(NOTE FOR READERS: This part of the story was the most difficult to write, as this was the most traumatic part. I had to stop myself a few times, because it was like I was re-living those awful moments, sinking back into the abyss with no way out.)
December 21, 2012 had passed, but nothing had happened. Though it was a relief for me, I still continued to study Jesus’s words on the End Times in Matthew 24. He told the disciples that there would be nations rising against nations, famines, and earthquakes in diverse places (Matthew 24:7). He also spoke the Abomination and Desolation as well as false Christs (Matthew 24:15-28). Then he got to the point about the seven year tribulation (Matthew 24:29-33). A little later, he explained that it would be as in the days of Noah (Matthew 24:38-51). Reading this did make me anxious. But it wasn’t because it sounded like today’s society. It was something that Jesus had said in the chapter, which threw me for a loop. In verse 34, he'd stated that “...this generation shall not pass till all these things be fulfilled…”
I looked at the entire passage again, in context, just to make sure that I hadn't missed anything:
“And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world? 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. And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows. Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come. When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:) Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains: Let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house: Neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes. And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days! But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day: For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened. Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. Behold, I have told you before. Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not. For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together. Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors. Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.”
There had been no mistake. The message was undeniable from the context. But still, I found some way to rationalize it.
Anyway, 2013 began, and this is where things REALLY started to get bad, but at the same time, look up (I say “look up”, because this was about the time when I began to become more of a critical thinker.). But you know the old saying, “things only get worse before they get better,” and that’s EXACTLY what happened.
How did it get worse? It started, of course, with me reading all kinds of articles, and that dreaded modesty doctrine reared it’s ugly head at me:
Immodesty has become so commonly accepted that it doesn't bother most people. Most people feel no shame if they see someone on television or in public who is dressed immodestly, and wouldn't have any problem dressing the same way. As summer temperatures rise standards of modesty seem to fall. In the U.S.A., as well as many other nations of the world, our societies have become the most sexually saturated societies.
(I should note that this article is almost entirely plagiarized from other modesty articles on the web. I’m serious, just read parts of the source above and the source after it, they’re both eerily similar.)
The "accepted styles" of clothing generally tend to be immodest, and it is often the case that even Christians, will either encourage or at least allow their children to dress immodestly in order for the child to be accepted by others. They want their children to "fit in" with their friends and classmates, and this desire leads them to compromise biblical principles of modest dress. This is especially true in the areas of sports and cheerleading. Though these particular activities usually require participants to dress immodestly, yet many parents are so excited about their son or daughter's abilities and accomplishments in these fields that they are willing to compromise their scruples to promote the child's physical excellence and acceptance. These parents will sometimes argue "the children are young, and these things do not matter as much at this time in their lives." Oh, to the contrary! It is exactly at "this time in their lives" when these things matter most! Young people are often more impressionable and teachable than older ones. It is in one’s "youth" that he should "remember His creator" and develop a deep-seated God-Consciousness (Eccl. 12:1). It is in these early years that the principles of Godliness, including the principles of modesty and decency, must be ingrained in the children. The sense of needing to be covered, as well as the sense of shame when uncovered, should be a part of a child's early psyche.
Immodest dress usually reflects an immodest demeanor. Thus the sin of immodesty generally leads to other sins, especially lasciviousness. For example, compare the way cheerleaders usually dress with the way they are usually handled! Much of today's cheerleading demands that the males handle the females like they were handling a rag doll! No part of the girl's body is "off limits" to the male handlers. By its very nature, this procedure literally drives any sense of shame and decency right out of the young girls! The word lasciviousness (Gal. 5:19) includes "indecent bodily movements" and the "unchaste handling of males and females" (W.E.Vine). Parents encourage their daughters to commit this sin by allowing them to be subjected to this shameless treatment. Furthermore, just as immodesty leads to lasciviousness, lasciviousness often leads to fornication.
