Judge Not? A Biblical Case for Human Worth

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Christians are often accused of being pompous, arrogant, judgmental, and intolerant.  Often, Christians find their own Scripture being quoted back to them. The most commonly heard verse is:

“Judge not, that you be not judged.” (Matt. 7:1)

From those leveling these accusations at Christians, there is truth in what they say, but there is also error.

In this series, I will be exploring these accusations, and analyzing humility, tolerance, and related ideas from a biblical worldview, ending the series by analyzing the much-used (and over-used) passage of Matthew 7:1.

To begin, we must talk about human worth…

#1 – A Biblical Case for Human Worth

All People are Image-Bearers

The writers of the Bible teach that all humans are made in the image of God, and thus, all humans and all human life has great value.

In the creation account, Genesis 1:27 tells us,

 

“God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”

 

Gender, race, nationality, religion, or even belief or unbelief in God doesn’t matter.  According to the Christian worldview, all people are image-bearers of God.

Further, a person’s value is not based on whether he or she is handicapped (physically or mentally), young or old, friend or enemy, or inside or outside the womb.

Nor is our worth based on our social standing, economic status, or sexual preference. This means that lawyers, politicians, warlords, porn stars, reality show stars, cops, rappers, rapists, teachers, garbage men, janitors, fast food workers, CEOs, oil tycoons, pimps, Islamic terrorists, white supremacists, toll workers, and MMA fighters are all made in the image of God.

Unfortunately, that image has been warped by sin. (And this is extremely important to always remember.) Despite this, all human life is priceless because all humans are image-bearers of the one true God.

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Ramifications

The implications of humans as image-bearers can be seen in Genesis 9:6, where we’re first told because humans are made in God’s image, we’re not to commit murder:

 

“Whoever sheds the blood of man,
    by man shall his blood be shed,
for God made man in his own image.”

Most of us (fortunately!) have no problem with following this command, but James, in his New Testament letter, applies this biblical truth in a way that we’re all much more likely to struggle with:

 

“But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way.” (James 3:8-10)

 

So, because we’re all made in the image of God, we shouldn’t just murder, but we shouldn’t even “curse” others.  The clear ramifications of this teaching is that we should not even speak harshly about others.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus also warns against insults and name-calling (Matthew 5:21-26). The Greek word often translated “insults” is “raca,” which is a term of abuse, a term that degrades people. “Raca” suggests that the person insulted has no value.

Jesus is teaching against dehumanizing others. To dehumanize someone is to not recognize that person as an image-bearer of God.

If fact, Jesus equates this sort of anger and hatred of others to murder. Before murder becomes a physical act, people often “murder” others in their mind (and with their mouths) by dehumanizing them:

 

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.” (Matthew 7:21-22)

 

Furthermore, we also have this statement by Paul in Galatians 3:26-28:

 

“…for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

 

As modern Americans, we cannot even grasp how groundbreaking and scandalous this statement was in Jesus and Paul’s time.  And though this verse speaks specifically of the equality and fellowship among Christians, as we can see from what we discussed above about all humans as image-bearers, respect of others (at the very least), even non-Christians, is a biblical value.

Along with the above teachings, we also have the commands to love your neighbor as yourself (Lev. 19:18; Mark 12:31), to love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you (Matt. 5:44), and to even do good for those who hate you (Luke 6:27), all commands Jesus highlights in the famous Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37).

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The Real Good Samaritan

Being a “Good Samaritan” has become a phrase in modern English to denote a person who practices kindness to strangers, but the deeper meaning of the parable is lost on modern audiences because they don’t know the full context.

In a discussion in Luke 10:25-37, a lawyer sums up the whole teachings of Scripture as,

 

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”

 

 

Jesus says he is correct, but then the lawyer challenges Jesus by asking,

 

“And who is my neighbor?”

 

Jesus then tells a parable: A man, a Jew, is attacked, robbed, and left for dead by the side of the road. Two Jewish religious leaders walk by without helping him. But then it’s a Samaritan who stops and cares for the attacked man.

People often pick up on that the hypocritical religious leaders left the man there to die, but they don’t realize just how shocking it would’ve been to Jesus’ audience that a Samaritan stopped to help him. The Jews and Samaritans absolutely hated each other! It was a hatred that was deep and bloody.

We’re not going into the history here, but think of the hatred between modern Israel and Palestine; think about the hatred between the Bloods and the Crips; think about the hatred between white supremacists and Black Panthers. The hatred between ancient Jews and Samaritans was strong.

Jesus ends the parable and asks the lawyer:

 

“Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” He [the lawyer] said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”

 

Thus, what is Jesus’ answer to, Who is my neighbor? Your enemy. Love your neighbor. Thus, love your enemy.

Finally — and most importantly — God showed just how priceless all people are by becoming a man and being tortured and murdered on a cross for all people. God did this so we can be free for the penalty of our sins and spend eternity with him. (But, it’s also important to note that though God did this for all people, it’s still a gift that must be accepted.)  Thus, all people have eternal worth to God. And if every person has eternal worth to God, they should all have the same worth to us.

