|Volume 23 Number 2 February 2021
Louis Rushmore, Editor
Dictionaries define “tragedy” as, “a disastrous event: calamity” (“Tragedy,” Merriam-Webster) or “a lamentable, dreadful, or fatal event or affair… disaster” (“Tragedy,” Dictionary.com). There have been too many tragedies throughout human history to even begin to list them, but let us briefly note a few of them to demonstrate the nature of human tragedies that, unfortunately, have plagued and will continue to beset mankind.
The American Civil War spanned the years 1861 to 1865, and between 620,000 to 850,000 died directly and indirectly as a result (Nasaw). That tragedy was one of the topmost catastrophic events ever to transpire in the western hemisphere, and its ramifications continue to this day in the United States of America.
“The RMS Titanic, a luxury steamship, sank in the early hours of April 15, 1912, off the coast of Newfoundland in the North Atlantic after sideswiping an iceberg during its maiden voyage [from South Hampton, England to New York, USA]. Of the 2,240 passengers and crew [of 900] on board, more than 1,500 lost their lives in the disaster.” Only about 705 persons survived. (“Titanic”).
The Titanic and the Lusitania were the two largest luxury ocean liners ever constructed at the time they were put into service. “Lusitania met its tragic end on May 7, 1915, when a torpedo fired by a German U-boat sunk the ship, killing nearly 1,200 of the 1,959 people on board and precipitating the United States’ entry into World War I” (“Titanic”).
World War I from 1914 to 1918 resulted in 20 million deaths, a little over half of whom were civilians. World War II from 1939 to 1945 caused over 70 million deaths, over 50 million of whom were civilians.
Interestingly, “war is defined as an active conflict that has claimed more than 1,000 lives. …Of the past 3,400 years, humans have been entirely at peace for 268 of them, or just 8 percent of recorded history. …At least 108 million people were killed in wars in the twentieth century. Estimates for the total number killed in wars throughout all of human history range from 150 million to 1 billion” (Hedges).
The infamous 9/11 stunned a nation and the world.
During the September 11 attacks of the year 2001, 2,977 people were killed, 19 hijackers committed murder-suicide, and more than 6,000 others were injured. The immediate deaths included 265 on the four planes (including the terrorists), 2,606 in the World Trade Center and in the surrounding area, and 125 at the Pentagon. The attacks remain the deadliest terrorist act in world history. Most of those who perished were civilians except for 343 firefighters, 71 law enforcement officers who died in the World Trade Center and on the ground in New York City, and another law enforcement officer who died when United Airlines Flight 93 crashed into a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, 55 military personnel who died at the Pentagon in Arlington County, Virginia, and the 19 terrorists who died on board the four aircraft. Of the 2,977 people who died, 2,605 were U.S. citizens and 372 non-U.S. citizens (excluding the 19 perpetrators). More than 90 countries lost citizens in the attacks, including the United Kingdom (67 deaths), the Dominican Republic (47 deaths), and India (41 deaths). As of August 2013, medical authorities concluded that 1,140 people who worked, lived, or studied in Lower Manhattan at the time of the attack have been diagnosed with cancer as a result of “exposure to toxins at Ground Zero.” It has been reported that over 1,400 9/11 rescue workers who responded to the scene in the days and months after the attacks have since died. At least 11 pregnancies were lost as a result of 9/11. (“Casualties”)
Thousands upon thousands of tragedies, some beyond imagination by sane and civilized people, have been perpetrated by humans against fellow humans. However, irrespective of any particular tragedy, noted or not noted herein, or the combination of all perceived tragedies, there is a greater tragedy than any other or even all tragedies put together.
“Roughly 100,825,272,791 people have ever died” (Chalabi). The majority of mankind, lamentably, will be lost, according to Jesus. “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:13-14 NKJV). Over thousands of years, God established three successive, unilateral, obligatory covenants with man: Patriarchy, Judaism and Christianity.
God devised a plan, by which though He is completely holy and pure, to have fellowship with His wayward creation – sinful man. God’s scheme dates back to before time began (Titus 1:2-3; Proverbs 8:23-31; 1 Peter 1:20-23). The climax of God’s provision is to have fellowship with man and for those who are in fellowship with Him also to have fellowship with each other (1 John 1:3). The facilitator of this three-way fellowship is the Gospel of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 3:3-6) or the New Covenant (Hebrews 9:15) or Testament (Hebrews 9:16-17). Hence, all amenable souls living today must obey the Gospel to benefit from God’s grand plan (Romans 1:5; 16:26; 2 Thessalonians 1:8; 1 Peter 4:17).
The crux of the Gospel is the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). Obeying the Gospel culminates initially in imitating the death, burial and resurrection of Christ by undergoing Christian baptism (Romans 6:3-8). Continued obedience of the Gospel will result in eternal salvation and a home in Heaven (Revelation 2:10). Our Lord, the Son of God, who died a horrible and torturous death by crucifixion, is the Savior of the obedient (Hebrews 5:9).
