A Road Less Traveled

Roads are important as they lead us from one place to another, and there are many types of roads with different purposes and conditions.  We depend on roads to travel on daily, to get us from here to there.  But with all the roads that we count to reach our destination, how are we doing on our spiritual road?  We chose to go down a specific road, a road that will hopefully lead us in the right direction.  This is no ordinary road but one that contains many hazardous conditions—perhaps some detours and delays—and it is not an easy road to travel. Only a SELECT FEW will travel on this road.

Matthew 7:13-14 starts off by giving us a choice – we can either select the narrow way or the wide way.  When we have reached a fork in the road, which one do we take?  To put it into perspective, one road looks more appealing than the other, at first glance. The “left” road looks very attractive, tempting, enticing, and the majority would choose to take it full speed ahead, but they fail to see the trap that is set before them as it will ultimately lead to a dead end.  The road on the “right” looks less appealing, not to mention incredibly narrow requiring a considerable uphill effort as far as the physical eye can see, which may fail to realize where the road ends – far from death.  What choice will we make?  Many will choose the “left” way, but we must choose the “right” way.  Remember how Lot chose wrongly when he saw how “appealing” Sodom and Gomorrah looked in Genesis 13?

Focusing on our own road and the challenges we must go through to travel on it, we can see that, on occasion, the road can be quite hazardous and we need to be cautious at all times, pay attention by not letting distractions get in the way, watch what we are doing, and watch out for what lies ahead so we are prepared.  To elaborate on this analogy, there may be times when we may come across a road block.  This happens quite often where we face a condition in our path and get stuck, but it is only a delay. As a result, we need to find an alternate route, such as a detour, which still leads in the right direction.  We have to be careful that we don’t drift off course, meaning we must obey the signs and not try to put matters into our own hands, like finding a short cut that could lead us right into a “lake” if we’re not careful. We must realize our mistakes, as we are still human, and get back on track and find the connector that leads us right back onto the main road we are traveling.

The road of the world is difficult to avoid, that road on the “left,” as it will from time to time travel parallel with our road, and we have to make sure that it does not intersect, giving us an easy pathway to enter the wrong way!  There will be many opportunities and temptations along the way—wrong signs that we must ignore and warning signs that we must heed—if we want to reach our final destination.  We must be aware of U-turns as we are traveling on a one-way street.  We need to avoid going back into the world as we have come out of it.

Isaiah 35:8 talks about this road in the future, the road that we are presently on, which will become a Highway of Holiness—a road to Jerusalem, to Christ—and the time will come when everyone will have that chance to travel that road. The New American Standard Bible translates it as: “A highway will be there, a roadway, And it will be called the Highway of Holiness. The unclean will not travel on it, But it will be for him who walks that way, And fools will not wander on it.”  The unclean shall not pass over it, referring to those who choose not to be clean, who do not want to go the Way of Christ, but it shall be for others – those who want to live righteously, those who were blind and now can see, who were deaf and now can hear.

This is why we have chosen this road. We are still traveling on it and we will eventually reach our final destination and enter the narrow gate IF we remain focused, fruitful and faithful (Luke 13:24).

Please Explain 2 Corinthians 5:8

Here is the verse: “We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.”

This misunderstood verse has been repeatedly quoted to prove that people “go to heaven” when they die. But is that really what happens? Does the Bible state anywhere that heaven is the reward of the saved? Is anyone—especially the righteous who have died—in heaven with God and Jesus Christ right now?

Let’s consider some facts—unmistakable statements from the Word of God which prove that no person has ascended to heaven except Jesus Christ. That includes the apostle Paul, who died almost two millennia ago!

Following His resurrection (which was to spirit life), it is recorded that Jesus was taken to heaven—to be with God:

“Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, who also said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven’” (Acts 1:9-11; also: verse 22).

(Note that Jesus will RETURN to the earth—He won’t stay in heaven, and that has tremendous bearing for understanding the fate of people after death!)

Not long after the establishment of the Church on the Day of Pentecost, persecution arose, and Stephen was martyred. As his life was about to end, he saw a vision, and it is testimony to the fact that Jesus Christ was at the right hand of God:

“But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and said, ‘Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!’” (Acts 7:55-56; also: 2:33).

Consider what Peter preached with God’s inspiration about King David:

“‘Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day’” (Acts 2:29).

And to make it perfectly clear, Peter continues in his preaching, saying, “‘For David did not ascend into the heavens…’” (Acts 2:34).

But David knew that he would live again, writing:

“As for me, I will see Your face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied when I awake in Your likeness” (Psalm 17:15).

Hundreds of years after David had died, God inspired His prophets to write about that time when David would indeed awaken from death:

“‘But they shall serve the LORD their God, And David their king, Whom I will raise up for them’” (Jeremiah 30:9; also: Ezekiel 34:23-24; 37:24-25).

These references about David’s future resurrection to rule over Israel are about a time when he will have been given ETERNAL LIFE in the Kingdom of God. Other righteous individuals are also mentioned in the same future sense—as Jesus clearly revealed:

“‘And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven’” (Matthew 8:11).

