Can you tell me how the cross symbol came to have religious significance?
Many assume that the early Christian Church revered the cross as part of its religious observance. Quite the contrary. The cross, in many shapes and forms, was used centuries before Christ by abject pagans! Notice a few of the many examples: • In the British Museum is a statue of the Assyrian king Samsi-Vul, son of Shalmaneser. Around his neck is an almost perfect Maltese cross. On an accompanying figure of Ashur-nasir-pal is a similar cross. • The ancient Greek goddess Diana is pictured with a cross over her head, in much the same way that the "Virgin Mary" is represented by many medieval artists. • Bacchus, the Greek god of wine, is often pictured wearing a headdress adorned with crosses. • Different types of crosses were used — in Mexico centuries before the Spaniards arrived. • The Egyptians used cross symbols in, abundance, as did the Hindus. The surprising thing is that the Christian use of the cross did not begin until the time of Constantine, three centuries after Christ. Archaeologists have found no Christian uses of the symbol before that time. According to one writer, the cross as a "Christian" symbol was taken directly from the pagans: "By the middle of the third century A.D. the churches had either departed from, or had transvestied, certain doctrines of the Christian faith. In order to increase the prestige of the apostate ecclesiastical system, pagans were received into the churches apart from regeneration by faith, and were permitted largely to retain their pagan signs and symbols" (W.E. Vine, Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, article "Cross"). The New Testament does not specifically describe the instrument upon which Christ died, though Acts 5:30, 10:39 and 13:29 refer to it as — a "tree." The Greek word xulon, translated "tree" in these verses, can mean a stick, club, tree or other wooden article. The first person to describe the instrument of Christ's crucifixion as a two-beamed cross was Justin Martyr (Dialogue with Trypho XCI), and he wrote more than' a century after the resurrection. There is absolutely no evidence that God's true Church ever used the cross symbol in any shape or form. Nowhere does the Bible command such a use, which it surely would if God intended this of Christians. Only after three centuries, after a "Christianity" much different from that of the New Testament had developed, do we find professing Christians using the symbol — and they adopted it from pagan worship.
What is the first chapter of Ezekiel about? What was it Ezekiel saw?
Notice the account of what happened: "I was among the captives by the river of Chebar... and I saw visions of God" (Ezek. 1:1). Here is a picture of the very throne of the One who later became Jesus Christ! Ezekiel saw a great whirlwind (verse 4) in the midst of which were four living creatures (verse 5), carrying, over their heads, an expanse of translucent material (verse 22) the color of glass or crystal. On this expanse of beautiful, crystalline material was a throne (verse 26)! Seated upon the throne was One "as the appearance of a man above upon it. And I saw as the colour of amber, as the appearance of fire round about within it, from the appearance of his loins even upward [compare with Rev. 1:13-16], and from the appearance of his loins even downward, I saw as it were the appearance of fire, and it had brightness round about.... This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord" (Ezek. 1:26-28). What about the cherubim and wheels under God's throne? Their function is to transport God's throne wherever He desires to go (Ezek. 1:24-25). The Bible shows in other scriptures (Ps. 18:10, Ezek. 10:1-22) that God does not always remain in His heaven, but has at times come down to this earth. When He comes in all His glory, He comes sitting on His throne and the angelic creatures under the throne carry Him about with the speed of lightning (Ezek. 1:13).
What did Christ mean when He told a man, "Let the dead bury their dead" (Matt. 8:22)?
The context of Christ's statement reveals that He offered this man a special opportunity to participate in His ministry and teach the way that leads to eternal life (Luke 9:59-60). When this man said that he had to first go and bury his father, Christ told him to let the dead (spiritually dead) bury their dead. Was Christ denying this man the opportunity to attend his father's funeral? Obviously not! A funeral only takes a few hours and Christ continually showed that Christians are to have compassion and display proper respect for others. He was even present at funerals during His ministry, where He raised the deceased to life again (John 11:17-44, Luke 7:11-15). Why, then, did Christ answer this man in such a manner? He realized what the man said was nothing more than an excuse. The young man's father was, most probably, an elderly man about to die. This man, realizing his father's condition, told Christ in effect that he did not want to get involved in God's Work until after his father was dead and buried. This indicates that he placed undue emphasis on family ties and other mundane, worldly matters pertaining to this physical life. He could have found someone to fulfill his responsibility toward his father if he had wanted to. That is why Christ told him to let the spiritually dead (Eph. 2:1 — those not being called now) be concerned with such physical matters. No one should allow himself to be hindered by physical circumstances (the cares of this world) from having a part in God's Work once he has been called. Jesus was teaching that it is more important to be concerned with doing God's Work and salvation than any other matters (Matt. 6:33).
I would like to know why Christ only mentioned six of the Ten Commandments in Matthew 19:16-19. Surely the other commandments are in force as well, aren't they?
They certainly are! David said all of God's commandments are sure and stand forever (Ps. 111:7-8). Christ did not need to enumerate all of the commandments. His hearer knew them. All He needed to do was mention several to show which set of commandments He was referring to as a supreme rule of conduct — so the person would know He was speaking of the Ten Commandments and not the commands of the Sanhedrin. Notice the commandments Christ did mention: "Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." These are the last six, which explain man's duty to man. Christ's hearer needed to be reminded of the commandments dealing with his duty to his fellow men — that tell a person how to love his neighbor. This rich young man's refusal to use his great wealth for the good of others (Matt. 19:22) proved he did not love his neighbors. Notice, now, the commandments Christ did not refer to directly: "Thou shalt have no other gods before me: Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image... nor serve them... Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain... Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy" (Ex. 20:3-8). Since these commands are not mentioned, does this mean it is all right to worship other gods, curse and break the Sabbath?. Of course not! The Jews understood this. Jesus inspired James to write that we must keep every point of the law — not just one or two, or even half of them. He who offends in one point is guilty of all (Jas. 2:10). To break any of the Ten Commandments is to be guilty of sin!