By Cecil Willis
One of the claims which the Bible makes for Itself is that It can never be destroyed. The abundance of copies of the Scriptures now available is abundant proof that It has made good Its claim. In many passages the indestructibility of the Scriptures is pronounced. In 1 Pet. 1:24, 25, we read: “All flesh is as grass, And all the glory thereof as the flower of grass, The grass withereth, and the flower falleth: But the word of the Lord abideth forever.” It will never cease to be. Jesus said, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away” (Matt. 24:35). When the heavens shall have passed away with a great noise, the elements melted with fervent heat, the earth and the works therein burned up, the Bible, the word of the Lord, will yet remain. Isaiah said, “The grass withereth, the flower fadeth; but the word of our God shall stand forever” (Isa. 40:8). The Scriptures teach that the word of the Lord -must remain until time is no more, and even through the Judgment, for by the word of God we shall be judged. Jesus said, “He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my sayings, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I spake, the same shall judge him in the last day” (Jn. 12:48). As John tells of the Judgment scene, he says, “And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of the things which were written in the books, according to their works” (Rev. 20:12). The Scriptures teach that from the time that the word of the Lord was put in written form, until the Judgment, they shall never be destroyed.
An Indestructible Kingdom
The Bible again asserts this same truth in a slightly different manner. It asserts that the kingdom of God shall never be destroyed. As the prophet Daniel predicted the building of the Messiah’s kingdom, he said it would endure forever. “And in the days of those kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed, nor shall the sovereignty thereof be left to another people; but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever” (Dan. 2:44). After Daniel had said the kingdom to be built could never be destroyed, Paul said that the kingdom which was built will endure forever. “And this word, Yet once more signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that have been made, that those things which are not shaken may remain. Wherefore, receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us have grace, whereby we may offer service well-pleasing to God with reverence and awe: for our God is a consuming fire” (Heb. 12:27-29).
But what are the implications of these statements that the kingdom can never be destroyed? Simply that the Word of God can never be destroyed. As Jesus gave a parable concerning the kingdom of God, He explained it saying, “Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God” (Luke 8:11). So long as the kingdom remains, the seed of the kingdom which is the word of God, must remain. But the Kingdom will last forever, so the Word of God must last forever. If It lasts forever, It is indestructible. So long as the Bible remains, the kingdom has not been destroyed. It may be suppressed for a while, it may not be apparent, but as long as God’s word remains, the kingdom has not been destroyed. When the seed of the kingdom is sown, men and women can become Christians; Christians make up the kingdom. One cannot cause wheat to cease to exist merely by pulling up all the wheat plants he can find. If he leaves just one seed of wheat, in which is the germ of life, he has not destroyed wheat. This single seed can be planted, a plant will come forth, bear its fruit, and wheat remains. So it is with the Word of God. One can fight the church, kill its members, but God has said that his Word cannot be destroyed. And until one can figure out how to destroy the Word of God, which he can never do, the kingdom cannot be destroyed because as the seed of the kingdom, the word of God, is sown into the hearts of men and women, it will bear fruit; they will become Christians and the kingdom will remain. It cannot be destroyed!
The Antiquity of the Bible
The Bible is a very ancient book. Its antiquity is a wonder. It is a marvel that the Bible has remained until the present time. I am quite sure It would not have, had it not been that God had purposed that It should never be destroyed. Relatively few books survive the decade in which they are printed. Very, very few survive for a century. Their make-up is such that the elements tend to destroy them. Age and water rot them, insects eat them, careless handling destroys them, ink fades, covers pull loose. But the Book of God remains.
The last book of the New Testament, Revelation, was written about 1875 years ago. Portions of the Bible, of course, are much older. The first five books of the Old Testament were written by Moses about 1500 B.C., making them nearly 3500 years old. The Book of Job was written even earlier, probably at least 2000 B.C. The Bible probably is the oldest antique you have, even if you are a collector of ancient and very rare objects. Go to your library, choose your oldest volume, and compare its age with that of the Bible. God has seen to it that His Word has not perished from the earth, because He has willed that It should abide forever.
Efforts to Destroy the Bible
The antiquity of the Bible would be a marvel had men throughout the ages cherished It, and taken the very best of care to preserve It. But such has not always been the case. The enemies of Christianity have realized that the kingdom of God could not exist without the seed of the kingdom. Therefore, they have concentrated their efforts against Christianity in the direction of destroying the Scriptures.
