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UCGia Bible Insights Thursday, August 19 2021

The search for life: Are we alone?

Powerful telescopes of recent times have reached further than ever before into the vastness of the universe and unveiled the magnificent glory of God’s creation, leading to the agonising question: “Where is everybody?”

by Steven Britt

A headline in the March 2019 National Geographic magazine proclaimed, “We Are Not Alone” and asserted, “New discoveries reveal it’s almost certain we’re not alone in the universe.” However, the opposite is in fact true. Not one scrap of evidence indicates the existence of other physical life in the universe. The article in question actually focused on the various attempts to find alien life.

Over the last 60 years governments and scientists have invested billions of dollars in hundreds of experiments yielding a great deal of scientific knowledge about the majesty of God’s creation, but they have been fruitless in discovering other physical life in the universe.

The discoveries touted by National Geographic are based on conclusions from the Kepler Space Telescope’s mission to identify exoplanets, which are planets outside our solar system. As a result, scientists now widely agree our universe is fine-tuned for life, and that physical life wouldn’t be able to exist at all if certain constants like the relative strengths of the different forces, or the rate of the expansion of the universe were different to even the slightest degree.

Evolutionary thinking, however, dictates there should be other life in the universe. If human life is a biochemical byproduct of a complex physical system, then it is inevitable this accident must have recurred countless times over on many different planets, and there should even be many civilizations that have advanced far beyond our own.

As the thinking goes, human intelligence, just as human life, is not uniquely designed and imbued by a Creator, but is a product of random chance over time. It is therefore absurd to think human beings were the first intelligent species to develop in the long eons of an incomprehensibly expansive universe.

Over the decades the search for extraterrestrial life has changed from expecting to discover signals from an advanced civilization to desperately hoping to detect even the most minute trace of rudimentary life. Some have theorised other civilizations may be so advanced that they don’t bother with us, in the same way we wouldn’t attempt to “make contact” with ants on our own planet. However, Ethan Siegel in a Forbes article titled “What If It’s Just Us?” states: “These proposed solutions usually leave out the most obvious option . . . that when it comes to intelligent life in all the Universe, it’s just us” (April 3, 2019).

Mankind is not just interested in trying to confirm evolution, but is also searching for meaning and purpose. There is a need to know we are not alone in the universe, and that we are part of something bigger than ourselves. The ancient Israelite king Solomon wrote that God has “put eternity in [man’s] hearts” (Ecclesiastes 3:11)—meaning we feel there is something more to life than what we see.

The Bible is a revelation of knowledge from God, and its truth is the only source able to properly fill that longing! Few consider God is, Himself, an extraordinary extraterrestrial life form of supreme intelligence, and that He has made deliberate contact with mankind in numerous ways.

God appeared to individuals throughout history and did miraculous works for the nation of Israel that terrified the world of that time. He also sent other spirit beings known as angels to the earth to carry out His will. The Creator of the universe even eventually came to earth to communicate in person when Jesus, “the Word” who existed eternally with God the Father and through whom all things were made, “became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:1-3,14). The New Testament is the irrefutable eyewitness testimony of His life, death and resurrection.

The Bible assures us human life is not the cosmic accident of a cold, uncaring universe, but the unique, intentional creation of a loving God who is reaching out to communicate and form a relationship with mankind.

The author of this article relates that when he was a boy his parents came to realize the Holy Days described in Leviticus 23 were commanded in both Old and New Testaments. Until then, his family had observed Christmas, Easter and Halloween, and he did not want to give these holidays up.

With time, he also came to understand the days observed by most of Christianity are not commanded in the Bible, and Scripture backed up his realisation that associating the name of Jesus with these days did not make them more acceptable: "... in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men" (Matthew 15:9).

While in high school, he also discovered that in the King James Version of the Bible the word translated as "Easter" in Acts 12:4 was an erroneous translation of the Greek word ‘pascha’, a word clearly meaning the Passover (described in Leviticus 23:5). It was not until the second century, long after the New Testament was written, that people began to replace the Passover observance with Easter.

Jesus and His family observed the Holy Days of the Bible, travelling to Jerusalem, when He was twelve years old, to observe the Passover (Luke 2:41, 42). John 7 also shows Christ keeping the Feast of Tabernacles and Last Great Day (described in Leviticus 23:33-36) in spite of the threat of bodily harm. Jesus kept all of the annual festivals, not only because He was a devout Jew, but because God commanded them and He was setting an example for Christians today (Matthew 28:20).

These Holy Days were also observed following Christ's ascension. The disciples were gathered together to observe the feast of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit was sent (Acts 2:1), because Pentecost was still a "holy convocation," a commanded assembly (Leviticus 23: 15- 16, 21).

Gentile Christians also observed the biblical Holy Days. More than 20 years after Christ’s crucifixion, about the year A.D. 55, the Apostle Paul gave important instruction to the Church in the gentile city of Corinth, where most church members were gentile. A man was involved in an immoral relationship, and Paul instructed them to expel him from the church:"...Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump...For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast, not with ...the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth" (1 Corinthians 5:6-8).

The Corinthians had put out leaven to observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread, but had not applied the spiritual lesson. Paul’s intent, by instructing them to "keep the feast," was not to spiritualize away the Days of Unleavened Bread, but to magnify them. The New Testament builds on the foundation of the Old by emphasizing the spiritual intent of the Holy Days.

Colossians 2:16, 17 is perhaps the most oft-quoted New Testament Scripture used to discredit the Holy Days: "So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ."

Paul was not saying not to keep the Holy Days, he was addressing their proper observance. The Colossians had been introducing ascetic practices on the Holy Days, as they were being influenced to follow the commandments and doctrines of men (verses 18-23). If anything, these verses corroborate the practice of God's true Church in the first century was to observe these days,

Another misunderstood text is Galatians 4:8-10. Verses 8 and 9 refer to the practices of the Galatians before they knew the true God, and after learning the truth, they were beginning to return to these ‘weak and beggarly elements’. To say God's laws are weak and beggarly is blasphemous. These "days and months and seasons [times] and years" were pagan practices, possibly similar to astrology today.

When a person looks into the commands and examples in the Bible to determine which religious festivals to observe, there is only one choice to be found: the annual festivals and Holy Days of God. If we are to build on the foundation of the apostles and prophets and follow the example of Jesus Christ, we will faithfully observe these days, and come to learn more about God's plan of salvation for humanity.