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Written by: C. W. Booth

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Treasures from Hebrews 12

As I age, I realize more and more how little I really know the Bible (to borrow a phrase from the 200th episode of my favorite science fiction show, "I feel so stupid"). This was made evident to me once again when I began meeting with some Jehovahís Witnesses, and I was compelled to dive into a personal study of the basic doctrines of the faith at a deeper level than I had done previously. Last night I was knocked upside the head once more in a Bible study of Hebrews 12. These truths have been there for 2000 years, and I surely must have read them multiple times before, but the import of it had eluded me until last night (I feel so stupid).

A prime theme of Hebrews as a book is that Jesus is superior. He is superior to all the things He created and He offers a superior salvation along with a superior life to those who believe. By chapter 12 the author reveals the superiority of Christ which demands that He deserves our enduring faith; this he reveals via a recounting of a host of historical witnesses who testify to us of what real faith is, involving as it does trials and painful discipline. And so we must encourage and strengthen the weak or the faltering, for Christ is worth the hardship of endurance.

Faith in Christ is said to bring the believer fearlessly into contact with Mount Zion. Mount Zion is the special name that the Jews used for the temple mount in Jerusalem. But in Hebrews 12 God tells us that Mount Zion is also the name for heaven, the eternal city of God, the New Jerusalem which will one day reside on the New Earth.

But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel. See to it that you do not refuse Him who is speaking. For if those did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape who turn away from Him who warns from heaven. (Hebrews 12:22-25)

My first moment of surprise was when I noticed that verse 23 explicitly states both the "general assembly" and the "church" of Christ (Jesus being the "firstborn," the sovereign over the church) are "enrolled in heaven" along with "the spirits of the righteous made perfect." That this verse is so clear that the "general assembly" of all believers, and that the church (ekklesia) comprised of all believers, and the "spirits" of those whom Jesus has made both righteous and perfect are all listed in one passage as entering and residing in "the heavenly Jerusalem," that I feel stupid for having missed its implications before last night.

Jehovahís Witnesses insist that the heavenly Jerusalem (heaven, the residence of God the Father and Jesus the Lamb) is not for the general assembly of believers or the church (the ekklesia), but only for an elite 144,000 persons. Everyone else, the millions and billions of believers from history past, they assert, will live on this old planet earth forever, and such people will never die, but neither will they ever live in the literal presence of God for the remainder of eternity because God will be apart from them in heavenly Jerusalem.

Yet, Hebrews 12:22-25 fairly well screams, "all believers will be in the actual presence of God forever, living with Him in Mount Zion, the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, where the myriads of angels live and where the spirits of the righteous reside!" How I wish I had understood this passage previously!

But the moment of illumination for me did not end there. Hebrews 12 goes on to warn that God (the One Who speaks from Heaven) will "shake not only the Earth, but also the heaven." This phrase is explained in the next statement as "the removing of those things." What things? Creation, the earth and its heavens. Only the kingdom, New Jerusalem, cannot be shaken, and so it remains.

See to it that you do not refuse Him who is speaking. For if those did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape who turn away from Him who warns from heaven. And His voice shook the earth then, but now He has promised, saying, "YET ONCE MORE I WILL SHAKE NOT ONLY THE EARTH, BUT ALSO THE HEAVEN." This expression, "Yet once more," denotes the removing of those things which can be shaken, as of created things, so that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe; for our God is a consuming fire. (Hebrews 12:25-29)

As before, this is of particular significance to me because of the doctrines which the Jehovahís Witnesses preach. To them, the Earth and its heavens will never be shaken and never will be removed.

To be certain, the Witnesses and I explored the numerous other passages which teach what Hebrews 12:22-29 teach, but I simply had not thought to use this set of passages with them. "I feel so stupid."




Wednesday, July 30, 2008

One Christianís Movie Reviews: Two Recent Sci-fi Releases, X-Files and Stargate

My wife, son, and I are all science fiction fans. Even though my schedule is problematic for the next two months, my little family took the time to attend the X-Files movie, "I Want to Believe," and to view the DVD release of "Stargate Continuum." Below is my briefest of reviews.

X-Files, I Want to Believe

I think FBI special agent Fox Mulder would state it something like this: "It is simply inconceivable that the Hollywood entertainment complex would subject their loyal audience to anything but the best in quality cinemagraphic experiences given the high prices one must pay to the projection establishment for entrance, not to mention the reputation of the global industry that is placed at stake every time one of these releases is made. Anything less than a premium product would smack of the stench of profit motive which would indicate a conspiracy within the industry at the highest levels."

However, I would probably state it like this: "A major film with a big budget that continues the X-Files legacy ought to be a decent flick." I would be wrong. They seem to have neglected to spend money on a good script resulting in one boring movie. Half way through, I literally closed my eyes and almost fell asleep.

Further, I should add that this movie is inappropriate for younger audiences. I regret having taken my teenage son. Then again, as I think about it now, it was inappropriate content for any age group.

This movie is set in a cold, snowy, dark, sleepy little town. Most of the movie consists of everyone slogging through the slush and snow. UmmmmÖthatís about it. Yup, slogging through the snow, for two hours. Mulder and Scully are not FBI agents anymore, so they donít carry guns and obviously have little concern for law enforcement activities. Oh, there is a plot, of sorts, but it barely fills 15 minutes at the end of the movie. If this had been an X-Files television installment, it would have been called a forgettable monster-of-the-week episode, without the monster.

If you are not a die-hard X-Files fan, skip the movie and save your money. If you are a die-hard X-Files fan, you are going to see the movie regardless of any bad reviews, so take my advice and see it very soon, because this stinker is not going to be around long. Finally, if you do go and see this dog, sit in your seat after the movie ends (I know, sitting there even longer will be torturous), watch the credits roll, then wait for the Gilliganís Island sight gag--it is the only entertaining aspect to this otherwise wasted effort.

Stargate Continuum

Stargate SG-1 is (was) a science fiction television show created after the success of the original big budget Stargate movie years ago. It ran for 10 seasons before being cancelled. The last two "episodes" were released as DVD movies, "The Ark of Truth" and "Continuum."

"Continuum" ties up all the last storyline threads that remained after "The Ark of Truth." It is a typical time travel plot (with all the usual flaws and plot holes that come with the genre) but in the style of, and with all the energy of, the first five seasons. This last installment of the series was masterfully done. The Stargate team took the show out with class, imagination, creativity, drama, and fun.

This final episode takes us back to the beginning, literally. We are reintroduced to all the bad-guys we came to love-to-hate. The scope of the episode is galactic, again, literally. All the good-guys make an appearance, if only in cameo. As always, watch for the homages to other films. Technically, it is an excellent piece of story telling, including the acting, direction, scripting, special effects, costuming, and cinematography.

My only regret with this movie was that it ended.



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