To His disciples, Jesus said:

“… ‘Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel’” (Matthew 19:28).

It is vital to understand the time frame when these and other righteous men and women (compare Hebrews 11) will be “present with the Lord.” Paul never taught that people would die and immediately “go to heaven.” In fact, he showed that not everyone would return to life at the same time:

“But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming. Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be destroyed is death” (1 Corinthians 15:20-26).

Here are more details about the resurrection of the “firstfruits”:

“For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:14-17).

Now understand—these teachings by Paul unequivocally show that the firstfruits will only be “present with the Lord” following their resurrection or, as Paul reveals in 1 Corinthians 15:51-52, their change to immortality.

However, this only accounts for a tiny part of humanity—there are countless billions of people who have lived and died and most of whom never even knew about God the Father or Jesus Christ. Revelation 20, verse 5, reveals that “the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished.” This explains in a little more detail about those who will be brought back from death to physical life at a time following the first resurrection (note that the first resurrection is a change to immortal life).

Do you grasp the unarguable proof contained in these Scriptures that no human being has yet “gone to be with the Lord”?

Paul clearly understood and taught that he would only be “present with the Lord” in the future Kingdom of God:

“For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing” ( 2 Timothy 4:6-8).

The Bible reveals that God has given man a spirit component (Job 32:8). It is not self-aware and has no consciousness; it does not “live” on when a person dies, but it does retain a copy of all that constitutes each individual. Solomon wrote that “the dead know nothing” (Ecclesiastes 9:5). But he adds this remarkable statement:

“Then the dust (that is, the person) will return to the earth as it was, And the spirit will return to God who gave it” (Ecclesiastes 12:7).

While a person is dead, he or she has no consciousness. Death is compared with a dreamless sleep in the Bible. When a person is brought back to life, it appears to him or her that only a split second has passed since death. That is the reason why Paul said that he wanted to be absent from the body and present with the Lord. In the resurrection to eternal life, he will be “absent” from his physical temporary body, because he will receive a spiritual immortal body. In his mind, that “transformation” will occur in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye (1 Corinthians 15:52), and then he will indeed be always present with the Lord (compare again 1 Thessalonians 4:17).

It is God’s plan to give all people a chance to be with Him and with Jesus Christ in their Kingdom for eternity—in the new heaven and the new earth (compare Revelation 21 and 22).

That opportunity begins when He opens our minds to understand!

Lead Writer: Dave Harris

Preaching the Gospel and Feeding the Flock

compiled by Dave Harris

Norbert and Johanna Link, along with Margaret Adair, are traveling to visit some of the brethren. During this time Mr. Link will present the sermon on July 22, 2017, in Woodburn, Oregon, and in Fort Collins, Colorado, on July 29, 2017.

A new Member Letter (July 2017) has been written and mailed to our subscribers. In this letter, Norbert Link writes about the distinction between patriotism and nationalism and the implications for Christians.

“Is Russia a Threat to the West?” is the title of a new StandingWatch program, presented by Evangelist Norbert Link. Here is a summary:

The answer to this question is an unequivocal “Yes.” We address some of the many frightening Russian activities, both internationally and domestically. Russia, under Vladimir Putin and the Russian Orthodox Church, is a military and religious dictatorship. In this program, we are especially focusing on Syria, the Mediterranean, Ukraine, North Korea and Russia’s ongoing persecution of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and show how the world is speeding towards nuclear World War III.

“Was Sagt die Bibel über Rauchen und “Kiffen?” (Teil 1),” is the title of this Sabbath’s new German sermon, presented by Norbert Link. Title in English: “What Does the Bible Say about Smoking and Pot?” (Part 1).

“Edify,” the sermonette presented last Sabbath by Eric Rank, is now posted. Here is a summary:

Building enough strength to endure the trials in this world takes more work than any person can handle alone. The job of a Christian involves actively encouraging and building up one another so that we all can succeed.

“A Pattern That Binds,” the sermon presented last Sabbath by Robb Harris, is now posted. Here is a summary:

We are influenced by two opposing forces, good and evil. God has set forth His absolute truth and given us the choice to to either choose eternal life or total annihilation.

Current Events

by Norbert Link

We begin with North Korean threats and its ugly conduct in collaboration with its secret “allies,” including Russia and China; report on an apparent terrorist attack on German tourists in Egypt and a terrorist attack on the Temple Mount, while pointing out hostile reactions from Arabs and an abominable session of the Jordanian Parliament.

We continue with Israel’s objections to the “cease-fire” agreement between Russia and the USA pertaining to Syria amidst fears of Iranian ambitions in the area; and we report on Russia’s persecution of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, its desire to play a hostile and threatening role in the Mediterranean, much to the chagrin of Europe; and the creation of “Little Russia” in Ukraine (Please view our new StandingWatch program, “Is Russia a Threat to the West?”).

We speak on setbacks of President Trump’s new Muslim travel ban and of the revised proposed GOP healthcare law, and its effect on the dollar; and we address President Trump’s planned visit to Great Britain. We also speak on genetically engineered hyper-muscular super-dogs and the potential consequences for humans.

