Update 145


Sabbath and Pentecost

On Saturday, May 29, 2004, Norbert Link will be giving the sermon, titled, “God’s Power!” The services can be heard at www.cognetservices.org at 12:30 pm Pacific Time (which is 2:30 pm Central Time). Just click on Connect to Live Stream.

On Sunday, May 30, 2004, is the Feast of Pentecost. Dave Harris will be giving the sermon in the morning, and Edwin Pope in the afternoon. Both will be discussing important principles related to that day.

The services can be heard at www.cognetservices.org at 9:00 am Pacific Time (which is 11:00 pm Central Time), and at 1:30 pm Pacific Time (which is 3:30 pm Central Time). Just click on Connect to Live Stream.

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The Greatest Gift of All

by Rene Messier (Canada)

When Mr. Armstrong was traveling around the world, visiting world leaders and dignitaries, he would on many occasions present to them a gift of Steuben crystal. This type of crystal was of a good quality with a world reputation for its clarity. It was a suitable gift for world leaders and royalty with whom Mr. Armstrong came in contact. God in His great mercy has given us an even more precious and valuable gift — His Holy Spirit.

Pentecost is fast approaching, and we should, at this time, reflect on this most valuable gift. Let us look at the events of the Feast of Pentecost mentioned in Acts 2:1-4: “When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.”

We see here the powerful beginning of the New Testament Church of God. Notice: They were all of one accord. There were no divisions, other opinions or different interpretations among them. They were all in one place, not scattered here and there. There came suddenly a SOUND of a mighty wind — not a mighty wind, but only a sound, which they all heard, since it filled the whole house. Then, tongues of fire sat upon each one, symbolizing that they were individually receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit. They began to speak in other languages and the miracle was also in the hearing, since each one heard them in their own language (compare verse 8). This was a powerful manifestation of the beginning of the New Testament Church of God on the Feast of Pentecost.

What does God’s Spirit do for us individually?

It opens our minds to the spiritual truth of the Bible, which we could not understand with our own natural mind and human reasoning. It also gives us an endearing relationship with our God and Jesus Christ. We read in Romans 8:16 (Authorized Version): “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.” We also read in verse 15 (AV): “…but ye have received the Spirit of adoption [correctly rendered, “sonship”], whereby we cry, Abba, Father.” The Aramaic word “Abba” denotes a very close and personal relationship with God, as that of a child with his father (compare Mark 14:36; Galatians 4:6).

Through the receipt of the gift of the Holy Spirit, we enter into a personal close family relationship with God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.

In addition, as long as the Holy Spirit dwells in us, it enables us to be resurrected at the last trumpet (compare 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17) and to enter God’s Kingdom as His sons and daughters, ruling for all eternity.

Let us come to the conclusion of the matter. In this life we may have many gifts bestowed upon us, but there is no gift more precious or valuable than that of God’s Spirit. Our loving God wants to share His power, majesty and eternal life with His family. Let us ensure, brethren, that we develop and maintain a deep appreciation for the “Greatest Gift of All” — God’s Holy Spirit.

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UN Condemns Israel

Associated Press reported on May 22, 2204: “A 3-year-old Palestinian girl was shot dead Saturday as a senior U.N. official toured a battle-scarred refugee camp where Israeli troops continue the hunt for weapons-smuggling tunnels and militants. The United Nations condemned the ‘completely unacceptable’ destruction of houses, which has left 1,650 Palestinians homeless in the last 10 days. In the West Bank, four people were wounded by a Palestinian suicide bomber near an Israeli army checkpoint. On Friday, Israeli troops pulled back from the Brazil and Tel Sultan neighborhoods of Rafah, leaving behind dozens of damaged or destroyed buildings, torn-up roads and flattened cars. The army said it was redeploying forces and that its offensive — aimed at capturing militants and uncovering tunnels that stretch across the nearby Egyptian border — would continue… Israel says its offensive has resulted in the arrest of dozens of militants and the killing of a local leader of the armed group Hamas. The army also said it had discovered one arms-smuggling tunnel during the operation.”

Anti-American Demonstrations

Associated Press reported on May 21, 2004: “Thousands of Shiite Muslims demonstrated in Beirut Friday to warn the United States against attacking holy sites in Iraq. Smaller groups rallied in three other Mideast nations, with protesters in Bahrain clashing with police. Wearing white shrouds symbolizing their readiness to die in defense of the holy cities of Najaf and Karbala in Iraq, demonstrators marched through Beirut’s suburbs. Many chanted ‘death to America, death to Israel.’… In Manama, Bahrain, police fired tear gas to disperse about 5,000 demonstrators, but the angry crowd broke through the police blockade and continued its march to protest the fighting in Karbala and Najaf, shouting, ‘Death to America!’… The nearly two-mile march had been approved by security authorities, but police tried to stop the demonstrators halfway through, but protesters kept on moving and turned over an empty police car and set it on fire. Bahrain’s king Sheik Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa fired his interior minister, saying the march should have been allowed to go on… The U.S. military has said it is doing its best to avoid damage to the shrines in Iraq. In fighting last week, the Imam Ali mosque received four holes in its golden dome, and both sides blamed each other for the damage. The mosque is the burial place of the Prophet Muhammad’s cousin and son-in-law, who is revered by Shiites.”

