Update 103


Church Persecution

Norbert Link will give the sermon this Sabbath, July 26, 2003. The title of the sermon is, “Church Persecution.”

The services can be heard at www.cognetservices.org at the appropriate time, just click on “Connect to Live Stream.”

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A Tour of Parliament

by Brian Gale (United Kingdom)

Some weeks ago I wrote to my local MP (Member of Parliament) and asked him if he could arrange a tour of Parliament in London and also obtain tickets for “Prime Minister’s Question Time.” I made this request because my daughter had arranged to have two young church people from America, friends of her eldest son, stay with her. I thought that they would be interested in touring such an historic site and I got a quick and positive response from the MP. So, last week, I took these two visitors together with my eldest grandson and grand-daughter on a trip to London to visit the usual sites. The highlight was the tour of Parliament where we were shown around the House of Commons and the House of Lords as well as the other rooms and lobbies. We saw where royalty, over the centuries, had been involved in State occasions.

The few acres that house the palace of Westminster has been estimated at a value of at least £1 billion and the buildings and all of its treasures are priceless. Paintings of royalty over many centuries, gold and silver everywhere, statues and busts of politicians as well as many other treasures make up a storehouse that has few equals anywhere. I had previously toured Westminster 20 years ago and it had quite an effect on me all those many years ago, and this latest visit again had the same effect.

We also saw “Prime Minister’s Question Time” where the verbal jousting between the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition and other MP’s takes place. It is half an hour each Wednesday when the house is sitting and where sound bites proliferate and point scoring is the order of the day. Finger pointing, shouting, accusation and some humor abound – the politics of confrontation, not co-operation. Those not in government who belong to other political parties are called the opposition. It is an adversarial system of government.

The wealth of the place and the system of debate caused me to think through, again, the differences between the way of God and the way of man. Man can get very carried away with his own importance and wealth but God states that “the silver is Mine, and the gold is Mine, saith the Lord of hosts” (Haggai 2:8). We are allowed the use of the earth’s resources whilst we live out our physical lives but it is the great God who owns it all. The wealth that we saw in the palace of Westminster (as well as the priceless Crown Jewels in the Tower of London that we also had the opportunity to see) will pale into insignificance when the reality of Revelation 21 takes place. In verse 18, it states that “the city was pure gold like unto clear glass.” Both before and after this verse, other treasures are revealed that will make the current earthly treasures seem very ordinary indeed — yet, at this time we can only stand and wonder at the workmanship and beauty of man’s creative art with such precious metals. Maybe we got just a glimpse of the future wealth that God has in store for us in His Kingdom.

The verbal confrontations that took place was the direct opposite of how we, as true Christians, should behave now, and how members of the God Family will live forever in the Kingdom. There will be no more slanging matches, no more adversarial confrontations, no more insults — just love and outgoing concern for other members of the God Family in a spirit of total cooperation. How different will that be to the way that the politicians today conduct their business?

It was an inspiring visit to see the “mother of Parliaments” in action. It was also a sobering lesson that what God has in store for us in His Kingdom will be greater than we can ever contemplate at this time. We will be surrounded by unimaginable wealth and unimaginable peace and cooperation — for all eternity. Now that’s something to get really excited about!

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On July 21, 2003, Der Spiegel Online published an article which reveals in clear terms Europe’s growing self-confidence — while America seems to observe this development as an uninvolved bystander. The article is titled, “The new unrestrainedness.” It continues, “Europe stretches its muscles — and the Americans are surprised.”

Der Spiegel Online reported that Europe encouraged Russia to, from now on, bill Europe in euros for its oil and gas — rather than, as it was done so far, in U.S. dollars. “This,” according to the magazine, “would be a triumph for Europe and a devastating blow for the U.S…. Should the euro replace the U.S. dollar in Europe’s economic dealings with Russia, that would not even impair the relationship between Washington and Brussels — as that relationship is already as bad as it could be. The Americans see themselves confronted with a European challenge which EXCEEDS BY FAR EUROPE’S PREVIOUS EMANCIPATION ATTEMPTS.”

