The Cancel Culture and the Strong Delusion.
According to the Bible this age will end with the coming to power of one known as the Beast or the Antichrist. In his second letter to the Thessalonians, chapter 2, the Apostle Paul described him in these terms:
‘The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.’
The Antichrist will not come out of nowhere. The way will be prepared for him by a number of ‘change agents’ who are bringing the ‘strong delusion’ on those who reject the truth found in the Gospel message. There are powerful people running our media, education system, political, commercial and religious institutions who are preparing the way for the coming deception. These ‘change agents’ want to change the way people live, think and behave, following the famous phrase of Karl Marx, ‘The philosophers have only interpreted the world, the point however is to change it.’
Today we see attempts to bring about this change to the world in many ways. We have seen how the Coronavirus crisis has been used to take away freedom and cause people to submit to new ways of government controlling their behaviour. The world powers are also using the threat of ‘catastrophic climate change’ bringing the end of civilisation to make radical changes to the way we live. All this is leading to a crisis which will cause the collapse of the present economic and political system and its replacement with a new economic system using technology to control people’s lives.
Whether those responsible realise what they are doing or not, the aim is to bring people into subjection to a world government programme, otherwise known as the Great Reset or Agenda 30. The goal is to bring this into being by 2030, by which time they hope to have control of politics, the military and law enforcement, the media, education and religion. Out of this will emerge a new form of technocratic dictatorship in which dissenters will face social exclusion, arrest and death.
The Cancel Culture.
Another factor in this process is what has been called the ‘Cancel Culture.’ People behind this use Critical Race Theory / Black Lives Matter and ‘diversity issues’ to create a change in the culture of western democracies. They claim that ‘systemic racism’ underlies the whole of western society and work to remove influences from the past that foster such attitudes. They want to replace them with a new variant of Marxism, based on ‘diversity’ ideology that will control all areas of society. Biblical Christianity is something that needs to be cancelled in this process leading to the suppression of the preaching of the Gospel.
Those pushing this are a small minority who have managed to get extraordinary power to impose their will on the majority. They are creating a dictatorship, in which people will not be able to express publicly views which are out of line with those in power.
Here is one of many examples of how this is happening. Cambridge University has produced a website ‘Report and Support’ endorsed by its vice Chancellor, Professor Stephen Toope. It invites you to denounce anyone in the university who is considered guilty of ‘racism, discrimination and micro-aggressions.’ Anyone displaying any sign of ‘unacceptable’ behaviour to this new norm must be reported to the authorities, disciplined and if necessary dismissed from their work place. Reporting can be done anonymously so it is an open door for denunciation of wrong thinkers to the ‘Party line’. This has been a feature of Communism under Stalin, Mao and now in Xi Xing Ping’s China, not something I associated with my old university.
The statement goes on to define racism in terms familiar to Critical Race Theory: ‘A system of oppression woven into the fabric of societies, institutions, processes, procedures, people’s values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviours. It is a system of advantage that sets whiteness as the norm, manifesting in societies’ valuing and promoting (implicitly or explicitly) being white. It is a system where people from racially minority backgrounds are more likely that white people to face multiple obstacles in life.’
The idea is being put forward that all our institutions are based on ‘systemic racism’ and ‘unconscious bias’ in favour of a white ruling class. An article in the Daily Telegraph (16/6/21) says RE teachers are being told to teach about ‘white privilege’ in an anti-racist curriculum which advises RE teachers on combatting ‘micro aggressions which reinforce white power and says that racism is a problem for white people not black people.’ It speaks of the complicity of Christianity in the enslavement of millions and the ‘sugar coating of Christian history which has a shameful stain of the slave trade’ (without mentioning that Christians were instrumental in the abolition of slavery).
Literature, history, science, music, art must be examined and if necessary cancelled if it fails to measure up to the demands of Critical Race Theory. Even Shakespeare has ‘problematic gendered and racialised dynamics’ because certain lines in his plays cast ‘fair’ as beautiful and ‘dark’ as unattractive.
In America Critical Race Theory is being applied to academia, entertainment, government, schools, and the workplace in recent years, following the rise of far-left groups such as Antifa and Black Lives Matter. Some employers have included concepts from the idea that the United States is a fundamentally racist country in their “racial and cultural sensitivity” training. White people are held to be ‘institutionally racist’ until they acknowledge this fact and make public amends for the sins of their people. This process calls for the destruction of institutions, such as the Western justice system, free-market economy, and orthodox religions, while demanding that they be replaced with institutions compliant with the theory’s ideology.
This does not bring better race relations and fairness for deprived communities (which we are in favour of). It is bringing in a new form of censorship, and the replacement of the existing culture with a left leaning equality agenda which stifles free speech and freedom of belief. It becomes quite racist itself, with anti-white and anti-Semitic opinions often being expressed. In the US, the demand to ‘defund the police’, following the death of George Floyd, has led to an increase in violence, murder and drug pushing in large US cities in which poor black communities have been the chief victims. People who are able to have been getting out of these cities into safer areas because of the violence and social disintegration that has taken over.
Critical Race Theory also includes a fight against what is called intersectionality. This means that gender, sexuality, and other matters of identity are seen as ‘cultural constructs’ and reasons why people are oppressed. Conventional ideas of marriage (between one man and one woman) and sexual identity (male and female, determined at birth) are challenged as part of the oppressive system and culture that needs to be changed. In this way of thinking the white heterosexual male has become the chief villain in society. As a result biblical Christians who affirm traditional ideas on marriage and sexual identity now find themselves in trouble.
A Christian pastor in Uxbridge, west London, was arrested while publicly preaching the Gospel. He was accused of making ‘homophobic statements’ and treated ‘shamefully’ by the police. Mr Sherwood, a pastor for 35 years, said: ‘I wasn’t making any homophobic comments, I was just defining marriage as a relationship between a man and a woman. I was only saying what the Bible says.’
