wonderful, comfortable souls (I asked this same question about heaven) walking around among the beautiful gold bricks and put them back on this earth in a foul, old, decayed, decrepit and maybe cancer-ridden body? Is there any sense or logic to these
WHAT HAPPENS at death? Most people erroneously believe the diametric opposite of what the Bible teaches.
crazy doctrines many people assume come out of the Bible? What do you need a resurrection for if you have already got a "soul factory"?
Jesus' True Teaching
Jesus did not teach any such doctrine as the "immortality of the soul." Rather, He taught that the "soul" would perish unless it (the person) repented (Luke 13:3, 5). He also showed that God has the power to burn it (the soul) up in Gehenna fire, which is the second death (Matt. 10:28; Rev. 20:14). I could take up the space of this entire magazine explaining and expounding the many scriptures proving there is no such thing as an immortal soul, going into the Greek and Hebrew words which is proof all by itself, detailing the verses proving that only God (when compared to men, not angels) has immortality (I Tim. 6:16). In each biblical case in which the word "immortality" is used, it is something that must be obtained, and in no case is something man already possesses. Years ago I wrote an article on the subject which has since been edited, added to, and is now a thorough, complete and fully comprehensive biblical exegesis of the subject. I titled it: Do You Have an Immortal Soul? This free publication goes into the amazing origin of this false concept. It explains the verse about "souls under the altar" (Rev. 6:9-11), all about reincarnation, and many other vital aspects of the question. Be sure to request your free copy by mail. The soul is mortal! No amount of rationalization, or of arguing, or of merely "supposing," can change these plain, straightforward truths of the Bible about this subject. Belief in this false doctrine is one of the basic and beginning errors of all of modern professing Christianity. People simply don't want to believe that what is "them" — their life — could ever just cease to exist. We have an inborn, so to speak, desire for survival — which God built into our natures. And that, of itself, is certainly not wrong.
The Spirit in Man
Don't worry! God has you "on tape"; you won't just cease to exist! The Bible speaks not of an immortal soul but of a "spirit" in man (see I Cor. 2:9-14; Job 32:8; Zech. 12:1). The spirit is not the man; it is something that is in the man. Joined with the physical brain (matter) of the man, it forms human mind. It is this spirit that God will use, after the death and complete dissolution of the physical body and brain (in most cases), to reproduce anew each individual at the resurrection of the dead. It is apparently from the pattern locked up in this "spirit in man" (comparable to a "tape recording") that God, at the resurrection, will re-create each individual with exactly the same mind, personality and general appearance he had at death, perhaps automatically correcting any physical defects. For instance, several famous country and western singers are now dead: Jimmy Rodgers (the one of the twenties and thirties), Hank Williams, Jim Reeves, Patsy Cline and Tex Ritter. Yet country and western fans are able to hear their voices any time they choose via recordings. But these singers are, at this moment, totally dead; they don't know anything; they can't think anything — yet their music lives on for posterity through the miracle of tape recording. In the same sense, movie films enable us to see long-since-dead actors and actresses in old talkies on TV. The image of the person moving about and talking in the picture is preserved as long as there is a movie projector and someone to operate it.
It takes courage to free your mind from doctrines and concepts that common sense tells you are totally illogical and do not even square with what you know about nature and science, much less the Bible. True biblical doctrine just rings true!
These "miracles" of modern science ought to give us some idea of what the Almighty God is able to do — only much more so!
Death Is a Sleep
But at death the conscious man utterly disappears! Death is pictured, in the Bible, as a sleep from which one must be awakened. Daniel the prophet wrote: "And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake..." (Dan. 12:2). Matthew records: "And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose" (Matt. 27:52). "And when thy days be fulfilled," said God to David, "thou shalt sleep with thy fathers..." (II Sam. 7:12). Death is described as a sleep literally dozens of times in the Bible when referring to the ancient kings of Israel and Judah. For example, "David slept with his fathers..." (I Kings 2:10). Now David's body didn't sleep while the conscious David was off in heaven — we have already seen the plain New Testament scriptures that prove he was dead, buried and in his grave — not in heaven. No, David slept! It was the conscious person who fell "asleep" in death — later to be resurrected to immortality — to rule the twelve nations of Israel forever! At any rate, this booklet entitled Do You Have an Immortal Soul? explains all of these and many other concepts in thorough, documented, technical, scriptural detail. We have a copy on reserve for you.