Thus, we come to our first biblical concept…

 

CONCEPT #1: All people are image-bearers of God and have eternal worth.

 

NEXT: #2 A Biblical Case for Christian Humility

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The Final Bible Secret Re-revealed! Are There Any Bible Secrets?

*Did God hide secrets in the Bible itself? Did the 1st Christians hide the truth? Is Christianity one big conspiracy? Was Jesus a Buddhist?*

 

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So, are there secrets in the Bible? And did the church cover up secrets about the Bible?

To conclude the God From the Machine series Bible Secrets Re-revealed (which has been looking at claims made on the History Channel’s Bible Secrets Revealed) let’s explore these questions.

In this series, we’ve refuted these claims:

Further, many of the other articles posted on God From the Machine in the past year have refuted claims made elsewhere, including the claim that Christianity came from paganism.

What has become overwhelmingly clear is:

(1) Many of these claims that attack Christianity and deny the traditional understanding of Christianity are based on unadulterated speculation.

and

(2) The “very public” nature of biblical Christianity makes secrets within the faith highly unlikely.

 

Unadulterated Speculation

We live in the time of nonstop television programming where literally hundreds of channels are competing for your attention. As a result, even channels that appear to be educational are drenched in sensationalism.

As we have seen with the History Channel’s Bible Secrets Revealed, serious history has been substituted with conspiracy theories, sloppy half-information, and grand conclusions based on shoddy evidence – if any evidence at all.

We also live in the age of the internet, where every nutty conspiracy theory is kept alive by continuous circulation by those who don’t know any better or those who accept as truth anything they come across that reinforces their chosen worldview.

The great thing about hackneyed conspiracy theories is that they survive because of lack of evidence, not because of convincing evidence — which is backwards from how much of the rest of the world functions.

It’s like finding two red puzzle pieces (that may not even belong to the same puzzle) at the bottom of a drawer and jumping to the conclusion that the completed puzzle must be a Lamborghini.

“How do you know it’s a Lamborghini?” someone might ask you. “Did you find the box with the other pieces?”

“No,” you answer, “but I know there are puzzles of Lamborghinis out there.”

“But how do you know those pieces are a Lamborghini? Where’s the box with the other pieces?”

“Someone purposely hid the box, so I can’t prove it.”

“Can you prove someone purposely hid the box?”

“No, they covered that up too!”

Do you see the problem with this sort of thinking?  

Hey, maybe you’re even right. Maybe it is a Lamborghini. But don’t expect anyone to take you seriously until you find that box.

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As we have seen in this series, little evidence (if any) support the more outrageous claims of the unbelieving scholars on the History Channel, and what evidence there is doesn’t justify the claims they’re making. Much more obvious (and less scandalous – and thus, less TV-worthy) explanations account for the evidence.

Sadly, this mindset permeates everywhere.

For example, I once had a history teacher tell me Christianity comes from paganism. I asked, Where are the primary documents of the supposed myths that are similar to Christianity? What I was asking for was hard evidence. What evidence did she offer? A Youtube video! (And a lame one at that!) I honestly wanted to say to her, “Shame on you! You’re a history teacher! You should know better!”

(To read my article on how claims that Christianity is from paganism are unfounded, click here.)

 

So, Was Jesus Influenced by Buddhism?

Uhh… What?

Here is another example of this unbridled speculation. The fact that this was even suggested on Bible Secrets Revealed illustrates just how much of what is offered on these shows are based not on serious academic investigation, but careless conjecture and even dishonest assumptions.

If this is a serious theory, the one making the claim has a mountain-sized burden of proof, because no serious scholar actually believes this because all evidence says otherwise:

Christianity’s founder was a Jew in the Jewish land of Judea. All evidence shows Christianity spread from Jerusalem, initially by Jesus’ Jewish disciples. The first Christians were Jews.

Are you noticing a pattern here? In order to understand Christianity, one must understand the Jewish faith. This is why Christians must read and understand the Old Testament, not just the New Testament.

In fact, this is exactly what Jesus and the writers of the New Testament did. They constantly refer back to the Old Testament to put what is happening in the New Testament into context. To chase after unsubstantiated claims that Christianity originated from Roman paganism, Buddhism, or any other worldview other than the ancient Jewish worldview will lead to a dead-end.

But what about Jesus’ “lost years” between his birth and ministry, as was brought up on the History Channel? All evidence points towards him being a carpenter in Judea. Is it possible he traveled to the East and learned about Hinduism or Buddhism? Sure, it’s possible, but is it plausible based on the evidence? If we’re going to accept this theory, why not say Jesus traveled to northern Europe and became a Viking for a few years?

Everyone can speculate. But what does the evidence say?

