Christianity today seems to have lost its real meaning. Countless churches and denominations claim to be the only true followers of Jesus. Are any of them worth joining?
In my view, if a church or denomination wants to be a true follower of Christ, first of all it must get rid of all traditions that have their roots in Pagan customs and habits like Easter and Christmas. It should clearly distance itself from such non-Scriptural legends, theories and beliefs, as the Holy Grail, the Trinity and Saints and condemn all sins committed by or in the name of the Church throughout history, such as the Crusades, the Mediaeval Inquisition, the Church's involvement in warfare etc. As a next step, it must free itself from the bondage of Jewish customs and traditions.
There are millions of people all over the world who claim to be Christians. They are members or sympathizers of numerous Churches and countless denominations. They have their church leaders or pastors who interpret for them the message of the Bible. However, it is by no means certain that these top churchmen understand correctly what the Bible says. These leaders or pastors may have certificates testifying to their knowledge of theology. They are surely well-versed in the Bible. Nevertheless, it is far from certain that all this is enough. There are also top theologians that I call media theologians bathing in the limelight of the mainstream media who are also well-versed in the Bible, give lectures and interviews, partake in public debates, publish articles and books. Their activity is useful in the sense that they call the attention of Christians to what the Bible teaches. Nevertheless, let me warn you that it doesn't hurt to check what they say, as the Bereans did (Acts 17:11: " they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.").
There are several branches of Christianity:
The so-called traditional churches they and their teachings are well-known to most people, they are full of traditions and Pagan-rooted customs and habits (just look at the fish-mouth cap worn by Catholic priests, which is a Pagan symbol of fertility and consider their celebration of religious feasts in combination with Pagan fertility symbols, such as Easter eggs and bunnies and Christmas trees and drink and meat offerings, which was an abomination to Yahweh in the Old Testament (Ezekiel 20:28: "[For] when I had brought them into the land, [for] the which I lifted up mine hand to give it to them, then they saw every hill, and all thick trees, and they offered there their sacrifices, and there they presented the provocation of their offering: there also they made their sweet savor, and poured out there their drink offerings." Idolatry remained an abomination to Jesus too (see Acts 15:20 below);
Denominations that prefer to emphasize the Jewish roots of Christianity, including an insistence on the Ten Commandments, especially on keeping the Sabbath holy it seems that they cannot decide if they should follow the Ten Commandments, and thus the Jewish religion, or the Two Commandments of Jesus complemented with Acts 15:20: "But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and [from] fornication, and [from] things strangled, and [from] blood." To follow both is not reasonable. In fact, it is nonsensical. Some of these denominations are against papal infallibility and others are also against Pagan-rooted Christian feasts, such as Easter and Christmas, and against Jesus' Sunday resurrection and many of them agree with the doctrine that Jesus was three days and three nights, i. e. 72 hours, in the tomb, however they teach that the Crucifixion happened on a Wednesday or Thursday and that the Resurrection was on a Saturday or Sunday, being silent about the exact calendar day, month and year when these momentous events happened. They seem to have a problem with determining this so important date. They sometimes mention the year 30 AD as a "probable" year. Jesus abolished the Ten Commandments by including them in His Two Commandments. He also said that He was the Lord of even the Sabbath day (see Mat 12:8 below).
Some denominations have problems with their identity, which they do not readily admit. These denominations strictly adhere to the Ten Commandments that were given by God to the Hebrews. Sabbatarianism is a one-way street. Furthermore, Sabbatarians, despite their claims to the contrary, cannot be the true followers of Jesus, who stated clearly in Mat 12:8: "For the Son of man is Lord even of the Sabbath day." You can twist this sentence however you like, but what Jesus says is unambiguous. The problem with these denominations is that they favor the Old Testament (OT) over the New Testament (NT) but they claim to follow the teachings of both of them. They might as well belong to the Jewish religion that does not accept Jesus as Savior, in fact they hold Him to be a liar and an impostor. They feel entitled to talk about Jesus in such a disrespectful manner because they claim that He was a Jew. I do not think He was one. (I have a readily available 491-character theory about this issue, which I do not wish to include herein, not being the subject of this article).