We conclude with reports on the Catholic Church, citing a condemnatory Vatican-approved article against America’s religious fundamentalism, including certain ones in the White House, Evangelicals and American Catholics, and some puzzling comments by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.

Throughout this section, we have underlined pertinent statements in the quoted articles, for the convenience and quick overview of the reader.

A Willing Attitude is a Winning Attitude; Alcoholism in the Bible

On July 22, 2017, Joe Bourque will present the sermonette, titled, “A Willing Attitude is a Winning Attitude,” and Norbert Link will present the sermon, titled, “Alcoholism in the Bible.”

The live services are available, over video and audio, at http://eternalgod.org/live-services/ (12:30 pm Pacific Time; 1:30 pm Mountain Time; 2:30 pm Central Time; 3:30 pm Eastern Time; 8:30 pm Greenwich Mean Time; 9:30 pm Central European Time). Just click on Connect to Live Stream.

This Week in the News

Threat from North Korea

Deutsche Welle reported on July 15:

“Thermal images of North Korea’s main nuclear plant suggest that Pyongyang has reprocessed more weapons-grade plutonium than previously thought. The information, which comes from 38 North, a Washington-based think tank connected to Johns Hopkins University, likely means that the North can expand its nuclear weapons stockpile more rapidly than has been estimated up to now…

“Experts at 38 North estimated in April that North Korea could have as many as 20 nuclear bombs and could produce one more each month.”

North Koreans Work as Slave Laborers in Russia, China and Elsewhere

Fox News wrote on July 14:

“Brutal North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un is shipping tens of thousands of impoverished citizens to Russia for the hard currency his cash-strapped regime desperately needs… Alarmed human rights groups say the North Korea workers in Russia are little more than slaves, subjected to everything from cruel and violent acts to ruthless exploitation at the hands of corrupt officials, while being forced to turn over large chunks of their pay to the North Korean government… A report issued earlier this year… estimates that about 50,000 North Korean laborers are working low-paying jobs in Russia. They send at least $120 million every year to the regime in Pyongyang…

“The U.S. State Department issued a report on human trafficking last month that concluded that North Korean workers in Russia had been subjected to ‘exploitative labor conditions characteristic of trafficking cases such as withholding of identity documents, non-payment for services rendered, physical abuse, lack of safety measures, or extremely poor living conditions.’

North Korean laborers work in other countries besides Russia. China uses large numbers of them, and Qatar has North Korean laborers helping build its World Cup stadium…”

We have not yet heard the last word from North Korea and its collaboration with countries such as Russia and China.

Speeding Towards World War Three

Express wrote on July 17:

“A joint US and Australian operation has seen the launch of a multi-million pound hypersonic missile capable of travelling at almost 13,000 kmh. The successful launch from a remote rocket range near Woomera, in South Australia, helped staunch fears that China and Russia were racing ahead in a new hypersonic arms race, and concerns over increasingly hostile missile tests by North Korea.

“The incredible speed would theoretically take a hypersonic glider from London to Australia in a little over one hour

“Just weeks ago, in May, members of US Congress raised concerns that the US was trailing behind Russia and China in the development of hypersonic weapons capabilities… Some experts fear once the technology is perfected, other nations will use them for nuclear warheads, and then the US will be forced to follow suit…

“There are fears [North Korea] could now even have the capability to fire a missile that could reach the US, potentially sparking World War 3…”

Attacks on German Tourists in Egypt

Deutsche Welle reported on July 15:

“A knife attack at the popular Red Sea resort of Hurghada in Egypt has left two German citizens dead and four other holidaymakers wounded… the alleged attacker, a 28-year-old university graduate from the Nile Delta province of Kafr el-Sheikh, shouted during the attack: ‘Stay away, I don’t want Egyptians.’ Although there has been no claim of responsibility yet, a source close to the investigation has told dpa news agency that the alleged attacker ‘communicated with [the self-proclaimed “Islamic State” (IS) group] via internet and was given the task of attacking foreign tourists on Hurghada beaches’ by the extremist militia.

The attack is likely to affect Egypt’s tourism industry, which has already been suffering in the wake of the 2011 uprising against former President Hosni Mubarak and subsequent years of political turmoil. Terrorist attacks in the Sinai Peninsula have weakened the sector even more, such as the Russian airline blast in 2015 that killed 224 passengers or the recent ‘Islamic state’ (IS) attack which killed more than 20 Egyptian soldiers near the city of Rafah…

Many countries, including Germany, have issued travel warnings to Egypt in general and the Sinai Peninsula in particular. According to Israel’s Counter-Terrorism Bureau, there is ‘a very concrete threat’ of a terrorist attack in Sinai – the highest among five threat levels. The German Foreign Ministry stresses the ‘risk of terrorist attacks’ as well as abduction in the country, adding that traveling to Egypt including the tourism hotspots of the Red Sea should be done ‘with caution.’”

Ultimately, Egypt will be invaded by a European army under German control.