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Conspiracy Theory Theories

One more thing to consider before moving on:

Homicide detective and former atheist, J. Warner Wallace in his book Cold Case Christianity explains what is needed for a successful conspiracy:

  • (1) A small number of conspirators. (Less people involved, less people to screw things up.)
  • (2) Thorough and immediate communication between the conspirators. (There’s a reason police separate suspects. Without this, they can’t keep their stories straight.)
  • (3) A short time span to keep the secret. (The more time that passes, the more likely the secret will come out.)
  • (4) Significant relational connections. (A strong bond between those involved, leading to an unwillingness to sell each other out.)
  • (5) Little or no pressure. (If no one cares about the conspiracy, no one is going to look into it or expose it.)

Wallace points out that even conspiracies with most or all of these 5 characteristics rarely remain hidden—and the first Christians had none of these things!

(We won’t be exploring this further here, but I recommend picking up Wallace’s excellent book.)

Cold-Case

Simply & clearly lays out the historical argument for the reliability of Christianity from an interesting perspective.

A Public Faith

From the beginning, Christianity has been a very public religion. Jesus preached in public and he performed miracles in public. Furthermore, the most important miracles of Christianity —Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection—were public.

Notice, this is very different than other religions that make miraculous claims. Often, only the founder witnessed a miracle or experienced an encounter with God or an angel.

Because of the public nature of Christianity, it should be the easiest faith to disprove, yet it has continued to grow for two thousand years.

Even today, two thousand years later, the historical evidence for Jesus’ resurrection is hard to refute, and when all the evidence is taken together the only plausible explanation is that God did something miraculous.

So we have to ask: If God decided to reveal himself through his Son, Jesus Christ, why would he keep other things concerning salvation secret?

I cannot think of a single reason.

If God went through the “trouble” to reveal himself to us, would he not reveal everything he wants us to know?

As I said, Christianity has always been a public religion, and it still is. There are no secrets to salvation that those outside of the church don’t know about. Outsiders and unbelievers are invited to join Christians in their worship services at all times; anyone can go into a book store and learn what Christians believe by picking up a Bible; no “secret knowledge” is given to those who “join,” and there are no secret rituals.

Those that claim to be Christian churches but do these secret things are cults on the fringe of the faith, and I wouldn’t consider them Christian in any biblical sense.

The History Channel’s Bible Secrets Revealed (and the like) are determined to make it appear that the exclusion of certain ancient writings from the Bible were an attempt to suppress some truth or to hide some secrets. But the truth is much less complicated, much less exciting, and much more starkly obvious: the church was protecting God’s Word from corruption.

(To read more on God From the Machine about the uniqueness of the Christian Scripture and Christianity’s “public-ness” click here.)

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But Did God Himself Hide Secrets in the Bible?

So, how should Christians think about divine secrets?

Scripture informs us quite clearly:

 

“The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.”  (Deuteronomy 29:29)

 

As finite, limited humans, there are things we simply cannot know — unless God has revealed them to us. And there are things God has not revealed. Why? I doubt we’ll ever know within this age or lifetime (but I’m betting primarily for our own good).

Here, we must trust the sufficiency of Scripture. God has revealed to us, through Scripture and Jesus Christ, all we need to know (and all he wants us to know).

Jesus Christ himself, as our perfect model, displays this humility concerning the acceptance of the revealed things and unrevealed things. In Matthew 24, we get these puzzling words from Jesus concerning the End Times:

 

“But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only” (Matthew 24:36)

 

But don’t Christians believe Jesus is God the Son? Doesn’t God the Son share the same nature as God the Father? How can Jesus not know the future?

The answer lies in Paul’s letter to the Philippians. When God the Son took on flesh as Jesus of Nazareth, he voluntarily limited himself, depending on God the Father (because, again, Jesus is our perfect model):

 

“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:5-8)

 

Thus, in his incarnate state as Jesus of Nazareth, God the Son accepted that any supernatural knowledge was dependent on whether God the Father gave it to him. This is a concept many Christians overlook or misunderstand, but the point that concerns us here is this: Christians need to humbly accept that there are things God simply has not revealed to us.

(In addition, the next time some misguided pastor or radio host announces that he has studied the Bible and figured out the date of the Day of Judgment, be sure to point out that not even Jesus knew.)

Does that mean we shouldn’t pour over the Scriptures, studying them intensely to understand all that God has revealed? Of course not! But it also means we shouldn’t be inventing “secrets” that simply are not there.

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MOTHER GOD: Analyzing the Biblical Evidence: The Book of REVELATION (World Missions Society Church of God)

The World Mission Society Church of God (or simply, the Church of God) believes “Mother God” not only exists in the Bible, but exists in the flesh today in South Korea.

This continues my analysis of the Church of God’s use of the Bible to justify their belief in Mother God.  (See list of earlier articles below.)

(God From the Machine has published a book titled Searching the Bible for Mother God: Examining the Teachings of the World Mission Society Church of God, available in paperback and Kindle on Amazon.  Click here to learn more.)

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Revelation is a favorite book of the Bible for unorthodox sects, full-blown cults, and a general assortment of nuts because it’s highly symbolic and notoriously difficult to understand. Because of this, people can read all sorts of crazy things into the text that simply aren’t there.

