CHAPTER 1 - THE UNITED STATES AND BRITAIN IN PROPHECY
Why this Subject Is Important
This book is about preaching the true gospel to the world and the Ezekiel warning to Israel. Originally, I had planned to cover what the true gospel is in chapter one, then explain where the United States and Britain are prophetically identified in chapter two, with the Ezekiel warning explained in chapter three. But I changed my mind and decided it was necessary to cover the U.S. and Britain in prophecy before explaining the true gospel.
When changes in doctrine were being made in Worldwide after the death of Mr. Armstrong, one of the things that was taught was that the identity of the United States and British Commonwealth nations in prophecy had no importance for the true gospel or for salvation.
There is some truth in saying that knowing the identity of modern nations and what prophecy says about them is not vital to our salvation, but in a sense, it can be. It is not the knowledge of the identities of nations and prophecies themselves that is vital. But in this case, these prophecies prove that the Bible is the inspired Word of God. That IS important for salvation!
Everything we can know about salvation comes from the Bible. The Bible is God speaking. In order to accurately learn about salvation and what God requires of us, we must know and believe what God says in the Bible.
Prophecies about modern nations have been recorded in the Bible thousands of years before they were to be fulfilled, and the history of events in the last several hundred years show the fulfillment of those prophecies. By studying those prophecies in the Bible, and then studying their historic fulfillment, one can prove that a God who was able to control world events and predict the future must have inspired the Bible. This is the proof that God is really the author of the Bible, not just men guessing about what might happen in the future.
Why is this important for understanding the true gospel and salvation?
Men have many different ideas about religion. There are many religions of the world with radically different ideas between them about the nature of God, salvation, the nature of man, life after death, and how men should live. Even among the churches and religions that call themselves Christian, there is wide disagreement over many issues pertaining to the gospel and salvation. Different religious leaders say different things about these issues.
But God Himself knows what the truth is about salvation, the gospel, His nature, and how He wants men to live. Men may have different ideas and men make mistakes, but God KNOWS these things. By proving that God speaks through the Bible and then going to the Bible for the answers, one can know what God has to say about all of these religious issues that men have different opinions about. And if certain men or religious leaders or churches really do know the truth, one can go to the Bible to confirm and prove whether or not what these men teach is the truth.
The Bible teaches that faith is a requirement for salvation. A big part of faith is willingness to believe what God says and act on that belief by trusting God and doing what He says. Our example of this is Abraham. Romans 4:3 says, "For what does the Scripture say? 'Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.' " And in James 2:23, "And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, 'Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.' And he was called the friend of God." And finally, Genesis 15:4-6, "And behold, the word of the Lord came to him, saying, 'This one shall not be your heir, but one who will come from your own body shall be your heir.' Then He brought him outside and said, 'Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them.' And He said to him, 'So shall your descendants be.' And he believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness."
In order to believe God, we have to know what God says. That is why the Bible is important. The Bible is God speaking to us. If we can prove that the Bible is really inspired by God, we can look to the Bible as authority for what we believe and do.
God gives us free moral agency. He does not force anyone to believe and obey Him. We can make a choice to either believe God or to disbelieve Him, but before we can make that choice we have to know what He says. That is why the Bible is important and why it is important that we prove if it really is inspired by God.
This chapter is really about proving that the Bible is the Word of God.
This chapter will explain prophecies that have been fulfilled.
This chapter will cover certain prophecies that were to be fulfilled in our time and how those prophecies have been fulfilled in history. These prophecies primarily concern the English speaking people in the United States and the British Commonwealth nations. I will also cover some additional prophecy that has been fulfilled that helps to prove that the Bible was inspired by God.
However, there are a number of prophecies concerning modern nations that are yet to be fulfilled. I will not cover those here, but I will cover prophecies for the future in chapter 3 on the Ezekiel warning.
I feel it is best to get a strong background in proving that the Bible is God's word before learning, from the Bible, the true gospel and the other truths of God. If we are going to let the Bible explain the gospel, we must first know that the Bible has authority. Otherwise, we would be less likely to believe what the Bible says about the gospel, salvation, or any other important subject.
This chapter will also serve as an introduction to the teachings of Herbert W. Armstrong on the identity of modern English speaking nations in biblical prophecy.
This chapter is only a summary of the information available on this subject. For a more thorough and detailed explanation, I strongly recommend Herbert W. Armstrong's book, The United States and British Commonwealth in Prophecy and Chapter 5 of his book, Mystery of the Ages.
Proving that God Exists
I was a teenager when I first began reading the Plain Truth magazine, which was published by Herbert W. Armstrong. Mr. Armstrong and other writers of the literature published by the Worldwide Church of God challenged me in their writings to prove the things I believed. Although I had never done so before, and was not even sure it was possible, I now wanted to PROVE whether or not God exists. I wasn't trying to be biased in proving it. I was ready to accept the truth whatever it was, whether the truth was that God exists or didn't exist. Either way, I just wanted to know. I didn't want to guess or assume anything anymore.
I requested and received a booklet, "Does God Exist?". Science has always been an interest of mine, and I have read a number of science books on various subjects for pleasure, especially books about physics. I read the booklet and considered the points that it made, and I thought about the things I knew about science.
One of the points the booklet made is that creation requires a creator. I knew that many scientists believe in evolution. They use the concepts of random mutation, natural selection, and survival of the fittest to promote their theory that all life came into existence, in all its variety, merely through the operation of physical law.
But I also knew enough about physics to know that there is a lot more design in creation than we see in living creatures. Even apart from life, which scientists say evolved, the universe itself, with all its laws, its energy, and its matter, shows design that requires a designer. Even dead matter shows design. Choices had to be made on how the universe would be and what the laws that govern and define it would be. That requires a Creator God to make those choices in designing the universe.
Physicists can create experiments to probe the nature of matter, energy, time, and space, and the laws that control these entities, and they can devise mathematical formulas and equations and devise models to explain HOW the universe works, but they cannot explain WHY the universe is as it is.
They can learn that there are about 100 different kinds of atoms. They can learn that each atom consists of a collection of protons, electrons, and except for simple hydrogen, neutrons. They can learn that protons and electrons carry electric charge, and that there are normally the same number of each in an atom, but that neutrons carry no electric charge. They can learn that the mass of an atom is almost entirely in the protons and neutrons, and these particles are in the nucleus of the atom with the electrons organized in outer shells around the nucleus. They can develop theories to explain the results of their experiments, even theories that protons and neutrons are made up of "quarks". But WHY are there protons, neutrons, and electrons? Why are the laws that control those particles the way they are? Scientists don't invent those laws. They merely discover them.
Scientists have discovered four forces that control matter and energy in the universe: the strong force, the electromagnetic force, the weak force, and gravity. The strong force is the strongest of the four and it holds the nucleus of an atom together, but though it is the strongest, it is very short range. Gravity and the electromagnetic forces are long-range forces. Any physicist can tell you many things about each of these forces, but he cannot tell you why they exist. Why four forces? Why not three? Why not two? Who decided there would be four forces and what their characteristics would be?
We live in a universe of four dimensions, one dimension of time and three dimensions of space. Scientists may speculate that there are more dimensions that exist in ways we are not normally aware of, but there are four we know about from everyday life. But why are there three dimensions of space? It doesn't have to be that way. Mathematicians can calculate results for a universe with only two space dimensions or a universe with four space dimensions, and each kind of universe could be just as logically consistent as the real universe we live in. Yet the universe has three space dimensions. Why? Who decided that there would be three space dimensions we experience in everyday life, and not two or four?
This universe, with its elegant complexity, shows design, and it shows that design decisions have been made, decisions about the forces that would exist, about the number and characteristics of the dimensions those forces would act in, about the nature of matter and energy and the kinds of fundamental particles that would exist, even about the characteristics of time itself. Someone had to make those design decisions. Someone had to decide how many fundamental forces there would be, how many different kinds of fundamental particles there would be, how many dimensions there would be. There isn't just one possible kind of universe. Someone had to decide that the universe would be the way it is and not some other way.
For me, the design of the universe requires a creator to determine what that design would be, and is a proof that God exists.
There is something else that I regard as a proof that I am more than just a collection of highly organized chemicals and therefore my existence cannot be explained by evolution, and that there must be a creator that created the human race. No theory of evolution, no explanation of science can explain human consciousness.
What is human consciousness? There may be a lot of confusion about the term among some science writers. I often am provoked into buying a science magazine when I see on the cover that there is an article about human consciousness. I am very curious and intrigued about what the writers have to say about it. But I am always disappointed because it turns out that they are not talking about consciousness at all. They are talking about intelligence, or focused attention, or something like that. They will describe experiments in which a radioactive element is ingested by a subject, and that element is in the bloodstream, and they can measure the radioactivity as the blood flows through the brain with their scanning machines. They can produce pictures of which areas of the brain are most active because the blood flow increases to those areas. So they will have the subject look at pictures, or listen to some sound, or have the subject work on a problem, and they can see what parts of the brain "light up". Then they say, "See, that is where consciousness is, we can measure it." But all they are doing is learning a little more about how the physical brain works. They aren't really addressing the issue of consciousness head-on.
Regardless of how my brain works, human consciousness is the subjective sense of "me", my "awareness" inside my physical brain and body that actually experiences the thoughts and emotions I may have or feel. It is the difference between being awake and being asleep without dreams. It is something no machine, no computer, no matter how intelligent a future computer might be, can have. It is something that cannot be explained at all by any collection of atoms or molecules no matter how complexly organized they may be. Even if you could build a robot or an android that looked completely human, but was really a mechanical device, and even if you gave it a computer brain and such powerful software that it could speak and behave intelligently and could so perfectly mimic human emotions and behavior that no person could tell it from a real human without cutting it open, such a machine would never have true consciousness. Consciousness is a mystery science cannot explain. And it seems science magazine writers cannot even talk about the problem intelligently, though magazine publishers love to put the subject on the cover.
From what I know about biology and the theory of evolution, I believe it is impossible for the variety of life we see to have come about through the operation of natural forces only. But whether or not that is true, it is obvious to me that the design of the physical universe itself requires a designer, a Creator God who decided what the laws of the universe would be. And the consciousness of my mind is something that cannot be explained by physical laws alone, and the existence of my mind therefore requires a Creator God who made me.
For me, this was sufficient proof that God exists.
The design and existence of this vast universe as well as the human mind is proof of the existence of God, and shows us not only that God exists, but demonstrates His immense wisdom and power, vast beyond human comprehension. There are billions of galaxies, and our own galaxy contains billions of stars, each star comparable to our sun, which itself dwarfs the earth in its size. And on the other side of the scale, God has created atoms, too small to see even with ordinary microscopes, and has made atoms from electrons, protons, and neutrons, which are far smaller even than atoms. How great is both the mind and the power of the God who designed all this and brought it into existence from nothing!
But the next step for me was to prove whether or not the Bible is God's word. Did God inspire the Bible or is it merely a collection of writings of men? And if the Bible is not inspired by God, is there any other sacred text or book that is inspired by God? Also, how could I approach proving whether the Bible is God speaking or not?
In the Bible are a number of prophecies in which God says what will happen in the future. No man can predict the future hundreds or thousands of years in advance. If prophecies in the Bible have come true in history in a way that cannot be explained to a reasonable person as coincidence, that would be proof for me that the Bible is inspired by God and carries authority.
I read a book Mr. Armstrong wrote, The United States and British Commonwealth in Prophecy. This book shows how prophecies made thousands of years ago have been fulfilled in history.
I wanted to prove whether or not Bible prophecies have come true, and to do that I needed to be objective and impartial. Although I studied and used Mr. Armstrong's books and articles, I did not trust them or rely on them. I knew that any writer could selectively pick out those things that tended to support his point of view and to omit anything that would tend to prove he was wrong. So though I used Mr. Armstrong's writings as a source for ideas, I did my own independent research into the Bible and history. I read the Bible from cover to cover, making notes on everything that pertained to the subject, and I studied history from a number of sources. In order to check up on the things Mr. Armstrong wrote in the above named book, I read Winston Churchill's four volume set of books on the history of the English speaking people, and I checked other historical books and articles as well.
The rest of this chapter explains what I found in my efforts to prove whether or not the Bible is the word of God, and what I found in particular about prophecies and their fulfillment concerning the United States and the British people.
Promises Made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob
Genesis 12:1-4 says, "Now the Lord had said to Abram: 'Get out of your country, From your family And from your father’s house, To a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you And make your name great; And you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.' So Abram departed as the Lord had spoken to him, and Lot went with him. And Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran." Notice that God promises Abram, whose name was later changed to Abraham (Genesis 17:5), to make him into a great nation.
In Genesis 17:3-6, God changes Abram's name to Abraham, and promises him that He will make him a father of many nations: "Then Abram fell on his face, and God talked with him, saying: 'As for Me, behold, My covenant is with you, and you shall be a father of many nations. No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you a father of many nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you.' " Genesis 17:15-16 indicates that the many nations that would be descended from Abraham would be through Sarah, Abraham's wife: "Then God said to Abraham, 'As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. And I will bless her and also give you a son by her; then I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of peoples shall be from her.' "
Later, Abraham had a son by Sarah and he named him Isaac (Genesis 21:1-3). In Genesis 22:15-17, God promises to bless Abraham and to multiply his descendents exceedingly, and further promises that his descendents would possess the gate of their enemies. A "gate" can refer to a land passage or sea gate that is a place where traffic must pass through to get from one place to another.
Isaac had two sons, Esau and Jacob. Esau was the firstborn, but he sold his birthright to Jacob (Genesis 25:19-26, 29-34). When the time came near when Isaac would die, he blessed Jacob with this blessing in Genesis 27:27-29: "And he came near and kissed him; and he smelled the smell of his clothing, and blessed him and said: 'Surely, the smell of my son Is like the smell of a field Which the Lord has blessed. Therefore may God give you Of the dew of heaven, Of the fatness of the earth, And plenty of grain and wine. Let peoples serve you, And nations bow down to you. Be master over your brethren, And let your mother’s sons bow down to you. Cursed be everyone who curses you, And blessed be those who bless you!' " Read all of Genesis 27:1-40 to get the full story of how Jacob obtained the blessing.
Later, Isaac again blesses Jacob with this blessing: "May God Almighty bless you, And make you fruitful and multiply you, That you may be an assembly of peoples; And give you the blessing of Abraham, To you and your descendants with you, That you may inherit the land In which you are a stranger, Which God gave to Abraham" (Genesis 28:3-4). Notice two things: 1) the promises and blessings God made to Abraham were being passed on to Jacob, and 2) Jacob's descendents were to become an ASSEMBLY of peoples, that is, more than one people or nation. This blessing of national prosperity is repeated and confirmed by God in Genesis 28:13-15.