United States’ Certain Future

The outcry regarding the prison scandal in Iraq does not cease, especially, as more and more gruesome and terrible details come to light. President Bush’s passing remarks regarding the scandal in his speech of May 24, 2004, will and did do little to calm the waves of condemnation of the United States. As Zenit reported on May 18, 2004, “The chairman of the U.S. bishops’ International Policy Committee says the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by American soldiers is a challenge to reflect on larger moral issues. ‘The abuse and torture of Iraqi prisoners have brought shame upon our nation, is an affront to our most basic ideals, and will undermine legitimate efforts to confront the very real threats faced by our nation and the world,’ said Bishop John Ricard of Pensacola-Tallahassee, Florida, in a statement.”

Maybe, the American Catholic Church’s condemnation won’t contribute much, substantially, to the criticism, given their own sad history of scandals involving their clergy in this country. Furthermore, as we recently reported in our Updates, not all is bad in Iraq, and considerable improvements have been made. However, perception is important, even if it does not conform with reality. The overall worldwide perception is that the American adventure in Iraq was a devastating debacle. President Bush’s highly anticipated, but disappointing speech did little to provide a reasonable perspective of hope for the future of Iraq. Statements like, “If they need more troops, I will send them,” did not only diminish any hope of a military withdrawal any time soon, but raised and confirmed again the nightmarish fear of a potential draft, to be instituted, perhaps, after the next Presidential election.

Many European and American politicians and newscasters have reported in highly critical and condemnatory ways about the American war with Iraq, its gruesome aftermaths, and the terrible prison scandals. These are some of the recent headlines: “Tortured to Death?” (Focus, May 18, 2004); “Protocol of Horror” (Der Spiegel Online, May 21, 2004); “US Torture the biggest success of Terrorists” (Der Spiegel Online, May 21, 2004, quoting German Republican, Heiner Geissler); “Eye Witness describes death through U.S. Torture in Iraq” (Der Spiegel Online, May 21, 2004); “At least eight deaths through torture” (Spiegel Online, May 22, 2004); “Welcome in Hell” (Der Spiegel Online, May 23, 2004); “[Red Cross] concerned for Detainees in Secret U.S. Jails” (Reuters, May 21, 2004); “Deserting U.S. soldier receives same penalty as torturer” (Der Spiegel Online, May 22, 2004).

Why this condemnation of the United States — when considering all the atrocities and unspeakable crimes that Saddam Hussein and his supporters committed against their own people, including their own relatives? There are, of course, “human” explanations — the fact that the U.S. went ahead with the war, in spite of the opposition of the U.N. Security Council; as well as the reasons given for the war: the unsubstantiated claim that Iraq posed an immediate danger for the security of the United States through Saddam’s alleged possessions of weapons of mass destruction (which was recently admitted by Secretary of State Colin Powell as having been “in error”); and the stated high moral ground of bringing freedom and democracy to a violated Iraq (which cause was now all but shattered in light of the Iraq prison scandal). However, the REAL reason is identified in the Bible. We ARE living in the last days. And the Bible prophesies that, in the last days, the United States will be hated in all the world, and that it will NOT be successful in its military endeavors. God says that HE will break the pride of their power, and that HE will turn His back on the U.S. and give them over to their enemies, because THEY have forsaken their Maker.

Knowing the Bible and Biblical prophecies, we could and did publicly pronounce at the very beginning of the Iraq war that the United States of America will not win its war against terrorism. The late human leader of the Church of God, Herbert W. Armstrong, who died in 1986, pointed out that the United States HAS WON its last war. He UNDERSTOOD that the Bible would not ALLOW the United States in the very last days to be victorious in battle, because GOD will not be blessing their battles. The only exception would be if the United States of America would REPENT of their sins that cry to high heaven. However, there is little hope that this will be the case.

To learn more about the prophesied future of the United States of America, please read our free booklet, “The Great Tribulation and the Day of the Lord.”

Eastern Wall of Temple Mount to Collapse?