The Church of God (COG) uses primarily two passages from Revelation, in chapters 19 and 21, to “prove” Mother God is in the Bible.  As always, before looking at these passages, we must first understand the context in which they appear.  Understanding cannot come without context, yet often verses are quoted alone by the COG and other groups that misuse and/or misinterpret the Bible.

CONTEXT: THE GRAND CLIMAX

The book of Revelation is the last book of the Bible, and Chapters 19 through 22 of Revelation are the last chapters of the Bible.  Thus, Chapters 19-22 are the grand climax of the story of salvation told in the Bible and the culmination of all history.  (For a quick overview of the story of the Bible, read my article “2-Minute Lesson on Biblical Theology – the Progressive Revelation of God in Human History” here.)

Chapters 19-22 foretell the final, ultimate victory of Jesus Christ, God the Son.  The “multitude” in heaven rejoice as Christ returns to live in peace with his creation, but first he must carry out the Final Judgment and the defeat of his enemies — evil, sin, Satan, and death — in easily the most gory, violent imagery of the whole Bible.  Afterwards, the old creation, which was corrupted by sin, passes away, and the New Heaven and New Earth come, where God the Son will live with his people eternally in peace.

MARRIAGE IMAGERY

Here’s the first verse the COG uses from Revelation:

Revelation 19:7

“Let us rejoice and exult

   and give him the glory,

for the marriage of the Lamb has come,

   and his Bride has made herself ready;”

Based on symbolic language used throughout the New Testament, including Revelation, the Lamb is clearly Jesus Christ.  Since the COG appears to agree here with orthodox Christianity and this interpretation is uncontroversial, there’s no need to discuss the Lamb imagery here.  But “his Bride” is not Mother God, as the COG believes, but the church.

Throughout the New Testament, Jesus is often referred to as a bridegroom (or “groom,” in modern terms) and the church – the united community of Jesus’ followers – is often referred to as his “bride.” Though Revelation contains a lot of baffling symbolism, this symbolism is extremely clear due to its wide use.

For example, in Mark 2:19, Jesus refers to himself as the bridegroom:

“And Jesus said to them, ‘Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast.’”

In John 3:29, John the Baptist also describes Jesus as the bridegroom:

The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete.”

In 2 Corinthians 11:2, Paul uses marriage imagery. The Corinthian church is being led astray from the truth of Christ, but Paul says he has married them to Christ, the church’s “husband,” as if they were pure virgins.

“For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ.”

Further, in Ephesians 5:22-33, the love of a husband and wife is compared to the love of Christ for his church. Just as a husband and wife join lives and become “one flesh,” Christ and the church become one flesh. In fact, God created marriage to symbolize Christ’s relationship to the church.

For instance, Ephesians 5:25-27 reads:

“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.”

And if that evidence doesn’t convince you, in Matthew 22:1-14 Jesus tells parables about a wedding feast to describe his coming kingdom.  Appropriately, when Revelation 19-21 tells us of the ultimate culmination of God’s kingdom, what sort of imagery does the writer use?  Wedding imagery!

Further, this imagery is not unique to the New Testament.  Like much of the imagery used in the New Testament — and especially Revelation — it goes back to the Old Testament.  For example, Isaiah 25:6-8 uses imagery of a celebration feast to describe the age-to-come under God’s victory and complete, perfect rule:

“On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples
    a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine,
    of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined.”

In fact, notice the similar language in Isaiah 25:8 and Revelation 21:4, proving a further connection between these passages…

“He will swallow up death forever;
and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces…” (Isaiah 25:8)

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:4)

(*Since it is so common for groups like the COG to take verses out of context to “prove” their misguided interpretations, I recommend reading all of the above passages in context so you can see clearly that I am representing the Bible accurately.)

In fact, marriage language is used throughout the Old Testament to describe God’s relationship to Israel, his chosen people.  Israel is often portrayed as the bride of God, and likewise, often accused of adultery for being unfaithful to God.

All of these marriage images are important to what’s going on in Chapters 19-22 of Revelation, which describes Jesus’ Second Coming — bringing with him the New Heaven and New Earth, which is the culmination of God’s kingdom and the final, perfect union of Christ and his people, the church.

Earlier in Revelation, we already see this imagery in Revelation 14:4, where the church (Christ’s people) are depicted as pure virgins, who have remained faithful to Christ, and are, thus, ready to be wed:

“It is these who have not defiled themselves with women, for they are virgins. It is these who follow the Lamb wherever he goes. These have been redeemed from mankind as firstfruits for God and the Lamb”

Thus, when Jesus returns, it’s announced in Revelation 19:7 that the church, the Bride, is ready for her “marriage” to the Lamb of God, Jesus:

“for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready;”

Therefore, it’s quite obvious, the Bride is not any sort of divine goddess, but the church.  Revelation tells of the final climatic union of Christ with his church, and the writers of God’s Word chose to use the earthly language of marriage to illustrate this joyous day.