In Genesis 32:28 Jacob's name is changed to "Israel".
Genesis 35:9-12: "Then God appeared to Jacob again, when he came from Padan Aram, and blessed him. And God said to him, 'Your name is Jacob; your name shall not be called Jacob anymore, but Israel shall be your name.' So He called his name Israel. Also God said to him: 'I am God Almighty. Be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall proceed from you, and kings shall come from your body. The land which I gave Abraham and Isaac I give to you; and to your descendants after you I give this land.' " Notice that Jacob's descendants were to become a nation AND a company of nations.
So Jacob, who became Israel, was promised to become a single nation and a company or group of nations.
Jacob had twelve sons including Joseph (Genesis 35:22-26).
Promises Passed on to the Sons of Joseph
Joseph had two sons in Egypt, Manasseh and Ephraim (Genesis 41:50-52).
When Jacob was sick and near death, he blessed the sons of Joseph before he died: "Now it came to pass after these things that Joseph was told, 'Indeed your father is sick'; and he took with him his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim. And Jacob was told, 'Look, your son Joseph is coming to you'; and Israel strengthened himself and sat up on the bed. Then Jacob said to Joseph: 'God Almighty appeared to me at Luz in the land of Canaan and blessed me, and said to me, "Behold, I will make you fruitful and multiply you, and I will make of you a multitude of people, and give this land to your descendants after you as an everlasting possession." And now your two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, who were born to you in the land of Egypt before I came to you in Egypt, are mine; as Reuben and Simeon, they shall be mine. Your offspring whom you beget after them shall be yours; they will be called by the name of their brothers in their inheritance. But as for me, when I came from Padan, Rachel died beside me in the land of Canaan on the way, when there was but a little distance to go to Ephrath; and I buried her there on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem).' Then Israel saw Joseph’s sons, and said, 'Who are these?' Joseph said to his father, 'They are my sons, whom God has given me in this place.' And he said, 'Please bring them to me, and I will bless them.' Now the eyes of Israel were dim with age, so that he could not see. Then Joseph brought them near him, and he kissed them and embraced them. And Israel said to Joseph, 'I had not thought to see your face; but in fact, God has also shown me your offspring!' So Joseph brought them from beside his knees, and he bowed down with his face to the earth. And Joseph took them both, Ephraim with his right hand toward Israel's left hand, and Manasseh with his left hand toward Israel's right hand, and brought them near him. Then Israel stretched out his right hand and laid it on Ephraim’s head, who was the younger, and his left hand on Manasseh's head, guiding his hands knowingly, for Manasseh was the firstborn. And he blessed Joseph, and said: 'God, before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, The God who has fed me all my life long to this day, The Angel who has redeemed me from all evil, Bless the lads; Let my name be named upon them, And the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; And let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth.' Now when Joseph saw that his father laid his right hand on the head of Ephraim, it displeased him; so he took hold of his father’s hand to remove it from Ephraim’s head to Manasseh’s head. And Joseph said to his father, 'Not so, my father, for this one is the firstborn; put your right hand on his head.' But his father refused and said, 'I know, my son, I know. He also shall become a people, and he also shall be great; but truly his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his descendants shall become a multitude of nations.' So he blessed them that day, saying, 'By you Israel will bless, saying, "May God make you as Ephraim and as Manasseh!" ' And thus he set Ephraim before Manasseh" (Genesis 48:1-20).
Notice three things from the above passage:
1) Jacob gave his name to the sons of Joseph in a special way, saying "let my name be named on them". From this point on in the Bible, the names "Jacob" or "Israel" can refer, not only to all of Jacob's sons, but depending on the context may refer primarily to Ephraim and Manasseh, the two sons of Joseph.
2) Jacob blessed Ephraim and Manasseh, saying, "let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth".
3) Jacob said that Manasseh would become a great nation, but that Ephraim would become a MULTITUDE of nations. This exactly fits with what God promised Jacob in Genesis 35:11, that the descendents of Jacob would become a nation and a company of nations. Here we see that this prophecy applies specifically to the sons of Joseph, Ephraim and Manasseh, not to all the sons of Jacob.
Later, Jacob blesses each of his twelve sons before he dies, and in doing so he prophecies about the destiny of the descendents of each of them in the "last days". Genesis 49:1: "And Jacob called his sons and said, 'Gather together, that I may tell you what shall befall you in the last days.' "
We will see later in this chapter when the "last days" are and how we can know if this term applies to the days we are living in today.
In Genesis 49:2-21, and verse 27 Jacob pronounces a blessing and prophesies about each of his sons including Joseph. Here is what he says about Joseph: "Joseph is a fruitful bough, A fruitful bough by a well; His branches run over the wall. The archers have bitterly grieved him, Shot at him and hated him. But his bow remained in strength, And the arms of his hands were made strong By the hands of the Mighty God of Jacob (From there is the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel), By the God of your father who will help you, And by the Almighty who will bless you With blessings of heaven above, Blessings of the deep that lies beneath, Blessings of the breasts and of the womb. The blessings of your father Have excelled the blessings of my ancestors, Up to the utmost bound of the everlasting hills. They shall be on the head of Joseph, And on the crown of the head of him who was separate from his brothers" (Genesis 49:22-26).
It is obvious that the greatest blessings of national power and prosperity would come to Joseph, and to his sons Ephraim and Manasseh, who would become a great nation (Manasseh) and a great company or multitude of nations (Ephraim).
The Kingdoms of Israel and Judah
After the death of Jacob, his descendents grew into a multitude in the land of Goshen in Egypt (Genesis 47:27, Exodus 1:1-7).
In due time, God brought Israel out of Egypt into the promised land, the land of Canaan (Exodus 3:7-20, 13:18, Joshua 1:1-2, 3:9, 4:1-11, 11:23). The descendants of each of the sons of Jacob became a tribe in Israel, and each tribe had its separate territory in the nation of Israel (Numbers 26:52-56, 33:50-54). The particular lands each tribe received are described in Joshua chapters 13 through 19. Ephraim and Manasseh were among the tribes that were settled in the northern part of Israel, and the tribe of Judah was settled in the south.
After God brought Israel out of Egypt, but before He brought them into the promised land, God had made a covenant with Israel. God promised to protect and bless Israel, and Israel was required to obey all of God's commandments (Exodus 19:3-9, 20:1-23, 24:1-8). God also pronounced blessings for obedience but curses for disobedience. See Deuteronomy chapter 28. Israel was specifically warned that they would be conquered by their enemies and taken captive and removed from the land of Canaan if they failed to keep their part of the covenant by obeying God's commandments (Deuteronomy 28:15, 47-52, 58-66, Leviticus 26:3-45).
After the days of King Solomon, Israel was divided into two kingdoms (1 Kings 11:9-13, 29-40, 43, 12:1-24). The southern Kingdom of Judah consisted of the tribes of Judah, Benjamin, and the Levites, plus those individuals from any of the other tribes that chose to migrate to Judah. The northern Kingdom of Israel consisted of the other tribes including the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh (1 Kings 12:21, 31, 2 Chronicles 11:13). Each kingdom had a series of kings. After the division into two kingdoms, the term "Israel" often referred to the northern Kingdom of Israel only, not Judah.
Those in the Kingdom of Judah became known as "Jews". In the King James Version of the Bible, they are specifically called Jews in 2 Kings 16:6-8 at a time when Israel was at war against the Jews: "At that time Rezin king of Syria recovered Elath to Syria, and drave the Jews from Elath: and the Syrians came to Elath, and dwelt there unto this day. So Ahaz sent messengers to Tiglathpileser king of Assyria, saying, I am thy servant and thy son: come up, and save me out of the hand of the king of Syria, and out of the hand of the king of Israel, which rise up against me. And Ahaz took the silver and gold that was found in the house of the LORD, and in the treasures of the king’s house, and sent it for a present to the king of Assyria" (King James Version). So here was a situation in which Syria and Israel were allied against the Jews, and the Jews formed an alliance with Assyria to get help against Israel and Syria. This makes it clear that the term "Jews" is NOT a synonym for "Israel".
The term "Jew" only refers to the tribes of Judah, Benjamin, and part of Levi, and to a few individuals from other tribes who joined with the Kingdom of Judah. But the vast majority of Israelites from the other ten tribes of Israel, including Ephraim and Manasseh, were never called "Jews" and are not Jews today. They are Israelites but they are not Jews.
This is important because many Bible prophecies that foretell what will happen to Israel are not referring the Jews at all.
You can read the history of these two kingdoms for yourself in the books of 1 Kings, 2 Kings, and 2 Chronicles. For the various kings of these two kingdoms, God indicates whether or not each did what was right in God's sight. The kings of Judah were all descended from King David, and some were faithful to do what was right in God's sight, and some were not. In the Kingdom of Israel, none were descended from David, and there were a number of different dynasties, but none of the kings mentioned did what was right in God's sight.
In time, because of Israel's persistent unfaithfulness, God caused Assyria to conquer the Kingdom of Israel and take them into captivity (2 Kings 17:5-23). Notice 2 Kings 17:5-6: "Now the king of Assyria went throughout all the land, and went up to Samaria and besieged it for three years. In the ninth year of Hoshea, the king of Assyria took Samaria and carried Israel away to Assyria, and placed them in Halah and by the Habor, the River of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes." This occurred around 720 B.C.
But the Jews did NOT go into captivity at this time, though they went into a separate captivity more than a hundred years later. And the Israelites who did go into captivity at this time included the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh, who were prophesied to become a great nation and a great company or group of nations in the last days.
Babylon waged war against Judah and conquered Judah and Jerusalem, with Jerusalem falling around 586 B.C., and the people of Judah, the Jews, were taken into Babylonian captivity more than a hundred years after Israel was taken into captivity by Assyria. See 2 Kings chapters 24 and 25, and 2 Chronicles 36:5-21. Not only was the captivity of Israel and the captivity of Judah separated by more than a century, but the two groups were taken to different places. Israel was initially taken by Assyria to areas near the Habor river and in the cities of the Medes, areas to the northwest and northeast of Babylon, while the majority of the Jews were apparently taken by the Babylonians to Babylon and areas very close to Babylon.
Later, around the time of Ezra and Nehemiah, some of the Jews taken in the Babylonian captivity returned to the land of Judah and Jerusalem (Ezra 1:1-5). Those that returned then and those that returned later became the ancestors of the Jews in Judea during the time of Jesus and the New Testament Church. The Jews that returned plus those Jews who remained in Babylon or went to other areas in the world became the ancestors of Jews today. But the other tribes of Israel, the 10 tribes, taken in captivity by Assyria to areas north of Babylon 130 years before the captivity of Judah, never returned to Palestine and were never known as Jews. They became lost to history, with some calling them "the lost ten tribes".
Yet among these lost ten tribes are the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh, which were destined to become a great nation and a company of nations in the last days.The prophesied blessings of national prosperity and greatness in the last days do NOT apply to the Jews.
"Seven Times" Punishment for Sins
God prophesied that the descendents of Joseph would become a great nation and a company of nations, but that never occurred before those tribes went into captivity at the hands of the Assyrians as a punishment from God for their sins. Yet the prophecy must be fulfilled sometime after the captivity if God's word is true. This means that at some time God's punishment upon Israel would come to an end long enough for this prophecy to be fulfilled.
In Leviticus 26:1-45, God pronounces blessings for Israel for obedience and curses for disobedience. Notice Leviticus 26:18: "And after all this, if you do not obey Me, then I will punish you seven times more for your sins." And Leviticus 26:23-24: "And if by these things you are not reformed by Me, but walk contrary to Me, then I also will walk contrary to you, and I will punish you yet seven times for your sins." There are several places in this chapter of Leviticus where God uses the phrase "seven times". This can refer to seven times greater intensity of punishment. But there is another possible application. A prophetic "time" in fulfillment is a prophetic year with each day of the year representing an actual year in fulfillment.
A prophetic year is 360 days. An example of the number of days in a year in the Bible is given in the account of the flood in Noah's day: "In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the fountains of the great deep were broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened" (Genesis 7:11). The flood started on the seventeenth day of the second month. After 150 days, it ended on the seventeenth day of the seventh month: "And the waters receded continually from the earth. At the end of the hundred and fifty days the waters decreased. Then the ark rested in the seventh month, the seventeenth day of the month, on the mountains of Ararat" (Genesis 8:3-4). From the seventeenth day of the second month to the seventeenth day of the seventh month is exactly 5 months. It was also 150 days. One hundred and fifty days divided by five months is exactly 30 days per month.
There is also a year-for-a-day principle in the Bible. A prophetic day can represent a year in fulfillment. In the book of Numbers is the account of how Israel refused to enter the promised land because they did not trust God to protect them and help them against the inhabitants of Canaan. It took the spies from Israel forty days to spy out the land of Canaan. The full account is in Numbers chapters 13 and 14. Notice Numbers 13:25: "And they returned from spying out the land after forty days." After they returned, they gave a bad report of the land to the people because they didn't trust God to help them to take the land from the inhabitants. Then the people rebelled against God and Moses and wanted to return to Egypt. As a result, God pronounced judgment on them: "But as for you, your carcasses shall fall in this wilderness. And your sons shall be shepherds in the wilderness forty years, and bear the brunt of your infidelity, until your carcasses are consumed in the wilderness. According to the number of the days in which you spied out the land, forty days, for each day you shall bear your guilt one year, namely forty years, and you shall know My rejection" (Numbers 14:32-34).
Notice that there was a year of actual punishment for each day they spied out the land. This is just one example of the year-for-a-day principle in the Bible, but there are others.
All this is explained in more detail in Mr. Armstrong's book, The United States and British Commonwealth in Prophecy.
Applying the year-for-a-day principle to God's statement that He would punish Israel "seven times" for their sins gives us a period of time of 2,520 years of punishment. Israel went into captivity around 720 B.C. 2,520 years after that would be around 1800 A.D. So if the "seven times" punishment means seven prophetic times of duration, then the punishment of the 10 tribes would end around 1800 A.D., and the prophesied blessing to come upon the sons of Joseph, that Ephraim would become a great company of nations and Manasseh would become a great nation, could begin to be fulfilled starting around that time.