Many of those who say modesty is not a factor while the "children" are young are actually defending the dress of their teenagers! Does it really "not matter" how the teenagers dress? Perhaps this is a better question: Does it "not matter" that the dress or conduct of one's son or daughter incites lust and sinful thoughts in a member of the opposite sex? God demands that we dress modestly (1 Tim. 2:9 – we will consider this more fully at a later point in the study). God wants people, including young people, to dress and behave in such a way that will not present a stumbling block to others. And once again, let us not be naive. If 10-12 year old children are sexually active, and 12 and 13 year old girls are getting pregnant, then those in this age group are certainly capable of lustful thoughts! As for stumbling blocks, Jesus said, "It would be better for them if a heavy mill stone was tied around their neck and they were thrown into the depths of the sea" (Matt. 18:6). This "stumbling block" is exactly the kind of offense which could lead to the sin Jesus discussed in Matthew 5:28. There He said, "But I say to you, that everyone who looks on a woman to lust for her has committed adultery with her already in his heart." This "adultery in the heart" is mental only because it lacks opportunity to be fulfilled physically.
The nakedness of a woman's body excites lust in men. From his roof-top David saw Bathsheba washing herself and she was "very beautiful to look upon" (2 Sam. 11:2). David looked, lusted, then sent for her and committed the overt act of adultery with her (2 Sam. 11:4). The same thing happens over and over today: women ex-pose their nearly nude bodies to neighbors and friends of the opposite sex; lust is kindled, then it is not over until that neighbor or friend "goeth in to his neighbor's wife" (Prov. 6:32-35)! Trust is destroyed! Hearts and homes are broken! And it all began with a woman indecently exposing her-self!
A woman who displays her body before men, or conducts her-self in such a way that she causes them to lust has become a stumbling-block (Matt. 18:6-7). No godly woman is going to be displaying her nude (or nearly nude) body before the eyes of a lustful world which has "eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin" (2 Pet. 2:14). A godly woman knows what is modest (in apparel and in conduct) and lives accordingly. She also teaches her children and sets the proper example of modesty before them. The writer of Proverbs said of the evil woman, "Lust not after her beauty in thine heart" (Prov. 6:25). Jesus said that "whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart" (Matt. 5:28).
Mixed swimming is another summer sin that falls in the same category as that discussed above. True Christians will not expose their bodies to one another and to the people of the world by going to the public swimming pools and beaches. There is also physical contact involved in mixed swimming that is lust-enticing, Christians are to abstain from every form of evil (1 Thess. 5:22).
Then it got even worse than before when I read this:
“Ladies, modesty might cost you. If you cannot desert your bikini, your skin tight clothing, if you cannot restructure your wardrobe and learn to cover rather than to reveal, you may not be fit for the kingdom. Jesus warned about those who wish to do battle for him: they must count the cost. The implication is that those who don’t will suffer great loss.”
And just when I thought it couldn’t get any more awful:
Is it O.K. to wear bathing suits in public? Is mixed swimming acceptable? Would any self-respecting Christian visit a nude beach? No. However, many so-called Christians will go to a public beach or swimming pool where people wear the bare minimum of clothing. Yet amazingly, many people think that 1 ½ inch width of cloth in the crotch separates modesty from immodesty.
Even if a Christian who wanted to go to the pool was willing to accept certain restrictions on his/her dress and conduct so that he/she did not violate the principles of Christianity, another equally serious problem remains. Can a Christian jointly participate in an activity that blatantly appeals to the lust of the flesh? The simple answer is “No.”
While bathing suits, shorts, halter-tops, and other forms of immodest attire may cover the generative portions of the body, they nevertheless, are categorized – at least from a Biblical standpoint – as nakedness. The Scriptures use this word to refer, not only to complete nudity, but also to a state of being inadequately clothed.
This study leads us to an inescapable conclusion: God intends for men and women to be clothed in public. We should realize that the very concept of modesty is tied to the sacredness of the marriage relationship (Hebrews 13:4). Not only is one’s body to be preserved for his or her spouse in the sexual relationship, but the body is also to be covered until one enters into the marital relationship. Sadly, too many people miss the point of modest dress. When a person exposes their body in public, they are exposing something that belongs to their spouse or their future spouse. If you have exposed yourself to others, you have given your mate used goods. You are not giving him/her anything that hundreds of other men/women have not seen before. You cheapen yourself by exposing your body in public.
Adam and Eve were ashamed when they realized they were naked. Nakedness is not something shameful between a man and his wife, but it is felt when third parties are present. In the case of Adam and Eve, they were ashamed when God came to visit with them in the cool of the evening. God intends for men and women to be clothed in public.