In the light of this, it is even more difficult (at least for me) to understand the determination with which some Judeo-Christian denominations cling to Jewish roots. They even try to make use of Christians' imperfect knowledge of the Bible, (which is not only their fault). Namely, they try to connect the OT and the NT through the death and resurrection of Jesus. They refer to Leviticus and Exodus where God gave instructions to the Hebrews on how to celebrate their feasts. In so doing, they make a confusing amalgam of OT instructions and NT events. They say that Jesus died on Wednesday and was resurrected on Saturday, which is in harmony with the OT, namely, Leviticus 23:11 says: "And he shall wave the sheaf before the LORD, to be accepted for you: on the morrow after the sabbath the priest shall wave it." They say that Jesus died on Abib or Nisan 14 and Nisan 15 was the Feast of the First Fruits (barley). They misinterpret the word "morrow", the correct interpretation being that this feast of the First Fruits was held on the second day (the day after tomorrow) after the Sabbath. The Sabbath referred to was Nisan 14, which was simultaneously the Day of Passover and the First Day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. The Feast of the First Fruits was on Nisan 16. However, Deuteronomy 16:9 says: "Seven weeks shalt thou number unto thee: begin to number the seven weeks from [such time as] thou beginnest [to put] the sickle to the corn."
Lev 23:8 says: " But ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD [Yahweh] seven days: in the seventh day [is] an holy convocation: ye shall do no servile work [therein]." Please note that the ban on doing any servile work on the last day (Nisan 21) is specifically mentioned again. Exodus 12:18 says: " In the first [month,] on the fourteenth day of the month at even, ye shall eat unleavened bread, until the one and twentieth day of the month at even." This verse clearly define the last day of the 7-day Feast of Unleavened Bread being the twenty-first (21st) of Nisan, thus, IF WE COUNT BACK SEVEN FULL DAYS FROM THE EVENING OF NISAN 21, WE COME TO THE EVENING OF NISAN 14(!), AN ANNUAL SABBATH BEING THE DAY OF PASSOVER AND THE FIRST DAY OF UNLEAVENED BREAD AT THE SAME TIME(!). Some claim that Jesus ate the Passover on Nisan 13 in the evening. Thereby, however, He would have violated the injunction of God to eat the Passover on Nisan 14 in the evening. Jesus had to meet God's commandment even if this was not in harmony with the "postphecy" of some religious groups of our days.
This, Deuteronomy 16:9 mentioning the sickle, clearly refers to the day of Jesus' death. Accordingly, this means that the barley sheaf was harvested and taken to the temple on Nisan 15 but the priest offered this sheaf as an offering on Nisan 16. It is all very straightforward. Jesus died on Nisan 15, thus the attempt made to connect the day of His death with His being the First Fruit from the dead on Nisan 16, i. e. the next day, is rather problematic. He rose from the dead on Nisan 18, thus we can rule out any correlation between the day of His resurrection and the Feast of the First Fruit on Nisan 16. Some denominations claim that the resurrection of Jesus on a Saturday has a correlation with God's day of rest. This is impossible, since He was resurrected on a Friday, thus posing a problem for the Sabbatarians' belief in a Saturday resurrection.
With Jesus' death, His followers ceased to follow the Jewish traditions as regards sacrificing animals. The last occasion in the NT that refers back to the OT is when at the time of Pentecost, to fulfill Jesus' promise, 120 people, including the 12 apostles in the upper room, were filled with the Holy Spirit. We may debate whether it was selected by God as a ritual date or just as a time marker for future readers of Scripture. Whatever the truth may be, that was one of the last references made to OT feasts, maybe complemented with such part of the Acts, which refers to the Feast of Unleavened Bread before Paul traveled to Philippi and Troas.