Even in the New Testament, we read of those who violently sought to overthrow the cause of Christ. We read of disciples dying a martyr’s death because of their faith. Early in the history of Christianity, Clement of Alexandria wrote, “Many martyrs are daily burned, crucified, and beheaded before our eyes.” For many years Christianity was outlawed by the Roman government. From the time of Trajan (reigned 98-117) until Constantine (c. 300), virtually every one of the Roman emperors was opposed to Christianity. It is true that not all of them actively tried to suppress it, but few of them encouraged Christianity in any way. Many of their efforts were directed toward destroying the Bible. Of Diocletian (284-316), the ruler immediately preceding Constantine, Eusebius, the historian said, “royal edicts were published everywhere, commanding that the churches be leveled to the ground and the Scriptures destroyed by fire” (Church History, Book VIII, Ch. 1). Diocletian went on to say that if one had a copy of the Scriptures and did not surrender it to be burned, if it were discovered, he would be killed. Furthermore, if any other should know of one who had a copy of the Scriptures, and did not report it, he also would be killed. During this time many, many copies of the Bible were burned, copies laboriously written in longhand. Of this period. the historian Newman said, “Multitudes . . . hastened to deny the faith and to surrender their copies of the Scriptures; many more bore the most horrible tortures and refused with their latest breath to surrender the Scriptures or in any way to compromise themselves” (Newman, Church History, p. 169). After this edict had been in force for two years, Diocletian boasted, “I have completely exterminated the Christian writings from the face of the earth!” (Rimmer, Seven Wonders of the Wonderful Word, p. 15). But had he completely destroyed it?
History tells us that the next ruler, Constantine, became a Christian. He requested that copies of the Scriptures be made for all the churches. But alas! Diocletian had completely obliterated the Word of God. After Constantine offered a substantial reward for a copy of the Scriptures, within 25 hours 50 copies of the Bible were brought to him!
The Bible has had many enemies. Even those that professed on some occasions to be Its friends under other circumstances turned enemy to It. During the middle ages, for example, the Roman Catholic Church burned thousands of copies of the Bible. But in spite of it, the Bible lives on. Voltaire, the noted French infidel, who died in 1778, made his attempt to destroy the Bible. He boldly made the prediction that within one hundred years the Bible and Christianity would have been swept from existence into oblivion. But Voltaire’s efforts and his bold prophecy failed as miserably as did those of his unbelieving predecessors. In fact, within 100 years, the very printing press upon whicli Voltaire had printed his infidel literature, was being used to print copies of the Bible. And afterward, the very house in which the boasting Voltaire had lived, was literally stacked with Bibles prepared by the Geneva Bible Society. Voltaire and all his cohorts had miserably failed.
A few years ago H. L. Hastings in a book entitled Will the Old Book Stand? said, “The Bible is a book which has been refuted, demolished, overthrown, and exploded more times than any other book you ever heard of . . . . They overthrew the Bible a century ago, in Voltaire’s time,Tentirely demolished the whole thing. In less than a hundred years, said Voltaire, it will have been swept from: existence, and will have passed into history . . . But the Word of God ‘liveth and abideth forever’ ” (p. 5). The failures of these believers, and failures they must inevitably be, for they are but mere men fighting against the cause of almighty God, reminds me of a short poem written by William Blake:
Mock on, mock on, Voltaire, Rosseau!
Mock on, mock on, ’tis all in vain;
You blow the dust against the wind,
And the wind blows it back again.
Man cannot destroy the Bible. “We might as well put our shoulder to the burning wheel of the sun, and try to stop it on its flaming course, as attempt to stop the circulation of the Bible” (Collett, All About the Bible, p. 63).
“Men have died on the gallows for reading it, and have been burned at the stake for owning it. Tortures too fiendish to describe have been visited upon delicate women and tender children for looking on its pages. Yet in spite of the strongest forces that Hell could unleash and in the face of the animosity of tyrants and despots, there are more Bibles in the earth today than there are copies of any other book ever written by the hand of man!” (Rimmer, op. cit. p. 15).
The Bible’s Popularity
Each year literary men throughout the world are expending their most strenuous efforts to produce what men will call a “Best Seller.” But the “best seller” of all times is the Bible. Each year the Bible outsells all other books. Its critics have railed and ranted, and then died to be soon forgotten. But the Word of the Lord has lived on. It will continue to be the world’s best seller. So long as there are men and women who are willing to let the blessed words of the Bible guide their life, the Bible cannot be destroyed. And even if all shall turn aside from It, God will yet preserve It. For He has said it will last till heaven and earth shall be no more and that all of us shall meet It in the Day of Judgment. We must read it with understanding now, obey Its every commandment, live by It, die by It, and we can thereby share the great promises contained in It.
As I summarize this lesson on the indestructibility of the Bible, a poem that I ran across some time ago says what I have been trying to say.
“Last eve I paused beside a blacksmith’s door
And heard the anvil ring the vesper chime;
Then, looking in, I saw upon the floor
Old hammers worn with the beating years of time.
“`How many anvils have you had,’ said I,
`To wear and batter all these hammers so?’
`Just one,’ said he; then said with twinkling eye,
`The anvil wears the hammers out you know.’
“And so, I thought, the anvil of God’s word
For ages skeptic blows have beat upon,
Yet, though the noise of falling blows was heard,
The anvil is unharmed-the hammers gone.”
Truth Magazine XIX: 31, pp. 483-485
June 12, 1975