He quoted from Genesis which tells us that ‘God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply.’ Genesis 1.26 ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.’ Genesis 2.14.
The Bible shows that in the eyes of God, marriage is the union of a man and a woman. Out of this union children are born. This is the only sexual relationship which God approves of. The idea that ‘gender is fluid’ (that you can change your gender, male into female or female into male if you don’t feel comfortable in the sex you were born into) contradicts scripture. Our identity as male or female is something given by God in creation and cannot be changed.
Paivi Räsänen, a former minister in the Finnish parliament, is now facing three criminal charges with a possible six years imprisonment for expressing her opinion on this subject. In 2019, Räsänen wrote a tweet questioning the leadership of her church for sponsoring the LGBT event “Pride 2019,” accompanied by a quote from Romans 1.26-27. Apparently quoting the Bible and expressing the view that marriage is between a man and a woman is ‘hate speech’.
Reverend Dr Bernard Randall was reported to Prevent, the UK government’s anti-terrorism programme, for delivering a sermon questioning LGBT teaching. Dr. Randall served as the chaplain at Trent College which claims support of ‘the Protestant and Evangelical principles of the Church of England.’ The school invited the LGBT group ‘Educate and Celebrate’ to help “embed gender, gender identity and sexual orientation into the fabric of the school”.
‘Educate and Celebrate’ is run by Dr Elly Barnes, a former music teacher with ties to the Socialist Party of Britain. It is a charity that trains school teachers to “completely smash heteronormativity” (heteronormativity is the concept that the normal sexual relationship is between a man and a woman). Their aim is to make LGBT ideology an “everyday occurrence within the school”, working with thousands of schools across the country in developing lesson plans, running workshops, and conducting training for teachers. They want to ban the use of the words “boys” and “girls” in the classroom, by using so-called gender-neutral terms such as “they” and “zie”. They promote the idea of using puberty blockers on children as young as 12-years-old if they want to change sex. These can render children infertile and have a permanent effect on their health. They have told teachers it is acceptable to help children transition (change gender) without the knowledge of their parents
In response Dr Randall wrote a sermon entitled ‘Competing Ideologies’ in which he stressed the Christian ethics of understanding, grace, and kindness, and added that pupils should not feel that they did not have to accept teachings contrary to their faith, including LGBT ideology.
Randall says he had a moral obligation to respond. ‘They were importing this identity politics kind of way of approaching things which comes from Marxist and postmodern roots which is fundamentally atheist into a Christian school. My job as I saw it was to speak up a little bit about some of the difficulties that might raise.’
For doing this he was reported to the government’s anti-terrorist agency, Prevent, and told that he was not to discuss his opinions in the school and that his future sermons needed to be reviewed and edited (censored) prior to their delivery. This is something that now happens routinely in Communist China. It is now proposed for an Anglican school in England. Ultimately, he was dismissed from the school. “My career and life are in tatters,” he said. “My story sends a message to other Christians that you are not free to talk about your faith.”
Christian Concern for our Nation took up Dr Randall’s case, asking the Archbishops of Canterbury and York and the Bishop of Derby to intervene. None replied, apart from Lambeth Palace, which sent back a note saying ‘No comment.’ The Church of England’s hierarchy no longer supports clergy and teachers who get out of line with the LGBT consensus. The Church of England was once described as the ‘Conservative Party at prayer.’ Its bishops are now the ‘Woke Party at prayer’, although I doubt if they spend much time in prayer, since they seem to have abandoned Christianity and will soon be abandoned by God.
In the USA a CNN reporter named Cole made this statement which was taken seriously by the mainstream media outlet: “It’s not possible to know a person’s gender identity at birth and there is no consensus criteria for assigning sex at birth.”
For all of human history people of all cultures and races have relied on a very simple way of knowing the sex of a child at birth. Take a look between the legs and you know if the new born baby is a boy or a girl. To pretend that we are incapable of knowing whether a child is a boy or a girl at birth is lunacy. The US Democrats are proposing a law which will ban the use of terms showing the difference between sexes (father, mother, son, daughter, brother, sister etc) in favour of gender neutral terms (parent, child, sibling etc) in official documents. Margaret Harper McCarthy wrote about this: ‘The so-called Equality Act, currently before the US Senate, is on one level about whether transgender men can play women’s sports and use women’s bathrooms. But at the bigger level it is about the freedom of rational human beings to use a common vocabulary when speaking about what all can see concerning the biological difference between male and female. Sexual difference is obvious to anyone with eyes to see. It’s a debate about whether we as a society are on board with the programme of pretending that men and women are interchangeable, that the realities of biological sex and human nature can be erased if we pretend hard enough.’
In the UK, Relationships and Sex Education has become compulsory in schools and is being used as a tool to change the culture of Britain. Judith Nemeth from the ‘Values Foundation’ warns us that we need to be alert to what schools are teaching children. She says that sex education lessons sexualise children from the age of four, encourage children go through a process of questioning their gender and teach them that homosexual activity is normal and healthy and equal to heterosexual relations. A society which imposes this on its children has to be heading for collapse.
We also have children’s fairy stories like Cinderella coming to Amazon Prime with a “LGBTQ sexless godmother,” played, unsurprisingly, by male homosexual Billy Porter. The BBC is also plugging a new children’s book called My Daddies, the story of a motherless little girl adopted by two men, described as “the first picture book about two gay dads with both an LGBT author and illustrator.” LGBT toys are also “all the rage”. Potato Head family sets feature gay and lesbian couples on the box. Barbie wears “love wins” T-shirts along with her girlfriend. Lego has unveiled an LGBTQ-themed set called “Everyone Is Awesome.”
