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When the author of this article visited a family member he noticed some religious booklets that asked serious questions about biblical topics anyone who went to Sunday school would know the answers to…or would they?
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 truths 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 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 produced the booklets. 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?
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 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 unbiased, authoritative historical sources that totally confirmed the holiday's unbiblical, pagan origins!
For example, almost any competent encyclopedia shows that the Romans celebrated the festival of Saturnalia, a week-long period of debauchery between December 17-23 and leading into the celebration of the sun's returning light on December 25.
Some 300-plus years after Christ this midwinter bash was adopted by the professing Christian or Catholic church institution with the claim that December 25 should be observed as a celebration of Jesus' birthday. But a careful look at Scripture and history shows that Jesus was actually born sometime in the autumn rather than the dead of winter.
As the popular historian William Manchester wrote of the Roman Saturnalia celebration being converted into a supposedly "Christian" holiday, "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, 1993, p. 11).
Another lesson no one taught me when I was young was what the first-century Christians were like. Following the example of Jesus and His apostles, they were almost indistinguishable from the Jewish community of the day in terms of their religious practices, such as the day on which they assembled for worship in accordance with the fourth of the Ten Commandments.
Every Christian I knew went to church on Sunday. But I was stunned to find nothing in the Bible that changed the day of worship from Saturday, the seventh day of the week, to Sunday, the first day of the week.
As both sacred and secular historical sources clearly show, early Christians gathered to worship God on 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!
Perhaps the deal-buster that represented the major lesson no one taught me as a youth was this: I wasn't going consciously to heaven at death. 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).
What? What was this rising from the dead bit? Didn't we all just pop up to heaven at death? Paul wrote of a future 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, 1 Corinthians 15:52, emphasis added throughout).
Reeling from what this might mean, I then read further the unbelievable words of 1 John 3:2: "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 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" (verses Revelation 1:14, Revelation 1:16). Do you know anyone who looks like this today? According to the Bible, one day you will.
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 and beliefs made up and added by men.
There were many more such lessons, but perhaps you'd like to learn some yourself. Want to get serious? Read the free Bible study aids The Ten Commandments. That's where I started. Then, after you've finished that, try the booklet Holidays or Holy Days: Does It Matter Which Days We Observe?
Your Bible has many surprising things in it. Find out today what they mean for you!
The Good News magazine (Nov-Dec 2013)