Cathedrals—What does YHVH think about them?

On our recent trip to Europe, my wife and I visited a number of cathedrals some of the pictures of which I shared recently on this blog. They are amazing and impressive structures! I promised then that I’d have a few thoughts on my experiences in these churches, so here they are.

A picture of St. Peter’s Basilica, the Vatican in Rome, that I took in 1981.

As a frequent traveler, I’ve had the privilege of visiting Catholic and Protestant cathedrals and churches on four continents in many countries over the past forty years. As a Bible expert who also has a broad knowledge of Western religious and cultural history and is an academically trained artist, these monumental edifices, constructed at great effort and expense ostensibly for the “glory of God,” have captured my fascination. And not mine only, but those of tourists worldwide, since in nearly every city where these great churches exist, they are top tourist attractions, even to this day in our agnostic, secular humanistic and rabidly materialistic world. Why this fascination with things religious? (That’s a discussion for another day.) What we will discuss here is, more importantly, what does Elohim think of these architectural endeavors of men to reach him? Are these a sort of manmade ladder trying to reach the gates of heaven?

My ventures into cathedrals, Gothic and otherwise, have occurred in England, Ireland and Scotland including St. Paul’s and Westminster Abbey in London. I also have also visited many in France including Notre Dame Cathedral (before and after the great fire of 2019) and Sacré Coeur both in Paris.  My footsteps have also echoed in cathedrals in Switzerland and Italy (including San Marcos in Venice, the Duomo di Firenze in Florence and St. Peter’s in Rome) as well as in Mexico and New York City among other places.

My first trip to Europe was in 1980 where I spent a year studying in Switzerland. During spring break, I ventured into Italy where I spent several days in Rome. By this time, I had visited many cathedrals including Westminster Abbey and St. Paul’s in London,  Notre Dame in Paris, and St. Mark’s in Venice, but nothing prepared me for St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican. Upon arriving in Rome, I fought my way on foot through a terrifying melee of cars that the inhabitants of that city call normal traffic, and finally found my way to St. Peters Square known as the Vatican. I walked inside of St. Peter’s Basilica, and, overwhelmed, my jaw needed a crutch as I stood transfixed unable to move not unlike one of the numerous marble statues that adorn the place. After what seemed like an eternity, I collected my emotions and sat down on a simple wooden, nondescript chairs (in stark contrast to the wealth and opulence that surrounds them) set out for worshippers, where I remained motionless and almost spell-bound drinking in the awesomeness of the place. My emotional response struck me as strange, since neither I nor my family are Catholic, and, quite frankly, I, at best, had been apathetic toward that church, and even harbored antipathy toward Roman Catholicism. After 45 minutes of just sitting there, I remember thinking, “I can’t take all of the immensity of this place in at one sitting,” and suffering from cognitive and emotional overloading, I  resolved to come back the next day to absorb the rest of it. And I did.  The majesty, immenseness and artistry of it all was too much to fathom on my first visit.

Scroll forward nearly 40 years, I recently found myself in several European countries again visiting cathedrals. Like magnets drawn to steel, my wife and I were attracted to these cathedrals. After dealing with the initial awe of entering any cathedral, one of the first questions to enter my mind was this: what does Elohim think of this colossal and superhuman building projects? What is his perspective?

Immediately a flood of impressions would begin to flood my mind.

First, this cathedral, pick one, anyone, is a monumental and colossal endeavor; it’s a sort of Tower of Babel-like affair on man’s part to reach God.

Second, this is a massive stone, wood, glass and metal endeavor on the part of a religious institution to exert influence and control over the people for the purpose of money and power; it’s an attempt to control the masses of largely ignorant and uneducated people often for selfish carnal and greedy purposes on the part of many religious overlords. Additionally, it seems to be an attempt by a church system to impress and awe its sheep-subjects through grandiose building projects and, at the same time, to hold these same people beholden to church leadership through fear of losing one’s eternal salvation resulting in an eternity burning in hellfire should they be disloyal to said leadership.