If you express objections to this, you are likely to be de-platformed (not allowed to speak at a public meeting), you may lose your job if you work in education, social services, the police or the media. The Scottish Justice Committee has proposed a hate crime bill making ‘gender identity’ a ‘protected characteristic’. It intends to ban criticism of transgender ideology, with a potential two year prison term for anyone who transgresses this.
The established church for the most part goes along with it. Former Evangelical, Steve Chalke, has now become a vocal supporter for LGBT rights and advocated prosecution by law for anyone preaching that homosexual practice is sinful in the eyes of God (Romans 1.18-32). Stephen Cottrell, Archbishop of York, says that biblical teaching should submit to 21st century Western cultural beliefs and teach that homosexual practice is acceptable to God otherwise they will be ‘legitimising homophobia in others”.
Tim Dieppe of Christian Concern says:
‘At the moment in our society, there are two gods – or idols – that we dare not offend. One is Islam, and the other is LGBT. If you are deemed either Islamophobic, or homophobic, or transphobic, you are effectively a blasphemer in today’s culture. You have insulted the gods of these increasingly powerful groups. The relevant mob will hound you and try to force you out of your job. This is not how a free society operates. Sadly, too many churches are also afraid to offend these gods. Consequently, they avoid talking about Islam or LGBT issues, thus modelling acceptance of de-facto blasphemy laws. It is time for the Church to speak out boldly against the prevailing idols of our culture. Our freedoms, and those of our children, are at stake.’
In fact we are on the way to a police state in which a vocal minority are able to impose their views on society and crush all opposition. The problem is that their views are based on ‘the strong delusion’ that comes upon those who reject the truth and believe the lie, as prophesied in the passage from Thessalonians which I started this article with.
The way to escape the ‘strong delusion’ is to receive the truth, the message of the Gospel, that Jesus Christ died for our sins and rose from the dead to give eternal life to all who believe in Him.
The truth is that whatever our race, sex or status in life, we all have a problem of sin, which separates us from God. The practice of sin opens us up to the father of lies, the devil, who feeds all manner of lies and deception into our minds. Jesus is the Saviour / Messiah who died for our sins to save us from the power of the evil one and to give us new life as we renew our minds by the Holy Spirit and the word of God. He rose again from the dead to give eternal life and forgiveness of sin to all who repent and believe the Gospel. Jesus told His disciples ‘You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.’ John 8.32.
The Qur’an and the Bible – which has the authentic account?
Muslims tell us that
- Muhammad is the last and greatest prophet
- The Qur’an is Allah’s revelation sent down to Muhammad and that this is the final and greatest revelation. It has never been changed from the time that it was given by revelation to Muhammad.
- Islam is the final religion, based on Muhammad’s life and teaching and sayings (Sunnah).
According to the classical account Muhammad was born in Mecca in around 570 (for convenience sake I am using the dates in the Gregorian calendar). At the age of 40 he met ‘Jibril’ (the angel Gabriel) in a cave and received the ‘Meccan Revelations’ from 610 – 622, followed by the Medinan Revelations from 622-632. These revelations came from Allah through Jibril. Muhammad was unable to read or write and memorised the revelations, which he repeated to his followers. These were later written down to become the Qur’an. Muhammad made the ‘Hirja’ (flight) from Mecca to Medina in 622, returned to Mecca in 630 and converted the people there to his new religion. He died in 632.
Since Muslims believe that Islam is the final religion, it replaces all that has gone before it, including Judaism and Christianity.
The Qur’an contains stories about Bible characters, including Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David and Jesus. Its chapters are not arranged in historical order so it is hard to work out how all these biblical characters relate to each other from the Qur’an’s account. The Qur’an changes the significance and the meaning of these Bible stories. The Muslim interpretation of the stories of Abraham makes Ishmael the promised son, not Isaac. This means that the line of succession goes through Ishmael to Muhammad and the Arab people, not through Isaac and Jacob to the children of Israel.
The Muslim Jesus (known as Isa) is a prophet, not the Son of God, and he did not die on the cross. Someone else took his place, while Isa was taken straight up to heaven from where he will return in the company of another figure called the Mahdi to make the world Islamic (and in the process abolish Christianity and Judaism).
Muslims explain the difference between the Bible and the Qur’an by saying that the Jews and the Christians changed their books (the Bible).
They say that they have the correct account and the Bible has been corrupted.
If this is so, then why there is nothing in the Qur’an to say that this apparent forgery has been done by the Jews and Christians? There are passages in the Qur’an which tell us that Jews and Christians have not been faithful to their scriptures, but none that say they have changed the content of them. In fact there are verses (suras) in the Qur’an, which tell Muslims to learn from the book of the Jews and Christians: ‘If thou wert in doubt as to what We have revealed unto thee then ask those who have been reading the Book (the Bible) from before thee: the Truth hath indeed come to thee from thy Lord’: Sura (chapter) 10.94. ‘. Say: “O People of the Book! ye have no ground to stand upon unless ye stand fast by the Law (Taurat / Torah) the Gospel (Injil) and all the revelation that has come to you from your Lord.”. Sura 5.68. The word Injil (Gospel) is mentioned 12 times. The word Zabur (Psalms) is mentioned 13 times. The word Torah is mentioned 18 times. Not once does the Qur’an associate any kind of alteration or corruption in all these many references. If those books were indeed corrupted, surely Allah would have made it abundantly clear?
When were ‘the books changed? Before Muhammad, in which case why does the Qur’an tell Muslims to learn from the Book of the Jews and Christians? Or after Muhammad in which case how do you explain the existing manuscripts of both Old and New Testaments which predate Muhammad and are the same as the texts used to translate today’s versions of the Bible?