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NEW JERUSALEM: CITY or WOMAN?

The other passage from Revelation used by the COG is found after Christ’s victory over evil and death at the coming of the New Heaven and New Earth, where Christ comes to live in eternal peace with his people and his renewed creation…

Revelation 21:9-10

“Then came one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues and spoke to me, saying, ‘Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.’ And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God,”

 

The COG calls Mother God, “Jerusalem Mother,” because in order for what’s written in Revelation to work in favor of the COG’s mistaken theology, Jerusalem must be understood to be not a city, but a divine woman, Mother God.

The COG uses similar thinking in interpreting Galatians 4:26 (“But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother”), but we refuted this in our last article about Mother God.

This is an odd interpretation to say the least. As with the other verses we analyzed in earlier articles, there’s nothing in Revelation that leads us to conclude that Mother God is a biblical figure or that Jerusalem symbolizes a divine goddess.  The only way these interpretations work is if we start with an assumption — an already established idea — of Mother God and insert her into the text.

The “Bride” of Revelation 21:9-10 is not a divine female person to be literally wed to God.  The “Bride” is the New Jerusalem, the holy city of the New Earth, where Jesus will spend eternity with his church, his people.

Just before 21:9-10, in Revelation 21:3-4, we are given a description of the culmination of God’s redemption of creation — the climax of all of salvation-history and the climax of the whole Bible: the coming of the New Heaven and New Earth.  All of creation is made new; sin, evil, and death have been destroyed; and God can finally live in perfect shalom with his people.  It reads:

“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.’”

 

Revelation is highly symbolic, so how literally we should take the description of the New Jerusalem that follows is debatable, but it’s clear we are dealing with a place here — not a person — a place where God will dwell with humankind.  New Jerusalem is certainly not a female deity marrying Jesus. In fact, just before 21:9-10, John, the author of Revelation, writes:

“And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” (21:2)

 

Here, New Jerusalem is plainly explained to be a “holy city.” Further, it’s described as being “prepared as a bride.”  The city is not called a literal bride.  The use of “like” or “as” in a comparison shows it’s a simile – figurative language, not literal language. New Jerusalem is to be the dwelling place of God with his people.  Were it to be the other way around, where the bride was to be understood literally and the city was figurative, would it not read…

“And I saw the bride, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a holy city adorned for her husband”… ?

But that doesn’t quite work, does it?  In fact, why confuse everyone by naming the bride after a city in the first place?  Why not just call her Mother God if that is who the bride is?

As Craig Blomberg in From Pentecost to Patmos writes, “…a holy city will descend from the new heaven to adorn the new earth.  Whereas we began in a garden, we will end in a city — God’s people in perfect community.  That the city is called the new Jerusalem suggests the fulfillment of all the promises to Israel as well as to humanity in this revelation.  But the city is also a bride (just as Yahwah [God] and Christ are portrayed as bridegrooms to their followers throughout the Old and New Testaments, respectively.)”

FromPenttoPAtmos

Excellent read & resource.

When we come to Revelation 21:9-10, the verses the COG uses, the “Bride, the wife of the Lamb” is still referring to the city:

“‘Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.’ And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God,”

We are told right in the text that he is shown a city as “the Bride,” and what follows after 21:10 is a long description of that city. If Jerusalem is, in fact, Mother God, aka “Jerusalem Mother,” then she’s a divine woman with a high wall, twelve gates, and the length, width, and height of 1,380 miles; in fact, she is a perfect (and quite humongous) cube!

Now, someone may challenge me and say I admitted above that Revelation is highly symbolic so it’s difficult to know what should be taken literally and what should be taken figuratively.  Could the description of the New Jerusalem be poetically describing the splendor of Mother God?

As I showed above, from the context we can be confident that we’re dealing with a place here, not a person.  Further, as I’ve stated many times before, nothing in the Bible gives any indication of a divine mate for God, whether it’s referring to Jerusalem or anything else. There simply isn’t any evidence.  If we accept that the description of New Jerusalem in Revelation is Mother God, then what prevents us from also concluding – despite the obvious lack of evidence – that New Jerusalem symbolizes Darth Vader, George W. Bush, or the NY Jets?

“QUEEN OF HEAVEN”

 

Though I didn’t encounter this on the COG’s website, a friend of mine who had an interaction with a young woman involved in the COG said to him that the Bible speaks about the “Queen of Heaven.” I’m familiar with the verses she referred to, and they’re about a pagan goddess named Astarte (or Ishtar).

I’ve written an article about this before called “Did God Have a Wife?” Read it here.

CONCLUSION

 

As one video on the Church of God’s website proclaims, the “mystery of the Bible hidden for 6,000 years” has been revealed at last!

Here’s a good rule of thumb: If anyone claims to have a new understanding of the Bible that has never appeared before in the over 2,000 years of history since Jesus walked the earth, be suspicious – be very suspicious.

If any church hopes to convince us of another way of understanding the Bible, there better be a dump-truck load of evidence from the Scripture. Thing is, if there was that much evidence in the Scripture, someone would’ve seen it a long time ago.

