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Culture and Religion

In Spite Of Intense Persecution, Christianity On The Rise In North Korea

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It’s no secret that the citizens of North Korea endure a life devoid of basic freedoms under the Communist yoke of the Kim family. As North Korean escapee-turned-human rights advocate, Yeonmi Park stated in a speech, “North Korea is the only country that will put you to death for making unauthorized international phone calls.”

It’s of little wonder then that for the last 16 years, Open Doors, a watchdog site dedicated to keeping an eye on Christian persecution, has ranked North Korea #1 as the deadliest place for Christians to live. According to the website, North Korean Christians face a brutal life that is subject to hard labor camps, imprisonment and even execution. The high level of surveillance in the country, it is nearly impossible for small groups to come together in worship, nor do they dare close their eyes to pray for fear of being spotted.

The Blaze’s Brandon Morse wrote a compelling piece regarding the treatment of North Korean Christians. In it he wrote that while North Korea possesses a constitution which asserts a non-discriminatory policy toward religion, it’s all an act. Morse states in his article:

“Foreign diplomats and tourists are wheeled past state-run churches and mosques for various faiths. Each of these churches has the appropriately dressed clergy worshiping at the appropriate alters with congregations of people passing around collection plates.

According to the Korea Risk Group, this is a show performed by hand-picked state workers. The reality is that Christianity is seen as dangerous to the state, according to Fox News. Those caught practicing it face the harshest penalties.”

The piece goes on to say:

“Christians are accused of being imperialists seeking to overthrow the government and those who are caught practicing their faith are arrested, horrendously tortured, imprisoned and [sometimes] immediately put to death,”

Reading through Morse’s piece, I was reminded of an apology (a letter making a defense of the Christian faith) that Tertullian wrote in the second century during  a time when the early Christian church was facing horrific persecution. First and second century Christians were also accused of trying to “overthrow the government” by refusing to sacrifice to the Roman gods who were believed to help hold the empire together.

Tertullian wrote:

“We all pray without ceasing for all emperors, beseeching for
them a long life, a secure reign; that their families may be preserved in safety, their armies brave, the senate faithful, the people honest, the
whole world peaceful, and whatever other things either the people or the emperor can desire and yet the Christians are treated as public
enemies, because they refuse to ascribe vain, and lying, and unauthorised honours to the empe­rors; because, in the spirit of true religion, their services are seated in the heart, rather than displayed in wanton excess.’

He goes on to say:

“If, then, we are commanded to love our enemies, whom have we to hate ? If, when injured, we are forbidden to return evil for evil, lest we should be like our adversaries, whom can we hurt ? And on this point do ye yourselves be judges. For how frequently do ye use violence against the Christians, sometimes at the instigation of private malice, and sometimes according to the forms of law.”

It’s sad to see how, with all our supposed progress, in many cases around the world, not just in North Korea, the character of human beings has changed very little since the second century.

The Blaze’s article concludes by saying, “Despite efforts to eradicate Christians, we have found the church is North Korea is actually growing,”. It’s estimated that currently in North Korea, there are around 9 million Christians and that number continues to grow.

Perhaps there is something to be said about what Tertullian wrote, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.”

Watch Yeonmi Park retell her story of escaping North Korea:

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Culture and Religion

Does Matthew 22:29-30 indicate Jesus was referencing the Book of Enoch?

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Does Matthew 2229-30 indicate Jesus was referencing the Book of Enoch

Extra-Biblical texts such as the Book of Enoch are often frowned upon by churches. Some see 1 Enoch as fake. Others say it’s a good historical reference but not inspired. The Ethiopian Bible includes it as scripture. Should we read it?

To understand the answer to this question, we need to consider three things. First, it was referenced as holy by many of the early church fathers, but was excluded from official canon. Second, Enoch is referenced multiple times in the Bible: Genesis 4 and 5, Luke 3:37, Hebrews 11:5, and Jude 1:14. Third, Jesus makes a statement in Matthew 22:29-30 that references “scripture” but what he is saying is only found in 1 Enoch.

Many who oppose the validity of Enoch say that it was written after the Book of Jude because the it includes the quote that Jude references, but fragments of Enoch were found among the Dead Sea Scrolls, which most scholars date to before Jude was born.

The scripture in question is Matthew 22:29-30:

29 Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God.

30 For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven.

Nowhere in the 66 Books of the Bible does it say angels neither marry nor are given in marriage. What did Jesus mean when he said “Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures” in reference to the angels not marrying?

Here is 1 Enoch 15:5-7:

5. Therefore have I given them wives also that they might impregnate them, and beget children by them, that thus nothing might be wanting to them on earth. 6. But you were ⌈formerly⌉ spiritual, living the eternal life, and immortal for all generations of the world. 7. And therefore I have not appointed wives for you; for as for the spiritual ones of the heaven, in heaven is their dwelling.