There are around 5,300 manuscripts of the whole or part of the Greek text of the New Testament pre-dating Muhammad still in existence, including the Codex Vaticanus (325-350 AD) located in the Vatican library and the Codex Siniaticus (350 AD) located in the British Museum. There are also quotations in the works of early Christian writers which are ‘so extensive that the New Testament could virtually be reconstructed from them without the New Testament documents’ (Josh McDowell ‘Evidence that demands a Verdict’). The Dead Sea Scrolls dated around 125 BC have bought to light manuscripts of the Old Testament books including the complete text of Isaiah. The Septuagint translation of the Hebrew text into Greek in around 165 BC contains the same material as the Hebrew Bible.
Now if the Muslim account is true then Jews and Christians should abandon their faith and all convert to Islam (which is what Islamic preachers tell us we should do). But what if the Qur’an’s account is not true? A number of scholars are now questioning the origins of Islam as believed by Muslims today, subjecting the Qur’an to the kind of source criticism which has been applied to the Bible since the 19th century.
So is the Qur’an true?
Talks given by Dr Jay Smith of the Pfander Centre https://www.pfander.uk dispute the traditional account of the origins of Islam, drawing on the work of academics and researchers who have looked into the early history of Islam and come to some startling conclusions, which question the official Muslim narrative.
According to Jay Smith, Islam and the Qur’an as we know it today evolved and changed over a period of 200 to 300 years after the death of its prophet.
Muslim sources themselves tell us that Caliph Uthman, the third Caliph after Muhammad, collected verses of the Qur’an that were being passed around and selected one version to be used, ordering all variant readings to be burnt (around 650-653). The variations were so great that Muslims started attacking each other and accusing one another of disbelief.
The earliest Qur’anic manuscripts began to appear during the reign of Abd al Malik and his son al Walid in the 690s – 750s. None of these versions of the Qur’an were complete. They continued to be changed and corrected up to the 9th century. It was by this time that forms of the Qur’an as it is today began to appear (although even these have several variants among them).
Most of the information we have about Muhammad dates from a period about 200 years after he lived. He is only mentioned by name four times in the Qur’an, with no specific information of what he was like. Information we have about his life comes from the Sira, his biography which exists in an English translation, ‘The Life of Muhammad’ by A Guillaume. Muslims attribute this book to Ibn Ishaq who died in 765, but Jay Smith says the final version of this book was written by Ibn Hisham who took what he liked from the earlier book and added material of his own. This was written around 833, a full 200 years after Muhammad is supposed to have died. Certainly not an eye witness then.
There is more about him in the Hadith (sayings attributed to Muhammad or about him), which date from the 9th century. Bukhari, who died in 870, made a collection of about 600,000 such sayings, then rejected all but around 7000 as forgeries. These are now preserved as the Hadith, but this collection took place over 200 years after Muhammad so how do we know the ones he preserved were authentic?
When we come to the Qur’an itself we find many things which do not add up with the claim that this was revealed directly by Allah to a man called Muhammad living in Mecca in Arabia in the early 7th century. For example the Qur’an has 65 geographical references, with only nine places named. These include 23 references to Ad (biblical Uz, related to Edom in southern Jordan), 24 to Thamud (Nabateans, again southern Jordan, north west Arabia) and 7 to Midian (east side of Gulf of Aqaba, north of Arabia). All these places are about 600 miles north of Mecca.
While Muslims believe that Mecca is the centre of Islam, there is only one direct reference to Mecca in Sura 48.24. There are references to ‘Bakkah’ which is said to be the site of the Kaaba stone, the black stone, which is today the object that Muslims make pilgrimage to in Mecca. According to verses in the Qur’an and the Hadith, this place, Bakkah, is situated in a valley and a parallel valley with a stream, fields, fruit, olive trees and mountains overlooking the Kaaba. Yet Mecca is not in a valley, has no stream or river, no mountain overlooking it, and is too arid for fruit trees to grow. Olives only grow in the Mediterranean region 600 miles north of Mecca.
According to the narrative Mecca was on a trade route and Muhammad was a trader operating out of there. Yet 7th century maps of the area show no sign of a city called Mecca and no trade routes passing by that area. The earliest maps showing Mecca on them date from around 900. In recent times there have been excavations made for the foundations of large towers and buildings in modern Mecca. These have revealed no trace of an ancient city buried in the ground at the time when there should have been one. Compare this with the massive amount of archaeological evidence for Jerusalem as written about in the Bible.
The earliest mosques (including the Dome of the Rock and the Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem) direct prayer (the qibla) towards Petra in Jordan not Mecca. The description of the city with the valley and the parallel valley with a stream and the fruit and olive trees does describe Petra, but not Mecca. Petra was a centre of trade and the sanctuary for the Umayyads who ruled out of Damascus in this period. It is also close to the other places mentioned in the Qur’an, namely Ad, Thamud and Midian.
Jay Smith’s conclusion is that most of what Muslims are taught to believe about Muhammad comes from a period later than the time he was supposed to have lived and written down hundreds of miles away from Mecca and Medina. This began with the Umayyads who ruled from Damascus and continued with Abbasids who fought the Umayyads in 750, claiming to be the true successors to Muhammad. They ruled from Baghdad. He concludes ‘Islam and the prophet’s life as we know it was not derived from the 7th century but evolved over a period of 200-300 years and then redacted back on the prophet’s life and compiled in the 9th century.’
He claims that the original sanctuary of Islam was in Petra, now in modern Jordan, not in Mecca. The sanctuary in Petra was destroyed by an earthquake in 713 AD. Because of the conflict between the Umayyads and Abbasids, the black stone was moved from Petra to Mecca, where the Kaaba became the central sanctuary. Now the Muslims had a Prophet (Muhammad), a revelation (the Qur’an) and a sanctuary (Mecca). They needed a history, created by the later writings, the Sira in 833, the Hadith in 870 and the Tafsir in 923. By the 9th century they had the book, the man, the place and the story. A new religion was formed and growing, evolving over 200-300 years after the death of its founder.