The biblical verses the COG quotes to support their beliefs are scant and inadequate, and they crumble when looked at in context. If the COG is going to accept these verses as evidence of Mother God, then they also have to accept Hosea 4:5, which reads:

“I [God] will destroy your mother.”

 

Was God a domestic abuser?

Of course, the COG would not accept Hosea 4:5 to be anything about Mother God. Most likely, they’d say I took the verse out of context.

Exactly.

 MotherGod_Evidence

A STATEMENT OF CONCERN

If I come across blunt or even a bit harsh, it’s because I believe the Bible is the Word of God so I take it seriously when someone distorts it. That being said, I have the utmost concern for the members of the Church of God. I believe the members of the COG are hungry to know the true God, but false prophets and teachers have led them astray and their eternal souls are at risk. I pray these blog articles will lead them to the true Gospel of Jesus Christ.

***God From the Machine has published a book for evangelizing, educating, and refuting the World Mission Society Church of God titled Searching the Bible for Mother God: Examining the Teachings of the World Mission Society Church of God, available in paperback and Kindle on Amazon.  Click here to learn more.***

A great book for helping with understanding of Revelation

A great book for helping with understanding of Revelation

Great book for helping to understand the symbols used in the Bible.

Great book for helping to understand the symbols used in the Bible.

My earlier articles on the Church of God & Mother God:

“World Mission Society Church of God, Mother God & Christ Ahnsahnghong – The One True Church or Cult?”

The Trinity Mashup & the Schizophrenic God! “Mother God,” “Christ” Ahnsahnghong, & World Mission Society Church of God – The One True Church or Cult?

Mother God & the World Mission Society Church of God – Is There Evidence of “God the Mother” in the Bible? (Genesis 1:26-27)

MOTHER GOD: Analyzing the Biblical Evidence: JEREMIAH 31:22

MOTHER GOD: Analyzing the Biblical Evidence: GALATIANS 4:26-31

Also, I do not intend to debate here whether the World Mission Society Church of God is a “cult” or not, and I prefer my readers to decide. (Please feel free to comment, discuss, & debate below!) Earlier articles I wrote will hopefully be helpful:

How Do We Identify “Christian” Cults? What’s the Difference Between a Cult & a Denomination?

Interacting with “Christian” Cult Members: Tips & Strategies

About (Poor) Biblical Interpretation: Responding to “Christian” Cults… or Anyone Who Misuses Scripture.

Helper of the Fatherless: Orphans, Thailand’s Sex Trade & the Willingness to Serve

“I just kept thinking God still had more planned for me and I should be doing more for orphans, but I honestly didn’t know what… I thought, ‘Hey, I’m listening! God’s not telling me anything.'”

Guest writer: Sharon Vogel

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But Jesus called them to him, saying, ‘Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.'” Luke 18:16

ORPHANS IN CAR SEATS WITHOUT CARS

When I was about 17 or 18 I saw a Dateline Special about Chinese orphanages. Nothing I had ever seen on TV or really anywhere else at that time in my life impacted me the way that show did. I can still vividly remember the scene that affected me the most – little babies buckled into plastic car seats because there weren’t enough orphanage workers to hold them. The workers were going down the line popping bottles into the crying babies’ mouths. No one to love them. I decided at that moment I would adopt my children when I was old enough.

About 4 years later, I started dating my soon-to-be husband, Brian. When we realized we were getting serious and started discussing marriage and children, I told him I wanted to adopt and why. He had seen the exact show and it had impacted him the same way! We both agreed in the early stages of our relationship that we would adopt our children.

Nearly 20 years later, God has blessed me tremendously, and although my children are not all adopted and none are adopted from China (four children — two biological, two adopted from Korea) I know a big part of God’s plan for my life are my children.

However, once my family was complete, I just kept thinking God still had more planned for me and I should be doing more for orphans, but I honestly didn’t know what. So, I just pushed it to the back of my mind.

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About three years ago, our pastor preached a sermon and basically the sermon was ‘Go!’  He talked about stepping outside your comfort zone; God is calling you to serve him, but you have to listen. I thought, ‘Hey, I’m listening! God’s not telling me anything.’ In that same sermon he talked about mission trips, including ones to Thailand, but I thought there was no way I could go with four children and a husband who travels for business constantly.

I forgot about the sermon, and a few weeks later I was flicking through the channels and landed on a Dateline Special. It was about child sex-trafficking in Southeast Asia. Dateline went undercover and was tracking one man and four women who were meeting other people to sell about five little girls into the sex trade.

The youngest was about 3 years old and looked like my daughter Sage. Dateline’s intent was to stop the sale, but one of the women got away with a child, and the child was likely sold. I sobbed for an hour. But what could I possibly do? I did the only thing I could think of and prayed for those children. I still felt totally helpless.

REMEMBER NHU

Fast-forward a few years. My oldest daughter, Avery, asked to go to an event at our church with some of her friends, a fundraiser concert for some organization called “Remember Nhu.” At the concert, a young girl, Nhu, (pronounced ‘New’) told her personal story of how she was sold into the sex trade and then rescued.