Violence on the Temple Mount

The Times of Israel wrote on July 14:

Two police officers were killed in the shooting, which took place just outside the Temple Mount. The terrorists, three Arab Israelis, fled back to the holy site where they were shot dead after an exchange of fire with police…”

In a related article, The Times of Israel wrote on July 14:

“The trio, aged 19, 20 and 30, managed to stay under the radar of Israeli intelligence. They were able to strike without warning, and once again to fatally jar the exposed nerves of Israelis as regards the country’s Arab citizens… As Israelis, they carried blue identity cards, and were able to gain free access to the Temple Mount… In the Arab sector… weapons are readily available — either stolen from the IDF, or home produced.

“They selected the most resonant site, on the most resonant day of the week: The Temple Mount complex, on the day of Friday prayers… They knew that a shooting attack at the most incendiary spot in the Middle East would be likely to prompt a major escalation. They anticipated that a shooting spree at the Temple Mount compound, which would end with their deaths too, would gain massive media coverage — and knew that previous such incidents had set in motion a still more bloody chain of events… Friday’s trio… intended to set the Middle East ablaze.”

Jerusalem’s Holy Site Reopened… but Concerns Persist

Fox News and The Associated Press reported on July 16:

“Hundreds of Muslim worshippers visited a Jerusalem holy site Sunday after Israel reopened the compound following a rare closure in response to a deadly shooting last week that raised concerns about wider unrest. For the first time in decades, Israel closed the site — known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as the Temple Mount — on Friday…

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that following consultations with security officials the site would be reopened Sunday afternoon with increased security measures that included metal detectors at the entrance gates and additional security cameras… Israel did not coordinate the changes with Jordan, which serves as the custodian of the Muslim-administered site… Jordan’s stance is that anything installed at the site must be approved by the Waqf, or Muslim administration, and cannot change the status quo… The Palestinian Minister of Jerusalem Adnan Husseini called for the security arrangements to return to how they were before the deadly attack, saying it ‘shouldn’t be an excuse for making changes.’…

“Gaza’s Hamas rulers called the act a ‘religious war’ and urged Palestinians to carry out more attacks… In the past two years, Palestinians have killed 45 Israelis, two visiting Americans and a British tourist in stabbings, shootings and car-ramming attacks. During that period, Israeli forces have killed more than 255 Palestinians, most of them said by Israel to be attackers while others were killed in clashes with Israeli forces…”

With hate-filled Arabs as Israel’s enemies, there will never be any peace in the Middle East prior to Christ’s return.

Now… Temple Mount Closed to Jewish Visitors

JTA wrote on July 19:

Police closed the Temple Mount to Jewish visitors after a group of Jews began praying at the site in violation of the rules there. Jerusalem District Commander Yoram Halevy ordered the closure on Wednesday over the Jewish group’s ‘violating the rules of conduct that apply to the holy site,’ according to Israel Police. The Jewish visitors brought prayer books to the site, Haaretz reported. One was warned not to use the book, and after a second took out one, the group was expelled…”

Jerusalem—Israel’s Undivided Capital

Israel National News reported on July 19:

“A law which would limit the government’s ability to divide the capital in any future final status agreement with the Palestinian Authority was approved in its first vote Wednesday afternoon. The Jerusalem Law… would require a supermajority of two-thirds of the entire Knesset, or 80 MKs, to approve any partition of the city…

“Jerusalem Affairs Minister Zeev Elkin praised Wednesday’s vote, saying the law would protect ‘Jerusalem’s status as the united capital of Israel, and make it very difficult for anyone in the future who would dare to divide it.’”

Jordanian Parliament Praises Terrorists

Times of Israel reported on July 16:

“The Jordanian parliament on Sunday praised the terrorists who carried out a shooting attack at the Temple Mount that killed two Israeli police officers, less than a day after King Abdullah II condemned the attack. The parliament also criticized Israel for closing the Temple Mount, known to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif (Noble Sanctuary)…

“‘May the mercy of Allah be upon our martyrs who sowed and watered the pure land,’ said Parliament Speaker Atef Tarawneh. ‘We will raise our heads through the sacrifice of the young Palestinians who are still fighting in the name of the nation.’…

“Tarawneh blamed Israel for the attack, claiming that the ‘occupation’ of Jerusalem and the West Bank justified the killing. ‘The damage caused by the Israeli occupation to the holiest sites in Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa are the reason for the continued resistance, we will not bow to oppression or tyranny,’ he said. ‘Israel’s continued and serious crimes that it commits are the reason for lighting the fire of revenge in the hearts of the generation who still receive hatred of the occupation as their inheritance.’

“The parliament… called on the international community to force Israel to end the ‘occupation and protect Palestinian rights.’ The parliament stood as a prayer was recited for the souls of the ‘martyrs’ who carried out the terror attack.”

This is such abominable conduct by the Jordanian Parliament.

Cease Fire in Syria–Netanyahu Opposes Trump

The Times of Israel wrote on July 16:

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday said he opposes the deal brokered by the United States and Russia that led to an open-ended ceasefire in southern Syria, saying it does not sufficiently address Iranian military ambitions in the area.