On May 19, 2004, the New Jerusalem Post reported that “the eastern wall of Jerusalem’s Temple Mount is in danger of immediate collapse, which could cause a ‘domino effect’ and bring down other sections of the ancient compound… The rare public warning, made at a meeting of the Knesset’s Interior Committee, came one month after a team of senior Egyptian and Jordanian engineers began to carry out tests to determine the stability of the eastern wall.[These] public comments on the issue Tuesday followed a classified report issued by the Israel Antiquities Authority earlier this year, which stated that the 2,000- year-old wall was in danger of immediate collapse as a result of a February earthquake that rattled the region. The report says that the February 11 earthquake damaged the eastern wall of the Temple Mount to such an extent that sections of the wall are liable to cave in on the underground architectural support of the mount, known as Solomon’s Stables.”

The Catholic Church and Europe

The Vatican Information Service reported on Wednesday, May 19, 2004, that on his 84th birthday, Pope John Paul received Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski, his wife and an entourage of fellow Poles. The Pope was quoted as follows: “I… remind everyone that, through the centuries, Europe’s spiritual and cultural patrimony was formed and defended even at the cost of the lives of those who believe in Christ and those who in their religious belief go back to Abraham. It seems necessary to remember this in the context of the formation of the constitutional basis of the European Union, of which Poland recently became a member… Poland cannot forget this and must remind those who, in the name of the secular nature of democratic societies, seem to forget the contribution of Christianity in building their own identity.”

As Die Welt Online and Zenit reported on May 21, 2004, “Seven countries of the European Union are asking that the Constitutional Treaty make reference to the continent’s Christian roots, a spokesman for the Polish Foreign Ministry said. The seven countries — Poland, Italy, Lithuania, Malta, Portugal, the Czech Republic and Slovakia — sent their request in a letter to the rotating EU presidency, now held by Ireland. The signatories state in the text that the list is not final and hope that ‘other countries will adhere to this initiative.'” France, Belgium, Slovenia, Denmark and the UK objected to the proposal, and Spain has abandoned its call for a reference to Christianity in the constitution (Associated Press and euobserver.com, May 25, 2004).

On May 20, 2004, Zenit published an article, reflecting on the reasons for “Marian apparitions.” It was pointed out by an “expert” that “In Mary’s case, there is also her particular presence next to Christ as Virgin assumed into heaven… Mary’s apparitions can be a means of the Church to confirm in the faith, to assure of her presence and maternal protection, particularly at certain times of history in which there is need to reinforce faith and hope… The list of supposed revelations and apparitions of the Virgin Mary is so large that it is not possible to give an account of them here… The message of Lourdes seems obvious to me. … Lourdes is a charismatic place where the Virgin Mary, through the Church’s ordinary pastoral care acts mysteriously also as source of grace and light for the physical, psychic and spiritual health of those who approach it with faith, hope and love.”

These excerpts show the kind of “Christianity” that we can expect to see in Europe, if the Catholic Church has it her way. Suffice to say that Mary is not in heaven, but she is still dead and buried, in her grave, awaiting the resurrection from the dead together with all the other converted Christians who died in the faith. Therefore, it is clearly not “Mary” who is appearing to people “in visions” or “apparitions.” To learn more about this important biblical truth, please read our free booklets, “Do We Have an Immortal Soul?” and, “Angels, Demons, and the Spirit World.”

United States’ Trade Deficit

Associated Press reported on May 12, 2004, that “The United States posted a record trade deficit in March, reflecting Americans’ voracious demand for foreign-made goods as well as the most expensive crude oil since 1983. The $46 billion deficit reported Wednesday by the Commerce Department represented a hefty 9.1 percent increase from February’s imbalance and came despite the fact that U.S. exports climbed to an all-time high in March… The United States’ $5.6 billion trade deficit with oil-producing countries, including Saudi Arabia and Venezuela, was the highest on record. The average price of imported crude oil rose to $30.64 a barrel in March, the highest since February 1983, another factor in the swollen trade gap… March’s big trade gap may mean that the economy’s 4.2 percent growth rate for the first quarter of this year could be lowered, economists said. The government’s second estimate of first-quarter GDP is released on May 27.”

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Is the Old Covenant still in force and effect today?

There were, in fact, numerous “Old Testament” covenants. Our free booklet, “And Lawlessness Will Abound…“, explains the different Old Testament covenants in detail. Bible scholars sometimes refer to “the Old Covenant,” but when they do, they basically talk about the covenant that God made with Israel at Mount Sinai, as described in Exodus 19. When Israel broke that first “old” covenant, by worshipping a golden calf, God made a new “old” covenant with Israel (Exodus 34:10, NIV). Later, God made a third “old” covenant with the younger generation of Israel, in Moab, just prior to their entering the Promised Land (Deuteronomy 29). By that time, the sacrificial system, which was added due to Israel’s sins, had become part of that covenant made at Moab. When scholars use the term, “the Old Covenant,” they include the sacrificial system that was added and became part of the package, as Israel broke the laws on which the original first “old” covenant (in Exodus 19) was based. A covenant is an agreement between parties based on law. When one party breaks the agreement, the other party is no longer bound by that agreement, either. God says that because they did not keep the Old Covenants (mainly the ones described in Exodus 19, Exodus 34, and Deuteronomy 29), He “disregarded ” them (Hebrews 8:9). He did, in fact, divorce them and sent them away (Jeremiah 3:8).