Jay Smith’s conclusion is that despite Muslim claims that their religion was revealed directly by Allah to Muhammad in Mecca and Medina, the evidence for this is missing. Much of what we know of early Islam is in doubt, nothing is known of Muhammad until the late 7th century or Mecca until the 8th or his story until the 9th, many years later and hundreds of miles away from where the events were supposed to have happened. The Muslims have the wrong man at the wrong place doing the wrong thing at the wrong time.
Authenticity of the Bible.
By contrast the New Testament was written by people who were eyewitnesses of the life and times of Jesus of Nazareth (or who got their information from eyewitnesses). Luke introduces his Gospel with the words:
‘Inasmuch as many have taken in hand to set in order a narrative of those things which have been fulfilled among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write to you an orderly account, most excellent Theophilus, that you may know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed.’ Luke 1.1-4.
Peter writes: ‘For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty.’ 2 Peter 1.16.
If we follow the internal evidence of the New Testament, all its books, apart from the writings of John, were completed before the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70AD, so within 40 years of the events taking place. As eyewitnesses or contemporaries who talked to eyewitnesses, they got the details of geography, history and customs of Israel in the first century right.
We can visit Israel today and see places mentioned in the Bible. They are in the right place, with archaeological and historical evidence to support this. We can walk from the area where the Temple stood in Jerusalem, cross the Kidron Valley to the Garden of Gethsemane, as Jesus did on the night He was betrayed. We can go to Bethany and the Mount of Olives and follow Jesus’ route on His triumphal entry and see the place where He wept over Jerusalem, from where you have a stunning view over the city as Jesus would have had on that day (Luke 19). We can visit sites of His trial before Caiaphas and Pontius Pilate and of the crucifixion, burial and resurrection of the Lord. While there is debate about the exact location of these places, the general location backed by historical and archaeological evidence is all there. The Mount of Olives from where Jesus ascended into heaven forty days after the resurrection is just a short walk from Jerusalem as it says in Acts 1.12.
We can go through the tunnels in the City of David and see what is most likely the water shaft that David’s men climbed up to capture the city from the Jebusites (2 Samuel 5.6-9), the tunnel that King Hezekiah had built to divert the waters of the Gihon stream to the Pool of Siloam (2 Chronicles 32.30) and the remnants of the wall that Nehemiah built to defend the city after the return from Babylon (Nehemiah 3). The Israel Museum in Jerusalem contains many artefacts testifying to the accuracy of the Biblical story. None such can be found in Mecca.
Regarding history, the Bible mentions many figures who existed at the right time in the right place as confirmed by non-biblical historical records, either the Jewish historian Josephus, or Roman records.
In the Gospel of Luke we read: ‘Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, while Annas and Caiaphas were high priests, the word of God came to John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness.’ Luke 3.1-2. Details of all these people and their positions are accurate for a period around the year 27-28. In this case Jesus began His ministry a little while later, and continued for 3 ½ years. This brings us to the crucifixion and resurrection which most likely happened in 31-32.
In the Book of Acts, we read of the conversion of Paul, which probably took place around 35-6. This was followed by his time in Damascus, from where he escaped by being lowered over the wall in a basket at the time when Aretas was governor (2 Corinthians 11.32). According to Josephus, Damascus had a governor called Aretas who left the post in around 39 (right man in the right place). It is known there was a famine in the reign of the Roman Emperor Claudius in around 44-45. This corresponds to the time when Paul and Barnabas were warned of famine and went from Antioch to Jerusalem with aid (Acts 11.27-30). In Acts 18 we read that Paul was in Corinth and charged before a proconsul called Gallio. The year would have been around 51, corresponding with the time when there was a proconsul called Gallio in Corinth. Acts 18.2 also informs us that Aquila and Priscilla had “recently” come from Italy “because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome.” This expulsion took place between 49-51, the right time and the right place.
Acts 24-5 tells us of Paul’s arrest in Jerusalem and trials before the governors Felix and Festus. This should have happened around 58-59 according to the events recorded in Acts. Josephus agrees with Acts that Festus succeeded Felix as governor in around 59 and died in 62. According to Acts 27 Festus granted Paul’s request to be tried in Rome. Acts 27 records how Paul travelled by sea to Rome and was shipwrecked on Malta on the way. All the geographic details of this journey are correct. Paul then arrived in Rome and stayed two years (Acts 28.30). This takes us to around 61-2 AD.
Then the Book of Acts ends rather abruptly, without giving any details of the trial of Paul in Rome, which had been the subject of the last four chapters of the book. The most likely reason for this is that Acts was written by Luke in 61-2 AD after Paul arrived in Rome, but before his trial took place. We know that the trial did take place and that Paul was acquitted and continued his ministry until his eventual execution in around 65AD.
According to the opening verses of Acts, Luke wrote the Gospel of Luke before he wrote Acts. In the opening verses of Luke’s Gospel, he tells us that others wrote Gospels before him (Matthew and Mark?). Presumably Paul wrote his letters before he died (!) as did Peter and James. They all died before AD 70, which means we have all the New Testament books apart from John’s writings completed within 40 years of the events of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. There are claims of a fragment of John’s Gospel existing which predates the year 70, so John’s Gospel may have been written before then also.
The geographical, historical and cultural details are all correct. The writers of the New Testament got the right people in the right places at the right time.
Jesus in the Qur’an.
Islam has stories about Jesus which it claims are true. Where they differ from the Gospel account they say it is because the account in the Gospel have been altered by later writers. The Qur’an and the Hadith were written between 600 – 900 years after Jesus by people who lived in a different time and a different place with different culture to the people who wrote the New Testament. So which is more likely to have the correct account?