Placing himself at odds with US President Donald Trump on the issue, Netanyahu told journalists in Paris that the agreement perpetuates Iranian plans to set up a disruptive long-term presence on Israel’s northern border, something he has repeatedly vowed that the Jewish state won’t tolerate… ‘Israel is aware of Iran’s expansionist goals in Syria,’ a statement from Netanyahu’s office said… The prime minister said that while the plan aims to keep Iran 20 kilometers (12 miles) away from the Israeli border, it did not address Iran’s plans to cement its presence in Syria, which, he said, included the establishment of a naval and air force bases…

“Also on Sunday, a senior Israeli official strongly condemned the deal, calling it ‘very bad’ and saying it did not take into account Israeli security concerns, the Haaretz daily reported…

“Ceasefires have repeatedly collapsed in Syria’s six-year-old civil war, and it’s not clear if this one will last… Israel has repeatedly said it will not allow Iran to set up a permanent presence in Syria. Israel has carried out a number of airstrikes in Syria against suspected shipments of ‘game-changing’ weapons bound for Hezbollah…”

Israel against most of the rest of the world?

“Russian Supreme Court Upholds Ban on Jehovah’s Witnesses”

The Associated Press and Newsmax reported on July 17:

“Russia’s Supreme Court has rejected an appeal of its nationwide ban on the Jehovah’s Witnesses religious denomination. The court’s appeals chamber has upheld the April approval of the Russian Justice Ministry’s call to halt Jehovah’s Witnesses activities and to declare it an extremist organization.

“The rejection of the religious group’s appeal allows Russia to liquidate the 395 Jehovah’s Witnesses congregations and seize their property. The group claims about 170,000 adherents in Russia.

“Jehovah’s Witnesses spokesman David Semonian said in a statement that ‘it’s very concerning that despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, powerful elements within Russia continue to frame our organization as extremist.’ Viktor Zhenkov, a Russian attorney for the group, said Monday’s ruling would be appealed to the European Court of Human Rights…”

It is expected that the Russian government will ignore any verdict in favor of the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Religious Freedom Ended in Russia

BBC News wrote on July 17:

 “The group’s Russia spokesman, Yaroslav Sivulsky, said that ‘religious freedom in Russia is over’. ‘There were no real facts of any extremism on part of Jehovah’s Witnesses. It’s all about bad literature and intolerance. Now anyone who studies the Bible can be jailed,’ he said, quoted by Newsweek magazine.

“One pamphlet distributed by the group quoted the novelist Leo Tolstoy as describing the doctrine of the Russian Orthodox Church as superstition and sorcery… Human rights group Sova has argued that an ‘official repressive campaign’ has been conducted against the movement for years and many of their members have been physically attacked.”

Newsmax wrote on July 18:

“Religious life in Russia is dominated by the Orthodox Church, which exerts considerable political influence and enjoys the support of President Vladimir Putin. Some Orthodox scholars view Jehovah’s Witnesses as a ‘totalitarian sect’.”

It seems rather obvious that the Russian Orthodox Church, in collaboration with Vladimir Putin, had their hands in this persecution. Russia’s abominable decision is met with little opposition from “Christian” countries all over the world, as traditional “Christian” churches do not consider the Jehovah’s Witnesses as a mainstream Christian denomination. Western leaders seem to be suspiciously silent on the matter. A shocking testimony of cowardice, if not worse. Please view our new StandingWatch program, “Is Russia a Threat to the West?”.

Russia—a Threat to the West

Newsweek wrote on July 15:

“Russia’s support for the Syrian government in its war against jihadists and other insurgents has given Moscow a newfound military foothold in the Mediterranean… For years, Russia and NATO have been engaged in an international arms race, the likes of which have not been seen since the Cold War, and each side accuses the other of pushing the limits of peace among the world’s leading military powers. By coming to the rescue of an old ally in the Middle East, Russia may have secured a new, strategic entrance to the heavily contested theater of Europe

“Russia… is looking west. It’s contributed extensive naval resources, including 15 warships from its Black Sea Fleet, toward developing a Permanent Mediterranean Task Force as of July 5. The ships are based out of the coastal Syrian city of Tartous, where Moscow secured permission from Damascus to establish a naval base for nearly the next half a century. Russian warships and a submarine in the Mediterranean have already fired advanced, supersonic Kalibr cruise missiles against ISIS positions in Syria. The same nuclear-capable weapons could soon easily be in range of NATO targets as well, if they aren’t already.

“It may not end with Syria, either. Russia’s special forces have already reportedly been spotted in Egypt, potentially courting Libyan military leader Khalifa Hifter, who has become increasingly influential politically over his war-torn nation. Yemen… could also serve as a venue for Russian military ventures where the U.S. and its allies have significantly struggled to achieve their own objectives. As Russia and NATO’s rivalry plays out in the Baltics and other parts of Europe, the latter may find itself caught off guard by an expanding Russian sphere of influence reminiscent of Moscow’s Soviet legacy…”

Europe will not be caught off guard but is keenly aware of the situation. Finding itself in the middle between two competing military world powers, it sees no other alternative than to become a mighty military power itself.