Families in Southeast Asia sell their children into the sex trade out of extreme poverty. Sometimes they are misled, believing their children are to be household servants or factory workers. Nhu’s grandmother was aware of the true circumstances, but had no other choice and sold Nhu. She was only 12 years-old at the time. A man named Carl Ralston heard Nhu’s story and was so moved he sold his Seattle-based insurance business and started “Remember Nhu,” an organization that prevents children from being sold into the sex trade.

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Instead of selling their children, poor families can give them to the orphanage where they get food, clothes, and an education. The parents often can even still see their children. Often the children are true orphans and have no parents. Avery, who was 12 years old (the age Nhu was when she was sold) was so moved by Nhu’s story she gave every penny of her savings to the cause. I gave some money as well, but still had this feeling God wanted me to do more. But again, what could I possibly do?

After Nhu came and spoke, my church did two mission trips to Thailand to serve at Remember Nhu Orphanages. Both times that they were announced, I felt like I was being led to go, and both times I made excuses: I couldn’t leave my kids – my husband travels a ton for his job – how could I travel too? And Thailand is so far away!

However, two years later, I couldn’t ignore it any longer. Everytime our pastor spoke about God’s calling, I felt ‘go to Thailand’ was being whispered into my brain. I talked to my husband Brian about it and he not only supported my decision to go, but he wanted to join me. Finally, I did it and signed us both up to go.

I’d like to say everything went perfectly from the instant I signed us up, and at first some things did, but about a month after we hit numerous hiccups that made me second guess my decision to go to Thailand. The least of the issues was that I didn’t feel like I was bonding at all with my team; the worse issue was two weeks before we were scheduled to leave Brian’s dad had a heart attack and mild stroke.

When I began to feel completely discouraged I attended our last team meeting, and I was reminded by our leader about spiritual warfare: when we are about to do God’s work, Satan attacks his hardest. Up to the day before we left, I continued to face challenges, but I would just go to God in prayer and listen to his guidance. (And God does provide reassurance! For example, I raised exactly $12.50 over my fundraiser goal for Thailand, and Dempsey, my son with severe separation anxiety, told me he wanted Brian and me to go to Thailand to help others despite the fact the trip dates fell on his birthday.)

Thai_Temple

IN THAILAND

The day came. We boarded that plane for Thailand.

The Monday after we arrived was time to get to work. Our first stop was a visit to the Lahu Tribe. In Thailand, there are ‘hill tribes’ all over. Thai laws govern these ‘hill people,’ but the Thai will not give them citizenship. As a result, they remain pretty much destined to a life of poverty. They survive by selling a small amount of farmed goods and making beautiful purses and wallets. About 5 years ago, the particular tribe we visited had no children between the ages of 5 and 15 in their village as they were all sold into the sex trade. Now, due to Christian organizations like Remember Nhu they had not sold any children in the past 5 years.

The leader of the tribe took us on a tour of his village as we handed out lollipops to the children. Some of the children played with a coconut as a ball. Their meager hut-style homes consisted of a wood burning pile for their kitchen and a mattress for the whole family to sleep on. Typically seeing poverty like this upsets me, but I was encouraged, knowing that the children we played with and give lollipops to have been prevented from being sold into a life of sexual slavery due to Christians that obey God’s calling for them.

At the Remember Nhu orphanage, the kids are in school during the day, so the plan was for us to do manual labor around the orphanage during the day, and then around 4:30 p.m., when the kids return from school, we would have dinner and spend time with them.

That night, we went to dinner at one of the boys’ homes (the orphanage consists of 4 homes, 2 boys’ and 2 girls’ homes, housing 160 kids). As we pulled up in our air-conditioned van, the boys pulled in next to us, home from school. They were piled in the backs of pick up trucks about 16 per truck bed.

We were greeted by a bounty of smiles. The boys were all so excited to see us!

Thai_boy_hands_village

One smile that particularly struck me was this little boy named Jew. He reminded me of my daughter Sage because he was always smiling, but he also had the same gap-toothed smile she did as Sage, who had just lost one of her two-front teeth. However, upon closed inspection, I realized Jew was missing several teeth due to other factors, such as malnutrition or poor dental care. Although the children of the poor villages or of the orphanage do get basic healthcare from the Thai government, I never asked about dental care and assumed it doesn’t exist. This, however, didn’t stop Jew from smiling.

The boys of the orphanage love to play marbles but share about 5 marbles between 10 or so of them. They all patiently wait their turn, and Jew would do it smiling. At one point, later in the week, I had some beads and was sitting with a group of kids making bracelets. Three times in the process of making a bracelet Jew dropped his and all the beads would spill off. He would just look up at me and smile and start over. I’m not sure what this little boy’s story was, and despite his friendly smile, he was one that kept more to himself. He’s also one child I will never forget.