The Dynasty of King David
We have seen how the twelve tribes of Israel became divided into two kingdoms, the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah. The Israelites in the kingdom of Israel, including the two tribes prophesied to become a great nation and company of nations, went into captivity first and became lost to history. The southern kingdom of Judah, the Jews, went into captivity about 130 years later, and they are the ancestors of Jews today.
But why did this division among the tribes of Israel occur?
The reason for the division has to do with a special promise and prophecy that David's sons would continue on the throne of David even if they proved unfaithful to God. God made an unconditional promise that David's dynasty would continue unbroken "forever".
For a long time after Israel entered the promised land, and after Joshua, who was faithful to God, died, there was no king in Israel (Judges 21:25). Then in the days of Samuel the prophet, the people asked Samuel for a king (1 Samuel 8:4-5). Samuel took their request to God, and God appointed Saul to be king over Israel (1 Samuel 9:15-20, 27, 10:1-13, 17-25, 11:14-15). But after Saul became king, he proved unfaithful to God, so God rejected him and sent Samuel to anoint one of the sons of Jesse king to eventually replace Saul on the throne (1 Samuel 16:1). That son of Jesse was David (1 Samuel 16:11-13). After David was anointed by Samuel, several years went by before David actually replaced Saul as king over all Israel. During this time, God allowed David to go through many experiences to test and train his character, and David proved loyal to God. You can read of these experiences in chapters 16 through 31 of 1 Samuel and chapters 1 through 4 of 2 Samuel. But eventually David became king over all Israel (2 Samuel 5:1-5).
David wanted to build a house for God's name, and he inquired of the prophet Nathan. God told Nathan to tell David that he was not to build a house for God's name, but that his son would do it. This is related in 2 Samuel 7:1-17. Notice God's message through Nathan to David in verses 12 through 16 of 2 Samuel chapter 7: " 'When your days are fulfilled and you rest with your fathers, I will set up your seed after you, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his Father, and he shall be My son. If he commits iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men and with the blows of the sons of men. But My mercy shall not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I removed from before you. And your house and your kingdom shall be established forever before you. Your throne shall be established forever.' According to all these words and according to all this vision, so Nathan spoke to David."
God promised David that his throne would be established forever. He said that even if David's son sinned, God would not take His mercy from him as He took it from Saul. How did God take His mercy from Saul?
Saul did not die immediately when God rejected him. 1 Samuel 13 describes an incident that occurred after Saul had reigned two years. He offered a burnt offering, which only the priests had the authority to do. As a result, Samuel told him that his kingdom would not continue. "And Samuel said to Saul, 'You have done foolishly. You have not kept the commandment of the Lord your God, which He commanded you. For now the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. But now your kingdom shall not continue. The Lord has sought for Himself a man after His own heart, and the Lord has commanded him to be commander over His people, because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you' " (1 Samuel 13:13-14). Later, Saul disobeyed God again in the matter of the Amalekites (see chapter 15 of 2 Samuel). It was after this that God had Samuel anoint David as king to replace Saul.
But Saul was not removed from office right away. David was only a youth (1 Samuel 16:11). He was considered too young even to go to war (1 Samuel 17:12-15, 33). According to Numbers 1:2-3, those 20 years old and older were able to go to war. So David was probably no older than 20 and perhaps several years younger. God did not finally replace Saul with David until David was thirty (2 Samuel 5:4-5).
How did God remove his mercy from Saul? His dynasty ended. Saul wanted his son Jonathan to follow him on the throne (1 Samuel 20:30-31). But Jonathan was killed in battle when Saul died (1 Samuel 31:1-6). Another son of Saul, Ishbosheth, ruled Israel other than Judah for a time (2 Samuel 2:8-11), but he too died (2 Samuel 4:5-7).
But God would not do this with David's dynasty, even if his son sinned. This is exactly what God is promising David when he says "My mercy shall not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I removed from before you" and "your house and your kingdom shall be established forever before you. Your throne shall be established forever".
This is further illustrated by the history of the events that took place after this. Solomon was David's son who became king of Israel after David, and Solomon was the one who built God's temple. And Solomon did sin. "Solomon did evil in the sight of the Lord, and did not fully follow the Lord, as did his father David" (1 Kings 11:6).
As a result of Solomon's sin, God determined to take the kingdom away from Solomon's son. But God had already promised David that He would not take His mercy from David's son as He took His mercy from Saul, and God promised David that his house and his throne would be established forever. So in order to keep his promise to David, God had to allow David's dynasty to rule over part of Israel so that it could continue unbroken, even though most of Israel was taken away from Solomon's son.
We can read of this in 1 Kings 11:9-13: "So the Lord became angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned from the Lord God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice, and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods; but he did not keep what the Lord had commanded. Therefore the Lord said to Solomon, 'Because you have done this, and have not kept My covenant and My statutes, which I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom away from you and give it to your servant. Nevertheless I will not do it in your days, for the sake of your father David; I will tear it out of the hand of your son. However I will not tear away the whole kingdom; I will give one tribe to your son for the sake of my servant David, and for the sake of Jerusalem which I have chosen.' "
Psalm 89 describes God's commitment to maintaining David's dynasty forever. Notice verses 3-4: "I have made a covenant with My chosen, I have sworn to My servant David: 'Your seed I will establish forever, And build up your throne to all generations.' " Also, verses 30-37: "If his sons forsake My law And do not walk in My judgments, If they break My statutes And do not keep My commandments, Then I will punish their transgression with the rod, And their iniquity with stripes. Nevertheless My lovingkindness I will not utterly take from him, Nor allow My faithfulness to fail. My covenant I will not break, Nor alter the word that has gone out of My lips. Once I have sworn by My holiness; I will not lie to David: His seed shall endure forever, And his throne as the sun before Me; It shall be established forever like the moon, Even like the faithful witness in the sky."
Jeremiah chapter 33 adds a detail that David's throne will continue to rule over the children of Israel: " 'For thus says the Lord: "David shall never lack a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel; nor shall the priests, the Levites, lack a man to offer burnt offerings before Me, to kindle grain offerings, and to sacrifice continually." ' And the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah, saying, 'Thus says the Lord: "If you can break My covenant with the day and My covenant with the night, so that there will not be day and night in their season, then My covenant may also be broken with David My servant, so that he shall not have a son to reign on his throne, and with the Levites, the priests, My ministers. As the host of heaven cannot be numbered, nor the sand of the sea measured, so will I multiply the descendants of David My servant and the Levites who minister to Me." ' Moreover the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah, saying, 'Have you not considered what these people have spoken, saying, "The two families which the Lord has chosen, He has also cast them off"? Thus they have despised My people, as if they should no more be a nation before them. 'Thus says the Lord: "If My covenant is not with day and night, and if I have not appointed the ordinances of heaven and earth, then I will cast away the descendants of Jacob and David My servant, so that I will not take any of his descendants to be rulers over the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. For I will cause their captives to return, and will have mercy on them" ' " (Jeremiah 33:17-26).
The whole split between the kingdom of Israel and the kingdom of Judah and their separate histories occurred precisely because of God's commitment to continue David's dynasty forever, even when David's sons were unfaithful. It was a way God could show his displeasure with Solomon's sin and punish David's line, but still allow the line to continue ruling over part of Israel.
The rest of 1 Kings, and also 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles describes the succession of kings in both Israel and Judah. None of Israel's kings did right in the sight of the Lord, but some of Judah's kings, the line of David, did. But though there was no long lasting dynasty in Israel, and though many kings of the line of David in Judah were unfaithful to God, David's dynasty continued unbroken in Judah, up to the captivity of Judah around 586 B.C. when they were conquered by the Babylonians.
What happened to David's dynasty after that?
It would appear that David's dynasty ended. Apparently the writer of Psalm 89 was discouraged because it seemed on the surface that God did not keep his promise that David's throne would continue forever. You can read Psalm 89:38-45.
However, there is a way that David's dynasty could have survived and continued out of sight of the biblical account. There are hints of this in the Bible, but details are not given directly.
At the time Judah was conquered and Jerusalem taken by the Babylonians, King Zedekiah, of David's line, was sitting on the throne of Judah. He was captured, his sons were killed, and his eyes were put out: "But the army of the Chaldeans pursued the king, and they overtook him in the plains of Jericho. All his army was scattered from him. So they took the king and brought him up to the king of Babylon at Riblah, and they pronounced judgment on him. Then they killed the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes, put out the eyes of Zedekiah, bound him with bronze fetters, and took him to Babylon" (2 Kings 25:5-7). Then the Babylonians appointed a governor, not a king and not of the line of David, over some poor Jews that they left in the land. But then that governor was killed by Ishmael the son of Nethaniah plus ten men, and after this the Jews who were left wanted to flee to Egypt because they were afraid of the king of Babylon (2 Kings 25:22-26).
But among those who were left in the land were the king's daughters (Jeremiah 41:10). After the governor was murdered, this group wanted to flee to Egypt. But Jeremiah was with them, and inquired of the Lord, and God told them through Jeremiah to not flee to Egypt but to remain in the land and be subject to the king of Babylon. Nevertheless, they did not obey. You can read the full account in the book of Jeremiah, chapters 40 through 44. But the significant thing here is that the Bible mentions the king's daughters, and that Jeremiah was with them.
In the beginning of the book of Jeremiah, he describes how God commissioned him as a prophet to the nations. "Then the Lord put forth His hand and touched my mouth, and the Lord said to me: 'Behold, I have put My words in your mouth. See, I have this day set you over the nations and over the kingdoms, To root out and to pull down, To destroy and to throw down, To build and to plant' " (Jeremiah 1:9-10). Note that God said that Jeremiah was to build and to plant, and this was said in the context of being over nations and kingdoms. What was Jeremiah to plant?
In Ezekiel chapter 17 God gives a parable and interprets its meaning, rebuking Zedekiah for rebelling against the king of Babylon and sending ambassadors to Egypt (2 Kings 24:17-20, 2 Chronicles 36:11-13), breaking the oath he made with the king of Babylon. This whole chapter is in the context of Zedekiah, the last king mentioned in the line of David. Now notice Ezekiel 17:22-24: "Thus says the Lord God: 'I will take also one of the highest branches of the high cedar and set it out. I will crop off from the topmost of its young twigs a tender one, and will plant it on a high and prominent mountain. On the mountain height of Israel I will plant it; and it will bring forth boughs, and bear fruit, and be a majestic cedar. Under it will dwell birds of every sort; in the shadow of its branches they will dwell. And all the trees of the field shall know that I, the Lord, have brought down the high tree and exalted the low tree, dried up the green tree and made the dry tree flourish; I, the Lord, have spoken and have done it.' "
God says he will take a young twig, "a tender one", from a high cedar and will plant it on a prominent mountain. What does this represent? If you read the whole chapter, you will see that God has previously used the symbol of a young twig from a cedar to represent the offspring of David's dynasty. Compare Ezekiel 17:2-6 with verses 12-14. Verses 2-6 of Ezekiel chapter 17 says, "Son of man, pose a riddle, and speak a parable to the house of Israel, and say, 'Thus says the Lord God: "A great eagle with large wings and long pinions, Full of feathers of various colors, Came to Lebanon And took from the cedar the highest branch. He cropped off its topmost young twig And carried it to a land of trade; He set it in a city of merchants. Then he took some of the seed of the land And planted it in a fertile field; He placed it by abundant waters And set it like a willow tree. And it grew and became a spreading vine of low stature; Its branches turned toward him, But its roots were under it. So it became a vine, Brought forth branches, And put forth shoots." ' " Later God interprets this in verses 12-14: "Say now to the rebellious house: 'Do you not know what these things mean?' Tell them, 'Indeed the king of Babylon went to Jerusalem and took its king and princes, and led them with him to Babylon. And he took the king’s offspring, made a covenant with him, and put him under oath. He also took away the mighty of the land, that the kingdom might be brought low and not lift itself up, but that by keeping his covenant it might stand.' " It is obvious that the first eagle is the king of Babylon, and the young twig is the king's offspring which the king of Babylon made king over Judah.
Then a few verses later, God uses the symbolism of a young twig when He says he will plant it on a high mountain. A mountain is often a symbol for a nation. Would God change the symbolism of the young twig? Isn't it logical that the young twig God said He would plant would also represent the king's offspring?
Jeremiah was commissioned by God to build and to plant. God said He would take a young twig, a tender one, and plant it. After the imprisonment of Zedekiah and the death of his sons, Jeremiah was with the Jews left in the land of Judah and the Bible specifically mentions that the king's daughters were there. And though most of the Jews were taken captive to Babylon, except for a few left in the land of Judah, Israel had already left that area 130 years before and had been lost to history.
Considering the emphasis God has placed on his promise to David that his house and his throne would continue forever, doesn't it seem reasonable that God would use Jeremiah to plant that dynasty somewhere in Israel with one of the king's daughters?
Mr. Armstrong covers this subject in more detail his book, The United States and British Commonwealth in Prophecy. He believed he found historical evidence that David's dynasty was eventually transferred to the British Isles and that it continues in the British royal family today.
God's 7,000 Year Plan -- Are We in the Last Days?
Joseph's descendents are prophesied to be greatly blessed with power and prosperity in the "last days" (Genesis 49:1, 22-26). Joseph's sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, were prophesied to become a company of nations and a great nation respectively (Genesis 49:17-19).
The next question is, when are the "last days"? Are we in the last days now?
Mr. Armstrong taught that God had a 7,000 year plan for accomplishing His purpose with mankind. God instituted the seven day week at the time of creation, with the first six days for work and the seventh day a day of rest and spiritual renewal (Genesis 1:1-31, 2:1-3). God renewed the face of the earth and made it fit for man and then created man by doing the work of creation for six days. Then God created the Sabbath day by resting on the seventh day.
God commanded Israel to keep the Sabbath day in Exodus 20:8-11: "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it."
The Sabbath day is intended to be a day of delight, of resting from our ordinary work and using the time, not to pursue our own pleasures and entertainment, but to spend time drawing closer to God. "If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath, From doing your pleasure on My holy day, And call the Sabbath a delight, The holy day of the Lord honorable, And shall honor Him, not doing your own ways, Nor finding your own pleasure, Nor speaking your own words, Then you shall delight yourself in the Lord; And I will cause you to ride on the high hills of the earth, And feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father. The mouth of the Lord has spoken" (Isaiah 58:13-14).
The seven day week pictures God's plan for mankind. Peter wrote in 2 Peter 3:8: "But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day."
The Bible teaches that Jesus Christ will return to the earth to set up His Kingdom: "Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, 'Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?' And He said to them, 'It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.' Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, who also said, 'Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven' " (Acts 1:6-11).