Third Gothic cathedrals and similar churches wow the senses in a multiplicity of ways:

  • Their soaring architecture causes one to look up—heavenward. Not a bad thing.
  • Their stained glass windows tell biblical stories though in an extremely abbreviated and a caricaturised way. Again, not necessarily a bad thing.
  • Their stonework evokes solidity, power, stability, strength, endurance and permanence, which reflects the religious institution that commissioned, built and maintains them.
  • The artwork of the cathedrals including the engineering of the building itself from the marble flooring and mosaics, up to the ornate altars with their marble statuary, metalwork, intricate wood carvings, the hand-hewn masonry, and the stained glass all serve to lift the human senses, elicit jaw-dropping awe and wonderment, but in what? In the works of men or in Elohim or both? Is this a good or bad thing? This depends on your point of view.
  • And then there is the grandiosity of the organ music along with celestial sounds of choirs of men and angelic-sounding boys, which fills these massive cavernous stone, wooden and lead echo chambers in almost divine polyphonic reverberations penetrating not only the edifices themselves, but, in many cases, the stoney hearts of the hearers. For many, including me, this music is soul food that also refreshes my spirit and is attractive because of its beauty as well as its biblical themes. It draws the soul inward and heavenward. Is this not a good thing? Who cannot be deeply moved by this? 

How could such a monumental and amazing human endeavor such as the construction of Gothic cathedrals that, in some cases, took hundreds of years and thousands of people to build, and the religious institutions that built them be totally devoid of God or Elohim? What peasant who lived and died in the shadow of one these immense structures, some of whose towers reached nearly 300 feet heavenward and dominate the skyline for many miles around, in their right mind would deign to question whether this was a God-thing or not? To question might mean losing one’s eternal salvation if not their land and property and, possibly even their physical life.

Even though the Creator of heaven and earth does not and cannot dwell in any building made by human hands, still, worshippers of the Creator, by whatever name they call him, need a place to gather out of the cold, dark and rain to seek him collectively. Why not make such a place as beautiful as possible, so that he can be worshipped in the beauty of holiness? 

After all, didn’t the Almighty commission the children of Israel to build him a tabernacle and later a temple for him to dwell in the midst of them, and a place where they could congregate to give him his due? 

So what does YHVH Elohim think of all of this?

It would be foolish and presumptuous of me to assume that I have the definitive answer to this questions, but as I pondered these questions, while wandering around in several cathedrals on my latest trip to Europe, several strong impressions floated to the top of my mental pool of thoughts.

True, these churches were, I suspect, to one degree or another, built to impress and control the masses for the benefit of the religious and regnal elite, and although they were often built to satiate human greed, lust for power and wealth at the people’s expense, is it all bad? There is some good in nearly everything if we just look for it. 

In contradistinction to the secular and religious leaders who orchestrated the building of these cathedrals, what about the common people?

 Yeshua’s view of the religious leaders of his day, was anything but positive, and I too share a similar view of institutionalized religion and most of its leaders—a system which the book of Revelation calls “Mystery Babylon,” which is comprised of both good and evil, holy and polluted, and a conglomerate of both biblical and pagan elements, and which Scripture metaphorically represents in unglowing terms as a spiritual whore. 

Yet, even though Yeshua often eviscerated and rebuked the religious leaders of his day, he, at the same time, treated the little people who had been caught up in these leaders’ religious systems and schemes with tenderness and grace. 

Similarly, behind the building of these mighty churches were often the nefarious and ungodly schemes of men to financially rape and control for selfish purposes the common people who came to worship and to seek Elohim in their own simple, naive and uneducated way. Therefore, I cannot judge the hearts of those who in simplicity of heart came (and still come) to seek Elohim the only way they knew. This includes both peasant and lord, as well as many monks, priests and nuns. Who is in the place of Elohim to know much less evaluate how he will judge them in that day for their religious efforts directed the best they knew toward him?

All I know is this: there for YHVH Elohim’s grace go you, me and everyone else who has ever lived. This I also know, I could have been born as one of those hapless and illiterate peasants who was irrevocably tied to the land on which they and generations before them had toiled in impoverished anonymity. I could have been birthed into this untouchable caste class slaving away my entire life for the benefit of the church and nobility under the shadow of their cathedrals and churches (which exist in nearly every town) and castles, with little options in life to do anything else, to go anywhere else or to know anything else. 

With these realities in mind, I tend to think that the Elohim of mercy and justice will judge the people more favorably than many of us may think.  Even though many of us have left traditional churchianity with an acrimonious taste in our mouths, and some of us, sadly, even still harbor a supercilious heart attitude toward our Christian brethren, we might want to rethink our position in light of a gracious Elohim. If you hold a negative if not bitter disposition toward the church, I am praying that you will find the heart of our magnanimous and gracious Father in heaven who causes it to rain (a blessing, not a curse) on all people including the just and the unjust, at the very least, and, at the most, is even now regathering his lost sheep of the house Israel from many places in many lands out of many churches in preparation for the second coming of our Messiah. The very people Yeshua commissioned us to help regather or those who are going to these churches and cathedrals. Many of you used to go there too, but YHVH in his mercy has opened your eyes and you’ve heard his voice to “come out her my people”  (Rev 18:4) He will yet do the same for many of them.