Young people, boys and girls, don’t engage in events that require you to expose or display your body to the public’s eye. Some areas where this is done is cheerleading, drill teams, some athletic attire, school outings, mixed swimming parties, dances, and even formal occasions like the prom. Your body belongs to God in heaven, and to one person in this life. Therefore, strive to be pure and chaste in your appearance both before and after marriage.
Source (emphasis mine): http://watchmanmag.com/2001/05/01/works-of-the-flesh-lewdness-lasciviousness/
These pages further supported the idea that every girl that I knew was going to hell just because of something as trivial as their wardrobe. In other words, wearing things such as tight outfits, bikinis, short skirts or shorts or revealing cleavage or the midsection would be a one-way guaranteed ticket into fire. Again, my thoughts turned to all those beautiful female friends that I’d made in high school. They would be roasting in hell for all eternity, just because of their wardrobe choices. Why? This couldn’t come from a loving, merciful God; it could only come from a totalitarian dictator. What was I going to do?
How did it get better? During 2013, I met a history professor who would change my life forever. He was an older gentleman, about 69 to 70 years old, and very knowledgeable, too. It was in his class that I began to learn more about history, which I did enjoy. Eventually, we got to a point in the class where he was speaking about Exodus story in the Bible. He explained that there was absolutely NO ARCHAEOLOGICAL EVIDENCE for a mass migration of Hebrew slaves out of Egypt, or wandering the wilderness for 40 years. These findings had been confirmed and peer-reviewed by Israeli archaeologists Israel Finkelstein and Neil Asher Silberman of the Tel Aviv University, both who authored a book about their findings called The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology's New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Its Sacred Texts. I couldn’t believe it! However, I wasn’t ready to give up on the Bible just yet, so I decided to study it even more on my own, but all I encountered was even more problems:
1. Tyre, Lebanon, a city which was prophesied in the Bible to be destroyed and never rebuilt again (Ezekiel 26:3-14), still exists even to this day. “Well it probably was talking about the Old City!” I told myself.
2. Isaiah 40:22, this is a passage that Christians absolutely love to tote around as proof of the Bible’s divine inspiration, because in the verse, it says the words “circle of the earth…” I, at one time, used to hold to this verse as proof of divine inspiration, that is until I read it fully, which most Christians don’t bother trying to do. Here it is in full context: “It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers; that stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in…” (emphasis mine) A more correct exegetical approach for this passage would be a flat, disk-shaped object covered by a dome-shaped canopy, since you can’t make a tent on a spherical object.
3. The book of Joshua claims that the city of Jericho was destroyed around 1400 BCE, however, archaeological evidence proves otherwise. The city was most likely destroyed by an earthquake in 2300 BCE.
4. The Book of Daniel (which at one time used to be one of my favorite book in the Bible), was actually written around 167 BCE, around the time when the alleged prophecies within it had ALREADY been fulfilled. In addition, the book also mistakenly states that Belshazzar was the king of the Chaldean Empire, and the son of Nebuchadnezzar II. In addition, the author of the book mistakenly declares that Babylon was conquered by a Darius the Mede (who is not a real historical figure), when in reality, it was Cyrus the Great (a Persian, not a Mede).
5. I began to look at the Bible with a Strong’s Concordance, looking up what words in the Bible meant in the original Greek and Hebrew. That changed my perception. I discovered that the word “Hell” in the Bible (at least in the KJV) has four different words describing it. However, for the sake of time, I'll just focus on two. In the Hebrew, it is the word “Sheol”, which means “the world of the dead (as if a subterranean retreat)” The KJV had mistranslated it has “hell” 31 times. What's even crazier if that in the OT, Sheol was a place that EVERYONE, both righteous and wicked went to after death, regardless of the choices they made in life (Ecclesiastes 9:2-10). It wasn't until the book of Daniel was written around 167 BCE when the Jews were under the control of the Persian empire, that the idea of an eternal hell began to develop (Daniel 12:2), but even then, it was still vague. Notable verses describing Sheol would be this one, “As the cloud fades and vanishes, so he who goes down to Sheol does not come up; he returns no more to his house, nor does his place know him anymore.” - Job 7:9-10 (ESV, emphasis added - It's a bit ironic, because this passage actually seemed to fit my fall into the darkness and depression.) The other word for Hell is what Jesus used when he was describing the place in Mark 9:43-48, and that was the Greek word “Gehenna” which was the name of a perpetually burning garbage pit outside Jerusalem. This word is also a direct reference to an OT passage, Jeremiah 32:35 “And they built the high places of Baal, which are in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to cause their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire unto Molech; which I commanded them not, neither came it into my mind, that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin.” The OT God had declared the practice of burning people in Gehenna to be a sin and an abomination. What the Jesus was talking about was in direct conflict with what the OT taught!