Revelation 20:4 says, "And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years."
This 1,000 year reign of Christ with the saints is referred to in the Church's teachings as the millennium. It begins when Christ returns to bring peace and prosperity to the earth, and it is a period of time described in many prophecies in the Old Testament as a time of great happiness for all mankind. I will explain this in more detail in the next chapter when I cover the subject of what is the true gospel. But the point here is that the weekly Sabbath is a picture of what the one thousand year millennium will be like. It will be a time of rest, a time of spiritual renewal, and a time of joy, happiness, peace, and prosperity.
But the first six thousand years of man's existence has been a time of conflict, war, and suffering.
God's purpose is to allow mankind to live its own way, cut off from God, where each person can do whatever he wants including breaking all of God's commandments, so that mankind can learn the lesson that man's ways, apart from God, lead only to suffering and destruction. After this, Christ will return and mankind will learn to live God's way according to God's commandments, and man will learn that God's ways lead to peace and happiness.
According to Bible chronology and secular history, we are near the end of about 6,000 years since the creation of Adam. There is sufficient information in the Old Testament about the ages of men from Adam on and how old each was when they had a son, to calculate a chronology from the creation of Adam to the events in the history of Israel that can be matched up with events in secular history that are dated. Different people have come up with slightly different chronologies, and because fractions of years are not recorded, it is probably impossible to get an exact figure on how many years have passed since Adam, but most chronologies agree that from the time of Adam to the birth of Christ is about 4,000 years, and secular history records the number of years since Christ. James Ussher, whose dates are recorded in many editions of the King James Version of the Bible, records Adam's creation as occurring 4,004 B.C.
If the teaching about the 7,000 year plan of God is correct, we are indeed near the end of this age and the return of Christ, and our time can be described as the "last days".
Is this too thin? We have Peter's statement that a day is like a thousand years to God and a thousand years like a day. But the context of this statement is being patient in regards to waiting for God for the things God has promised, not specifically a description of God's plan. We have the fact that according to the Bible, by the time of Christ's birth, it was about 4,000 years since the creation of Adam, and we have secular history to show us that it has been about 2,000 years since the birth of Christ. But could this be just a coincidence that this is the time we are living in? The Bible clearly teaches that Christ will reign on the earth, with the saints, for 1,000 years. But does that prove, just on the basis of Peter's statement and the weekly cycle with the Sabbath day of rest as the last day of a seven day week, that Christ will return at the end of 6,000 years since Adam? Is this evidence too weak to prove the point?
I might not think it is too weak, but some might. But actually, there is another piece of corroborating evidence that I think cinches it. Anyone can say that all these things are coincidence, but this next thing proves for me that we are in the "last days" and near the end of a six thousand year period before the one thousand year millennial rule of Christ.
Chapter 12 of the book of Daniel describes end time events at the end of this age just prior to the return of Christ and the resurrection of the saints. This chapter is at the end of a long and detailed prophecy given in chapter 11. Describing conditions at the end of this age, Daniel is told, "But you, Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book until the time of the end; many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase" (Daniel 12:4). Note that a characteristic of the end time is that knowledge will increase and men will run to and fro. This fits EXACTLY with the characteristics of this time we are in today.
Today we are in a knowledge explosion. Knowledge of and use of science and technology has made this modern time so different in the way people live their lives as to be virtually unimaginable to people living centuries ago. Almost all modern devices and conveniences such as radio, television, automobiles, jet planes, rockets, computers, telephones and cell phones, even electricity and the electric light have come into existence in just the last two hundred years. We have gone past the industrial age, atomic age, and space age into the "information" age. And all this coincides with a revolution in transportation enabled by the advances in knowledge. Men travel "to and fro" across many miles in just a few hours in their automobiles, and can travel across continents and even across the earth in a few hours by air. Today we have weapons of mass destruction, including atomic and hydrogen bombs, poison gas, and germ warfare agents that didn't exist even 100 years ago. A little more than a hundred years ago, scientists did not even know for sure if atoms existed! Today, they not only understand the structure of atoms, but have advanced theories on the internal structure of some of the components of atoms such as protons and neutrons. And the advances in knowledge in science, technology, medicine, and many other fields continue at an ever-increasing pace.
This explosion in knowledge and in transportation has revolutionized the world and made our time utterly different from any previous time in history. And while man's fund of knowledge may have been increasing slowly throughout most of man's history, this knowledge explosion we are experiencing today has only just happened at an extremely rapid pace in the last two hundred years, and especially in the last one hundred years.
In Matthew 24:21-22, Christ says, describing end time events before His return, "For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened." He is describing a time of trouble so great, that unless God cut short the time, no flesh would survive. In our time now, for the first time in man's history, the weapons exist that are able to destroy man from the face of the earth. That was never true in centuries past. You cannot exterminate all flesh on earth with swords and arrows. But you can with nuclear bombs, poison gas, and germ warfare. And none of these things existed as practical weapons of war more than about one hundred years ago.
I do not believe that it is just a coincidence that this explosion in knowledge comes just at the end of 6,000 according to Bible chronology. I believe this indicates that we are indeed in the "last days".Therefore, according the prophesied blessings that Jacob pronounced on Joseph, that his descendents would be exceedingly prosperous and strong in the last days, and that his two sons would be a nation and a company of nations, we should expect to find the fulfillment of that prophecy today. Though the lost ten tribes of Israel, including the sons of Joseph, were lost to history after their conquest by Assyria, someplace today Ephraim and Manasseh should be a company of nations and a great nation respectively.
Let's put this together.
To summarize, the Bible prophesies that the two sons of Joseph, Ephraim and Manasseh, would become exceedingly prosperous and powerful, and would become a company of nations and a great single nation. This was prophesied to be their condition in the last days, and Bible chronology as well as the fulfillment of the prophecy in Daniel that knowledge would increase and men would run to and fro indicate that we are in the last days now. Further, God promises that a line of kings going back to King David would continue to exist and be ruling over at least a part of Israel. There is a strong indication that the prophecies concerning the sons of Joseph would begin to be fulfilled after the "seven times" or 2,520 years were completed around 1800 A.D.
Can we find such a picture of any nations or groupings of nations in history since 1800?
The British Empire and the United States grew vastly in power and wealth beginning around 1800. The United States perfectly fits the description of a great nation that Manasseh would become. The British Empire reached the height of its power around 1900 A.D., and became the British Commonwealth of nations which included Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa, and its history fits the description of Ephraim who was to become a great company or multitude of nations. Britain and the United States have controlled most of the important sea gates including the Panama canal, the Suez canal, the straits of Gibraltar, and many others (see Genesis 22:17). At the height of its power, the British Empire was the greatest empire the world has ever seen in terms of population, land area, and wealth. And Great Britain is one of the few major nations that still has a monarchy with a royal line going back to ancient times.
For confirmation of the historical facts of the tremendous growth of the United States and the British Empire, I recommend Winston Churchill's four volume work, History of the English Speaking People.
How could Ephraim end up in the British Isles and Manasseh in North America? God says in Amos 9:9: "For surely I will command, And will sift the house of Israel among all nations, As grain is sifted in a sieve; Yet not the smallest grain shall fall to the ground." God knows who the descendents of Israel are, every individual, and God has the power to work out circumstances to bring to Britain those who are descended from Ephraim and to the United States those who are descended from Manasseh, even if they migrate through many different lands and nations first. This does not mean every individual in Britain and America is a descendent of Joseph, and much intermarriage with non-Israelites probably has occurred, nevertheless, the historical fulfillment of prophecy indicates that there are enough people descended from each tribe in those nations for God to be able to bless those descendents by blessing those nations, and thus fulfill the promises made to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph and fulfill the prophecies of the Bible.
I am only covering the high points in this chapter. Mr. Armstrong in his book The United States and British Commonwealth in Prophecy covers these things in more detail and adds additional evidence that I am not covering here.
Is all this coincidence?
When I first read Mr. Armstrong's book on this subject, I looked up all the scriptures and I checked up on the facts in history. But I did not accept these things lightly. I did not take Mr. Armstrong's word for any of this. In order to make sure that Mr. Armstrong was not just picking out particular scriptures that supported his viewpoint and excluding others that would contradict his view, I read the whole Bible looking for any scriptures that had any bearing on the subject. I read Winston Churchill's History of the English Speaking People, as well as other books or articles on history.
But the facts of history do indeed support Bible prophecy concerning Israel.
But again, could all this be coincidence? I had to ask myself that question. I had to try to estimate the odds of these things happening just by chance. Because if this is not a coincidence, then it shows that the Bible is not just a collection of writings of men, but it is truly inspired by a God who is able to know the future in advance.
Skeptics can argue about whether certain prophecies were really written when the Bible says they were written. They may argue that the text could have been changed between 585 B.C. for example and the time of Christ. But the text could not be changed SINCE the first century Christian Church was established because from that point on both Jews and Christians kept and maintained copies of the Old Testament scriptures, and there could be no collaboration between those two groups to change the text. So the prophecies of the Old Testament are at least 1900 years old even if one wants to argue that certain texts may have been altered before the first century.
What are the odds that all these things could have been fulfilled by chance?
Where else in history, in any time in the last two thousand years, can you find a great nation and a company of nations, related to each other like brothers, coming into their greatness at about the same time, and enjoying the vast power and wealth as described by God in the prophecies concerning Israel and Joseph? I know of no other occasion in history. But if such an occasion did occur by chance, what is the chance that it would happen after the end of 2,520 years in 1800 but before the end of the 6,000 years allotted to mankind before Christ returns? Now consider the odds that of the few monarchies with a royal line going back to ancient times left on the earth today, one would be sitting on the throne of the leading nation of the only prosperous company of nations in our time.
Now figure the odds that the prophecy in Daniel that knowledge would increase and men would run to and fro would come to pass in our time just before the end of the 6,000 year period.
Some have wondered about the genetic mixing of the various tribes of Israel with non-Israelites and have suggested that this invalidates the proof of the identity of modern Israel. No doubt there has been intermarriage and mixing with non-Israelite nations over the centuries, and that can blur genetic differences between the tribes of Israel and other nations as well as increase the differences between the tribes of Israel. In fact, such intermarriage and mixing began even with the birth of Ephraim and Manasseh. Joseph had an Egyptian wife (Genesis 41:45), so the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh started out genetically half-Egyptian. Judah took a Canaanite wife (Genesis 38:2). Each of the original twelve sons of Jacob could have taken wives of various nationalities, which would tend to make the twelve tribes genetically different from each other and also similar to other nations. Also, God said that Israel would be sifted through the nations (Amos 9:9), so it is likely that intermarriage and mixing with other nations would occur after the captivity and exile of Israel.
But this does not invalidate prophecy. This isn't about genetics, racial characteristics, or separation of the races. This has to do only with the ancestry of Israel and the prophecies God made about those who are descendents of Jacob. Those alive today who have Jacob as an ancestor are the children of Israel regardless of who else they have for ancestors. And God, who created this vast universe with billions of galaxies and can number the hairs on our heads is well able to know who the descendents of Jacob are and to guide their migration. Those who have Ephraim or Manasseh as an ancestor are those who have fulfilled the prophecies concerning the specific blessings to come upon those two tribes at the end of the age. This is about fulfilled prophecy and prophecy to be fulfilled in the future, not racial characteristics.
I know that this will not convince anyone who prefers to believe that the Bible is not inspired by the Creator God. When I set out to prove these things one way or another, I tried to approach it with an open mind. I tried to be impartial, and to be impartial I chose to be skeptical of the things Mr. Armstrong wrote. I chose to not trust him or take his word for anything, but to get ideas from what he wrote and then check up on everything for myself independently. I didn't just try to find facts to support what he wrote -- I also tried to find facts to refute what he wrote. Also, I wasn't trying to prove it to anybody else, I was only trying to prove it for myself because I wanted to know. I cannot really prove it to you. If you want proof, you will have to check up and prove it for yourself, if you have the desire to know the truth one way or another. But I am sharing with you some of the main points of what I found in studying the Bible and comparing prophecies with history.
For me, the close correspondence between the history of the English speaking peoples and the history of mankind in the last few hundred years, with the prophecies in the Bible concerning the last days as I found in Mr. Armstrong's book and my own independent research, plus the unlikelihood of these things happening by coincidence, was convincing proof for me that a God who is able to foretell or control the future was the One to inspire these prophecies.
In biblical prophecy, Manasseh represents the United States. Ephraim is Britain and the other English speaking members or former members of the British Commonwealth of Nations, such as Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Modern Jews today are descended primarily from Judah, Benjamin, and much of Levi. Although I have not verified this independently, Mr. Armstrong in his book has identified several nations in northwestern Europe such as France, Sweden, Denmark, Ireland, Finland, Belgium, and Holland as being descended from the other tribes of Israel. Prophecies referring to Israel or Jacob in the Bible can sometimes refer to all twelve tribes, or to the ten tribes other than the Jews, or to the tribes of Joseph only, depending on the context and the particular application. But prophecies naming Jacob or Israel will always include the United States and British descended nations.
In the remaining chapters of this book, when I refer to "Israel", I am primarily referring to the English speaking nations such as the United States, Britain, and Canada, and also the Jews.
How I Researched these Truths
I first learned about the teachings of Herbert W. Armstrong on this subject from his book, The United States and British Commonwealth in Prophecy. I probably approached the teachings of Mr. Armstrong differently than most members of Worldwide did when they first came into contact with him. I think a lot of members accepted whatever he said if it sounded good. In other words, if it seemed to make sense, if they could verify a few supporting scriptures given in the literature, if it appealed to them emotionally, they accepted it.
Mr. Armstrong's teachings made sense to me, they appealed to me emotionally, but I did not accept them. I figured, if I wanted the real truth, I could not trust my gut feeling, my instincts, my emotion. If I just accepted something because I think it sounds good, how was I different from millions of other people of all kinds of religions who believe what they want to believe without proof?
So basically, I forced myself to be skeptical. I did my own research beyond what Mr. Armstrong said. I was determined not to accept any major belief without proof, and not to trust Mr. Armstrong about anything.
