THE GOD OF THE CHINESE PEOPLE
Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars’ hill, and said, Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious. For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you. God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; Neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us: For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring. Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device. And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent: Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead. (Acts 17:22-31)
The apostle Paul encountered some highly educated but superstitious idol worshippers in Athens who were so desperate in seeking to worship a god after their own imagination that they included an unknown god in their list in case they missed out on any god. It may seem laughable at their ignorance but thousands of years ago, their ancestors all knew the true and living God. After the flood, Noah and his sons all knew the Creator God. All those people after the flood knew God but they chose to rebel against God at Babel. The biblical records showed that God divided the people by confounding their one language world and sent them packing in different directions according to the new language they acquired.
When the most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of Adam, he set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel. (Deuteronomy 32:8)
While men began to spread upon the face of the earth, they all knew the Creator God and had the knowledge of the previous world passed down to them through oral traditions from their forefathers. Idolatry was unheard of before the flood but soon men in their ignorance became corrupted with idol worship, which God winked at till the Son of God accomplished redemption for Adam’s lost and helpless race. So all men on earth in the beginning knew God. Though fallen men have corrupted themselves in idolatry, those Athenians who sought to worship the unknown god during Paul’s days are without excuse.
For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: (Romans 1:20)
The Hebrews are not the only people who know God. Pharaoh and Abimelech king of Gerar during Abraham’s time knew God. Many years later, those Gentile kings during the times of Daniel, Ezra and Nehemiah all knew God as well. The Creator God is not only the God of the Jews but the Gentiles as well. When those Athenians tried to worship an unknown god, two thousand years before them, the Chinese were still worshipping the true and living God. A visit to the temple of Heaven in the capital city of China will verify this fact to be true. This temple hosts no idols but an altar with an inscription instead of “THE UNKNOWN GOD” like those of the Athenians, one will find an inscription of “THE GLORIOUS HEAVENLY KING” or “THE GLORIOUS KING IN HEAVEN” who was worshipped by the ancient Chinese some four thousand years ago. This is not surprising though as we read the biblical records concerning the development of human civilization in the Book of Genesis where they all had an intimate knowledge of the Creator God.
In fact, the old name of China was called God’s country (Shen Zhou in Chinese). The Chinese emperors were called the “son of Heaven” who obtained a mandate to rule on God’s behalf as a servant as well as an intermediary between this Creator God in heaven and the Chinese people. The blood sacrifices of animals offered by the emperors at the border outside the city paralleled those sacrifices of the Old Testament pointing to the perfect sacrifice of the Lamb of God crucified outside the city of Jerusalem. While their sacrifices might be offered with imperfect knowledge of the Creator God, such practice paralleled those blood sacrifices of animals offered by Noah, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Nahor and the children of Israel before the written oracles were given to the Jews. In fact, before God called Abraham to leave his home country, these emperors in China were already offering sacrifices to the Glorious King in Heaven. This shows that before Moses wrote the first five books of the Old Testament or the existence of the written words of God, the early Chinese knew the true and living God having been dispersed from the rebels at Babel. This is not surprising for we are told:
And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us: (Acts 17:26&27)
Indeed the true and living God is not far from any human on earth and He could be found if anyone would really seek after Him. It is God who dispersed men to spread them upon the face of the earth and set boundaries for them for the express purpose of giving men time and space to seek after Him. The Creator God not only separated men not long after confounding men’s language on earth, He also divided the earth to ensure men will not become united again to rebel against Him.
And unto Eber were born two sons: the name of one was Peleg; for in his days was the earth divided; and his brother’s name was Joktan. (Genesis 10:25)
The division of the landmass on earth is quite obvious if we look at the map of the world today. The continental shift with lands separating from each other and they became oceans apart where men would have to develop independently and seek after God in their own land. From where they reside, they could and would know God when they look up into the sky. For God has never ceased to manifest Himself to His creatures on earth.
The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard. Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them hath he set a tabernacle for the sun, Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race. (Psalm 19:1-5)
Hence, like the Jews who received the oracles of God to show to the world God’s holiness and requirements for His people to approach Him, the Chinese civilization, generally referred to as having an unbroken history of more than four thousand years, was allowed to develop with their prior knowledge of the true and living God being set apart in their own country so that the Chinese people might be able to feel after God and find Him because the Creator God has never been anytime far away from His creatures. The study of the Chinese history and in particular, the Chinese language, bears testimony to the fact that the Chinese people knew the Creator God in the beginning.
The Chinese language is unique in the sense that the Chinese characters can be classified under three categories namely: pictographs, ideographs and phonetic characters. Pictographically and ideographically, many Chinese characters correlate to the ancient Chinese knowledge of the Genesis record concerning the fall of man in the Garden of Eden. The ancient Chinese who created these Chinese characters with embedded special messages point to their prior knowledge of man’s sin, the consequence of sin, guilt, shame, the tempter, God’s provision for restoration, blessings and many aspects of God’s dealing with fallen men.
If this is not the case, how would one explain the Chinese character “ship” is made up of a boat with eight persons pointing to Noah’s Ark? How would one explain the Chinese character “to create” to consist of dust, breath and life that could walk and talk according to Genesis 2:7 concerning the creation of Adam? How would one explain the Chinese character of “happiness” being made up of one man in a garden with God in the beginning of creation? How would one explain the Chinese character of “nakedness” consisting of a fruit made up of a tree in a garden plus clothing embedded in this character? There are so many more characters such as hide, sorrow, sufferings, offence, punishment, glory and so on that show that the knowledge of history of mankind is not hidden from the ancient Chinese people. One of the most prominent Chinese characters is the word “righteousness” which is a combination of two words with a sheep placed on the top of the personal pronoun I or me implying the perfect sacrifice of the perfect Lamb of God sacrificed for the sins of the world. This Lamb of God becomes the perfect cover over the man who believes just like the animal that was sacrificed in the Garden of Eden to cover the nakedness of Adam and Eve. This is the only righteousness acceptable to God. For more information on the many hidden meanings embedded in Chinese characters, reading “The Discovery of Genesis” by C H Kang and Ethel R. Nelson would indeed be helpful.
So the Chinese did not begin their history as uncivilized savages living in caves and gradually developed their culture into scholars and peasants serving their emperors. In fact, it was their emperors as “sons of heaven” who led their people in the worship of the Creator God pointing to a day where the Son of God will rule over the whole world in the Kingdom Age where the promise of blessing will come upon the entire human race on earth. So in history God raised up kings to rule over His people in Israel as well as the Gentiles.
By me kings reign, and princes decree justice. (Proverb 8:15)
The kings on earth are to rule on God’s behalf. Unfortunately for the Chinese, their worship of the true and living God became corrupt and by the time the Greeks worship all kinds of idols including the “UNKNOWN GOD”, the dragon culture had already entered the Chinese civilization and idolatry obscured the true worship of the Creator God. So till this day the Chinese people are regarded as the descendants of the dragon where their emperors in the past were robed in dragon’s robes sitting upon the throne of the dragon. For a more complete study on the Chinese people, you may read Chan Kei Thong’s book, “Faith of Our Fathers – Discovering God In Ancient China”. This will no doubt aid those wishing to reach the Chinese people for Christ. Without understanding the Chinese mindset, it is very difficult convince them of their need for a Saviour given their proud heritage of a superior cultured civilization tracings its roots to some distant five thousand years back. May the Lord have mercy on the Chinese people that made up of a fifth of the world’s population!
For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God; And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come. (1 Thessalonians 1:9&10)