In conclusion, to be sure, the most glorious church building on earth is nothing at all compared to the most common place and taken-for-granted regularly occurring aspect of Elohim’s creation such as a sunset, a lily flower, a starry heaven, a waterfall or a snow-capped mountain, a mountain stream, a butterfly, the human body, a loving human family and a saved person whose name is written in the Lamb’s book of life. The most opulent and extravagant Gothic cathedral is little more pile of refuse compared to these. This speaks to the greatness of our Elohim and to men’s puny efforts to give him the honor, praise and worship he is due. Give YHVH Elohim the glory!

Sacré Coeur, Paris 2019
The Cathedral in Florence, Italy 1981
Cathedral in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico 2019
Notice how this cathedral in Cobh, Ireland dominates the entire skyline of the city and can be seen for miles around. Geographical prominence is typical of many cathedrals.
Cathedral in Chester, England 2019
Cathedral in Florence, Italy taken by Natan in 1981
Cathedral in Cartagena, Colombia 2016
Cathedral in Cartagena, Colombia 2016
Cathedral in Lausanne, Switzerland near where Natan lived in 1980



Sacré Coeur, Paris 2019
Sacré Coeur, Paris 2019
Sacré Coeur, Paris 2019
Cathedral in Mazatlan, Mexico 2019
Cathedral in Mazatlan, Mexico 2019
Notre Dame, Paris taken by Natan in 1980
Notre Dame, Paris taken by Natan in 1980
Notre Dame, Paris taken by Natan in 1980
 

Who are the modern descendants of Ephraim?

Genesis 48:14 and 16, Jacob’s Prophecy Over Ephraim and Manasseh

While prophesying over Joseph’s sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, Jacob crossed his hands over their heads making the symbol of the Paleo-Hebrew letter tav  (like the letter t or x in the alphabet), which resembles a cross and in that ancient Hebraic script and according to some Hebrew scholars pictographically means “sign of the covenant.” Jacob then spoke of the Heavenly Messenger (the Hebrew word malak mistranslated as “angel” in most Bibles) of YHVH (i.e. the preincarnate Yeshua) who had redeemed him from all evil (see Gen 31:11–13). Jacob then prophesied that the descendants of Ephraim and Manasseh would become like “fish in the midst of the land” (literal translation of Gen 48:14–16; see The ArtScroll Stone Edition Tanach).

In light of this prophetic symbolism, which present day religious group would qualify as having fulfilled Jacob’s prophecy as to who the descendents of Ephraim and Manasseh would be? Which religion on earth uses the fish as their symbol, speaks of a Messenger from YHVH as their Redeemer, and has the sign of the Paleo-Hebrew letter tav, which looks like a cross? The Buddhists? The Moslems? The Hindus? Even the Jews? No! Only Christianity fits this enigmatic criteria. Many Christians are without Continue reading


 

Obtaining Ultimate Salvation—A Process, Not a One Time Event

Deuteronomy 2:31, Begin to possess [the Promised Land]. Possession of the Promised Land was a process. This concept is as true for us as much as it was for the children of Israel.

The idea in mainstream Christianity that when you receive salvation at the beginning of your spiritual walk and that’s all there is to possessing or entering the kingdom of Elohim is a seriously incomplete one. It doesn’t fit the biblical models or the teachings of the apostolic writers about the need for the believer to persevere and overcome to the end to receive his ultimate eternal inheritance.

When this verse states that Israel “began to possess [the Promised Land],” what does this mean? Why didn’t YHVH give it to Israel all at once? What did Israel have to do to “possess” the land? What do we have to do to possess our spiritual inheritance? Does YHVH just hand it to us, or do we have to persevere, overcome and fight for it?

Leaving Egypt is a picture of a believer’s initial salvation, while entering the Promised Land is a picture of a believer’s ultimate salvation involving his glorification or the redemption of his physical body and being granted eternal inheritance at the resurrection. It’s also a picture of rewards for obedience. 

Much more could be said on this subject, and the apostolic writers show us. Suffice it so say, the idea that the mainstream church propagates that receiving salvation is a one time event like getting your ticked punched to a movie or amusement park ride falls woefully short of the biblical truth and has led many people astray spiritually. Yes, the initial steps in the process are relatively easy, but then there’s the repentance, the spiritual walk, the obedience and lordship of Yeshua, the overcoming, and the levels of rewards. All of these things are precursors and steps in the process to actually receiving eternal life and a resurrected glorified body.