Der Spiegel Online also explained that America’s supporters have become less vocal, while observing America’s “obvious inability to solve the problems in Afghanistan and Iraq.” The magazine also quoted President Bush as commenting about the European Union “as something on the move, while nobody knows for sure in what direction it is developing.”

The clincher was stated at the end of the article, as follows: “The EU chiefs decided unanimously to create a European military agency in 2004.” The magazine explained that the new agency’s main task will be to achieve more effective results, through cooperation and coordination between its 25 member states. Presently, 160 billion euros are spent for the defense (which is more than 50% of America’s defense budget). However, according to the article, Europe achieves only 10% of effectiveness in comparison with the American “war machinery,” due to lack of European coordination and cooperation. Although America “is without question the world leader militarily, the beginning European self-assertiveness in matters of security worries the U.S.”


The following may be hard to comprehend for Americans living in the US: The German weekly “Die Zeit” reported on July 24, 2003, that 20 percent of Germans believe it to be possible that the U.S. government might have instigated or sponsored the terror attacks on September 11th. In addition, when focusing on Germans under 30 years of age, one-third believes this to be a possibility. 68% feel that not enough information about the attack was given in the media — while 78 percent of Germans under the age of 30 feel that the media had not reported the full truth behind the attacks. This means, according to Die Zeit, “only 27 percent of all Germans believe that they were told by the media the full truth about the terror attacks on September 11th.”
When describing the possible reasons for those feelings, Die Zeit pointed out that “conspiracy theories” are very attractive to people these days. It also speculated that “widespread disbelief about the reasons given by the United States for going to war in Iraq and suspicion about media coverage of the conflict had” contributed to the feelings of many Germans, according to Reuters.


In a recent address at Castel Gandolfo, pope John Paul II stated the following, according to Zenit of July 20, 2003:

“Over the last month INTENSE WORK HAS BEEN DONE on the redaction of the new European Constitution, the final version of which will be approved by the intergovernmental conference to be held next October. To this important task, which concerns all components of European society, the Church also feels the duty to make its own contribution. The Church recalls … that ‘Europe has been widely and profoundly permeated by Christianity’… It can be said that the Christian faith has shaped the culture of Europe constituting a whole with its history and… Christianity has become ‘the religion of the European peoples’… [T]he new Europe must be helped ‘to build herself by revitalizing her original Christian roots’… May Mary, Mother of Hope, watch over the Church in Europe…”


USA Today stated on July 23, 2003, “Hopes that the killing of Saddam Hussein’s sons Uday and Qusay by U.S. soldiers would calm a bloody insurgency were dimmed Wednesday after attacks claimed the lives of two American soldiers. A new tape aired by an Arab satellite TV broadcaster and purportedly made by Saddam on July 20, two days before Saddam’s sons perished in a four-hour gunbattle here, called on fighters loyal to him to persist in their uprising against the U.S.-led occupation force. In related news Wednesday, [it was] announced that another high-ranking regime member had been nabbed… The capture lowers the number of the 55 most-wanted still at large to 18 after the deaths of Uday and Qusay.”

The article continued to explain that the two deaths of the American soldiers on Wednesday “brought to 155 the number of American soldiers killed since the war began March 20, surpassing by eight the death toll in the 1991 Gulf War.”


The WorldNetDaily reported on July 23, 2003, that “Israeli opposition leader Shimon Peres, a former Israeli prime minister, is proposing Jerusalem be declared the capital of the world as a way of getting around competing Israeli and Arab claims to the city.

“According to his spokesman, Yoram Dori, the dovish leader of Israel’s opposition Labor Party suggested putting the important religious shrines in Jerusalem under United Nations stewardship. He said the holy sites in Jerusalem’s walled Old City could be declared a ‘world capital.'”

The article explained that the “world capital” idea appeared to be largely symbolic. It pointed out that the United Nations had “in the past taken a position on Jerusalem, one of the most intractable issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: Under a 1947 General Assembly resolution partitioning British mandatory Palestine into Jewish and Arab states, the city was to be internationalized, belonging to neither side.

“During the 1948-49 war that followed Israel’s creation, Israel seized the western part of the city and Jordan the eastern side, including the walled Old City with its Christian, Jewish and Muslim holy sites. In the 1967 Mideast war, Israel recaptured east Jerusalem… along with the West Bank and Gaza.”