“Little Russia: Ukraine Separatists Proclaim New State”

Deutsche Welle wrote on July 18:

“Rebel forces in eastern Ukraine on Tuesday announced that they plan to hold a referendum calling for the creation of a new state known as Malorossiya, which translates as ‘Little Russia.’… rebel leader Alexander Zakharchenko said that the new state would aspire to include not only the areas under insurgent control, but also the rest of Ukraine… while the capital would be moved from Kiev to the insurgent bastion of Donetsk. Kiev would be reduced to a ‘historical and cultural center.’

“The self-proclaimed authorities in Donetsk have repeatedly expressed their intentions to join Russia. The Kremlin, however, has stopped short of annexing the area and denies to have propped up rebel groups with military support, despite overwhelming evidence suggesting otherwise…

“The German government decried the proposal for a new state as ‘completely unacceptable.’…

“The 2015 Minsk accord,  a ceasefire deal brokered by Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France, has hit a wall with clashes continuing along the frontlines. All sides have called for a restart in talks but progress continues to stall. Ukraine’s envoy for negotiations with the rebels, Yevgen Marchuk, told local media that Tuesday’s announcement ‘could block the negotiations entirely.'”

Euractiv and Reuters reported on July 18:

“Three former rebel leaders told Reuters in May that a top aide to Russian President Vladimir Putin decides how the pro-Moscow administration of eastern Ukraine is run and who gets what jobs there, challenging Kremlin denials that it calls the shots in the region.”

The big question is: Will Russia intervene militarily in Ukraine? Many observers believe so.

Finland Prepares for Russian Invasion

Express wrote on July 16:

“AN UNDERGROUND city is being prepared for habitation in case Russia invades Europe during a military exercise… Nato allies fear President Vladimir Putin’s true intentions leading to ‘serious doubts Moscow is revealing the true extent of its military exercises’. It has now been revealed Finnish soldiers are carrying out training to deal with a mass evacuation.

“A Helsinki City Planning document states the tunnels, which date back to the 60s will be ready when needed. It states: ‘The Underground Master Plan contains 40 new areas reserved as rock resources and 100 new space allocations for future rock construction… Approximately 9 million cubic metres, consisting of about 400 separate facilities or tunnels, have already been built under the city…’

“Much of the underground network is open to the public, and contains facilities such as swimming pools, ice hockey rinks and car parks. In June Finland agreed protocols which meant it would call on NATO to help defend it in the event of an invasion.”

A European Finance Minister and the German Engine

Euronews reported on July 13:

“Germany’s Angela Merkel has opened the door to having a Eurozone finance minister. She made the comment during a joint press conference on Thursday with French president Emmanuel Macron in Paris after a joint Franco-German cabinet meeting… The two leaders announced plans to build a joint fighter jet, with a roadmap planned for mid-2018, as part of a drive to cement their countries’ cooperation and strengthen the European Union… Singling out cyber-security the two leaders vowed to deepen European integration on defence, counter-terrorism and immigration

“The German Chancellor was questioned about Macron’s ideas for greater integration in the Eurozone… On his proposal for a single finance minister, parliament and budget, Merkel said she agreed in principle… Both leaders showed they were keen to revive the traditional German ‘engine’ within the EU…”

Grandparents and Other Close Relatives Must Be Exempt from Trump’s Travel Ban

The Week wrote on July 14:

“The Supreme Court last month ruled that the Trump administration could start enforcing the [travel] ban [against certain Muslim countries]… but not against people with ‘a credible claim of a bona fide relationship’ with someone in the U.S. The administration said it would make exceptions for spouses, parents, parents-in-law, children, sons-in-law and daughters-in-law, fiancés, and siblings of people already in the country.

“U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson [from Hawaii] said in his decision that the list was too narrow, and that grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, and other close relatives should be added. ‘Common sense, for instance, dictates that close family members be defined to include grandparents,’ he wrote. ‘Indeed, grandparents are the epitome of close family members. The government’s definition excludes them. That simply cannot be.'”

The judge is right, of course, but more importantly, the entire Muslim travel ban is deeply disturbing and morally wrong, as it includes refugees who are threatened with death in their radical home countries. Terrible memories of America’s objectionable indifference towards Jewish refugees in World War II come to mind, thereby having become culpable, to an extent, for the murder of millions of Jews by Nazi criminals. Is America repeating now its past mistakes?

Another Setback for Proposed GOP Healthcare Law

The Wall Street Journal wrote on July 16:

“Republicans’ push to pass a sweeping new health-care law experienced another setback, as Senate leaders announced they would delay a long-promised vote after Sen. John McCain underwent an unexpected surgery Friday.

“President Donald Trump and GOP leaders in Congress were hoping the Senate would vote this week on a plan to overturn parts of the 2010 Affordable Care Act and make other changes to the health system, including deep cuts to the Medicaid program. But Saturday’s announcement that Mr. McCain was recovering from a surgery to remove a blood clot from above his left eye put those plans in doubt, leaving Republican leaders short of the votes they need to move ahead with the bill.

“Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) can’t afford more than two defections among the 52 GOP senators… Two senators, Susan Collins of Maine and Rand Paul of Kentucky, have said they can’t support the bill, but for different reasons. Others have yet to commit—meaning just one more defection would derail the bill. Mr. McCain’s absence means GOP leaders are short of the votes this week for a procedural motion vote to begin consideration of the bill…

“Ms. Collins… said that eight to 10 Republicans had ‘deep concerns’ about the bill… Some GOP senators with a high profile in their states are weighing whether to be guided by the appeals for party unity if the health-care bill is unpopular among their constituents…

“Mr. Trump has at times advocated forcefully for the health-care legislation, even though he vowed repeatedly during the campaign that there would be no changes to the Medicaid program. He made an aggressive push when the House struggled with similar divisions and found itself initially unable to pass a bill earlier this year. He is now seeking to maintain a policy-oriented focus amid new allegations almost daily about Russian interference in the 2016 election… The difficulty for many Republicans is that supporting the bill or opposing it both carry political risk.”

Repeal Dead—Obamacare Remains Law of the Land

The Associated Press wrote on July 17:

“The latest GOP effort to repeal and replace ‘Obamacare’ was fatally wounded in the Senate Monday night when two more Republican senators announced their opposition to legislation strongly backed by President Donald Trump. The announcements from Sens. Mike Lee of Utah and Jerry Moran of Kansas left the Republican Party’s long-promised efforts to get rid of President Barack Obama’s health care legislation reeling. Next steps, if any, were not immediately clear…

“McConnell is now at least two votes short in the closely divided Senate and may have to go back to the drawing board or even begin to negotiate with Democrats, a prospect he’s threatened but resisted so far… It was the second straight failure for McConnell, who had to cancel a vote on an earlier version of the bill last month when defeat became inevitable.

“Trump had kept his distance from the Senate process, but Monday night’s development was a major blow for him, too, as the president failed to rally support for what has been the GOP’s trademark issue for seven years…”

Newsmax added on July 17:

“That dooms one of the GOP’s top priorities to a humiliating, self-inflicted defeat…”

The Washington Post wrote on July 18:

“Hours after GOP leaders abandoned a bill to overhaul the law known as Obamacare, their fallback plan — a proposal to repeal major parts of the law without replacing them — quickly collapsed. A trio of moderate Republicans quashed the idea, saying it would irresponsibly snatch insurance coverage from millions of Americans… Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)… said he would nonetheless schedule a vote ‘early next week’ on the repeal plan. But he appeared to acknowledge that it seemed doomed…

“Trump told reporters… that he now plans to ‘let Obamacare fail…’ That way, he said, his party would bear no political responsibility for the system’s collapse…”

What a mess. A “political” success seems to be much more important to far too many involved players than an uncompromising willingness to stand up for what is right and true and fair and godly.

“Setback for Trump Agenda Leaves Dollar Stranded”

Reuters wrote on July 17:

“The dollar fell to a 10-month low on Tuesday, bearing the brunt of a selloff triggered by another setback to U.S. President Donald Trump’s agenda and scaled-back expectations for another rate hike at Federal Reserve this year. The announcement overnight that two Republican senators would not support the latest version of the healthcare bill… fed into a belief that Trump’s tax cuts and spending plans will come to nought…

“‘The reform momentum of the Trump administration has received another blow,’ said strategists at Morgan Stanley led by Hans Redeker, in a note to clients… ‘Clearly anything that comes along at the moment just corroborates the market’s negative attitude on the dollar,’ said Neil Mellor, senior FX strategist with Bank of New York Mellon in London.”

“Trump Certifying Iran Deal for 2nd Time Despite Slamming It”

JTA wrote on July 18:

“The Trump administration again recertified the Iran nuclear deal and pledged to strengthen its enforcement. The decision to recertify the deal Monday followed delays caused by President Donald Trump, who said during campaigning for the presidency that the agreement reached in 2015 by the Obama administration was the worst he had ever seen. The deal must be recertified every 90 days.

“Trump advisers… persuaded him to recertify… administration officials said they would toughen enforcement of the deal. A similar pledge was made at the last recertification three months ago; what tougher enforcement means precisely is not clear….”

Newsmax wrote on July 17:

“Former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton wrote in The Hill that Trump is making a mistake by certifying the deal, as the evidence is clear Iran is violating the agreement… Bolton also said, since there is no chance of changing the Iranian deal, because Teheran would never agree to that, the U.S. should withdraw from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.”

Candidate Trump declared it was a disastrous and dangerous agreement and promised time and again that he would annul the deal.

Most Americans Reject Donald Trump

The Daily Mail wrote on July 17:

Seven out of 10 Americans believe Donald Trump’s behavior in office has been ‘unpresidential,’ and his Twitter binges aren’t swinging things in his favor. That stunning number is coupled with an astonishingly low 36 per cent overall approval rating, the worst recorded in 70 years. And more than half of Americans – 57 per cent – say the more they hear about Trump, the less they like him.”

