An Argument for Literal 24 Hour Days in Genesis 1-2

INTRODUCTION

This is the fourth article in a series entitled, The Relevancy of The Seventh-Day Sabbath. The series seeks to address issues that have been raised in dialogues concerning the Seventh-day Sabbath doctrine.The prior article in this series, The Relevancy of the Seventh-Day Sabbath: Differing Viewpoints and Long Ages in the Genesis Creation Narrative, introduced three sections, with two of them functioning as introductory elements towards the third. In fact, they form introductory roles to everything that will be assessed from this point on. These sections are: (1) the possibility of the correctness of a differing viewpoint, (2) the realization that there are descriptive and prescriptive verses and passages, and (3) a short introduction to long age interpretation of the days in Genesis.  We now move to the question of whether there exist enough evidence to support a literal reading, as in 24 hour time period, of the Genesis Creation narrative.

Although the majority of Christianity holds to the view that the days in Genesis account for literal 24 hour periods, there are still some that are on the fence concerning evidence that support such an interpretation. It is a crucial issue due to the foundational role that Genesis 1-3 plays within the framework of all of scripture. After all, it is the story of beginnings. The last article prompted questions of what can be found from a face value reading of these chapters. In other words, what can be supported if one comes to the text without the influence of anything but simply what the text says. This is an attempt to address the questions that were raised in response to that article. If one had to make a case for literal days in Genesis 1-2 these things that will be discussed below should be taken in consideration.

Read the rest at my new blog.

Immediate Pre-Law Preparations in Exodus 19

Note: The first part of this article, Immediate Pre-law Preparations in Exodus 19, Part 1, was posted on February 9. This article contains both the first part and the rest of the author’s presentation of the so-called “immediate pre-law preparations.” This study is at its’ genesis stage and is not intended to be devotional. Points made here will be expanded at some other time.

INTRODUCTION

Lesson six of the Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide, Glimpses of Our God,[1] is entitled “God the Lawgiver.”[2] The memory text is taken from the book of Isaiah: “For the Lord is our Judge, the Lord is our Lawgiver, the Lord is our King; He will save us” (Isa. 33:22, NKJV). The objective of the lesson is to “look at the law and, by default, the Lawgiver.” The idea behind this objective is that “the law reveals the character of the lawgiver.” Thus, you can’t take one without the other. Seventh-day Adventists have always argued that “the law is a transcript of God’s character.” This lesson falls in line with that understanding.[3]

Sunday’s lesson, “The Law at Sinai”, is an investigation of Ex. 19:18, 19; 20:18; Deut. 5:22; Heb. 12:21; and Rom. 7:8-13. The Old Testament (OT) passages are used so that students may be able to describe God’s physical manifestation at Sinai at the giving of the law, and the Israelites response. Hebrews 12:21 is also a reference to the giving of the law in the OT. Romans 7 is brought in to explain the role of the law.

“The Law at Sinai” seems ill-titled. It doesn’t investigate the law itself. Rather, it investigates the reaction of the Israelites to God’s presence prior to the giving of the law (Ex. 19:18, 19), their post-law hearing reaction (Ex. 20:18, Deut. 5:22, and Heb. 12:21), and the role of the law (Rom. 7:8-13). In other words, it skips the law altogether. At the least, it should have been titled, “Reactions to the Law at Sinai.” Although that title still doesn’t include what is being addressed by Paul in Romans 7. (Too much fuss shouldn’t be made over titles.) This article addresses what I refer to as “the pre-law preparations” in Exodus 19.

LOCATION

The giving of the law to Israel took place in the midbar sinay (“wilderness of Sinai”). Sinay means “thorny.” Some scholars believe that this is the plain of er-Raha. It is a “bush-studded,” 2 miles long and ½ mi wide area, surrounded by mountains. Of course, one particular mountain, rising from the southeast of the area, is believed to be the actual mountain on which God descended and Moses received the tablets. Three days are given for when it is believed that the Israelites made it to Sinay: (1) the first day of Sivan [name of the third month—Jewish tradition supports this], (2) the 14th day of the month, or (3) the 15th.[4]

IMMEDIATE PRE-LAW PREPARATIONS

Prior to the giving of the law preparation was necessary. Chapter 19 may be viewed as the preparation chapter. (Some may wish to argue that Israel’s experience since God began their deliverance out of the hands of Pharaoh should be viewed as, what I’m “the pre-law preparations.” I have no quarrels with that). In fact, to be more precise, we may state that chapter 19 contains “immediate pre-law preparations.” The chapter immediately following contains the audible stating of the law by God Himself. I have divided the pre-law preparations into two sections: Immediate Pre-law Prep. 1 and Immediate Pre-law Prep. 2.