There are things which the Qur’an says about Jesus which are wrong. For example Mary, the mother of Jesus is called the ‘sister of Aaron’ (Sura 19.28-29) and the ‘daughter of Imran’ (Sura 66.12). Imran is an Arabic form of the Hebrew Amram, who was the father of ‘Aaron, Moses and Miriam’ (Numbers 26.59). This Miriam was Aaron’s sister (Exodus 15.20). Therefore not only was Miriam / Mary a virgin when she gave birth to Jesus, she was also about 1500 years old! Some Muslim writers have attempted to explain this by saying that Miriam was miraculously preserved alive, purposely to become the mother of Jesus, quoting a Jewish tradition that the angel of death did not have power over Miriam the sister of Moses and Aaron. The obvious explanation is that the writer of the Qur’an simply confused the identity of these two women, whose names in Hebrew (Miriam) and Arabic (Maryam) are very common.
The Islamic Jesus was never crucified and therefore did not rise from the dead: ‘And because of their saying (in boast), ‘We killed Messiah Jesus, son of Maryam (Mary), the Messenger of Allah,’ — but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but it appeared so to them the resemblance of Jesus was put over another man (and they killed that man), and those who differ therein are full of doubts. They have no (certain) knowledge, they follow nothing but conjecture. For surely; they killed him not: But Allah raised him up unto Himself (and he is in the heavens). And Allah is ever all powerful, all wise’ (al-Nisaa’ 4:157-158).
This rips out the very heart of the message of the Gospel and contradicts everything that the New Testament teaches about Jesus. ‘For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received; that Christ (Messiah) died for our sins according to the scriptures, and that he was buried and that he rose again on the third day according to the scriptures. … And if Messiah is not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain’. I Corinthians 15:3-4,14.
It also connects to the teaching of heretical Gnostic sects. In the ‘Second Treatise of the Great Seth’, a Gnostic text from the 2nd century, a false Jesus says, ‘I did not die in reality but in appearance … Those in error and blindness saw me; they punished me. It was another, their father, who drank the gall and vinegar; it was not I. It was another, Simon, who bore the cross on his shoulder. I was rejoicing in the height over all. And I was laughing at their ignorance.’
There are other connections to Gnostic writings in the Qur’an, like the story of Jesus as a child making clay birds, breathing on them and they flew away (Sura 3.49, taken from Thomas’ Gospel of Infancy of Jesus Christ, written in the 2nd century). This suggests that whoever put it together had some contact with Gnostic sects which deviated from mainstream Christianity. The Qur’an also contains Talmudic stories like Abraham destroying the idols in Ur and Solomon knowing the language of birds, so he may also have picked up influences from Jewish teachers of the time.
The Islamic Jesus is not God in the flesh, in fact anyone who believes that God is three in one will be thrown into hell according to the Qur’an. ‘Surely, disbelievers are those who said: ‘Allah is the third of the three (in a Trinity).’ But there is no AIlah (god) but One AIlah. And if they cease not from what they say, verily, a painful torment will befall on the disbelievers among them’. [al-Maa’idah 5:73]. He is simply another prophet: ‘Jesus, and that given to (all) prophets from their Lord: We make no difference between one and another of them’: Surah 2.136, 2.84.
The Islamic Jesus is a created being: ‘The similitude of Jesus before Allah is that of Adam: he created him from dust, then said to him, ‘Be’: and he was.’ Qur’an: Sura 3:59. In the Bible Jesus is revealed as an eternal being who said of himself, ‘Before Abraham was, I am’ (John 8.58). He is the creator not a created being: ‘All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made’. John 1:3.
The New Testament teaches that Jesus is Lord, entirely different from the prophets and is above them all:
‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. …And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth’. John 1.1-14. John equates Jesus with the Word who is God.
‘Therefore God has highly exalted him and given him a name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow … and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.’ Philippians 2.9-11
Muslims have a number of beliefs about the second coming of Jesus based on the Hadith (traditions) rather than the Qur’an. The Islamic Jesus will come back as ‘a man of medium height, reddish hair, wearing two light yellow garments’ (Sunan Abu Dawud Book 37, Number 4310); he will land on the minaret of the mosque in Damascus when he will invite the whole world, including Jews and Christians, to become Muslims (Hadith 814). He will then destroy the Dajjal (a kind of Muslim Antichrist figure) and ‘kill all pigs and break all crosses’, confirming Islam as the only true religion, abolishing Christianity. He will then live for 40 years, marry and have children and perform the Hajj (pilgrimage) to Mecca. Then he will die and be buried beside the grave of Muhammad.
All of this contradicts what the Bible tells us about the second coming of Jesus. He will return as King of Kings and Lord of Lords with all the power of God at his disposal to the Mount of Olives outside Jerusalem. Then He will set up his 1000 year reign of peace and justice on the earth prior to the eternal state in which He is glorified and worshipped for eternity (see Zechariah 12-14, Revelation 19-21).
Behind the Qur’an is a spirit which denies the identity of the Lord Jesus as revealed in the New Testament. The New Testament identifies this as the spirit of antichrist. In 1 John 2.19-23 we read: ‘They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us … ‘Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ (Messiah)? He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son. Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father either; he who acknowledges the Son has the Father also.’
It is a central belief of Islam that God is an absolute unity. It denies the Christian concept that God is a tri-unity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit and that the Lord Jesus Christ is Emmanuel / God with us / Son of God. According to this passage it means you that if you do not have the Son, you do not have the Father either.
