Some Christian scholars today cast doubt over the canon of Scripture – those 66 books that the Church has long held to be the complete written revelation of God. They justify their views by claiming: (1) that surviving texts of the Old and New Testaments are corrupt and therefore unreliable, or (2) that early Church leaders deliberately excluded certain books for personal or political reasons.
As Craig L. Blomberg responds in his recent book – Can We Still Believe the Bible? – “there is not a shred of historical evidence to support either of these claims; anyone choosing to believe them must do so by pure credulity, flying in the face of all the evidence that actually exists.”
But what if we discovered an apostolic writing that has remained hidden for the last 2,000 years?
For example, in 1 Cor. 5:9, Paul alludes to an earlier letter to fellow believers in Corinth. We don’t have that letter, nor are we aware of its specific contents. Let’s say, however, that archaeologists unearth a clay pot containing a manuscript dating from the mid-first century and fitting the description of Paul’s letter.
Should the Church welcome 3 Corinthians as the 28th book of the New Testament? Not so fast.
Rev. 14:13 – Then I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write: The dead who die in the Lord from now on are blessed.” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “let them rest from their labors, for their works follow them!” (HCSB)
The dead who die in the Lord
This section ends with a voice from heaven saying, “Write: The dead who die in the Lord from now on are blessed.” This is followed by the Holy Spirit, who speaks, “Yes, let them rest from their labor, for their works follow them!”
Certainly, those who “die in the Lord” are blessed. Their names have been written in the Lamb’s book of life. The angels have rejoiced at their entrance into the kingdom. Jesus has gone to prepare a place for them in His Father’s house and will return to resurrect and glorify them. They will live forever with Jesus in the new heavens and new earth. Meanwhile, at the moment of death, they are absent from the body and present with the Lord. And they will be wherever Jesus is forever and ever. These are blessings for which every believer may rejoice for they are gifts of God’s grace, secured through the finished work of His Son.
But what does the phrase “from now on” mean? It cannot mean that those who previously have died in the Lord are lesser citizens of the kingdom or are denied the full benefits of eternal life. Nor can it mean that God withholds His promises from particular saints just because they lived in a different chapter of human history. Rather, the voice from heaven seems to be assuring those who remain faithful to the Lord during a time of extreme persecution that in death they are spared further suffering. Even more important, they are reminded that “their works follow them,” meaning they will be richly compensated in eternity for what they willingly sacrificed in time.
Caught up in the Protestant revivalism of his day, Smith inquired as to which of the Christian denominations he should join. None of them, he was told, because they were all wrong. “The Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight,” Smith later recalled.
Smith was urged to take heart. God would use him to reinstate the true church, which had fallen into complete apostasy after the death of the apostles.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints professes to be the restored true church. Its leaders claim that Joseph Smith faithfully rediscovered proper church organization – that is, the Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthoods – and the true gospel, which was lost due to “designing priests” that removed its “plain and precious” truths.
In short, the LDS Church declares itself the one true church, while all other forms of Christianity remain apostate.
The Wall Street Journal recently reported that scientists have zapped an electrical current to people’s brains to erase distressing memories, part of an ambitious quest to better treat ailments such as mental trauma, psychiatric disorders and drug addiction.
Author Gautam Naik explains: “In an experiment, patients were first shown a troubling story, in words and pictures. A week later they were reminded about it and given electroconvulsive therapy [ECT], formerly known as electroshock. That completely wiped out their recall of the distressing narrative” – without erasing other memories.
At least two important questions emerge for Christians. First, if painful memories can be erased, should we seek this therapy? And second, in the afterlife, does God erase our most disturbing recollections?
Rev. 12:11 – They conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they did not love their lives in the face of death. (HCSB)
They conquered him by the blood of the Lamb
Verse 11 reads: “They conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they did not love their lives in the face of death.” There are two ways in which the “brothers” (v. 10) have achieved victory over Satan, according to the voice in heaven. Both of them involve death, a seemingly counterproductive way to win a battle – at least by the world’s standards.
First, the brothers conquer Satan by the blood of the Lamb. Satan’s desire to kill Jesus, or even to prevent his birth, is evident throughout scripture, most recently in Rev. 12:4 as the dragon is poised to devour the male child. Ironically, Jesus comes into the world to die, but on His terms, not Satan’s. There is a specific time and place for the Son of Man to give His life as a ransom for us. And when Jesus declares, “It is finished,” just before His death on the cross, He makes it clear that His purpose in coming to earth has been fulfilled. The apostle Paul summarizes this beautifully in 2 Cor. 5:21: “He [the Father] made the One who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
For believers, the victory and the cross are inextricably bound. The apparent end of a radical rabbi on a hillside outside Jerusalem is thought by His enemies to be a magnificent triumph. Yet the bloody and gruesome death of Jesus of Nazareth is in fact the fulfillment of the Father’s eternal plan of redemption. Jesus may exult, “It is finished,” and be completely vindicated. Just as the high priest declares, “It is finished,” on the Day of Atonement when sacrifices will no longer be accepted, and just as the Roman general booms, “It is finished,” from his perch above the battlefield when he sees the enemy has been routed, Jesus shouts for all the world to hear that salvation has come to a lost and dying world because of His death.