Pentecostal denominations are not really acceptable to me since, according to Scripture, after the Apostles, miracles ceased to occur. Thus, all "evident" miracles cannot be of divine origin. These Pentecostal denominations also tend to connect the Jewish religion with Christianity through the death of Jesus. They, as some other similar denominations, have a problem with their identity and cannot decide if they should make friends with religious Jews who hate Jesus and hold Him to be a liar and an impostor, or follow Jesus and do not make friends with those who hate Him.
You may have noticed that I have not mentioned any Christian Church or denomination by name. This is a deliberate choice. The only denomination I mention here by name is the Jehovah's Witnesses. I feel entitled to speak of them since I attended their gatherings and congresses from 1991 to 2001, though I was not baptized by them as I always had questions (which they could not answer). Thus, our parting was inevitable. I still sympathize with them, though there are quite a few things I do not agree with them about. In my view, their organization is divine. They have a problem with filling that divine framework with appropriate content. Their biblical literature is amazing, both in terms of volume and content. Without those ten years of contact with them and without their literature I would not have been able to come to my conclusions.
What I have noticed in general is that the members of no church or denomination are striving to determine the exact calendar date (day, month and year) of the death of Jesus. Thereby, they ignore the only possible solution to the issue of the three days and three nights. I could understand their point of view about celebrating the Last Supper and Passover in harmony with the Jewish celebrations. I could do so right until the point when I was privileged to establish the exact date of Jesus' death and announce it as widely as I was able. From that moment, the chains of Jewish religion and Pagan customs were loosened and now we are "free" to throw off of those shackles with ease. Why should we continue celebrating the Last Supper in the shadow of the Jewish Passover and Pagan Easter? We can now celebrate our unique Christian feast, the Last Supper, as the disciples, and through them we, were instructed by Jesus. Now we can do that after sunset on March 24, every year, whatever day it may fall on.
In this regard, I recommend reading my article entitled "Should Christians Celebrate Easter as a Moveable Feast?" available on the web.
Now we have once more come to a point where we would need "redeeming".
The situation is rather complicated. We have a great many Bible translations that more or less differ from one another and from the original Scripture alike. Even the first sentence of the Bible is problematic and not rendered precisely in any Bible version that I have encountered thus far. ("In the beginning, God created the heaven (or heavens) and the earth." In a literal translation, it reads: "In the beginning, gods [plural] created [singular(!) this contradiction does not appear in English because there is only one form of the verb in the simple past] the sky and the earth.") Not to speak of the rest! Without a Bible translation that renders the Scriptures as literally as possible, indicating the various possible meanings as footnotes, we shall not be able to get closer to understanding the real content of the Bible. We shall be compelled to believe what the Christian leaders and/or theologians tell us. But, what if they are mistaken. Then, we shall also miss our target, i. e. salvation. We should bear in mind Galatians 1:10: "For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ."
Let me give you an example:
Some years ago, I examined the issue of the three days and three nights that Jesus was in the tomb (Mat 12:40). To make a long story short (please read my article entitled "How Could Jesus Spend Three Days and Three Nights in the Tomb?" available throughout the web), I established and supported by historical and biblical evidence that Jesus was three days and three nights in the tomb and not about 33 hours from Friday afternoon till the early hours of Sunday. The only way to establish correctly exactly which day of the week it was that Jesus died on was to determine the calendar day He died on. At first, it seemed to be a "mission impossible" but I felt it my duty to prove Jesus' prophecy, especially when it came to my notice in the meantime that some "intellectual militants" of other non-Christian religions claim that Jesus was a liar as He foretold that He would be three days and three nights in the tomb but He was there no more than 33 hours. And, what is more, these people were quoting from Mat 12:40(!).