Islam is destined to play a role in the events of the last days as a persecutor of true Christians. It is also involved in the end time conflict over who should rule Jerusalem. When Jesus returns He will come to Jerusalem (not Damascus) and make the world submit to one God through Jesus the Messiah, as He brings peace and justice to the world (Isaiah 2.1-4, Zechariah 14, Revelation 20). He will rule as King of kings and Lord of lords and establish His kingdom of peace and justice on earth for 1000 years. When the 1000 years are over, He will dissolve this world and create the new heavens and new earth where all true believers will dwell for eternity (2 Peter 3, Revelation 21). We would like to see many people who now follow Islam turn to Jesus to find true salvation and a glorious hope for the future. God loves the whole world including Muslims and wants them to come to Him through faith in Jesus the Messiah, who literally died for our sins, was buried and rose again from the dead on the third day, as taught in the New Testament.
Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved.
We have a booklet available on ‘The Bible and the Koran’. £1 each.
Also we can send a power point presentation of Jay Smith’s talk on this subject (only by email).
The Departure and Return of the Glory.
In the year 63BC the Romans entered Jerusalem, beginning the Roman occupation of Judea. When they took control of Jerusalem, the Roman General Pompey entered the Temple and went right into the Holy of Holies, thus causing great offence to the Jewish people. It was thought that he might be struck dead for committing this act of desecration, but he was not.
What was surprising was what he found there. The Roman historian Tacitus tells us that when Pompey and his troops entered the Holy of Holies in the Temple, they found it empty. There was no image of any god, no objects of worship. Tacitus describes it as being ‘unoccupied’. The Jewish historian Josephus tells us, ‘In the sanctuary stood nothing whatever’. So what was the problem about entering an empty room?
The Holy of Holies was the place of the greatest sanctity in the world, considered to be the place where the presence of God dwelt. The First Temple, built in the days of Solomon in around 957 BC, was modelled on the earlier Tabernacle made in the days of Israel’s journeying through the wilderness in the book of Exodus. At its heart was the Holy of Holies, the most holy place, where the Ark of the Covenant was placed. It was also the place where the Lord was present in the form of the Shekinah, or glory of God. It could only be entered once a year, on the Day of Atonement, by the High Priest, who offered the sacrifice for the day of Atonement in that place.
In around 537 BC the Babylonians captured Jerusalem, destroyed the Temple and took the Jewish people into captivity in Babylon. The prophet Jeremiah told them this was a judgement of God for their sins, but also that they would return and rebuild the Temple after a period of 70 years of captivity.
Jeremiah’s prophecy was fulfilled and the Jews returned from Babylon with an edict from Cyrus, the Persian Emperor who defeated the Babylonians, to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem (Ezra 1.1-4). The Books of Ezra and Nehemiah describe the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the Temple, known as the Second Temple.
According to Jewish teaching, the Second Temple lacked five things present in the First Temple.
- The Ark of Covenant,
- Sacred fire falling from heaven on the sacrifices,
- The Shekinah, the glory cloud,
- The Urim and Thummim (on High Priest’s garments, by which the will of God was discerned),
- The spirit of prophecy.
The Shekinah or the glory cloud is most significant of these five things. The word Shekinah is a noun formed from the Hebrew verb ‘shachen’ to dwell. It was a sign of the Lord dwelling with Israel. The Lord was present with Israel in the glory cloud that led the children of Israel through the wilderness in Exodus 13.21-22. The glory cloud was manifested in the dedication of the Tabernacle by Moses (Exodus 40.34-37): ‘Then the cloud covered the tabernacle of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.’
The glory cloud also filled the First Temple, when it was dedicated by Solomon (1 Kings 8.10-13):
‘And it came to pass, when the priests came out of the holy place, that the cloud filled the house of the Lord, so that the priests could not continue ministering because of the cloud; for the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord. Then Solomon spoke: “The Lord said He would dwell in the dark cloud. I have surely built You an exalted house, and a place for You to dwell in forever.”
Ezekiel 10-11 describes the departure of the glory cloud from the Temple as a result of the sin of the people of Israel. This happened before its destruction by the Babylonians:
‘Then the glory of the Lord departed from the threshold of the temple … And the glory of the Lord went up from the midst of the city and stood on the mountain, which is on the east side of the city (this is the Mount of Olives).’ Ezekiel 10.18, 11.23
The prophecy of Haggai is all about the rebuilding of the Temple after the Jews’ return from Babylon. He prophesied:
The glory of this latter temple shall be greater than the former,’ says the Lord of hosts. ‘And in this place I will give peace,’ says the Lord of hosts.” Haggai 2.9.
So the ‘glory of the latter house’ (Second Temple) would be greater than the glory of the former (First Temple). The use of the word glory here does not mean it would be a more beautiful building than Solomon’s temple, but that the glory of God would come into it in a greater way. But the glory cloud never came into the Second Temple as it did into the First Temple.
So is this a false prophecy? Or was this prophecy fulfilled in a completely different way?
In the Gospel of Luke chapter 2, we read how Joseph and Mary brought the baby Jesus into the temple for the Jewish ceremony of pidyon ha ben (the redemption of the first born). They were met by the elderly priest Simeon, who had been told by the Lord that he would not die before he had seen the Messiah. He greeted them with these words:
‘Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, according to Your word; for my eyes have seen Your salvation (your Yeshua / salvation / Jesus) which You have prepared before the face of all peoples, a light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel.” Luke 2.29-32.
He saw the glory of God coming into the Temple in this child, whom he correctly recognised to be the Messiah of Israel, as the Holy Spirit revealed this to him. So the greater glory came into the Temple in the person of the Messiah, which was present even in this tiny baby.
When He was fully grown and began His ministry, John wrote about the glory of God present in the Person of the Messiah Jesus / Yeshua:
‘And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth … And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace. For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.’ John 1.14-16.
The New Testament records many times that Jesus came into the Temple – Matthew 21.12-15, Luke 2.41-50, Luke 20, John 5, John 7-10 for example. There He manifested the glory of God. He also said that ‘Yet I say to you that in this place there is One greater than the temple.’ Matthew 12.6. In this He was referring to Himself.