Even with all these problems, I still wasn’t ready to give up. I had to believe the Bible was true, otherwise I would be an apostate. Anyway, much like in 2012, I struggled through that year, and once the summer came, I was exhausted. I was so depressed to the point where I couldn't get any joy out of doing ANYTHING. Just like how it was with my Nana’s death the previous year, all I did was exist, not live. It felt like all I could do was get through the day as quickly as I could, then go to sleep where I wouldn't be bothered. Even SLEEPING was a challenge, as there were nights that I was constantly crying to myself while trying to read the Bible, and asking God to send me his spirit to show me clearly what he meant, but to no avail. I even tried to write about my problems online, although I was very vague about them. Here's an except from one of my journals that I wrote long ago on my deviantArt page while I was in a truly depressed state:
There was simply nothing I could do but mope. Looking back now, as I wrote this, I still ask myself, “Why would anyone subject themselves to this type of mental torment? What are these people, sadomasochistic freaks? Do they get off on their own suffering? Does their God get off to it?”
I sank further and further into the abyss of depression, and there seemed like no way out. I indulged myself in sermons on YouTube, which were far worse than the modesty and lust ones. The worst of them all being this one right here:
However, there was a good side to everything. That history professor I’d met was generous enough to hire me, as well as another student from the class, to help him move some things in his home. I took the job eagerly, it would be wise for me to find something to get my mind off all of the anxiety that had swollen up within me all those months. In his office we were instructed to organize the books on his shelves alphabetically by the name of the author. In those list of books, I found a few that interested me. One was God is NOT Great: How Religion Poisons Everything by Christopher Hitchens, another was The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins. Also on that list, God: The Failed Hypothesis by Victor J. Stenger, and a copy of the essay Why I Am Not a Christian by Bertrand Russell. I decided that I might as well check them out, the first I started with was the one by Christopher Hitchens:
“Why, if god was the creator of all things, were we supposed to “praise” him so incessantly for doing what came to him naturally? This seemed servile, apart from anything else. If Jesus could heal a blind person he happened to meet, then why not heal blindness? What was so wonderful about his casting out devils, so that the devils would enter a herd of pigs instead? That seemed sinister: more like black magic. With all this continual prayer, why no result? Why did I have to keep saying, in public, that I was a miserable sinner? Why was the subject of sex considered so toxic? These faltering and childish objections are, I have “since discovered, extremely commonplace, partly because no religion can meet them with any satisfactory answer.”
— Excerpt from "God Is NOT Great" by Christopher Hitchens
Reading the book changed my view on Christianity, and now, things in the Bible which didn’t seem that important at first, now started to seem like serious problems.
The story of the talking snake in Genesis chapter 3, and the story of the talking donkey in Numbers chapter 22, now no longer seemed realistic.
“If the Bible really is the direct word of the Living God,” I asked myself once, “then why would he need humans to write his word down if he’s omnipotent? Couldn’t he’ve just done it himself?”
Why did Jesus, after dying and rising from the dead three days later, have to leave Earth so quickly? Why have his disciples preach the Bible to all the world? Couldn’t he’ve just done it himself?
Questions like this really started to become more and more serious to ignore. In addition, the once non-contradictory “word of God”, as I once thought, didn’t seem to be all that non-contradictory anymore. In the first two chapters of the Book of Genesis, there are two different creation accounts. In Chapter 1, God creates the plants first, then the animals, then Adam and Eve and tells them that every tree in the garden is for consumption (Genesis 1:29). In Chapter 2, God creates Adam first, then the plants, then the animals, and then Eve. Some apologists will try to say that Chapter 2 is merely a more detailed account of Chapter 1, and that the creation of plants and animals were simply meant to describe God recreating “samples” from the other creation. However, Genesis 2:4-5 clearly states that no plants existed during the event of humanity’s creation. Even worse, there’s a contradiction between descriptions between God and the Serpent about what will happen to Adam and Eve if they eat of the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil. In Genesis 2:17, God states “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” But in Genesis 3:4-5, “And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.” So in Genesis 2, we have the God telling Adam and Eve that if they eat the fruit, they will die, but in Genesis 3, we have the Serpent telling them that if they eat the fruit, they won’t die, and their eyes will be open and they’ll be like God’s knowing good and evil.