Each night, we would have dinner in a different home. What I saw over the next few days in these orphanages completely moved me. It was God’s love like I have never experienced. These children have about two outfits each, a few toys and games to share between all of them, and sleep 17 to a room. They eat rice or noodles with very little meat. Dessert is a rarity. But unlike that Chinese orphanage I saw years ago in the dateline special, for the most part these kids are happy. They are a big family.

At one point, Jon, a man on our trip, asked one of the older girls (the older ones speak some English) “Who’s your friend?” about the other children she was with. She responded, “She’s not my friend, she’s my sister,” although there was no blood relation between them.

The older children looked out and cared for the younger children. If one of the little kids skinned a knee an older child would run for a band-aide (if they had any).

The first night we visited the girls’ home, a young woman named Net, who looked 12 but turned 18 while we were visiting, was touting a beautiful little three-year-old girl on her hip. I asked if I could take a picture of them because the little girl, who was named Tia, was such a cutie pie. However, Tia wanted no part of getting her picture taken. ‘Is she shy?’ I asked. Net responded that typically she is a happy child, but she was recovering from a flu-like illness that had been going around and had just left the hospital. Her fever had been very high, and combined with Thailand’s heat, the house-mother was concerned about dehydration.

That night, each of the older girls took turns carrying Tia around and comforting her. By the end of the night, Tia was her happy self again and playing card games with one of people on our team. I felt like Tia was healed just by the love of those girls. (I was told later than Tia came to the orphanage after her parents had both died – one, possibly both, of AIDS.)

Thai_boy_noodles

Another child that will never leave my memory is Songchim. Songchim attached himself to my husband almost as soon as my husband stepped out of the van and was his shadow everytime we were at the boys’ home. He reminded me of my son Sebastian in that he just yearned for that ‘male bonding’ and was a typical boy, wanting to rough house, play soccer, or do anything else that required running or muscle. He would even put on my husband’s sunglasses and make these faces that reminded me of Sebastian. It wasn’t long though that the other boys wanted to join in the fun and my husband suddenly had several shadows.

Each night when we visited the kids, they proudly recited their Bible verses, often sang Christian songs (in English and in Thai) for us. One time my husband talked during dinner prayer (he didn’t realize it, as it was in Thai) and one of the younger kids playfully punched him and shushed him.

Our last day there we had a ‘fun day’ with the kids with games and crafts. (Nhu, the one who inspired Carl Ralston, visits Thailand often and came to fun day and did face painting with us for the kids.) We brought drawstring cloth bags for the kids to paint with fabric paint. One of the teen girls drew a beautiful picture on her bag with the words ‘agape love’ on it. (Side note Jew proudly brought his bag to church with him next day).

These children understand the importance of prayer and of God’s love in a country that is almost largely Buddhist.

Carl Ralston obeyed God’s calling and started Remember Nhu. As a result, I met 160 children that likely would have been sold to the sex trade. (There are also homes in 5 other countries now, including Kenya,) This understanding of God’s love is evident in these children. It’s what they exhibit toward each other. It’s why they are a family.

That love is evident in the house-mothers and house-fathers too. They are carefully chosen, and they are there not just for the job but because they love God and they love the children. It shows. By the end of the week I felt their love as a house-mother would walk over and hug me when it was time to leave or if I did a good job. We didn’t speak the same language and barely knew each other, but we were able to bond through God’s love and the love for the kids.

Thai_kids_village

During the day, we did hard work in the Thailand heat, but I wished I could have done more. These kids had been through so much. One little girl, age 2, was homeless on the street by herself for a month until she came to the orphanage. Another girl was so malnourished when she arrived that she had no hair at age 4.

Despite their hardships, every time I walked into that orphanage I could feel God’s love, and it flowed into our team. Don’t get me wrong. Our team got on each other’s nerves sometimes, like I’m sure those kids do to each other too. We are human. But in just a week, I felt like I bonded with all of our team and genuinely cared for all of them, even the quirkiest. To like people better after experiencing together 30 hours of layovers, flying, and jet lag only happens with God.

BACK HOME

I’ve been home now for about 5 days and I am still on what my friends who have also been on mission trips call a ‘God high.’ To see his work and feel his love in a world that seems so God-less is an amazing feeling. I know normal life is going to get a hold of me again, but I also know all those beautiful faces at the orphanage will never leave me. They will keep me in check to remind me to thank God for my own beautiful children and remind me of how blessed I am.

It took me a while to listen, but I’m sure God called Brian and me to Thailand. However, I know that’s not all God is calling me to do. Maybe He just wants me to tell my story to inspire others. Maybe He wants to inspire my oldest daughter, Avery, to go and maybe He has amazing things planned for her, as she really inspired to go now. Maybe He’s calling me for something bigger, maybe not. I can tell you though, I really hope He calls me to go back to Thailand.

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Learn more about Remember Hu at: Remembernhu.org

“But you do see, for you note mischief and vexation, that you may take it into your hands; to you the helpless commits himself; you have been the helper of the fatherless.” Psalm 10:14