For the purpose of clarification, let me state exactly what I mean by “immediate pre-law preparations.” I’m using the title to refer to statements that comes prior to the giving of the law that calls for those who will receive the law to say, believe, or do something. I use the term “immediate” for Exodus 19 because it is the chapter that precedes the giving of the ten commandments.

Immediate Pre-Law Prep. 1

Pre-law prep. 1 refers to Exodus 19:3-8. In the selected verses, God’s first recorded communication to the people of Israel after their arrival at Sinay contains three distinct sections: (1) God’s stating of His act of deliverance [Ex. 19:4], (2) His desire for the obeying of the law (His voice) and keeping of the covenant [19:5a, b], and (3) what He will do in response to their obedience [19:5c. 6].

The first one is a declaration of what He has done for them in terms of their former status as slaves: “You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself” (Ex. 19:4).[5] Thus, God not only calls them to recall His acts in Egypt, but also their post-Egyptian experience, which at this point, consists of their journey from Egypt to Sinay, from bondage to Himself.

The purpose of having them recall God’s deliverance and providence seems to be design to establish God’s intent to treat them as a special people prior to them promising any type of obedience. Since He is now promising them that they will be His “treasured possession,” “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation,” they knew that He would do it since He brought them to where they were, to Himself.

Whether one agree with this analysis or not, it still remains that in this section we have a promise to the people of Israel concerning their obedience to the law. Where some may take issue is the fact that Exodus 19:5 doesn’t ask for obedience to the law, but to God’s “voice.” This is correct. However, since the law is audibly stated in Exodus 20, it is to be included  as what is “heard” coming from God. Thus, pre-law prep. 1 one calls for the obeying of God’s voice and the keeping of the covenant.

Response to Pre-Law Prep. 1

Exodus 19:7 states that Moses presented God’s promise to “the elders.” However, the next verse states that “the people all responded together” (19:8). How the news got from the elders to the people is not explained. Perhaps Moses called the elders first and then they helped him inform the people concerning the proposal. No matter how it happened, the important point is that the people agreed. Agreeing to this first proposal wasn’t the only thing that God needed them to do prior to the giving of the ten commandments.

Immediate Pre-Law Prep. 2

Immediate pre-law prep. 2 is found in Exodus 19:10-15. Here, God commands that the people be “consecrated” and that they should wash their clothes prior to the meeting. They were to abstain from sexual activities. They are also told that they shouldn’t touch the mountain itself during the meeting. Not only were those that touch the mountain were to be stone and/or shot with arrows, but it seems that killing them by projectiles was to prevent others from being killed by touching them. In other words, if you touch those who touch the mountain, whatever befalls them would befall those that touch them.

This pre-law prep seems to be geared towards preparing the people for meeting God, rather than just the hearing of the law itself. The people were about to come face to face with Yahweh and therefore had to be prepared for that encounter. This type of preparation may not have been asked for if the law was to be given to the people by a person, rather than directly from God Himself. This may make some to consider pre-law prep. 2 as being a bit indirect (or secondary).

Response to Pre-Law Prep 2.

The people were consecrated and they washed their clothes. It can be said that there is further evidence from silence. If the people weren’t consecrated then God would have “break out against them” (Ex. 19:22). However, He didn’t. This implies that they were indeed, truly consecrated, their clothes were washed, and they had abstain from sexual activities.


[1] Clifford R. Goldstein, ed., “Glimpses of Our God,” Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide (Nampa, ID: Pacific Press 2012)

[2] Goldstein, 46.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Nichol, Francis D.: The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary: The Holy Bible With Exegetical and Expository Comment. Washington, D.C. : Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1978 (Commentary Reference Series), S. Ex 19:2

[5] Unless otherwise indicated, all Scriptures in this article are taken from the New International Version.

Is the Secret Worth Knowing?:Why Bother with Revelation

The book of Revelation is not something that I hear much about from most of the young Christians that I know. The few that I hear talking about it are more interested in making historical connections. While it is a prophetic book, which does require those connections at some point, I’ve been wondering lately, as Jon Paulien,[1] dean of Religion at Loma Linda University, states: “[Adventists] get so absorbed in history that we fail to follow the story of revelation itself” (emphasis mine). This, he goes on, may cause us to miss things that are important in helping us understand the text itself and how it helps us understand history.[2]

In the spirit of this statement, I’ve begun walking through Revelation again. I came down this road several times before. When I first read Revelation, I was driven by an apologetic spirit; seeking out ways to defend the Adventist position. Over the years as my understanding of biblical interpretation, due to constant reading and some theological classes, deepened, I started to notice things that I didn’t see before.