Do Sinners Suffer for Eternity in Hell?
One time I was eating lunch with a good friend of mine in a long, narrow restaurant in downtown Pasadena. During the meal, three rather unkempt and disheveled women walked in. About halfway to the rear of the restaurant, one of the women burst out in a loud voice screaming, "Fire! Fire! Fire! Hellfire and brimstone!" Panic struck! Diners jumped to their feet and dishes clattered to the floor as patrons tried to leave through the nearest exit in response to the one word they had heard over the hubbub of conversation — "Fire!" But the women foolishly went on informing all of the patrons they would go to hell and suffer in ever-burning flames unless they accepted Jesus Christ. Amazingly, the majority of our Plain Truth readers who took the test believed (like these three self-styled prophetesses) that God would punish the wicked with the pains of "hellfire" for all of eternity. But Jesus Christ of Nazareth said: "... Fear him [God] which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell [Greek, Gehenna]" (Matt. 10:28). The incorrigible sinner will be burnt up (Mal. 4:1), becoming ashes under the soles of the feet of the righteous (verse 3). David wrote: "But the wicked shall perish, and the enemies of the Lord shall be as the fat of lambs: they shall consume; into smoke they shall consume away" (Ps. 37:20). Many of the very same scriptures I have used to totally disprove the doctrine of the immortality of the soul also completely dispel and disannul the false doctrine of an eternal, ever-burning hellfire. Someone who is totally unconscious could hardly be suffering excruciating pains in the "fires of hell." An eternal, ever-burning hellfire (not the biblical lake of fire) is a figment of the distorted imaginations of the minds of men influenced by a devil who indeed will have a lake of fire prepared for him and his angels (who are now called demons, see Matt. 25:41). (I do not include Dante Alighieri with whatever group of churchmen and pagan philosophers helped invent the doctrine; he actually tried to dispel this doctrine as much as was possible in those dark ages of almost total religious superstition and ignorance.)
In one sense, the false doctrine of hell is worse than all the others — worse even than the false concepts of "going to heaven" and "having an immortal soul." It has been used by "fear religionists" to promote and perpetuate a completely false notion about our very Creator — picturing Him as a God who, like the proverbial hanging judge, seeks to vent His wrath on helpless human beings. Many people conjure up in their minds a god who will consign sinners to a blistering, steeping, seething, spitting, crackling existence in an ever-burning hell — burning, burning and burning, but never quite completely burning up. Thankfully Jesus came to free us from any and all "fear religions" that would seek to enslave us in the terror of a god of unreasoning wrath — including even professing Christian religions that teach an ever-burning hellfire that would roast men made in His very image for all eternity.
Lazarus and the Rich Man
Totally ignoring the many plain, scriptures of the Bible concerning the state of the dead, many church "philosophers" (and even present-day ministers) have perpetuated the ever-burning hellfire myth by seizing upon a vague (to them) parable in the sixteenth chapter of Luke. Undoubtedly, thousands of lurid, frightening, raving and shouting sermons have been based on a misunderstanding of that parable account given by Jesus. Most people simply do not realize what the Bible really says about this parable of Lazarus and the rich man. They seem to forget the fact that the rich man and the beggar both died and were buried (Luke 16:22). Space does not permit, however, a fully detailed explanation in this article. But we do have available a special booklet, Is There A Real Hell Fire?, which thoroughly covers the whole subject. The second part of the booklet explains the parable of Lazarus and the rich man. Part one covers some very vital and important points about this whole overall subject, i.e., about those "worms which never die" that Jesus spoke of in the ninth chapter of Mark, the three different Greek words — all of which are translated into the English word "hell" (one of which simply means "the grave," and has nothing to do with any hellfire). Many other "difficult-to-be-understood" verses are explained in the light of the many plain scriptures on the subject. Space has about run out and I have only covered three of these vital questions. How are you doing about now? Are you able to accept these biblical truths into your mind? Do you have the courage to do like the Bereans did — to "search the scriptures daily, whether these things be so"? (Acts 17:11.)