The article continued: “Among the ideas reportedly considered during those talks were divine sovereignty or no sovereignty over the chief point of contention in the city… a holy site known by Jews as the Temple Mount and Muslims as Haram as-Sharif, where the Al Aqsa Mosque was built on the site of the biblical Jewish Temples.”

The Bible predicts that Jerusalem WILL become a peaceful capital of the world — but only AFTER, not BEFORE Christ’s return. We read that Christ will rule from Jerusalem (compare Isaiah 2:1-3). Prior to that peaceful time of godly rulership, we will witness, however, fierce battles involving the city of Jerusalem (compare Zechariah 14:1-2). Some will seek to establish Jerusalem as the religious capital of this earth. Strong evidence of a yet future time when a powerful false religious leader will enter Jerusalem to further establish his dominance is found in 2 Thessalonians 2:4: “…who (“the man of sin”–verse 3) opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.”

This and other Scriptures indicate that the problems of the Holy Land and Jerusalem in particular will continue. In the see-saw diplomacy between Arab and Jewish interests, we may soon witness an urgent religious movement on the part of Jews worldwide to once again establish a temple in Jerusalem. The eventual consequences to this will be such hostility from the Moslem world that only the intervention of the then powerful European Union under Catholic religious leadership will be able to neutralize the situation and “preserve” Jerusalem–at least temporarily. We find, in Daniel 11:45, that the future political and military leader of the European Union will move his residence to Jerusalem. When all of this happens, we know that the return of Christ is very near.

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Q: Should a Christian ever charge another person, including another Christian, "interest" or "usury"?

A: Many Scriptures prohibit the charging of interest or usury in certain circumstances.

For example, Exodus 22:25 states, in the Authorized Version, “If thou lend money to any of my people that is poor by thee, thou shalt not be to him as an usurer, neither shalt thou lay upon him usury.”

The Hebrew word for “usury” is “neshek” or “neshech” and has the meaning of “biting” (Young’s Analytical Concordance). Its root word is “nashak” or “nashach.” Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, under Nos. 5391 and 5392, gives the following explanation: “…to strike with a sting (as a serpent); fig. to oppress with interest on a loan.”

Soncino points out: “That which ‘bites’ (nashach) like a snake. The victim of a snake does not at first feel the bite, but soon the wound swells and spreads over the whole body; likewise it is with usury: at first the borrower does not feel its pinch, but little by little it grows until it amounts to a crushing sum. Do not impose usury on the borrower in consideration of an extended time limit for repayment.”

Commentaries disagree whether any kind of interest is prohibited, or just excessive interest (what we would call today “usury”). Also, depending on the understanding of the translator, the words “neshek” and “nashak” are rendered with “interest” or “usury,” respectively. While the Authorized Version translates “usury,” most other translations say “interest,” but not consistently so. Sometimes, they also say “usury.” In addition, the NIV translates “neshek” in Exodus 22:25 as “interest,” but states in a footnote, “Or excessive interest.”

In any event, the context of the prohibition is “exacting” or “demanding” interest or usury from a NEEDY or POOR Israelite. Although a few Scriptures, if read in an isolated way, may suggest that charging an Israelite with any kind of interest is prohibited under any circumstances, reading all the passages together shows that charging interest is only prohibited to a POOR or NEEDY Israelite.

We quoted Exodus 22:25, clearly involving a POOR Israelite. Note also Leviticus 25:35-37:

“If one of your brethren becomes POOR, and falls into POVERTY among you, then you shall help him, like a stranger or a sojourner, that he may live with you. Take no usury [Hebr., “neshek”] or interest [Authorized Version: “increase”; Hebr. “tarbith” or “tarbuwth”; meaning “multiplication,” according to Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, No. 8636] from him… You shall not lend him your money for usury [Hebr., “neshek”], nor lend him your food at a profit” [Authorized Version: “for increase”, Hebr. “marbith” or “marbiyth”; i.e., “increase, abundance, multitude,” according to Young’s Analytical Concordance of the Bible; see also Strong’s, No. 4768]. This passage, too, only applies to a needy or poor Israelite.