When Jesus entered Jerusalem in His triumphal entry, He went into the Temple to cleanse it from the corrupt dealings of the money changers. He also performed signs and wonders, showing His glory and divine power:
“Then the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple, and He healed them. But when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that He did, and the children crying out in the temple and saying, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant and said to Him, “Do You hear what these are saying?” And Jesus said to them, “Yes. Have you never read, ‘Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants You have perfected praise’?” Matthew 21.12-16.
He also prophesied the coming destruction of the Temple:
‘Now as He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, “If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side, and level you, and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation.” Luke 19.41-44.
The time of your visitation which ‘you did not know’ refers to the Messiah coming into Jerusalem and the Temple. He was rejected by the religious leaders (although He was accepted by many of the common people). This rejection led to His arrest, trial and crucifixion, in fulfilment of the prophecy of Isaiah 53:
‘He is despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief … He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.’
Jesus fulfilled this prophecy by His death on the cross, shedding His blood as the sacrifice for the sin of the world. When He had finished this task, something very significant happened in the Temple:
Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split. Matthew 27.51.
The veil of the temple was a very heavy curtain which sealed off the Holy of Holies from the other parts of the Temple. The only time when anyone could go past this veil was when the High Priest went in once a year into the presence of God, to offer the sacrifice for the Day of Atonement. It was forbidden for anyone else to go into this place on pain of death, because of its sanctity. The tearing of the veil symbolised the fact that the Messiah had paid the price for the sins of the world and now the way is open for anyone, Jew or Gentile, male or female, to come into the presence of the Lord, because the Messiah Yeshua has shed His blood as a sacrifice for the sins of the world.
After this the Temple building became spiritually desolate as Jesus said in Matthew 23.39: See! Your house is left to you desolate; for I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’ ”
It no longer had any purpose for the offering of sacrifices acceptable to the Lord. The sacrifices given in Leviticus 16-17 for the day of atonement were no longer needed to atone for our sins and have now been replaced by the better sacrifice of Jesus the Messiah (see Hebrews 8-9). Forty years later it would become physically desolate when the Romans destroyed it in AD70.
Remarkably there is a passage in the Talmud (Jewish commentaries and teaching), which records that forty years before the destruction of the Temple, something unusual happened to show a change had happened.
At the time of the Second Temple the practice on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, was to take two goats and sacrifice them to the Lord according to Leviticus 16. The first goat was ‘for the Lord’ and the second goat was the scapegoat. The first goat was sacrificed in the Holy of Holies, and the second goat, the scapegoat, was sent out into the wilderness, after having the sins of the people placed upon it in accordance with Leviticus 16.21. A scarlet sash was tied around its neck and it was then taken to a precipice in the wilderness about 12 miles from Jerusalem. A portion of this sash was also tied to the door of the Temple before the goat departed into the wilderness. When the goat finally arrived at the precipice, the attending priest removed the red sash from its head and divided it, returning half to the animal’s horns and tying the other half to a protrusion on the cliff. He then pushed the animal backwards over the cliff to its death.
In his book ‘The Fall Feasts of Israel’, Mitch Glaser writes: ‘In connection with this ceremony an interesting tradition arose, which is mentioned in the Mishna. A portion of the crimson sash was attached to the door of the Temple before the goat was sent into the wilderness. The sash would turn from red to white as the goat met its end signalling to the people that God had accepted their sacrifice and their sins were forgiven. This was based on the verse in Isaiah where the prophet declared: ‘Come now, and let us reason together says the Lord, though your sins are as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they will be like wool’ (Isaiah 1.18). The Mishna tells us that forty years before the destruction of the Temple, the sash stopped turning white. That of course was approximately the year that Messiah / Christ died.’
The final sacrifice had come and the temple sacrifices were no longer effective in covering sin. The Temple no longer had any purpose and God allowed its destruction in 70CE. The desolations of Jerusalem began and will end with the return of Jesus – As He said ‘Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.’ Luke 21.24.
The present return of the Jewish people to Jerusalem and Israel is a sign of this process beginning and the soon return of Jesus (see Zechariah 12-14). Jesus told His disciples that at His return He will come in the glory clouds of heaven:
‘Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. Matthew 24.29-30.
After this He will sit on His throne of glory and judge the nations:
When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. Matthew 25.31-32.
He will also restore the kingdom to Israel, reigning in power from Jerusalem as the long expected Messianic King. The temple will again be restored in Jerusalem to be the seat of power of the Messiah. At that time the glory will return and Haggai’s prophecy of the glory of the latter house will reach its final fulfilment.
Ezekiel, who described the departure of the glory from the first Temple in chapter 10-11 of his prophecy, describes the return of the glory to the temple in the coming Messianic kingdom (see Ezekiel 40-48).
‘Afterward he brought me to the gate, the gate that faces toward the east. And behold, the glory of the God of Israel came from the way of the east. His voice was like the sound of many waters; and the earth shone with His glory. It was like the appearance of the vision which I saw—like the vision which I saw when I came to destroy the city. The visions were like the vision which I saw by the River Chebar; and I fell on my face. And the glory of the Lord came into the temple by way of the gate which faces toward the east. The Spirit lifted me up and brought me into the inner court; and behold, the glory of the Lord filled the temple. Ezekiel 43.1-5.
When the Messiah comes into the Holy of holies of the rebuilt temple in His millennial reign, the glory of God will fill the house and the whole earth will be filled with His glory.
He will rule over the earth as Messiah ben David (son of David) bringing peace and justice to the world (Isaiah 2.1-4) as the earth is full of the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea (Isaiah 11.9). Something to look forward to as we see the current darkness covering the earth.
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