In the book about the United States and Britain, I did not accept or use all of Mr. Armstrong's arguments. Some I did not use because I didn't have the time or resources to do a good job of verifying them, and some I did not use because I did not feel they were strong enough by themselves, though they may be supporting evidence in combination with other things. For example, Mr. Armstrong devotes some space in his book to ancient Irish annals about ancestors of the British royal line to show that daughters of the line of David went to Ireland. Due to limitations in my time and my skill as a researcher, I did not feel I could have verified this independently in a reasonable period of time, so I didn't base any of my conclusions on it. I stuck to points of evidence that I felt confident I could do a good job of checking and verifying independently. Mr. Armstrong used a number of other points of evidence to show that the English speaking people are descended from Joseph that I have not mentioned in this chapter. In many cases, these points are not themselves conclusive proof, but taken together add weight to what I feel I have already proved, and I encourage the reader to study Mr. Armstrong's book for these points.
I mention these things to show that I did not just lightly accept what Mr. Armstrong taught without doing independent thinking and my own research apart from what he wrote. As I mentioned, I forced myself to take a skeptical approach, and I tried to consider and find ways that Mr. Armstrong could be wrong. I also read some literature that tries to refute the positions Mr. Armstrong took.
Nevertheless, when I took certain scriptures at face value and just accepted what seemed to me to be their natural meaning, there were some things I couldn't ignore or refute. For example, Scripture does indeed say that the descendents of Joseph's two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, would have unusually prosperous destinies, that Manasseh would become a great nation and that Ephraim would become a great grouping of nations. And God does promise that David's line of kings would continue unbroken ruling over part of Israel. The points Mr. Armstrong makes do not seem unreasonable. There is, for example, ample precedence in the Bible for interpreting "times" as years of 360 days each, with a year for each day in fulfillment. The Anglo-Israel promoters didn't invent this idea.
I've read some criticisms that try to refute Mr. Armstrong's explanation for these scriptures. They suggest alternative interpretations. They do not hold up logically. Some raise interesting points about minor matters, but do not affect the overall conclusion. Others seem to miss the point entirely. I have not come across any point of scripture or history or logic that effectively refutes Mr. Armstrong's conclusion.
I looked at history. To get a good background and some statistics on the rise of the United States and Britain, I read Winston Churchill's four-volume history of the English speaking people, as well as other sources.
When I looked at history, I found that indeed a great nation and a great company of nations came to power about 2,520 years after the original captivity of the house of Israel, that these two powers seemed to be related like brother nations, and that the chief nation of the company of nations was one of the few major nations in the world to still have a reigning royal line that can be traced back to antiquity.
Now all this might be a coincidence. But I had to consider how unlikely a coincidence this would be.
In all of human history, there has never been an empire like Britain's. They are the only power ever to possess, with the United States, the majority of the strategic sea passages of the world. At the peak, the combined wealth and power of the English speaking people was enormous compared with the rest of the world. All this, by itself, proves nothing.
But consider this. This fabulously prosperous people do comprise a great nation and a great grouping of nations. All this wealth and power did come rather suddenly starting around 1800, as statistics prove. There are few, if any, kings or queens sitting on thrones whose royal ancestry can be traced to antiquity, and only two among the major nations of the world that I know of, Britain and Japan. Of the three main races of mankind, the Japanese are of a completely different race than ancient Israel. That means there is only one major nation with an ancient monarchy in the same racial group as Israel. And that one nation is the same nation that is head of this group of nations just described.
I tried to think about other alternatives. What about the Arabs? Can they be considered a group of brother-nations? Weren't they a powerful empire at one time? But even at their peak they never achieved the fabulous wealth prophesied for Joseph. And where can you find a hereditary line of kings going back unbroken to ancient times among the Arabs? Also, they didn't come into their power 2520 years after Israel went into captivity. Nothing fits.
Could it be a case of looking at what has occurred in history, and twisting scriptures to make it seem that the Bible predicted it? I considered that. But I read the whole Bible cover-to-cover looking for evidence against what Mr. Armstrong wrote. The prophecies concerning blessings to come upon the children of Joseph and the promise to David that he will never lack a man to sit on a throne of Israel are genuine. There is enough emphasis on these things and enough repetition in the Bible, that it must be something important to God.
I had to consider the odds.
What was the probability that any nation, empire, or people would ever in human history fit the profile that the Bible seemed to predict? One chance in ten? One chance in one hundred?
With the combined characteristics of fabulous wealth and power, a single nation and a group of nations, a royal throne traceable to ancient times, and the wealth and power coming at a particular time after about 2500 years, it is extremely unlikely that any people or empire would have all of these traits.
Add to this, the many minor points and supporting arguments presented in Mr. Armstrong's book, each by itself inconclusive, but in total adding support to his main conclusion.
At this point, I became convinced that the evidence pointing to the United States being descended primarily from Manasseh and the British Commonwealth being primarily descended from Ephraim was overwhelming, and that the fulfillment of the prophecies concerning these nations in the last two hundred years would be so unlikely a coincidence apart from the inspiration, knowledge, and intervention of God, that the fulfillment of these prophecies proves that they were inspired by a God who is able to know and determine the course of future events before they occur.
What About the New Testament?
Once I proved that the Old Testament was inspired by God, I had to also prove whether or not the New Testament was also inspired by God.
There are many prophecies referring to Christ in the Old Testament that are perfectly fulfilled in the accounts in the New Testament. But I could not regard this as proof because I figured that if the New Testament was not true, the New Testament authors could have written their books to be consistent with what they found in the Old Testament. It was clear that the Old Testament predicted a Messiah, but I wanted some kind of proof or evidence that from Old Testament scriptures and from history that Jesus Christ was indeed that Messiah before I could accept the New Testament as the word of God.
In the book of Daniel is a prophecy of WHEN the Messiah would appear. This prophecy is known as the seventy weeks prophecy. You can read all of Daniel chapter 9 to get the full story. Daniel 9:25 says, "Know therefore and understand, That from the going forth of the command To restore and build Jerusalem Until Messiah the Prince, There shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; The street shall be built again, and the wall, Even in troublesome times." The seven weeks and sixty-two weeks total to sixty-nine weeks. This is another example of the day for a year principle. Sixty-nine weeks times seven days per week are equal to 483 days. Applying the day for a year principle gives us 483 years. So this verse seems to indicate that from the giving of the command to rebuild Jerusalem until the appearing of the Messiah would be 483 years.
When was the command given to rebuild Jerusalem?
Although the Bible scholars and commentaries generally agree that each day represents a year, they have different opinions about when the command to rebuild Jerusalem was given. Some believe this was fulfilled in the seventh year of the reign of Artaxerxes with the decree described in Ezra 7:11-28 around 457 B.C. Others believe that this was not fulfilled until the decree made later in the 20th year of Artaxerxes about 13 years later around 444 or 445 B.C. as described in Nehemiah 2:4-8. The decree described in the book of Ezra came first, so if this decree included a command to rebuild Jerusalem, then this would be the fulfillment, and the 483 year period would start around 457 B.C.
Some believe that the decree given to Ezra could not fulfill the requirements of the prophecy because it does not specifically mention rebuilding the city of Jerusalem, but rather focuses on beautifying the temple and worshipping God at the temple with sacrifices. However, I think this decree is so broad and all-encompassing in its scope, it virtually requires a rebuilding of the city to have its full effect. Although it is lengthy, I will quote all of it: "Artaxerxes, king of kings, To Ezra the priest, a scribe of the Law of the God of heaven: Perfect peace, and so forth. I issue a decree that all those of the people of Israel and the priests and Levites in my realm, who volunteer to go up to Jerusalem, may go with you. And whereas you are being sent by the king and his seven counselors to inquire concerning Judah and Jerusalem, with regard to the Law of your God which is in your hand; and whereas you are to carry the silver and gold which the king and his counselors have freely offered to the God of Israel, whose dwelling is in Jerusalem; and whereas all the silver and gold that you may find in all the province of Babylon, along with the freewill offering of the people and the priests, are to be freely offered for the house of their God in Jerusalem— now therefore, be careful to buy with this money bulls, rams, and lambs, with their grain offerings and their drink offerings, and offer them on the altar of the house of your God in Jerusalem. And whatever seems good to you and your brethren to do with the rest of the silver and the gold, do it according to the will of your God. Also the articles that are given to you for the service of the house of your God, deliver in full before the God of Jerusalem. And whatever more may be needed for the house of your God, which you may have occasion to provide, pay for it from the king’s treasury. And I, even I, Artaxerxes the king, issue a decree to all the treasurers who are in the region beyond the River, that whatever Ezra the priest, the scribe of the Law of the God of heaven, may require of you, let it be done diligently, up to one hundred talents of silver, one hundred kors of wheat, one hundred baths of wine, one hundred baths of oil, and salt without prescribed limit. Whatever is commanded by the God of heaven, let it diligently be done for the house of the God of heaven. For why should there be wrath against the realm of the king and his sons? Also we inform you that it shall not be lawful to impose tax, tribute, or custom on any of the priests, Levites, singers, gatekeepers, Nethinim, or servants of this house of God. And you, Ezra, according to your God-given wisdom, set magistrates and judges who may judge all the people who are in the region beyond the River, all such as know the laws of your God; and teach those who do not know them. Whoever will not observe the law of your God and the law of the king, let judgment be executed speedily on him, whether it be death, or banishment, or confiscation of goods, or imprisonment" (Ezra 7:12-26).
Note the broad scope of this decree and the wide latitude and authority Ezra was given. There is a lot more involved here than just giving Ezra expense money for the temple and for sacrifices. Ezra is commanded to set up a system for teaching God's law to the people and a judicial system to judge the people and enforce God's law. Notice verses 25 and 26: "And you, Ezra, according to your God-given wisdom, set magistrates and judges who may judge all the people who are in the region beyond the River, all such as know the laws of your God; and teach those who do not know them. Whoever will not observe the law of your God and the law of the king, let judgment be executed speedily on him, whether it be death, or banishment, or confiscation of goods, or imprisonment." Was Ezra expected to accomplish all this and maintain temple worship in the midst of a pile of ruins?
Finally, notice verse 18: "And whatever seems good to you and your brethren to do with the rest of the silver and the gold, do it according to the will of your God." Was it the will of God that the Jews use some of this expense money to rebuild the city so that the temple of God was not sitting in the midst of ruins? Would that be something that would "seem good" to Ezra and his brethren? If so, it is included in the decree.
Also, although in the 20th year of Artaxerxes Nehemiah received permission to go to Jerusalem specifically for the purpose of helping to rebuild Jerusalem and its wall, which was not complete at that time, I do not see any mention of a decree that is broad-based like the one that was given to Ezra by Artaxerxes which we just read. Rather, it seems that Nehemiah only asked for and received letters from Artaxerxes to the governors of the area to allow Nehemiah free passage to Judah and to provide him with timber. Artaxerxes did not command Nehemiah or anyone at that time to rebuild Jerusalem and its wall. He only gave him permission to go to Jerusalem to help rebuild it and he authorized the supplying of timber to him.
So it seems to me that prophecy in Daniel that a command would go forth to rebuild Jerusalem was fulfilled around 457 B.C. Then 483 years later would bring us to around 27 A.D., the beginning of the public ministry of Jesus Christ (in calculating, note that there is no 0 year -- the year 1 A.D. immediately follows the year 1 B.C.).
When I was studying this prophecy to try to prove if the New Testament was God's word, I had already proved to my satisfaction that the Old Testament was inspired by a God who was able to foretell the future. There are many prophecies in the Old Testament that predict that a Messiah will come. This particular prophecy indicates WHEN He will come. And it points directly to the New Testament account of Jesus Christ.
If Jesus Christ is not the prophesied Messiah, who is? The prophecy in Daniel predicts the coming of the Messiah. If it is not Jesus Christ, who is it? Even if I am off a few years in my calculations, the prophecy nevertheless points to the general time period of the beginning of Christianity, and no other Messiah has appeared anywhere near that time. There are no other candidates. Either Jesus Christ is the Messiah, or the prophecy in Daniel has failed. And it was the same God who inspired Daniel as inspired Moses and other writers when they predicted the rise of the sons of Joseph to become the greatest nation and commonwealth of nations in our time that the world has ever seen.
Also, if the New Testament is not true, if the miracles of Jesus Christ are a fraud, I have difficulty understanding why His followers would promote such a lie and then prove their sincerity by sacrificing their lives to die for something they know is a lie! For a man or a group of men to be able to invent such a fraud, then promote it so successfully, and yet leave no record or evidence in history that it was a fraud, seems implausible to me.
In addition, by the time I had gone this far in my studies, I had been able to see a harmony and a consistency in the entire Bible, Old Testament and New Testament together, that seems extremely unlikely if the Bible is just a collection of books written by different authors who were not inspired by one God.
Evolution versus the Creation Account in Genesis
In this section, I want to talk about the issue of evolution, intelligent design, and the creation account in Genesis.
Many people who believe in evolution try to refute the creation account in Genesis by saying that science proves that the earth is more than 6,000 years old. But this argument is based on a misunderstanding of Genesis. The Bible does not say that the earth is 6,000 years old. And I am not saying that the account in Genesis is using metaphor. The Genesis account is literal, but it does not indicate at all when the earth itself was created.
Let's start with Genesis 1:1: "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." This is a simple statement that God created the earth and the entire universe. It does not say when He did it or how.
Now at this point in the narrative, the earth exists. Verse 1 just said God created the earth. Now look at the next verse, Genesis 1:2: "The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters." Verse two is describing the condition of the earth at this point in the narrative. It is covered with darkness and with water. But it exists. God had already created it in verse one.
How long did the earth exist in the condition described in verse two? How long was the earth covered with water and in darkness? A day? A week? A year? A million years? The Bible DOES NOT SAY.
Is there a period of time between verse 1 and verse 2? In other words, could the condition of the earth described in verse 2 NOT be the way God originally created it? Could God have created the earth, not covered with water, but with land areas and in light not darkness, even with life on it, in verse 1? And could something have happened later in time to cause the condition described in verse 2 with the earth covered in water and in darkness? Genesis itself DOES NOT SAY. However, there is an indication elsewhere in the Bible that shows that God did not originally create the earth "without form and void", that this must have been a condition that came upon the earth later, after God created the earth as stated in verse 1, but before verse 2.
Isaiah 45:18 says, "For thus says the Lord, Who created the heavens, Who is God, Who formed the earth and made it, Who has established it, Who did not create it in vain, Who formed it to be inhabited: 'I am the Lord, and there is no other.' "
Where this verse says that God did not create the earth in vain, the words "in vain" are translated from the same Hebrew word in the original text that is translated "without form" in Genesis 1:2. You can check this out with a Strong's Exhaustive Concordance which lists every word in the Bible and every place it is used, and also gives the Hebrew and Greek words that each English word is translated from. So in effect, Isaiah 45:18 is saying that God did not create the earth without form and void. So the earth would not have been in this condition originally, without form and void, with water and darkness covering the earth. This condition of waste came later.
