I was recently indulging in one of my favorite things, walking through a bookshop. I was struck by how many books had titles similar to “Fifty things I learned from my dog” or “Life lessons my mother taught me.” They were typically written by famous celebrities.
I thought a bit about it. I’m obviously no celebrity, but it struck me how (unlike the celebrity authors) I did not learn some critical truths of life decades ago in a family setting, particularly those found in the Bible. I grew up in a typical protestant religion, switching to Roman Catholicism while attending college. Once visiting a family member, I noticed a stack of religious booklets that asked serious questions about biblical topics that I thought were moot. Questions like what happens when you die, what day should you be worshipping God on, what is the reward of the saved.
I didn’t know who the authors of the booklets were. And I pretty much didn’t care at the time, since the questions all seemed to be those of the “master of the obvious” type. Anyone who went to Sunday school knew those answers.
Or did they?
What I learned about Christmas
One of the profound lessons no one taught me as a youth was that the Christmas season was little more than papered-over paganism. When I first read that, I was shocked and more than a little bit offended. What could be wrong with the happy season of Christmas? Isn’t Jesus Christ was supposed to be at the very center of it?
What was truly shocking was this: It wasn’t hard at all to find and read authoritative secular sources that totally confirmed the holiday’s non-biblical, pagan origins! Any competent encyclopedia shows that the Romans celebrated the holiday of Saturnalia, a week long period of lawlessness celebrated between December 17-25. Some 300-plus years after Christ it was adopted and replaced by a totally artificial birthday of sorts set up for Jesus on the 25th. Thing is, Jesus was actually born sometime in the fall. As the popular historian William Manchester wrote of that act, “Christianity was in turn infiltrated, and to a considerable extent subverted, by the paganism it was supposed to destroy” ( A World Lit Only by Fire , page 11).
What I learned about Christianity
Another lesson that no one taught me was what the first century Christians were like. Thy were almost indistinguishable in how they worshiped God and followed the example of Jesus—you basically couldn’t tell them apart—from most of the practices of the ancient Jews of the day. Every Christian I knew went to church on Sunday. But I was stunned to find that there was nowhere in the Bible that changed the day of worship. As both sacred and secular historical sources clearly show, early Christians worshiped God by observing the seventh-day Sabbath! Further, despite concerted efforts to block them (beginning intently during the second century), many Christians openly went to Jewish synagogues on the Sabbath up until the fourth century.
What I learned about my life
Perhaps the deal-buster that represented the major lesson that no one taught me as a youth was this: I wasn’t going to heaven. According to the Bible, I wasn’t going to hell either, at least not in the popular sense of Dante’s Inferno. Either way, I was stunned. I had been authoritatively told that I had been saved and would spend eternity in blissful paradise. So when I was directed by these booklets to read the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 15, I could scarcely believe it. Paul even asked the question: “How do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?” (1 Corinthians 15:12 1 Corinthians 15:12Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead?
American King James Version×).
What? What was this rising from the dead bit? Didn’t we all just pop up to heaven? Paul wrote of something much more majestic and exciting, one that I could scarcely believe I was reading: “As we have borne the image of the man of dust [our present physical state], we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man [the all-powerful resurrected Jesus]…the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed ” (1 Corinthians 15:49-52 1 Corinthians 15:49-52 49 And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.
50 Now this I say, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither does corruption inherit incorruption.
51 Behold, I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,
52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
American King James Version×, emphasis added).
Reeling from what this might mean, I then read further the unbelievable words of 1 John 3:2 1 John 3:2Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it does not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.
American King James Version×: “Beloved, now we are the children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He [Jesus] is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” And what does Jesus look like in His resurrected spiritual form? Read Revelation 1:13-18 Revelation 1:13-18 13 And in the middle of the seven candlesticks one like to the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the breasts with a golden girdle. 14 His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire; 15 And his feet like to fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters. 16 And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp two edged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shines in his strength. 17 And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand on me, saying to me, Fear not; I am the first and the last: 18 I am he that lives, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for ever more, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.
American King James Version×for yourself, like I did. You’ll see a Being whose “head and His hair were white as snow, and His eyes like a flame or fire…His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength” (Revelation 1:14-16 Revelation 1:14-16 14 His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire; 15 And his feet like to fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters. 16 And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp two edged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shines in his strength.
American King James Version×). Do you know anyone who looks like this today? According to the Bible, you will.
You can learn much more from the Bible too
Yes, there was much I was not taught as a youth. And there was much I literally had to “unlearn.” But it didn’t take long to appreciate what exactly was in the Bible and what represented traditions made up and added by men.
There were many more such lessons, but perhaps you’d like to read them for yourself. Want to get serious? Read the free Bible study aid, The Ten Commandments . Ironically, that’s where I started. Then after you’re through with that, try the Bible study aid booklet, Holidays or Holy Days : Does It Matter Which Days We Observe? Your Bible has some surprising things in it. Find out today what they mean for you!