A passage in Deuteronomy 23:19-20, if only read by itself, might give the impression that charging an Israelite interest is prohibited under any circumstances, even if the Israelite is not poor or needy. We read, in the Authorized Version, “Thou shalt not lend upon usury [Hebr., “nashak”] to thy brother; usury [Hebr., “neshek”] of money, usury [Hebr., “neshek”] of victuals [or food], usury [Hebr., “neshek”] of any thing that is lent upon usury [Hebr., “nashak”]: Unto a stranger thou mayest lend upon usury [Hebr., “nashak”]; but unto thy brother thou shalt not lend upon usury [Hebr., “nashak”]…”

However, from the context with the other Scriptures already mentioned, and still to be mentioned, this prohibition only applies to a POOR Israelite. See, for example, what God says in Psalm 15:5 (Authorized Version): “He that putteth not out his money to usury [Hebr., “neshek”]…shall never be moved.”

Taking this Scripture out of context, without reading it together with other passages, one could conclude that one could never lend money out for interest (or usury), not even to foreigners. As we have seen, however, in other passages, charging foreigners interest is permitted.

WHY does the Bible permit charging interest to foreigners?

The ancient Israelites, not being a commercial people, were not accustomed to lending amongst themselves for the purpose of business, trade and commerce. “But the case was different with foreigners, who, engaged in trade and commerce, borrowed to enlarge their capital, and might reasonably be expected to pay interest on their loans” (Jamieson, Faussett and Brown, Commentary on the Whole Bible, 1961, p. 159, commenting on Deuteronomy 23).

The New Bible Commentary agrees with this distinction, when it comments on Deuteronmy 23:19-20, as follows: “Loans to foreigners were usually of a commercial nature, and thus an interest charge could be levied without objection. When the loan was from a rich man to his poor neighbor, the imposition of interest violated the law of brotherly love.”

Hasting’s Dictionary of the Bible also concurs. In its article, “Usury, Interest, Increase,” it states: “The loans here contemplated are therefore not advances required for trading capital, but for the relief of a poor ‘brother’ temporarily in distress, who would otherwise be compelled to sell himself as a slave.” In its article, “Trade and Commerce,” Hasting’s points out: “The Israelites seem to have become merchants only relatively late, and commercial dealings were for a long time in the hands of foreigners.”

Passages similar to Deuteronomy 23 and Psalm 15 can be found in Jeremiah 15:10 and Ezekiel 22:12 and must be read with all of the other Scriptures. Therefore, taking all the passages together, the Bible only prohibits to charge a brother interest, if that brother is poor or needy.

On the other hand, the spiritual intent of the Scriptures also clearly shows that no one should ever charge exorbitant amounts of interest or usury to anybody, including “foreigners.” This kind of greed is clearly condemned in the Bible. Further, the spiritual intent of those passages also prohibits to charge a poor and needy “foreigner” interest — that is, no interest should be charged to a poor “foreigner” when a loan is given to him to provide for his necessities. This means for us today, a true Christian should not charge any poor person interest for a charitable loan, whether or not the person is a Church member (Galatians 6:10).

Let’s review a few more Biblical passages regarding the prohibition to charge interest to an Israelite. Notice Proverbs 28:8 (Authorized Version): “He that by usury [Hebr., “neshek”] and unjust gain increaseth his substance, he shall gather it for him that will pity the POOR.” The context shows, that the lender exacted usury from a poor person, rather than showing mercy to the poor by not charging him interest.

In addition, note Ezekiel 18:8 (Authorized Version), “He that hath not given forth upon usury, neither hath taken any increase…, he is just, he shall surely live.” Taken all by itself, this passage could cause misunderstanding. When we read on, the meaning becomes clear. It is stated in verses 14-17, “Now, lo, if he begat a son…that..hath given his bread to the hungry, and hath covered the naked with a garment, that hath taken off his hand from the POOR, that hath not received usury nor increase…, he shall not die…”

Another example can be found in Nehemiah 5:1-13. Verse 10 says specifically that the Jews should “leave off this usury.” The context is, that some Jews charged interest to other needy and poor Jews (vv. 2-5).