The children of Israel’s exodus from Egypt and their subsequent 40 years journey to the Promised Land is a picture of this process and all the steps in between. It’s a picture of the redeemed believer’s life and all of the faith-building struggles one must encounter before entering the the Promised Land of their ultimate spiritually inheritance.

The idea that the saint can have it all here and now is not a biblical one, but an ear-tickling message promoted by hireling gospel peddlers and corporate church merchandizers who have something to sell you. Beware of these false teachers who refuse to tell you the whole truth as presented in the Bible! Let the buyer beware.


 

Religious Labels: To Use or Not to Use? That Is the Question

Labels, names, monikers, titles and the like—what’s it all really mean? Nothing and everything.

What does Elohim think of our churches, denominations, and the titles and labels we put on our religious boxes? Who knows, but I’m guessing not much. He’s playing a much bigger game than his children most of whom are playing church in their little denominational sandboxes. After all, he and/or she (see Gen 1:27; 5:2) is the Creator of the universe and is quite above all of man’s puerile nonsense. Elohim isn’t for or against anyone. He’s not one one side or the other, for one denomination or another, for one political party or another, for one —ism or another. Elohim is Elohim and has a bigger “game” to play! He’s not a sectarian, and doesn’t play the us versus them sophomoric game. Elohim is on his/her own side—the side of Truth! Elohim is for anyone or anything that is on his side and against anyone who is against him.

Remember when Joshua encountered a Man near Jericho who identified himself as the Commander of the Army of YHVH in Joshua 5:13–15? What was the Man’s response when Joshua asked whose side he was on: Israel or her enemies? Did he fall into Joshua’s categorical labeled boxes, his denominational delineations, where it’s us versus them? Hardly! The answer of the Man of Elohim was  quite curious. A one word answer. “NO.” I take that to mean that Elohim refused to fall into men’s cultural and religious demarcations. He’s Elohim and he’s on his own side. If we do what he tells us, he’ll be on our side too. If not, then the Scriptures clearly tells us that he’ll set his face against us. Not a good thing!

To take it one step further, with whose religious denomination did Yeshua identify? Pharisee, Sadducee,  Essene or what? The Gospels record that he came out in favor and disfavor of the first two sects on several occasions. A study of the Qumran scrolls that he taught some of Essenes’ teachings and definitely was against others. No. Yeshua was his own man, and he was not tied to any sect. He was tied to heaven—the the Truth of the Word of Elohim. Period.

Now to rock someone’s boat even more, and to prove how little I care about religious titles, names and labels, even as YHVH does, let me make this declaration:

  • I am Baptist in that I agree with them in full water baptism.
  • I am Pentecostal in that I believe in the gift of tongues and in what happened on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2—plus I celebrate Pentecost.
  • I am Seventh Day Adventist in that I keep the seventh day Shabbat and believe in the second advent or coming of Yeshua the Messiah.
  • I am Protestant in that I protest against all the evils of the Roman Catholic Church.
  • I am Catholic in that I believe in the universality of the spiritual body of Yeshua.
  • I am Christian in that I believe in Jesus Christ, whose real name I acknowledge as Yeshua haMaschiah.
  • I am sacred names in that I use the Hebraic names for deity.
  • I am Christian orthodox in that I believe in the right or straight way of the Bible.
  • I am Jewish in that I follow the Torah as best I can and in the Tanakh or Old Testament.
  • I am Presbyterian in that I believe in church leadership.
  • I am Charismatic in that I believe in the gifts of the Holy Spirit/Ruach haKodesh.
  • I am Messianic in that I believe in the Yeshua, the Maschiach of Israel.
  • I am Hebrew Roots in that I believe in the Hebraic roots of the Christian faith.
  • I am Shaker and Quaker in that when I come into the presence of YHVH Elohim, I always shake and quake in my spirit and sometimes in my body.
  • I am Apostolic in that I believe in the ministry of the apostle.
  • I am Latter Day Saint because I am a latter day saint who follows Yeshua the Messiah and his Torah and this is how the Bible defines the end time saints in Rev 12:17 and 14:12.
  • I am Assemblies of God in that I believe that the church belongs to Elohim.
  • I am Foursquare because I believe that the New Jerusalem is a cube.
  • I am Calvary Chapel because I believe that Yeshua died at Calvary, the Greek name for Golgotha.

And I could go on.