This time around, I don’t want to bog you down by starting with background information, heavy explanations, or theological terminology (even though a big part of me wants to write this in more scholarly form). The reason: most people are more interested in devotional messages than the process that one goes through in order to develop the material for those devotions (smile). That being said, I begin with reflections on the first three verses which some bibles call, “Introduction and Benediction.”[3] It tells us: where Revelation come from; the beings involved in the process to get it to earth in the first century; and why we should read it.

Origin of Revelation

Where does the content of Revelation come from? The value that we put on Revelation is based on a claim that it makes concerning itself: it originated from God (Rev. 1:1). In fact, all of the versions I’ve read explicitly states, “God gave.”[4] Thus, there is no confusion about the origin of the content that is within this document. However, being the curious person that I am, I went on to ask myself about what does it mean when it says God. This question arose because I notice that a difference is made in the verse between “Jesus Christ” and “God.”

As one who believes in the trinity, I thought that If God gave the Revelation to Jesus Christ then the term God must be referring to God the Father, God the Spirit, or both. I don’t have a definitive answer at this point, but I believe that the answer must include God the Father. This is not to say that the Spirit wasn’t aware of the transfer of the communication, or what may have you. I hope I did not perplex you further concerning this already perplexing book. The point is that God is the source. This is the divine origin of the book.

I thought that it would be necessary to mention the human writer in this origin section. John, a writer with four other literary documents[5] in the Bible, is the human being that was, as the apostle Peter puts it, “moved” by God (2 Pet. 1:21 NKJV). This is an example of Peter’s words in action.

The Journey from God to Earth

John could have started the Revelation by simply stating it was given to him by God, but he didn’t. Instead, he decides to list 4 beings: Jesus, God, an angel, and himself. As stated earlier, it begins with God. Revelation unveils a God who took the initiative of sending something that wasn’t asked, but utterly necessary.

Thus, God “gave” it to Jesus, who then gave it to an angel. The Godhead gave an angel the opportunity to participate in the transmission of this communication. This adds to the grandness of the Revelation. Heaven embarked on a great mission to bring something to earth. This mission involved all the big names. The angel enters into the world of mankind and gives the prophet the secret that is to be unveiled.

Why Bother with this Book?

This may seem like a mundane question, but it is one that I’ve heard frequently. Before discussing the reasons, as stated in the first three verses, I would like to present an analysis of the contemporary climate. People are more interested in reading the stories in the Bible that they can easily understand. I reckon that the reason for this, that is to say, for those that are serious, is to find commands and principles that will tell them what to do. This is a good objective because the Bible aims at doing just that, providing guidance. The problem is that in the quest to find what to do some people develop a habit of being content with the quickest answer. Anything that challenges the mind to dig deeper receives a screwed face. It never ceases to shock me when I see college students do this.

But let’s get back to the topic. Other than the fact that it is in the Bible, which, I have noticed, is not a motivator for Christians to read something anymore, Revelation states that its’ readers, hearers, and doers will be blessed (Rev. 1:3). If this is not an incentive to invest time into this book then I don’t know what is. Everywhere you hear the pulpiters (preachers) storming about receiving God’s blessings, but nowhere is this book mentioned. If it is, I haven’t heard it. Here is an opportunity to be blessed, and all you have to do is prayerfully read and study.

There is something to note about this blessing that is being promised. The verse says that blessings will come upon “the one who reads,” and “those who it hear it and take it to heart” (NIV). An idea that may come to the mind of someone reading this is that there are two pre-requisites for this blessing. The first is that if you are a reader of Revelation then you will be blessed. The condition is that you simply read it. The second is that a blessing is reserved for those who don’t read it but heard it. The listeners, they reckon, also have to practice the counsels within.

Jacques B. Doukhan, professor of Hebrew and Old Testament Exegesis at Andrews Theological Seminary, comments that this section of the three verses is a reference to the worship service in which Revelation is to be read. He bases this on the fact that the one who is reading it is stated in singular form, and the hearers are in the plural. So does this mean that we only receive the blessings if we gather somewhere and hear someone speak on Revelation? No. Without going into too much of a discussion on meaning of words, Doukhan states that the word that is being used in reference to hearing also requires the understanding of what is being heard.[6] This will require more than just sitting in church and hearing a sermon.

What about Jesus? Any discussion on Revelation must include Jesus. Not only did he participate in the transmission process of the material, but it is also a revelation about himself (1:1). Perhaps the real issue with understanding this is due to the failure of some to show the church how Jesus is revealed. Jesus’ relationship to the rest of the book is pivotal in understanding it since it is a revelation of him.