To be frank, at first I could not understand why nobody had dealt seriously with this issue. After some years' work, I discovered that Jesus died on March 25, 31 CE [Common Era], at 3.00 p. m. on a Tuesday and was resurrected on March 28, 31 CE, at about 6 p. m. on a Friday. In my view at least, there can be no other solution! Using calculations based on biblical prophecy, I also determined Jesus' exact date of birth: September 26, 4 BCE [Before Common Era], at 3.00 p. m. (there was no birth during the night) and of His baptism: September 26, 27 CE, at 3.00 p. m.
I also explained the apparent discrepancy between Luke's Bethlehem story and that of Matthew, by pointing out that the events in Luke's Gospel happened six months before the events described in Matthew's Gospel. We should not simply stop at Luke 2:40 but go on and read Luke 2:41, where we learn that Joseph and Mary, after returning to Nazareth with the child Jesus, went to Jerusalem every year for the Passover. And that's the point where Matthew's story begins. The magi who visited Him found Him already in a house and not in a manger. Then came the flight into Egypt and the return after Herod's death to Nazareth. It is as simple as that I am sure you were not aware of this. Ask any theologian or clergyman or pastor or even Pope Benedict XVI about this! I do not think anyone of them would be able to explain these things by using reasonable evidence. They would probably "argue" by questioning the credibility of the person (me) who presents this doctrine and would underrate its importance. There are some denominations that believe and proclaim the doctrine of three days and three nights but they differ in determining which day of the week Jesus died and was resurrected on. Some say that the Crucifixion/Resurrection happened on Wednesday/Saturday, others say on Thursday/Sunday. The only possible way to determine this is to identify the exact calendar day, month and year of Jesus' death. There is no other way around it!
You may ask if all this is of any importance to anyone. After all, God and Jesus did not instruct us to determine the exact calendar date of Jesus' death. This is true. On the other hand, neither God, nor Jesus instructed us not to do so. Determining this date is closely related to determining what day of the week Jesus died on. It is important for us to know this, so that we can prove that Jesus fulfilled what He had foretold about His being three days and three nights in the tomb. If we cannot prove this, Jesus would remain the target of a false accusation. We should feel it our duty to clear His name. We should be able to say: No, Jesus was not a liar. He fulfilled His own prophecy. He was three days and three nights (exactly 72 hours) in the tomb. Only proclaiming this is not enough. We should present proper and credible evidence from the Bible and from secular history alike. I have already done this for you. You may, however, think this pointless. Well, is it not worth investigating this date just in order that some non-Christians can be convinced that their accusation is false? That's not the main reason, however. No matter how important that is, there is something that is even more important. Namely, this issue of three days and three nights is connected with what Jesus called "the sign of Jonah". No sign would be given to this generation (both that in Jesus' day and that in our day) other than the sign of Jonah. It is clear that God will bless those who believe in the sign of Jonah! Those who do not may find themselves in an uncertain position with regard to their salvation.
Most probably, an appropriate yardstick for Jesus to "measure" our faith in Him and His Father can be whether we believe what He, in His capacity as the Son of God who resurrected Him, foretold about His fulfilling Jonah's sign. It may not be sufficient to just say: "Yes, I believe in the sign of Jonah." If such belief were not supported by a firm conviction, these words, lacking true belief, would ring hollow. My advice to you is that if you want to give yourself more chance of salvation, you should take the trouble to study this issue. You may ask your pastor about this but be careful, since people are only "human" and they may feel it is their duty to try to persuade you that this issue is not important for your salvation or try to underrate its importance and relevance (even the writer in person, without knowing him) or try to mention some "arguments" against this "new" doctrine, maybe even without having read it (!), but do not allow them to distract you from your target!
So many Pagan customs and habits, idolatries, lies and false accusations have stuck to the name "Christian" and to the notion "Christianity" that it is time to recover the original content of these terms. Let us celebrate our unique and only feast, i. e. the Last Supper, after sunset on March 24 every year, whichever day it may fall on.
I ask you to examine the above and make your decision at your own discretion and responsibility. For this, I can only wish you much insight.
By Sandor Balog
Word Count: 3400
Sandor Balog (pen name: Attila B. Magyar), author of Palm Wednesday.
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