The greater tragedy than all other tragedies combined is dying outside of a covenant relationship with our Creator – Almighty God. What could be more tragic than unnecessarily spending eternity in Hell, which was prepared for the devil his angels (Matthew 25:41)? Maybe even worse, many precious souls who were once saved and who entertained the hope of spending forever in Heaven will turn away from God and return to lives of sin (2 Peter 2:20-22; Matthew 13:18-23). There is no greater tragedy than dying lost in sin, especially when God the Father provided a master plan for man’s redemption, God the Son made a vicarious sacrifice of Himself for us, and God the Holy Spirit stipulated the roadmap to eternal Heaven through divine inspiration of the Bible’s penmen. There are some tragedies in this world that are unavoidable, but everyone can avoid the greater tragedy of being eternally lost. What will you do?
“Casualties of the September 11 Attacks.” Wikipedia. 24 Jan 2021. <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Casualties_of_the_September_11_attacks#:~:text=In%20September%202009%2C%20the%20office,11%20death%20 toll%20to%202%2C996>.
Chalabi, Mona. “What Are The Demographics Of Heaven?” FiveThirtyEight. 14 Oct 2015. 24 Jan 2021. < https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/what-are-the-demographics-of-heaven/>.
Hedges, Chris. “What Every Person Should Know About War.” The New York Times. 6 Jul 2003. 24 Jan 2021. <https://www.nytimes.com/2003/07/06/books/chapters/what-every-person-should-know-about-war.html#:~:text=At%20least%20108%20million%20people,men%20away%20from%20their%20wives>.
Nasaw, Daniel. “Who, What, Why: How many soldiers died in the US Civil War?” BBC News. 3 Apr 2012. 24 Jan 2021. <https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-17604991#:~:text=For%20more%20than%20a%20century,number%20underrepresented%20the%20death%20toll>.
“Titanic.” History. 10 Mar 2020. 24 Jan 2021. <https://www.history.com/topics/early-20th-century-us/titanic>.
“Tragedy.” Dictionary.com. 24 Jan 2021. <https://www.dictionary.com/browse/tragedy?s=t>.
“Tragedy.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary. 24 Jan 2021. <https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tragedy>.
Can We See the Bible Alike?
Rodney Nulph, Associate Editor
When Paul wrote to the church at Philippi, he demanded, “Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in anything ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal this unto you. Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing. Brethren be followers together of me and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample” (Philippians 3:15-17). The Holy Spirit, through Paul, expected the saints at Philippi to see the Bible alike! They were to walk “by the same rule,” denoting a standard or a pattern. That pattern or standard is God’s Word. Sadly, many today see the Bible in different ways. Some interpret it one way and others another way. However, the Bible does not mean different things to each reader. If it meant different things to different people, there would be no way we could “walk by the same rule,” for we would all have different rules – different standards. Nevertheless, that is exactly what is happening in our world and sadly, in some cases, even in the church. The question “Can we see the Bible alike?” begs an answer.
The very Book we are discussing affirms that we can see the Bible alike. In fact, to say that the Bible means different things to different people is to completely misunderstand its contents. Moses affirmed that we can all see the Bible alike when he penned, “The secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law” (Deuteronomy 29:29). David declared that the Bible can be seen by all alike when he wrote, “Through thy precepts I get understanding…” (Psalm 119:104). Notice carefully David did not say that God’s Precepts create confusion and dismay but rather understanding! The apostle of love was clear about our understanding the Bible alike as he scribed, “And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name” (John 20:30-31). Paul was clear about the universal interpretation of Scripture when he wrote, “Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ” (Ephesians 3:4).
The Bible is obviously quite clear in affirming that we can all see its contents alike, but many fail to see the Bible alike. Why is that? While I am certain there are other reasons than we will notice in this article, following are a few of the fogs that cause people to see the Bible differently.
Truth can be known and understood (John 8:32). When we clear the fog from our eyes, the fact remains that the Bible is meant to be read, studied, understood and obeyed. When we see truth for what it really is, we have found a real fortune! We have the fortune of a standard. We can know what is right and what is wrong. We know how to conduct ourselves in every daily situation when we know truth. We have found the fortune of sturdiness. We are no longer carried about by every wind of doctrine (Ephesians 4:14). We have an anchor to hold us in times of distress (Hebrews 6:19-20). We have found the fortune of the Savior. To find and understand truth is to find Jesus the Lord! In fact, without God’s Word, we can never really know Jesus (John 5:39).
Can we all see the Bible alike? Absolutely! We can and must “walk by the same rule”! Religiously, may we only speak those things that are sound doctrine (Titus 2:1). Peter’s command is so fitting. “If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God…” (1 Peter 4:11). If we would just do that, we all could see the Bible alike!