Hmm.

As with anything regarding extra-Biblical texts, I must urge caution. Many who believe 1 Enoch is authentic refute the authenticity of 2 Enoch and 3 Enoch. Then, there’s the question of inspiration and protection of the text. Many Christians believe the Bible has been able to survive and flourish despite so many attempts to disrupt it is because it has been protected over the millennia. If that’s the case, why was Enoch not included the whole time?

The answer to this question, to those who believe in its authenticity, may be found in the first two verses of the manuscript.

1 The words of the blessing of Enoch, wherewith he blessed the elect and righteous, who will be 2 living in the day of tribulation, when all the wicked and godless are to be removed. And he took up his parable and said -Enoch a righteous man, whose eyes were opened by God, saw the vision of the Holy One in the heavens, which the angels showed me, and from them I heard everything, and from them I understood as I saw, but not for this generation, but for a remote one which is 3 for to come. Concerning the elect I said, and took up my parable concerning them:

If Enoch is real, it’s meant for a later generation living in the day of tribulation. If it’s a fake, then it’s intended to deceive those in the end times. Either way, it’s understandable that it would not be included in most Bibles.

I tend to believe 1 Enoch is legitimate, but not to the point that I would teach on it. Not yet. Much more prayer and study is required before I would ever risk misleading anyone.

Nevertheless, the reference in Matthew 22 is compelling.

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Culture and Religion

The ‘church fathers’ and the Book of Enoch

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The church fathers and the Book of Enoch

This article first appeared in Torah Driven Life. The site appears to be down currently, so we’re including this page here for reference.

The following is a compilation of attestations to the authenticity and acceptance of the Book of Enoch as Scripture by the fathers of the early church. This list is, by no means, an exhaustive list of quotations from the church fathers, but is rather just skimming of the surface. At any rate, the case is clear, that even beyond Jude’s open reference to it, the Book of Enoch had some degree of acceptance in early Christianity.

Tertullian and the Book of Enoch

Tertullian, an early church father and founder of Latin Christianity, wrote a few positive things concerning the Book of Enoch. Tertulian writes as follows in his 2nd century work, On the Apparel of Women I 3:1-3.

“I am aware that the Scripture of Enoch, which has assigned this order of action to angels, is not received by some, because it is not admitted into the Jewish canon either. I suppose they did not think that, having been published before the deluge, it could have safely survived that world-wide calamity, the abolisher of all things. If that is the reason for rejecting it, let them recall to their memory that Noah, the survivor of the deluge, was the great-grandson of Enoch himself; and he, of course, had heard and remembered, from domestic renown and hereditary tradition, concerning his own great-grandfather’s ‘grace in the sight of God,’ (Genesis 6:8) and concerning all his preachings; since Enoch had given no other charge to Methuselah than that he should hand on the knowledge of them to his posterity. Noah therefore, no doubt, might have succeeded in the trusteeship of his preaching; or, had the case been otherwise, he would not have been silent alike concerning the disposition of things made by God, his Preserver, and concerning the particular glory of his own house.

“If Noah had not had this conservative power by so short a route, there would still be this consideration to warrant our assertion of the genuineness of this Scripture: he could equally have renewed it, under the Spirit’s inspiration, after it had been destroyed by the violence of the deluge, as, after the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonian storming of it, every document of the Jewish literature is generally agreed to have been restored through Ezra.

“But since Enoch in the same Scripture has preached likewise concerning the Lord, nothing at all must be rejected by us which pertains to us; and we read that ‘every Scripture suitable for edification is divinely inspired.’ (2 Timothy 3:16) By the Jews it may now seem to have been rejected for that very reason, just like all the other portions nearly which tell of Christ. Nor, of course, is this fact wonderful, that they did not receive some Scriptures which spake of Him whom even in person, speaking in their presence, they were not to receive. To these considerations is added the fact that Enoch possesses a testimony in the Apostle Jude.” (Jude 1:14-15)

Origen and the Book of Enoch

Origen appeals to the Book of Enoch as having the same canonical authority as he does the Book of Psalms. He writes as follows in De Principiis IV.

“But some one will perhaps inquire whether we can obtain out of Scripture any grounds for such an understanding of the subject. Now I think some such view is indicated in the Psalms, when the prophet says, ‘My eyes have seen your imperfection;’ (Psalm 139:16) by which the mind of the prophet, examining with keener glance the first principles of things, and separating in thought and imagination only between matter and its qualities, perceived the imperfection of God, which certainly is understood to be perfected by the addition of qualities. Enoch also, in his book, speaks as follows: ‘I have walked on even to imperfection;’ which expression I consider may be understood in a similar manner, viz., that the mind of the prophet proceeded in its scrutiny and investigation of all visible things, until it arrived at that first beginning in which it beheld imperfect matter existing without ‘qualities.’ For it is written in the same book of Enoch, ‘I beheld the whole of matter;’ which is so understood as if he had said: ‘I have clearly seen all the divisions of matter which are broken up from one into each individual species either of men, or animals, or of the sky, or of the sun, or of all other things in this world.’”