What could cause the earth to become "without form and void", completely covered in water, and in darkness? This pictures the result of destruction and chaos, and can come about as a result of sin and rebellion against God and His ways. For example, this is why the flood came upon the earth in the days of Noah. Notice the reasons for the flood: "Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. So the Lord said, 'I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them' " (Genesis 6:5-7). "And God said to Noah, 'The end of all flesh has come before Me, for the earth is filled with violence through them; and behold, I will destroy them with the earth' " (Genesis 6:13). "And behold, I Myself am bringing floodwaters on the earth, to destroy from under heaven all flesh in which is the breath of life; everything that is on the earth shall die" (Genesis 6:17). Then the flood came and covered the whole earth (Genesis 7:17-20).
The sins of mankind, especially violence, were the cause of the flood in the days of Noah. What could be a cause for the surface of the earth to be destroyed by water before man was even created?
When Adam was created, Satan, described as the serpent, was already on the earth. We first read of him in Genesis 3:1, yet he is not included in the description starting in Genesis 1:2 through all of chapter 2. Satan existed before Adam was created and before the six days of creation described in Genesis 1:2-31.
Before man existed, when the earth was first created, angels existed and were joyous at the creation of the earth (Job 38:4-7). Lucifer was not created evil by God. He was originally perfect in his ways until he sinned (Ezekiel 28:14-15). He was also on this earth, and he rebelled against God, desiring to rise above the heights of the clouds (Isaiah 14:12-14). There are indications that he led one third of God's angels into rebellion with him and they became demons (Revelation 12:3-4), suggesting that Lucifer and about a third of the angels inhabited this earth before man.
If this is the case, the sin and rebellion of Satan and his demons on the earth could have been the cause of the destruction of the surface of the earth that we see in Genesis 1:2, "The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters", just as the sins of mankind resulted in the destruction of the earth in Noah's day. But if this is the case, and I believe it is, then as far as the Bible is concerned there could have been a period of time AFTER the earth was created and BEFORE the destruction described in the second verse of Genesis that lasted hundreds of millions of years, and the earth could have been filled with life at that time.
The Bible does not say anything about the plant and animal life forms that existed before Genesis 1:2 and how long ago they existed, but science does. Fossils have been found that appear to be millions of years old, and there have been found fossils of many species, such as the dinosaurs, that never existed in the days of Noah when he brought all the animals into the ark.
The account of the six days of creation contained in the first chapter of Genesis does not describe the original creation of the earth, but a re-creation, a refreshing, a renewal of the surface of the earth and of the positions of the other bodies in the solar system in preparation for the creation of Adam and Eve.
Some will say that radiocarbon dating establishes dates for humans and their artifacts that cannot be reconciled with Bible chronology. But radiocarbon dating is based on an assumption that the intensity of cosmic rays that bombard the atmosphere of the earth from space has always been constant, and this assumption is unproven. If the intensity of cosmic rays reaching the earth was different in the past, dates established by radiocarbon dating by scientists today would be inaccurate. Also, fossils of creatures that are similar in their skeletal structure to humans today could be fossils of animals, similar to humans, but not human, just as the great apes today are similar in body structure to humans but are not human.
Therefore, fossil evidence does not prove that the creation account in Genesis is wrong.
But though there is no contradiction between physical evidence and the creation account in Genesis, I believe there are very serious problems with the theory of evolution itself.
I will state right here that although I have done some reading on the subject of the theory of evolution, I am not an expert on it. But what I have learned suggests serious problems with the theory, and I invite the interested reader to do his or her own research on the subject with these problems in mind.
One of the main problems with evolution is that the theory does not explain how complex organ systems and biological mechanisms can gradually come into existence through a process of random mutation and natural selection, when MANY changes would have to occur together in the genetic blueprint before any of them would confer any advantage to survival and the propagation of the species. This is called "irreducible complexity".
Herbert W. Armstrong published a number of articles and booklets that take a detailed look at certain particular species and their characteristics and ask, "How could these characteristics have evolved gradually?"
One example is the woodpecker. While most birds eat seeds or insects that are found out in the open, the woodpecker eats insects found inside of the trunks or branches of trees. This bird gets these insects out of the tree by drilling a hole into the wood with its beak, then getting the insects that are inside with its tongue. This requires a combination of highly sophisticated organs and instincts, all working together, which other birds do not have, in order for any of them to have a benefit.
In order to find the insects, such as ants, that have tunneled into the tree, the woodpecker uses its hearing to find them as they are moving around or digging tunnels. This requires a specially developed sense of hearing. In order to drill into the wood, the woodpecker has specialized feet and tail feathers that enable the bird to maintain a strong and favorable grip and position on the tree, as well as an especially hard beak that other birds do not have. The beak has to be hard enough to drill a hole into the tree. Once the bird has drilled a hole to reach the tunnel containing the insects, it inserts a long, sticky tongue into the tunnel, and the insects stick to the woodpecker's tongue. Other birds do not have tongues of this type. The woodpecker has especially strong neck muscles for delivering blows strong enough to penetrate the tree, and to do so repeatedly in rapid succession without fatigue. Finally and most importantly, the bird must have the right instincts to use all these specialized organs together to actually obtain its food this way, and other birds do not have these instincts. It would do a bird no good to have an especially hard beak, special claws and tail feathers for maintaining a strong position for drilling on the trunk, extra strong neck muscles, specialized hearing that can locate the insects in the tree, and a specialized long, sticky tongue, if it did not have the instincts to use these organs together to find and catch insects inside the trunk of a tree.
How could all these characteristics have evolved gradually if most of them have no particular advantage unless all are present, fully developed, at the same time? Generally, there is a biological cost, in energy, growth time, and nutritional requirements, to any organ or system, and highly developed and sophisticated organs tend to diminish if they are not useful to a species. A bird would not tend to have extra strong neck muscles if those muscles are not being used to drill into a tree. Even if random genetic mutations produced a bird with stronger-than-average neck muscles (one mutation would not likely be enough for such a muscle system, it would likely require many genetic changes, because it takes a whole group of muscles working together along with neck bones that can take the stress), unless that extra strength is used, not only does the group of mutations provide no survival advantage, but it actually will hurt the bird's chances for survival, since more food would be required to grow and maintain muscles that are larger and stronger than necessary.
So in order for ANY of these special characteristics of a woodpecker to be developed and continue, each one has to be an advantage, not a disadvantage, to the bird's survival and reproduction. Yet for these characteristics to be an advantage, all have to be present at the same time. How can this happen gradually? A bird would have to have thousands, maybe tens or hundreds of thousands of genetic mutations, or more, in order for all these characteristics to appear fully developed, or else the bird would not be able to obtain its food this way. The odds against this ever happening even in hundreds of millions of years are astronomical.
Another example published by the Church when Mr. Armstrong was alive involves the archer fish. This is a fish that obtains insect food by squirting a jet of water from its mouth above the surface of the water to knock an insect off a low-lying branch or twig of a tree that is over the water. The fish eats the insect after it is shot down and falls into the water. To do this successfully requires not only the ability to squirt water out of its mouth at high speed, but extremely complex and highly developed instincts to see the insect above water, aim the stream of water accurately, and allow for the distortion due to the bending of light as it passes from air to water at the surface.
From what I have read, I think scientists have acknowledged that the development of complex systems that require many genetic changes all at once before any of them confer a survival advantage is a problem with the current theory, and they have started to say that evolution must happen in sudden spurts, not gradually. But I have read of no explanation as to HOW this could occur.
I believe there is another flaw in the theory of evolution that has been identified more recently, and it comes from information theory. Biologists realize that the genes of a species are a genetic code, similar in many ways to computer code. The genes are a coded blueprint that determines the characteristics of the species, just as computer code determines the characteristics of a piece of computer software. But the amount and complexity of information coded in the genes of even a relatively simple species are so vast that, even if it were possible for species to evolve, even billions of years would not be sufficient to produce the quantity of code and the information in it. In other words, even if evolution were possible, and based on the impossibility of complex systems developing suddenly I believe evolution is not possible, but even if it were, there has not been enough time on the earth, even after hundreds of millions of years, for evolution to have produced the species that exist today.
In a sense, evolution is not a complete theory. It states that random genetic changes that give a species an advantage can be preserved and spread through natural selection, and it states that this can result in new species, even all species that exist, but it does not provide an explanation of how this can occur that actually works. Scientists and teachers who promote the theory of evolution like to say that just because they do not know all the details of how it occurred does not mean that the theory is wrong. But this is misleading. The reason they do not know the details is not that there are many possible ways it could have occurred and they just don't know which one actually happened. The reason they do not know the details is that they know of NO possible way it could have occurred.
Why do scientists and teachers believe evolution in the absence of any real workable explanation as to how it could have occurred? I think that for scientists and educators, evolution is a faith. It is like a religion for them. They believe it because they want to believe it. In this respect, they are like millions of people who believe their religious ideas because they want to. Just as millions of people who practice their traditional religious beliefs and customs find that belief in God and in an afterlife comforts them, so those that believe in evolution find comfort in the idea that there is no God who has the authority to tell them how to live their lives and they will never be held accountable by a higher power for what they do in this physical life.
Most people have a built-in bias against God telling them what to do. Some people deal with this by choosing religions that express their own inclinations and opinions, and some deal with this by denying the existence of God altogether. The theory of evolution, as a faith, despite its logical flaws, enables those who believe in it to believe that there is no God who intervenes in human affairs and has the authority to tell men how to live.
Here is a test that can show that the theory of evolution is a kind of faith for those who believe it. The next time a scientist, advocate of evolution, biology teacher, or college professor challenges you on evolution and wants to know why you don't believe it, try asking, "Can you prove evolution according to the rules of formal logic?" Many colleges offer courses in formal logic. Formal logic is logic based on deductive reasoning. This is the same kind of reasoning used to produce proofs in geometry. It is illustrated by the example, "All dogs bark. Sandy is a dog. Therefore, Sandy barks." Used properly it can be very accurate, but it has a limitation. It can only reason from assumed premises. In the above example, it is assumed that all dogs bark. Then, based on this assumption, if Sandy is a dog, you can prove that Sandy barks. But if the premise is wrong, your conclusion can be wrong.
The false premise in evolution that the scientific community assumes is that there is no God who intervenes in physical processes.
People often think of science as a field of knowledge, a category of information, a subject matter. This is often how the term "science" is used. Courses in school for example are divided into categories such as science, mathematics, history, etc. and books in libraries and bookstores are grouped in similar ways. But science is more than a category or field of knowledge. It is a way of looking at the world and a way of trying to discover knowledge.
Science is a culture, a community, a process for trying to discover new knowledge, and a way of thinking. The foundation of this community and way of thinking is the scientific method. The scientific method is the only method for investigating questions of science that the scientific community will accept. It is the basis for discussion of scientific issues. Reasoning outside of the scientific method is not allowed in a scientist's work. And a basic premise of the scientific method as practiced by the scientific community is that no supernatural explanation for any physical evidence is even to be considered. In other words, the possibility that there is a God who might intervene in any physical process is excluded in scientific thinking. The scientific method therefore rules out even considering the possibility that God created life on the earth, even before any physical evidence is examined. And the scientific method is the only method of investigation a scientist may use in his work.
Science requires that scientific theories be empirically testable and be based on multiple observation, often in the form of controlled, repeatable experiments. This alone excludes consideration of supernatural causes for physical evidence. The intervention of God is not subject to repeatable experiment. God chooses when and how to intervene in physical processes, and such choices are not predictable in their details.
The scientific method works fine in the laboratory and in investigating everyday processes because God allows the universe to follow the natural laws He has created and does not ordinarily interfere with natural law. He does not make His presence known by constantly intervening in the physical operation of the universe. God wants man to be able to work with matter and energy and to be able to control his environment to a degree, and physical processes need to be predictable for men to understand and work with them. Also, it is not God's will to reveal Himself to mankind at this time in such a way that men cannot deny His existence. At this time, God is giving mankind a free choice about this, and so He stays in the background right now. But that does not mean that God did not create the universe, or life itself. This assumption, that God never intervenes in physical processes, does not work well in explaining how things came into existence in the first place, or the past history of how everything came to be the way it is. When scientists use the scientific method in the laboratory, they are using it properly, but when they try to use it to explain the origins of life, they are using for a purpose to which it is ill suited, and it fails miserably.
According to the scientific method, there is no God who intervenes in physical processes, and the scientific method is the only way of thinking most scientists and educators will acknowledge as a way of investigating the origin of species. So their thinking about evolution is distorted and biased from the beginning.
This is why the scientific community cannot accept or even objectively consider creation by God as an explanation for life on earth.
Some opponents of evolution use the term "intelligent design" to refer to the concept that life shows design by an intelligent being. This is sometimes promoted as a scientific theory without stating who the intelligent designer is. But scientists know that the term "intelligent design" refers to design and creation by an intelligent God. And in the minds of most scientists, to even consider such a possibility as an explanation for physical evidence would be a violation of the scientific method.
Therefore scientists within the scope of
their scientific work and teaching CANNOT accept creation by God or intelligent
design. They have no choice but to try to fit all physical evidence into the
evolutionary framework if they are to work within the limits of the
In science, the scientific method is the lens through which all physical evidence is evaluated. The scientific method is the basis for all reasoning that scientists are expected to employ in their work as scientists. Reasoning outside of the scientific method is not allowed. This approach, when applied to the origin of things, denies even the possibility of a creator God before any evidence is even examined. One who adopts this method in exploring the origins of things has no choice but to search only for physical explanations for any evidence he finds. The scientific community is made up of hundreds of thousands of scientists who spend their whole lives evaluating physical evidence and proposing explanations from this point of view. Millions of man-years have been expended to explain fossils, radio carbon dating, DNA, etc. from an evolutionary point of view.
Scientists and science teachers may challenge those who believe in creation to explain some point of physical evidence, such as radiocarbon measurements, fossils, or evidence regarding the rate of genetic mutations, and say to a believer in creation, perhaps a young student, "How can you explain this apart from evolution?" Then the student or believer in creation is expected to come up with an alternative explanation in the next couple of seconds or the teacher may say, "See, there is no explanation apart from evolution, therefore this proves that evolution is true." But that is not logical. If a student does not think of an alternative explanation, that is not proof that there is no explanation. To be fair, not only should the student have an equal number of years to explain the evidence according to intelligent design, the same number of years scientists have had to explain it according to the theory of evolution, but the student would need access to the original physical evidence itself as well as the equipment and training needed to examine the evidence, not just published reports of the evidence after it has been selected and interpreted by those who accept and practice the evolutionary faith.