The New Testament confirms the understanding that charging interest under certain circumstances is not wrong.

In Matthew 25:27, Christ tells the unprofitable servant that he should have deposited the money with the bankers or “exchangers” (Authorized Version), so that the returning master would have received the money loaned to the servant “with usury” or “interest.” The Greek word here is “tokos,” and is defined by Young’s with “offspring” or “usury.” Strong’s writes, under No. 5110, “interest on money loaned (as a produce) — usury.” In the parallel passage in Luke 19:23, the word “tokos” is used again and translated as “usury” in the Authorized Version and as “interest” in most other renditions.

Without entering the debate whether the translation “usury” or “interest” is appropriate, we see, nevertheless, that Christ used, in this parable, the concept of gaining interest in an approving way. Since Christ spoke this parable to the Jews, some of the bankers or exchangers giving interest would have been Jewish. As commentaries, such as Rienecker, point out, at the time of Christ, many of the bankers were also Jewish “moneychangers” (Matthew 21:12; Mark 11:15; John 2:14), as well as those who collected the temple tax (Matthew 17:24). So, in Christ’s mind, it would not have been a violation of Old Testament Scriptures to have Jewish bankers or “exchangers” grant Jews interest for loans. This is understandable, as the Jewish bankers were not “poor” or “destitute,” so that Jews loaning them their money were not prohibited to receive interest from them. This means that it is not Biblically prohibited that a Christian lender receives interest from a Christian borrower for a loan, as long as the loan was given as a business transaction.

Unger’s Bible Dictionary,” ed. 1966, page 1129, para. 1 and 2, captures this distinction well, when it states: “The Israelites not being a commercial people, money was not often loaned for the purpose of business, but rather to aid the struggling poor. This last is the only kind of usury forbidden in the law…The taking of usury in the sense of a reasonable rate of interest for the use of money employed in trade is different, and is nowhere forbidden; and is referred to in the New Testament as a perfectly understood and allowable practice.”

In an old (undated) document which had been published by the Worldwide Church of God, under Herbert W. Armstrong, on the issue of charging interest, the following conclusion was given, agreeing with the foregoing, “Based on all this information, the Church concludes that the prohibition on receiving interest applies to charitable loans, not to business investments in which the loan will be used to gain increase. When the loan is earning an increase, it is only fair that the lender receive a fair share of that increase as interest… The biblical instructions concerning usury… pertain to the poor and needy… True Christians should not charge the poor interest on a loan that is intended to provide necessities. However, a loan as a business deal — and this would include buying a home — is an entirely different matter.”

To summarize, the ancient Israelites were forbidden to charge interest to a poor Israelite. However, they were not forbidden to charge reasonable interest to a foreigner (as foreigners were usually receiving loans in a business context). They were also not forbidden to charge reasonable interest to another Israelite if the loan was not given to help a poor and needy brother, but as a business transaction, in a commercial context.

These same principles apply today regarding Church members. Judging from the spirit of the law, it would seem inappropriate for a converted Christian to charge a poor and needy person interest, whether or not the poor person is in the Church (Galatians 6:10). On the other hand, it would not be wrong for a converted Christian to charge another person or institution interest for a loan strictly given in a business context.

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Preaching the Gospel and Feeding the Flock

We have placed another StandingWatch program on our Webpage, titled, “What’s Ahead for the U.S.?” Another program will be recorded on Friday and placed on our Web.

We are also constantly adding new German articles on our German Webpage, and we are in the process of creating a French Website.

Our new booklet on baptism will enter the final review cycle early next week. We hope to send the booklet to the printer by early August.

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How This Work is Financed

This Update is an official publication by the ministry of the Church of the Eternal God in the United States of America; the Church of God, a Christian Fellowship in Canada; and the Global Church of God in the United Kingdom.

Editorial Team: Norbert Link, Dave Harris, Rene Messier, Brian Gale, Margaret Adair, Johanna Link, Eric Rank, Michael Link, Anna Link, Kalon Mitchell, Manuela Mitchell, Dawn Thompson

Technical Team: Eric Rank, Shana Rank

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