These quotations which he attributes to Enoch are not found in the Ethiopic text of the Book of Enoch, upon which our modern translations are based. There are, however, two sufficient reasons to believe that Origen is still quoting from the Book of Enoch. First, notice how Origen mishandled Psalm 139:16, “My eyes have seen your imperfection,” as if to indicate that God had imperfections which could be seen. Psalm 139:16 is more accurately translated, “Mine unformed substance Thine eyes saw.” (YLT) So it is very possible that Origen was simply incorrectly quoting passages that do exist in the Ethiopic text. Second, it is known from the discovery of Hebrew and Aramaic manuscripts of Enoch found in the Dead Sea Scrolls at Qumran that there are large portions of text that are not present in the Ethiopic manuscripts. (See 4Q209 and 4Q211) So it is also possible that he was quoting from portions of Enoch that may have not been translated into the Ethiopic text, and hence have not survived to today.

Irenaeus and the Book of Enoch

Irenaeus, in his work The Proof of the Apostolic Preaching 18, records a condensed retelling of Enoch 6-8. He does this without directly citing the Book of Enoch, yet the citation here is unmistakable.

“And for a very long while wickedness extended and spread, and reached and laid hold upon the whole race of mankind, until a very small seed of righteousness remained among them: and illicit unions took place upon the earth, since angels were united with the daughters of the race of mankind; and they bore to them sons who for their exceeding greatness were called giants. And the angels brought as presents to their wives teachings of wickedness, in that they brought them the virtues of roots and herbs, dyeing in colours and cosmetics, the discovery of rare substances, love-potions, aversions, amours, concupiscence, constraints of love, spells of bewitchment, and all sorcery and idolatry hateful to God; by the entry of which things into the world evil extended and spread, while righteousness was diminished and enfeebled.”

The Epistle of Pseudo-Barnabas and the Book of Enoch

The Epistle of Pseudo-Barnabas is frequently ranked among the Apostolic Fathers, i.e. the founding documents of gentile Christianity. This letter contains several blatant quotations from the Book of Enoch, citing it as “Scripture” in Barnabas 16:5-6.

“Again, it was made manifest that the city and the temple and the people of Israel were to be delivered up. For the Scripture says, ‘And it shall come to pass in the last days that the Lord shall deliver the sheep of His pasture, and the sheep-fold, and their tower to destruction.’ (Condensed from Enoch 89:54-56) And it took place according to what the Lord said. But let us inquire if a temple of God exists. Yes, it exists, where He Himself said that He makes and perfects it. For it is written, ‘And it shall come to pass when the week is ended that a temple of God shall be built gloriously in the name of the Lord.’ ” (Similar to Enoch 93:6-7)

Given that the writing style of Pseudo-Barnabas does not always give exact quotes from the Scripures, but frequently handles them in a very midrashic style, it is probable that the author is giving a condensed paraphrase of the passages in question from the same version of Enoch we have in our possession today.

Athenagoras and the Book of Enoch

Athenagoras of Athens, in his work 2nd century work Legatio, claims to regard Enoch as a true prophet, and this same work relies heavily upon the angelic cosmology presented in the Book of Enoch.

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Conspiracy Theory

Ezekiel’s prophecy and the truth about false prophets

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Ezekiel's prophecy and the truth about false prophets

The topic of “false prophets” is often difficult to discuss on the internet in general and social media in particular because invariably whenever we warn of false prophets, we’re accused of being false prophets. Such is the nature of our struggle to live a faithful life and spread the Gospel. Naysayers and mockers are always there.

This topic in particular is a challenging one because it’s based upon a set of verses that some believe has been misinterpreted in most churches today. The verses in question are found in Matthew 24, verses 4 and 5.

And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you.

For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.

The standard interpretation says that there will be people in the end times who claim to be Christ. While this is also true, as we see regularly, an alternate (and in my opinion, much more credible) interpretation is that false teachers will come in the end times in the name of Jesus Christ and will lead their flocks astray.

The argument is all in how the context is understood. Most read it as people saying, “I am Christ,” as in they’re claiming to be Christ. But what I believe he’s saying is people shall come in His name saying that He (Jesus) is Christ, and then shall deceive many. It changes the risk factor for believers because it insinuates there are those who may be leading a church today who pretend to be teaching the Gospel but are actually preaching a self-serving version of it that still claims to be a message from our Lord and Savior but is actually a great deception.

Those who have seen or even been brought into the prosperity “gospel” may have a very clear idea of what I mean.

This video goes into much more detail about prophetic events told of in both the Old and New Testament. I strongly recommend watching it, if only to make you think about what’s happening in the world around us.

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