The point is, the whole field of study of the physical evidence in life and in the earth is dominated by a community of scientists who are biased right from the beginning of their education and training against belief in a creator God who can intervene in natural processes, and therefore their conclusions and explanations are untrustworthy. To use an analogy, if this were a court case, if a prospective jury member had such a degree of bias one way or another, he could rightly be dismissed from being on the jury.
Scientists and educators cannot prove evolution according to formal logic without setting as a premise that there is no God who intervenes in physical processes, and this premise is false. Nevertheless, they accept this premise without proof. For them, though they will not call it a faith, it is a faith and it is like a religion to them.
And in the educational system and scientific community, the majority who practice this faith are in a position of power and influence that enables them to put enormous pressure to conform upon those who do not want to accept this faith.
There is another problem with evolution, and that is the way it is taught in the schools. Though it is called a theory, it is not taught just as a possibility of how life and all the species might have come into existence. It is taught as fact, as the way life actually came to be. One of the principles that the scientific community claims to follow is that for a theory to qualify as scientific, it should be considered provisional or tentative, admitting that it might not be correct rather than asserting certainty. Yet that is not how evolution is taught. Evolution is presented in the classroom and textbooks as a certainty. No room is allowed for doubt about whether evolution actually occurred or not. Yet evolution is unproved and unprovable. What is happening is that the scientific and educational communities are trying to impose their faith in evolution upon their students. And in many cases they are succeeding.
Evolution cannot be proved by science. The scientific method itself rules out such proof.
Evolutionists point to physical evidence to try to show that evolution is possible, and they believe that evolution is actually the process by which all the species came into existence. But trying to prove that evolution as a process is possible and may have occurred, and trying to prove that evolution actually happened are two different things. A scientist could show that evolution is possible and may have occurred if he could demonstrate that evolution is consistent with all known evidence. But to prove that it actually did happen he would have to go a step further. He would have to prove that no other explanation is consistent with all the evidence. He would have to show that evolution is the only way life could have come into existence and is the only explanation that fits the evidence. So how could he do that?
The alternative to evolution is creation by God. To prove that evolution must have happened a scientist would have to prove that the evidence cannot be explained by creation by God.
Evolutionists can become quite vehement in their defense of their faith in evolution, and many of them become offended or angry if you call evolution a faith and unproven. But they are being emotional, not logical. The only way you can know something is true is to prove it, and the only way you can prove something by the physical evidence is to show that your explanation covers all the facts (which evolution does not) and that no other explanation can explain all the facts (which evolution never attempts to prove).
To rule out creation or intelligent design, an evolutionist would have to show that no creationist explanation is consistent with the evidence. If he cannot do that, then he would have to be content merely to acknowledge that evolution is one possible explanation for life, but not the only one. But if he takes that route, he is in conflict with how evolution is actually taught in schools. It is not taught as a possible way life may have come into existence, it is taught as the only way, the one way, the way it definitely happened.
If a scientist wants to prove that evolution definitely happened by showing that no creationist explanation is consistent with the evidence, how would he go about doing that? He has a bigger job than just showing that the physical evidence suggests an earth older than 6,000 years. For one thing, not all creationists believe that the earth is only 6,000 years old; some people, like myself, believe the earth is several billions or at least hundreds of millions of years old, and that life existed on the earth millions of years ago as indicated in the fossil record, but that God nevertheless designed and created life. Even among those who think the earth is only 6,000 years old, many of these people have explanations for the physical evidence consistent with a 6,000 year old earth. A scientist may not agree with these explanations, but can he prove them wrong logically?
How can a scientist prove that intelligent design never occurred? How can he prove that no logical self-consistent creationist explanation for the evidence is possible? To put it another way, how can he prove that every creationist explanation is inconsistent with the evidence? Many or most of those who believe in creation believe in a God who can do anything, create anything out of nothing, change anything, and perform any miracle. How could a scientist prove that such a God did not design and create life and the different species of life outside the normal workings of physical law in a way that is consistent with the physical evidence?
Since such a God is capable of creating any kind of life, at any time and in any way He chooses, there is no question of whether an all powerful God is able to create life the way it appears in the fossil record and in life forms today. The question becomes, why would God choose to create life the way that He did? And that becomes a theological question, which science cannot deal with. Not knowing God's reasons for every choice He makes does not prove that God did not create life.
How could a scientist, following the scientific method, even approach such a problem? The scientific method does not allow for supernatural explanations of evidence. So even if it were possible to prove that the evidence cannot be explained by creation, a scientist could not do it in the course of his work. To do this, he would have to consider, evaluate, and then rule out supernatural explanations for the origin of life. He would have to get involved in theology in order to try to rule out any explanation that God created life in a way consistent with the evidence. He can try to do this as a private individual, but it can't be part of his work, his writing, his publishing, and his teaching as a scientist because the scientific method rules out consideration of supernatural explanations for evidence.
You cannot objectively prove something by only looking at one side of an issue. The question is, did God create life or did life evolve through natural processes? If you are really after truth, you have to look at both sides of a question objectively and without bias. But scientists, in their work as scientists, cannot do that with evolution and creation. The scientific method forbids it, as does peer pressure of the scientific community. The scientific method as it is applied forbids the consideration of supernatural explanations for evidence. So the scientific method cannot examine both sides of the issue, which is necessary for proof.
So the scientific method itself prevents science from trying to prove evolution rationally.
And if a scientist as an individual really examined both sides of the issue carefully and without bias, I believe he would conclude that the evidence is consistent only with creation and not with evolution, and he could prove for himself that evolution never occurred. But he would have great difficulty if he tried teaching that in the course of his work, and would risk rejection by the scientific and educational communities.
You can't know from scientific experiments and observations what God may have done in the past. You can't use scientific experiments to prove that God did not create life. The best a scientist can do is to try to show that evolution is possible, but he can't prove it actually happened. And I personally do not believe that evolution is even possible.
Many people who look at this issue with an open mind are troubled by the idea that God created life because the fossil evidence appears to them to indicate that the different life forms appeared gradually on the earth over hundreds of millions of years, with the simplest life forms appearing first and the more complex life forms appearing later. Also, there are fossils of life forms such as the dinosaurs that have become extinct. They cannot imagine why an all-powerful creator God would choose to create the various life forms in this order and over such a long period of time, or why God would create some life forms only to allow them to become extinct later.
I do not know all the events that may have taken place on the earth before the account of the six days in Genesis. The Bible does not give details. I also do not know if scientists accurately know the ages of various fossils they find. Scientists may or may not be mistaken in estimating the ages of the fossils that appear to be tens or even hundreds of millions of years old. But suppose scientists are right about the ages of the fossils of dinosaurs and various other ancient species. Suppose scientists are right that the fossils of simpler life-forms are older than the more complex life forms. Does that prove that evolution is the process by which all the species came to be? Absolutely not.
Because the Bible does not tell us how and when God created different species before the earth was covered with water and God renewed the face of the earth in six days, we cannot know exactly how, when, and why God created the life-forms that resulted in fossils of dinosaurs and other animals. He may have had particular reasons for creating the simpler life forms first and the more complex life forms later, and reasons for allowing the dinosaurs and many other life forms to become extinct, reasons we cannot know since God does not reveal them in the Bible. But because we do not know what those reasons are does not mean that God did not have reasons. We could speculate about God's reasons, and our speculations might be right or wrong. But our lack of knowledge about reasons God might have for creating life in the order in which it appears in the fossil record does not prove that God did not create life. And if you can't prove that God did not create life, you cannot prove that evolution occurred.
No scientist in his work or his private writings has ever proven that God did not create life. And if God did create life, then evolution is false.
The premise contained in the scientific method as it is practiced that there is no God who intervenes in physical processes is itself unproved and unprovable. Yet it is the basis for all scientific investigation into the origin of life. This is why evolution is a faith.
Those who believe in evolution have made a choice to believe something they cannot prove from physical evidence, whether they realize it or not. Evolution has never been proved. It is a faith held by those who choose to believe it.
The theory of evolution is false. God did create life. The vast variety of life on earth demonstrates God's awesome creative powers and His greatness. Mankind should give thanks to God for His creation, but rather than give God thanks for what He has done, man has found ways to deny God's works and His existence, and the theory of evolution is an idea man has invented to avoid giving God the honor and glory due to Him. Nevertheless, God created life, and this life is testimony to His tremendous wisdom and power.
Could the Days in Genesis Be Figurative and Not Literal?
Some people claim that they believe that the Genesis account is true, but that the six days are only figurative days, not literal days, and could represent indefinite periods of time. Could this be true?
I think this is only true if God uses figurative language to deceive people, and I do not think this is the case.
God does use figurative language in the Bible. So how can we know if a particular scripture is meant by God to be taken literally or figuratively? This issue does not just affect our understanding of Genesis but it affects our understanding of many doctrinal matters. In regards to many doctrines, the question of whether a given passage in the Bible is to be taken literally or figuratively often is controversial among differing groups and churches. We do not seem to have this problem with other books. Nor do we usually have difficulty knowing if a person we are talking with is speaking figuratively or literally. Yet when God speaks to us through the pages of the Bible, men do not agree on what God means.
Why is it that we do not have the same confusion about figurative speaking with other books or in our daily conversation with each other? We expect that when people speak to us figuratively, it will be obvious. We take them literally unless they use a figure of speech familiar to us, and we expect others to take what we say literally unless it is obvious that we are speaking figuratively. If there is doubt, we clarify. We do not speak in a manner we know will be misunderstood, unless our intent is to deceive or to hide our meaning.
Suppose that you have a job that you hate, and one morning you get up to go to work, see that it is a beautiful day, and decide to call in sick so you can go to an afternoon baseball game. You call in and ask for the boss. The secretary says, "He's not in today, but he will call in later this morning to get his messages." "Tell him I won't be in today because I am sick", you say. That afternoon you go to the baseball game. The seat next to you is empty. Then someone takes the seat. It is your boss.
In the ensuing conversation, your boss says, "I can understand that you may need a day off once in a while, but you left a message for me that you were sick, and I cannot stand being lied to." You say, "I wasn't really lying. I was speaking figuratively, not literally. When I said I was sick, I meant I was sick of coming to work every day. It was a metaphor. What I said was not true literally, but it was true figuratively" (don't try this at home).
That story might sound ridiculous, but here is something that I know actually happened to someone. A man I know was once evicted from an apartment because he was unemployed and couldn't pay the rent. Later on when he was considering getting another apartment, he was worried that he would not be accepted because he would be required to list on the application the last place he lived where he was evicted. A woman he knew wanted to help him and told him, "No problem. Just say you rented from me for the last several years and I'll give you a good reference." He said, "That would be a lie." She said, "It's not really a lie. When they ask for references, what they are really asking is, 'are you a good tenant who won't make noise and tear up the place?' "
One of the most common lies I ever hear is, "That's not really a lie."
If our intent is to communicate and tell the truth to someone, and we say something figuratively, if we sense any doubt in the other person, we clarify, "I'm speaking figuratively", or, "I don't mean that literally." We don't deliberately allow others to misunderstand us. We don't use figures of speech to deceive unless we are intentionally lying.
I think it is a valid point that a reader or listener will know when someone is speaking figuratively, either because a well-known figure of speech is used or because it wouldn't make any sense literally, and that if the speaker or writer thinks his audience might accidentally take the metaphor literally, he will clarify the matter or not use the figure of speech. For example, after God brought Israel out of Egyptian slavery and through the Red Sea, He said to them, "You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles' wings and brought you to Myself" (Exodus 19:4). No one would have misunderstood. Israel knew that God was speaking figuratively because they saw how they were rescued and they remembered walking out of Egypt. They knew they did not literally ride on the wings of eagles. God could use this figure of speech because He knew that the Israelites would never accidentally take Him literally. It was obvious to all concerned that "eagles' wings" was a metaphor.
Yet today, many try to interpret figuratively verses that use no figure of speech, make sense literally, is consistent with the rest of the Bible when taken literally, and would have been universally understood to be literal at the time they were written and given to God's people, and are understood literally by many Christians today.
In Genesis 1:1-31, God describes the creation or renewing of the surface of the earth in six days. Were these literal, twenty-four hour days, or figurative days? Is the entire first chapter of Genesis a metaphor to teach us only that God is creator?
Though the structure of these verses may or may not be poetic, the descriptions of the six days are not made using well-known Hebrew figures of speech. There are no figures of speech like the English phrase "a frog in my throat". The language here used is literal. It makes sense literally. A literal understanding of these verses is not inconsistent with anything else in the Bible. There is no reason the ancient Israelites or the early Church would not have taken this literally as an accurate description of how God did His work of creation.
God does not teach fables. I have heard some say God used the account of renewing the face of the earth in six days because the ancient Israelites did not have scientific knowledge and could not understand a process that might have taken millions of years. But this doesn't make sense. Even though ancient people did not have the scientific knowledge we have today, God did not have to resort to fables to explain that He is the creator. If the six days of creation never literally occurred, and if the real process of creation took billions of years, God could simply have explained the creation in general terms, stating that He made the land, sea, plant and animal life in general terms without giving specific time periods.
In the history of mankind, only relatively recently have scientists had the information to even try to challenge the Genesis account. Ancient Israel would have understood these verses literally, and so would the early Church. Even today, many Christians take God at His word and understand these verses literally, choosing to believe God rather than scientists, even to the point of enduring ridicule for their beliefs. Why would God make untrue statements that would mislead the very people that look to God and His word as a source of truth?
And if God did this with the Genesis account, how could we trust anything God told us in the rest of the Bible? Everything would be in doubt because anything might be a figure of speech.
I think the reason many people say that the six days of creation are figurative is that they either don't really believe that the Bible is the word of God or they aren't willing to believe what God says. And rather than reject the Bible, they prefer to call "metaphor" anything in the Bible that they do not agree with literally.
Of course, there are many figurative passages in Scripture that are not controversial. The Bible makes it clear that symbols are being used and often explains what those symbols mean. There are many examples. Jesus Christ is called "the Lamb of God." Nations in prophecy are often symbolized as "beasts". Everyone understands that these statements are figurative.
But that's the point. A figure of speech is understood as such. We may not always agree on what a symbol means, but at least God makes clear that we should not take such a statement literally. God knows how to communicate. He doesn't use figures of speech that would be misunderstood as being literal. God doesn't play tricks with us, He won't make statements that many Christians who trust Him will take literally, then tell us in the Kingdom, "I'm sorry you misunderstood, I was only speaking figuratively."