What happens next in the story? Let’s find out:
“And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.”
— Genesis 3:6-7
So, we see here that two of the Serpent's three statements in Genesis 3:4-5 came true: 1) Adam and Eve didn’t die. 2) Both their eyes were opened. Later on in the story, we see the God make statements that an omniscient and omnipresent God shouldn’t make:
“And the LORD God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou? And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself. And he said, Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat?”
— Genesis 3:9-11
Why would the God, if he’s all-knowing and everywhere at the same time have to ask Adam and Eve where they were, or if they’d eaten the fruit that he’d told them not to? But continuing on, the Bible later explains that the God kills an animal to make clothes to cover Adam and Eve, but not before cursing the serpent to crawl on it’s belly and eat dust, and condemn Eve to suffer the pain of childbirth. Then, he makes the most revealing statement of them all:
“And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever...”
— Genesis 3:22
So, as you can see, all three of the Serpent’s statements had come true.This was one of the biggest problems I encountered. I was truly at a loss at this point, not even apologetics websites like CARM.org could explain these discrepancies away.
Then, late that summer, something really scary happened to me. I’d become so tormented with this OCD, and fear of lustful thoughts, hell and “immodesty” that I decided that I could no longer take it. I’d pray to God asking him “God, why didn’t you just make me sterile so that I wouldn’t have these strong sexual desires?” I still can’t believe I thought that. Eventually, it got so bad, that I began having suicidal thoughts. I envisioned myself taking my father’s .40 caliber Glock pistol from out of his closet, chambering around, putting the slide in my mouth, pulling the trigger, and ending it all. Other times, I would take my hobby knife from out of my drawer, and cut myself, trying to relieve this awful pain. Eventually, I decided that I would HAVE to end my life somehow, and by whatever methods necessary. The most convenient method I could think of was drowning myself. So, I decided I’d do that. I went into my bathroom, when my parents were away, filled by bathroom sink with water all the way. I then submerged my head in the water. This is it, I thought to myself, no more suffering. I’ll be in Heaven with Jesus, and with Nana as well, and I won’t need to endure the pain anymore. I’ll be free! There will be no more crying, no more pain, and no more suffering, just like how it says it’ll be in Revelation 21:4. I was submerged in the water for a little over a minute or so, when all of a sudden, my hand slipped, and broke the drain rod which was just behind the faucet. The water drained out and I fell back on the floor with my hair and face wet, and my eyes soaked with tears. It seemed almost like an eternity there, lying on that floor, looking up at the ceiling, silently weeping. But then I thought about how I’d survived that ill-fated suicide attempt. At the time, I’d thought it was God’s Holy Spirit swifting through the room, which caused my hand to slip. But now to this day, I don’t know what it was. I didn’t tell me parents about this, and the suicidal thoughts just kept coming and coming, and I got sicker and sicker every time they came back.
School started back up again in August of 2013. I’d recently turned 20, and was looking forward to going back, but as soon as I went back, all those OCD triggers just came back. I felt as though I had no one to talk to, until I met another dude on the campus, who was Christian. I told him about everything I was going through, breaking down crying. I even told him about my suicide attempt. So he looked at me, and he said, “Listen, I want you to make a promise to me. I don’t want to see your face in the news because you ended up committing suicide.” And I kept that promise, after having people pray over me. However, even that still didn’t work. All throughout 2013, I felt even more emotionally drained than I’d ever been in the previous years. Much like Job in the Bible, I cursed myself, and the suicidal thoughts became even worse. All I felt I could keep on doing was pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17), and I did, every single day for help. To paraphrase Frederick Douglas, “I prayed until I began praying with my legs”. I begged God to hold me in his righteous hand (Isaiah 41:10), but it all fell on deaf ears.
The God wasn’t listening to me anymore.