 

Church Activities Per the Testimony of Yeshua (NT)


Acts 13:14–15, A synagogue service. In that day as in our day, a typical Jewish Sabbath day synagogue service involved reading the from the Torah and the rest of the Tanakh and then hearing a teaching on what was read or on some other biblical subject. Add these Sabbath day activities to those mentioned in Acts 2:42, 47; 1 Tim 4:13; Eph 5:19–20; Col 3:16; Jas 5:13–14 and 1 Cor 14:26 and we have a list of activities the early believers did when they came together. These include

  • Teaching the word of Elohim (including the Torah), teaching doctrine, presenting the gospel (Acts 2:40–42; 1 Cor 14:26; 1 Tim 4:13)
  • Baptizing new converts (Acts 2:41)
  • Fellowshipping (Acts 2:42)
  • Sharing meals together (Acts 2:42
  • Praying for the sick (Jas 5:14)
  • Singing psalms (Gr. psallo meaning “to play on a stringed instrument a praise song to Elohim,  Jas 5:13) or to give a psalm (Gr. psalmos meaning “a striking, twanging, of a striking the chords of a musical instrument, of a pious song, a psalm, 1 Cor 14:26), for singing in general (1 Cor 14:15)
  • Confessing one’s sins one to another (Jas 5:16)
  • Praying for one another (Jas 5:16) or prayer in general (1 C or 14:14–15)
  • Turning those who are wandering from the truth back to Elohim (Jas 5:19)
  • Reading the Scriptures (1 Tim 4:13)
  • Exhorting (Gr. paraklesis meaning “calling near, summons, importation, supplication, entreaty, admonition, encouragement,consolation, comfort, solace,” 1 Tim 4:13)
  • Exercising the gifts of the Spirit (1 Cor 12) including speaking in tongues and prophesying (1 Cor 14:12, 26, 29, 39)
  • Giving spiritual revelations (1 Cor 14:26)

How many modern day churches do all of these things on a regular basis? If not, maybe it’s time to find a new church…


 

What Is a “New Testament” Church Supposed to Do?

Acts 2:42, 46, They continued. This passage along with 1 Tim 4:13 is a list of activities the early saints did when they gathered together. This included continuing steadfastly in the apostles’s doctrine, which includes “reading [the “Old Testament” Scriptures], exhortation, [studying or teaching] doctrine” (1 Tim 4:13), fellowshipping, eating meals together, praying and praise [and worshipping] Elohim.

Expounding on this further, we read in 1 Cor 14:26, “Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.” Spiritual gifts should be exercised when the saints come together as well (1 Cor 14:12).

How many modern church gatherings habitually incorporate these elements into their weekly meetings?


 

Golden Calf Worship Among YHVH’s People Today

Are YHVH’s people still prone to golden calf worship today?

Some things never change, since human nature is still the same today as it was thousands of years ago when the children off Israel worshipped the golden calf.

So let’s explore this question.

Let’s look at the series of events that occurred as the children of Israel were leaving Egypt, which have major relevance to what is occurring in mainstream Christianity in our day. If we fail to learn the lessons of history, we’ll likely repeat the mistakes of history. It has to do with golden calf worship.

YHVH redeemed the children of Israel out of Egypt and set the slaves free. He blessed them not only by giving them their freedom, but by giving them the wealth (gold and silver) of Egypt as well. We read that the Israelites exited of Egypt with a high hand. They were victorious, free and wealthy.

YHVH led them into the wilderness en route to the Promised Land—normally an eleven day journey. They had some difficulties: Pharaoh tried to kill them at the Red Sea, they lacked clean drinking water, and they had food issues, but YHVH provided them deliverance from Pharaoh, gave them clean water, manna and meat, and they overcame these trials.

Next, YHVH led the Israelites to the foot of Mount Sinai, and on Shavuot he made a covenantal agreement with them and gave them his Torah as their national constitution. They agreed to obey him and to keep his commandments. He promised to bless them if they remained faithful to him.

Moses went up to Mount Sinai to receive the Torah-covenant on two tablets of stone. While he was gone for 40 days, the people grew worried and anxious and become weary of waiting for Moses to return.  This was a test they had to pass of their faithfulness. Would they be faithful to YHVH and keep his commandments, or would they stray spiritually from the path of righteousness YHVH had given them and they had agreed to follow?

The Israelites got tired of waiting, and took the gold from Egypt and turned it into a golden calf, and then they rose up to play (to party). They even called their revelry a feast to YHVH! They used religious verbiage like “YHVH” and “feast” to add legitimacy to their Continue reading