The rule of thumb is this. If God is speaking figuratively, He will make that much clear by the language or context or by something else in the Bible. A figurative statement will not make sense literally when you take the whole Bible into account. Something in the immediate context or elsewhere in the Bible will show that the statement cannot be taken literally. People should not be deceived by taking something literally which God meant figuratively. If God uses a symbol or metaphor, there may be times when we do not know what it represents. I do not understand all of the symbols, beasts, etc. used in prophetic visions for example. But we know they are symbols.
When God uses literal language to make statements that would be taken literally in their natural sense by ancient Israel or by many Christians today, and there is nothing elsewhere in the Bible that shows that the language cannot be literal, we should not interpret those statements figuratively.
God commands us to live by His Word (Matthew 4:3-4). We are to look to God for the answers to our questions about doctrinal matters, and God requires that we believe Him. How can we do this if we always have doubts that anything God says to us may only be a metaphor? If that is the case, every man will interpret the Bible to mean what he thinks it should mean.
The Bible says that God cannot lie (Titus 1:1-3, Hebrews 6:18). I believe it is part of God's nature that He always speaks the truth, and truthfulness is part of the character God wants us to have. I do not believe God would deceive men by using metaphors that we might take literally even when taking the whole Bible into account. When God uses a figure of speech, He makes it clear to those He is addressing that it is a figure of speech, and not literal. This is true even in those cases where we may not immediately understand the meaning of the figure of speech. We still know it is not literal.
In the creation account in Genesis, no well-known figure of speech is used to describe the six days of creation. It makes sense literally and would make sense literally to ancient Israel and to the first century Church. There is nothing else in the Bible to indicate that the six days are figurative. The account of creation in Genesis is literal, not figurative.
Our Attitude and Approach Towards God's Word
Many in the world today have an attitude of
scorn and ridicule towards the Bible. Many of these people are atheists or
agnostics. They are often well educated in the things of this world, and they
may be very successful materially, even highly respected. Some are writers, some
are journalists, and some are TV personalities. Many are teachers and professors
in colleges and universities. They may sometimes have an interest in religious
subjects, even the Bible itself, but their whole approach towards the Bible is
the very opposite of respect. This may not be apparent when they start a
conversation or discussion about the Bible - they may start out very polite -
but it becomes obvious later that they think of the Bible as something to be
laughed at or looked down upon, and they tend to look down on those who believe
and respect the Bible. They love to try to build contradictions where there are
none by the way they interpret different scriptures. They love to judge the
Bible, interpret passages unfavorably, and criticize and contradict what the
Bible teaches. They love to try to find fault with the Bible or argue about it,
but they will not learn from it or obey it. Arguing about the Bible is a
form of entertainment for them.
I have proved to my satisfaction that the Bible is inspired by a God who is able to know the future in advance. What does the Bible itself say about being the Word of God, and what does it say about the attitude we should have towards God's Word?
"To whom will you liken Me, and make Me equal And compare Me, that we should be alike? They lavish gold out of the bag, And weigh silver on the scales; They hire a goldsmith, and he makes it a god; They prostrate themselves, yes, they worship. They bear it on the shoulder, they carry it And set it in its place, and it stands; From its place it shall not move. Though one cries out to it, yet it cannot answer Nor save him out of his trouble. Remember this, and show yourselves men; Recall to mind, O you transgressors. Remember the former things of old, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me, Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things that are not yet done, Saying, 'My counsel shall stand, And I will do all My pleasure' " (Isaiah 46:5-10).
" 'Present your case,' says the Lord. 'Bring forth your strong reasons,' says the King of Jacob. 'Let them bring forth and show us what will happen; Let them show the former things, what they were, That we may consider them, And know the latter end of them; Or declare to us things to come. Show the things that are to come hereafter, That we may know that you are gods; Yes, do good or do evil, That we may be dismayed and see it together. Indeed you are nothing, And your work is nothing; He who chooses you is an abomination' " (Isaiah 41:21-24).
" 'To whom then will you liken Me, Or to whom shall I be equal?' says the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high, And see who has created these things, Who brings out their host by number; He calls them all by name, By the greatness of His might And the strength of His power; Not one is missing' " (Isaiah 40:25-26).
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths" (Proverbs 3:5-6).
"Thus says the Lord: 'Heaven is My throne, And earth is My footstool. Where is the house that you will build Me? And where is the place of My rest? For all those things My hand has made, And all those things exist,' Says the Lord. 'But on this one will I look: On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, And who trembles at My word' " (Isaiah 66:1-2).
"All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
"Every word of God is pure; He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him" (Proverbs 30:5).
"So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord" (Deuteronomy 8:3).
"Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry. Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, 'If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.' But He answered and said, 'It is written, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God" ' " (Matthew 4:1-4). Also see Luke 4:1-4 for the parallel version of the same event. Also notice that for every temptation that Satan used to tempt Jesus, Jesus countered the temptation by quoting Old Testament scripture.
Note, the Bible says, God cannot lie. "Paul, a bondservant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God’s elect and the acknowledgment of the truth which accords with godliness, in hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began" (Titus 1:1-2, see also Hebrews 6:18).
The Bible also says, Scripture cannot be broken. "Jesus answered them, 'Is it not written in your law, "I said, 'You are gods'"? If He called them gods, to whom the word of God came (and the Scripture cannot be broken), do you say of Him whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, "You are blaspheming," because I said, "I am the Son of God"? ' " (John 10:34-36). Along this line, if you read the gospel accounts, you will find many places where the Bible says that such-and-such thing happened in the life of Jesus so that Old Testament scriptures would be fulfilled. Examples I have found are, Matthew 1:22-23, 2:14, 2:23, 4:13-16, 8:16-17, 12:16-21, 13:34-35, 21:4-5, 26:55-56, 27:35, John 12:37-41, 15:24-25, John 17:12, 19:23-24.
God requires that we believe His word. Abraham believed what God promised him, and God counted that belief in God's promises as righteousness. "But Abram said, 'Lord God, what will You give me, seeing I go childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?' Then Abram said, 'Look, You have given me no offspring; indeed one born in my house is my heir!' And behold, the word of the Lord came to him, saying, 'This one shall not be your heir, but one who will come from your own body shall be your heir.' Then He brought him outside and said, 'Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them.' And He said to him, 'So shall your descendants be.' And he believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness" (Genesis 15:2-6). This is confirmed by Paul. Note what Paul says about this in Romans. "What then shall we say that Abraham our father has found according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? 'Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness' " (Romans 4:1-3). Also, "And not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body, already dead (since he was about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah’s womb. He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform. And therefore 'it was accounted to him for righteousness.' Now it was not written for his sake alone that it was imputed to him, but also for us. It shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification" (Romans 4:19-25). And James wrote, "Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, 'Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.' And he was called the friend of God" (James 2:22-23).
"But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him" (Hebrews 11:6).
Refusal to believe God's promises and word is a reason God rejected the generation of Israel that came out of Egypt and would not let them enter the promised land. "For who, having heard, rebelled? Indeed, was it not all who came out of Egypt, led by Moses? Now with whom was He angry forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose corpses fell in the wilderness? And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who did not obey? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief" (Hebrews 3:16-19). Also, Paul wrote in Romans, "You will say then, 'Branches were broken off that I might be grafted in.' Well said. Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. Do not be haughty, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either. Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off. And they also, if they do not continue in unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again" (Romans 11:19-23).
It is clear from the above quotes that the Bible claims to be the word of God, that is, God speaking, and that it claims to be infallible, and teaches that God cannot lie. The Bible also teaches that it is vitally important to God that His people believe what He says. It is clear to me from fulfilled prophecy that the Bible is indeed the word of God, and that God requires me to approach it in an attitude of belief and respect.
I might add, that in seeking to prove whether the Bible is God's word or not, I also checked the literature of various other major religions in the world besides Judaism and Christianity. For each book or piece of literature I found that is regarded as sacred literature by some other religion, I read through it to look for any claims to being the word of God and to look for prophecy that could be verified against history. I found no other book besides the Bible that claimed to be the word of the creator God and that made predictions of events to take place between the time the prophecies were written and today, prophecies that could be checked against history. If there is any such book besides the Bible, I never found it.
After I had proved that the Bible is God's word, I had to make a decision whether to believe what God says. I simply made a decision to believe God, to believe the Bible, wherever that belief would lead me. I chose to believe that God is trustworthy and that He never lies, that He is perfectly righteous and truthful just as He says that He is in the Bible, and I made a commitment to myself and to God that for the rest of my life I would believe God and strive to base my decisions on that belief in God's truthfulness and trustworthiness. This decision to believe what God says is a free choice, but I could not have made this choice until after I proved that the Bible is God speaking. I believe that this choice to believe what God says is an important element of the faith that God requires of us.
How to Understand the Bible
There are many points on how to study the Bible. I will mention a few that I have found to be valuable.
The first and most important point is to approach the Bible with an attitude of respect and a willingness to believe what God says. I think it is clear from the quotes I just covered that God looks with favor upon those who "tremble" at His word. This indicates we need to have a high degree of respect, based on knowledge that it is the God who created the universe and all humanity that speaks to us through the Bible, and that God, as creator, has authority over our lives.
It is also important to understand that God helps those who believe and obey Him to understand the Bible, but that He does not help those who disbelieve or treat lightly the things that He says. God says, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; A good understanding have all those who do His commandments" (Psalm 111:10). If we want to understand the Bible, it is vital that we have an attitude that is willing to believe and obey what God says. Understanding does not come all at once, but it comes over time as we study the Bible and strive to obey God. As we believe and obey we can go to God in prayer and ask Him to help us understand the Bible more.
Some people are concerned when they find what appears to them to be contradictions in the Bible. I have found from experience that these apparent contradictions generally disappear with further study. In some cases, there may be a mistranslation involved. In other cases, two scriptures that may give different accounts may be complementing each other by describing different aspects of the same event or principle, not contradicting each other. I do not claim to know the answer to every apparent contradiction just as I do not claim to fully understand everything in the Bible, but I have found that the more I learn about the Bible the more I have found that apparent contradictions disappear upon further study.
God cannot contradict Himself, for to do so would make God a false witness in one place or another. God cannot lie (Titus 1:1-2, Hebrews 6:18). You either choose to believe this or you don't. This is also an important principle of Bible study, to know that God cannot contradict Himself. Sometimes you have to look at the context of what is being said to get the real meaning, and sometimes you have to let scriptures that are clear and easy to understand interpret those scriptures that are less clear.
Some scriptures are clear and easy to understand and some are not clear. We should let clear scriptures interpret unclear scriptures. I have already covered the subject of figurative language in the Bible. If it is obvious from the Bible that figurative language is being used, we should look to the Bible to give us the meaning of the symbols or metaphors being used, and not try to read our own meaning into it.
When studying a particular doctrine or topic, we need to get ALL the scriptures on that particular subject. One way to do this is to use an exhaustive concordance such as Strong's Exhaustive Concordance, which lists the words used in the Bible and every place they appear in the Bible. There are many Bible software packages that will help you find where certain words are used in the Bible. So for example, if you wanted to find out what the Bible teaches about the Sabbath, you could look up the word "Sabbath" in an exhaustive concordance and find every place in the Bible where that word is mentioned, and you could study those scriptures to find out what the Bible teaches about the Sabbath. There have been times when I wanted to find every verse that applied to a broad topic that could not be condensed in a few words, and I read the entire Bible cover-to-cover to make sure I found everything the Bible said about the subject. For example, when I was trying to prove if the Bible was God's word, I wanted to find EVERY prophecy in the Bible that might be verified in history, so I read the entire Bible looking for such prophecies.
When studying a particular passage we need to consider the context of statements made in the Bible. This is especially true for scriptures that are unclear or difficult to understand. We need to read what comes before and what comes after the particular passage we are looking at. Words in any language can have multiple meanings depending on how they are used. The local context is very important for getting the intended meaning and a correct translation from the original language.
Finally, all these principles need to be used together in resolving doctrinal issues. We need to approach the Bible in an attitude of respect and belief, be willing to obey God and to live by every word of God, read all the scriptures that relate to the subject we are studying, look at the local context of each scripture, especially those that are difficult to understand, let clear scriptures interpret unclear scriptures, and let the Bible interpret its own symbols rather than reading our own opinions into them.
Some people may wonder which translation to use. There are many translations, but those that are literal translations are the most accurate. I think two of the best translations are the King James Version and the New King James Version. And for difficult or important scriptures, it is often a good idea to look up a scripture in more than one translation.
The design that exists in creation, not just life, but the laws of physics and the universe itself proves the existence of a master designer, a creator God who made design choices that determine the characteristics of all of creation.
Fulfilled prophecy, particularly the prophecies concerning Israel that have been fulfilled in the last 200 years, together with prophecies in Daniel concerning the timing of the coming of the Messiah and end time conditions, prove that the Bible is God's word. Bible prophecy, together with modern history, shows that the United States and the British Commonwealth nations are identified in prophecy as Israel, specifically the sons of Joseph. The Bible teaches that God commands respect for His Word and we need to have a willingness to believe and obey what God tells us in the Bible.
With the knowledge that the Bible is God speaking and has authority over what we believe and practice, and that God requires that we trust His word and believe what He says, we can approach the Bible to learn the major truths of the gospel in an attitude of godly fear and respect. We can choose to believe what God says by letting the Bible teach us what to believe about the true gospel and all of the truths of God.
In the next chapter I will explain some of the major truths that Mr. Armstrong discovered in the Bible, and this will serve as an introduction to the teachings of the Church of God. Most people believe the traditions they grew up with, and many religions and churches base their beliefs on their traditions. Mr. Armstrong was willing to set aside the traditional beliefs he was raised in and was willing to let the Bible interpret the Bible. He believed the Bible more than the teachings of traditional Christianity, and as a result, he learned many new truths that traditional Christianity does not have.
In the chapter that follows will be surprises. The Bible in many things does NOT teach what traditional Christianity teaches. I was raised Catholic. When I saw these differences, I had to make a choice of whether to believe the traditions I grew up with and the authority of the church I was a member of, or to believe what God says in the Bible. Understanding that God requires that I believe Him more than man, I made the choice to believe God, and I have never turned back on that choice.
Anyone who proves that the Bible is God's word and reads what the Bible says will be faced with that same choice and will have to decide for themselves one way or another whether to believe God or not.