Donald Trump Won’t Visit Britain Unless the People Like Him

The Sun wrote on July 16:

“[The] US President warns he will not visit until he can guarantee a good reception and pleas with Theresa May to help influence public… And he warned he won’t set foot here until the public start liking him.

“The US President made his shameless plea in a private conversation with Theresa May to plan his state visit — now postponed until next year. Two million people signed a petition calling for Mr Trump’s proposed trip to be axed. A transcript of the chat, seen by senior diplomats, reveals his touchiness.

“Mr Trump says: ‘I haven’t had great coverage out there lately, Theresa.’

“She replies awkwardly: ‘Well, you know what the British press are like.’

“He replies: ‘I still want to come, but I’m in no rush. So, if you can fix it for me, it would make things a lot easier. When I know I’m going to get a better reception, I’ll come and not before.’

“A source said: ‘He seemed to think the PM would be able to smooth the path for him to get a warm welcome. But she tried to explain she has no power to dictate how newspapers and media might decide to cover his visit. After all, we are not North Korea. He said he would not agree [to] a date until people support him coming.’”

“Downing Street would not comment.”

We have no comments, either.

Coming—Armies of Super-Humans?

Express wrote on July 15:

“ARMIES of SUPER-SOLDIERS were a step closer to reality today after China announced it was genetically engineering hyper-muscular SUPER-DOGS…

“Now the Chinese success has led to fears the same technology could be used to create weaponised super-humans – typifed in Marvel Comics by Captain America and his foes… An army of super-humans has been a staple of science fiction and superhero comics for decades – but the super-dog technology brings it closer to reality.”

This may not be as far-fetched as it may seem at first sight.

Vatican Accuses American Evangelicals and Roman Catholics of Being Close to Islamist Fundamentalism  

The Associated Press and NBC News reported on July 15:

“A close confidant of Pope Francis, writing Thursday in a Vatican-approved magazine, has condemned those within American presidential administrations who espouse the ideology of ‘Christian fundamentalism’ — naming White House chief strategist Steve Bannon as a proponent of such ‘apocalyptic geopolitics.’ In a damning article, the Rev. Antonio Spadaro, editor of the influential Jesuit journal La Civilità Cattolica, also took aim at conservative religious support for President Donald Trump, accusing activists of promoting a ‘xenophobic and Islamophobic vision that wants walls and purifying deportations.’…

“In a story entitled, ‘Evangelical Fundamentalism and Catholic Integralism: A Surprising Ecumenism,’ Spadaro criticized the way some American evangelicals and their Roman Catholic supporters mix religion and politics, saying they demonized opponents and promoted a ‘theocratic type of state.’ He added that their vision was ‘not too far apart’ from Islamic fundamentalism.

“The article — which was co-written by a Presbyterian pastor, the Rev. Marcelo Figueroa, who is editor of the Argentine edition of the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano — was published just days after evangelical leaders met Trump in the Oval Office and laid their hands on him in prayer… Last month the head of the Vatican’s Academy of Sciences said Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris accords would be a ‘slap in the face for the Vatican.’

“Articles in La Civilità Cattolica are read by the Vatican Secretariat of State before they are published. Under Francis, who is a Jesuit, the publication has become something of an ‘authoritative’ outlet for the Vatican, although it is not an official mouthpiece of the papacy… The political alliance between Catholics and American Protestants that is at the heart of Spadaro’s article emerged in the late 20th century… Spadaro said this relationship has ‘gradually radicalized,’ dividing the world into only good and evil and promoting division and hatred.

“The reverend specifically criticized the Catholic American media organization ChurchMilitant.com. Spadaro said the media outlet framed the presidential election as a ‘spiritual war’ and Trump’s ascent to the presidency as ‘a divine election.’…”

The Bible shows that a military and religious Europe will attack the USA. The condemnation of religious fundamentalism in the USA—including Evangelicals and American Catholics—must be seen in this light as well.

Catholic Church on the Verge of Capsizing?

Breitbart wrote on July 16:

“The Catholic Church is a boat ‘on the verge of capsizing,’ said Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI in a personal message for the funeral Mass of his close friend, Cardinal Joachim Meisner on Saturday. Given his inability to travel, the usually silent retired Pope delivered the message in writing, and had it read aloud in the Cologne Cathedral…In the text, Benedict said that Cardinal Meisner… ‘learned to let go and to live out of a deep conviction that the Lord does not abandon His Church, even when the boat has taken on so much water as to be on the verge of capsizing.’

“Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI turned 90 years old on Easter Sunday, after which he gave a rare birthday speech inside the Vatican expressing his thanksgiving to God for the gift of life… Benedict… retired as pope on Feb. 28, 2013, the first pontiff to do so in 600 years…”

One wonders what role, if any, former Pope Benedict might still play or may be playing on the world scene.

Acknowledgement and Disclaimer

These Current Events are compiled and commented on by Norbert Link. We gratefully acknowledge the many contributions of news articles from our readership. The publication of articles in this section is not to be viewed as an endorsement or approval as to contents or accuracy of the selected articles, but they are published for the purpose of pointing at worldwide developments in the light of biblical end-time prophecy and godly instruction. Our own comments are provided in italics.

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