Another reason that must come in under this section is Revelation’s claim to contain “what must soon take place” (1:1, 3). I’m sure that what will happen tomorrow, or even for the rest of today for that matter, is of great interest to many. Well, God doesn’t give us all the information about what is going to happen soon, but he does give us something. The only reason why we would deny ourselves this information is if we don’t believe that it is really there. Our belief in whether or not this document contain what it says it does will affect whether we read it or not.


[1] Jon Paulien, Ph.D., is a Seventh-day Adventist New Testament scholar. He specializes in Johanine literature (especially the book of John and Revelation).

[2] Jon Paulien, Armageddon at the Door: An Insider’s Guide to the Book of Revelation (Hagerstown, MD: Autumn House Publishing, 2008), pp. 63-64.

[3] Cf. Nelson’s NKJV Study Bible.

[4] Cf. ASV; ESV; KJV; NAB; NASB; NET; NIV; NJB; NKJV; NRS; RSV; and YLT.

[5] The apostle John wrote the Gospel According to John; 1 John; 2 John; and 3 John.

[6] Jacques B. Doukhan, Secrets of Revelation: The Apocalypse Through Hebrew Eyes (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald, 2002), pp.12-13.

The Great Commission

Part of being a Christian is to engage oneself in the carrying out of the great commission (Matt. 28:16-20). Typically, in a Sabbath morning Adventist worship service, there is a segment set aside for reporting on and motivating the members to evangelize. The passage concerning the great commission is often read, however, perhaps due to  the scheduling of the segment, or the seriousness with which it is taken and/or presented, profoundly tangible results are rarely seen.

In response to this apparent crisis, some have form evangelistic groups consisting of a coalition of the willing to flood the surrounding neighborhoods with pamphlets and books. Others have sought to fulfill the mandate through one on one conversations with those they meet while engaging in daily affairs. I prefer the latter. How one chooses to respond to the innate call of presenting the good news they have received to others must be grounded in fundamental concepts as observable in Matthew 28:16-20. This is not to suggest that one will be unable to tell the good news without a breakdown of this passage, however, it is to bring attention to what we usually miss in our haste to do what we think we ought to.

Analysis of this passage reveals that Jesus sandwiches the command (vs. 19 and 20a) between two statements concerning Himself. The first statement is one in which He assures the disciples– οἱ ἕνδεκα, “the eleven,” since Judas was no longer a part–of the authority that He has on heaven and earth (28:18). This authority is not one that He takes, but one that is “given” (28:19 NIV). We ought to deduce that God is functioning as the giver. The second statement is one in which He assures them of His continuous presence (28:20b). As if this was the last thing that needed saying, the gospel abruptly ends.

The word that is translated as “authority” in the NIV and “power” in the KJV is the Greek word ἐξουσία (exousia). The fact that He has “all” of it in “heaven and on earth” emphasizes the totality of this authority. It is unlimited and unmatched. The different spheres of reality–things visible and invisible–are all subject to this authority. Furthermore, the One with such an authority also promises His continuous presence. These were the assurances given from a tangible being that had resurrected from the dead.

Before any explanation is given on the command, there is something to note concerning whom Jesus was speaking to and the condition in which some of them were in. Jesus was speaking to disciples consisting of some who doubted if He was really there in the flesh. In spite of the doubt, “they [all] worshiped” and were commanded. Jesus did not make any distinction between those who doubted and those who didn’t, He called all of them to the task of disciple making.

There is a need to escape the habit of categorizing individuals in terms of evangelistic qualifications. In fact, we don’t know what God can do with the ones whom we believe to be inadequate. In the case of the disciples, some doubted. Today, there might be many reasons why some may think that certain individuals are not capable. Let’s not forget that it takes disciples to make disciples and none of them were perfect. The ones who continued on with Jesus were striving forward in spite of their deficiencies.

What is the great commission? It is God’s mission for His people, first through the first century disciples, then followed by preceding believers. In a way, the great commission was always God’s plan for His people. We are sent out to participate in the act of making disciples. Disciple making does not only involve baptizing, but it involves teaching. Usually, there is much excitement concerning baptism but no one is around when the water dries. The new believer is left to fend for his/herself while we watch and criticize their sincerity.

Perhaps it’s time we start really reflecting on what is our mission as the people of God. Some time ago I wrote a piece entitled, “Ecclesiology: Introductory Thoughts About the Church.” I hope to continue that series in two blogs in the future by first writing on the nature of the church, and then it’s mission–which is introduced here. I look forward to your comments.