Because Israel, being carnal, could not and did not keep the Old Covenant(s), God began to build a New Covenant relationship with His people whom He would call. Some Old Testament personalities already lived under New Covenant conditions, as we do today (such as Abraham, Moses, David, etc.). However, this does not mean that all of the Old Testament covenants are still in force and effect today, even for physical Israel (although certain LAWS, including the Ten Commandments, as well as certain statutes and judgments, that had been part of the Old Covenants, clearly are still in force and effect, as explained in our booklet, “And Lawlessness Will Abound…“).

Some say that the “Old Covenant” has not yet vanished away. However, Hebrews 8:13 states: “In that He says, ‘A new covenant,’ He HAS MADE the first OBSOLETE.” In the next part of the sentence Paul explains what the word “obsolete” means: “What is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.” But he does not say here that the “old” is BECOMING obsolete — rather, he just said that God “HAS MADE IT” already obsolete. The Authorized Version translates this as “he hath made the first old.” W.E. Vine explains that the Greek word for “old,” i.e. palaioo, means, “shall be made old” or “worn out” and may have the meaning of “to abrogate.”

Most translations agree with the New King James Version, that the word should be translated here as “obsolete.” The NIV, RSV, NRSV, Revised English Bible, New American Bible, Rotherham, Goodspeed, Twentieth Century NT, and Amplified New Testament, all translate, “obsolete.” Berkeley says, “he puts the first out of date.” Knox writes: “he has superannuated the old.” Moffat states: “he antiquates the old.”

This understanding is correct, as God abolished the previous old covenants with the nation of Israel because Israel broke the covenants, and because certain laws on which the covenants were based were changed or abolished — i.e., the rituals and sacrificial laws, among others. Paul is mainly talking about rituals and sacrifices in Hebrews 8:13, as part of the “Old Covenant” system. But when Paul wrote his letter to the Hebrews, sacrifices were no longer required — not even for the nation of Judah. Paul was telling them that the temple would soon be destroyed, and that then they could not even give the sacrifices anymore (although they did not have to be given anyway, since Christ, the Supreme Sacrifice, died once and for all, proving that sacrifices cannot perfect the ones who offer them, Hebrews 10:1-9). Hebrews 10:9 says that God “TAKES AWAY THE FIRST THAT HE MAY ESTABLISH THE SECOND.”

The sacrifices, that were no longer required, but that were still given by the Jews at that time would be vanishing away. Paul explained to them that the whole sacrificial system had already become obsolete in any event — that it was no longer necessary, but “taken away.” The Nelson Study Bible explains: “At the time the author of Hebrews wrote these words, the ceremonies of the Mosaic covenant were still being conducted in the temple of Jerusalem. In A.D. 70, the Roman general Titus destroyed the temple, fulfilling these words.”

If it were true that the “Old Covenant(s)” were still valid today for the modern nations of Israel and Judah, then the Israelites and Jews — unconverted and converted — would have to abide by all the laws that are mentioned in those Old Testament covenants, including sacrifices, circumcision, ritual washings, etc. However, it is made clear in the New Testament that circumcision and the sacrificial system, as well as certain other rituals, are no longer binding. In the future, sacrifices will be reinstated, at least on a temporary basis, but GOD will NOT reinstate the Old Testament sacrificial SYSTEM. That is, the sacrifices before (Daniel 12:11) and in the Millennium (Ezekiel 40:38-43) are not those which were part of the old covenants with the nations of Israel and Judah. The New Testament tells us that the sacrifices, as a part of the Old Testament system, are no longer valid. The Levites will still officiate over sacrifices, but these sacrifices will not be given pursuant to the same system that existed in the Old Testament, under Moses. As our booklet “And Lawlessness Will Abound…” points out, there are other ritual laws which were part of the Old Testament covenants with the nations of Israel and Judah, which are no longer valid, either. This means, the Old Testament covenants with the nations of Israel and Judah are no longer valid, as Israel broke them, and as certain LAWS on which the Old Testament covenants were based, are NO LONGER VALID. However, there are SOME Old Testament covenants, which ARE still valid today. Our above-mentioned booklet explains which ones they are.

In conclusion, Hebrews 8:13 very clearly teaches that the “Old Covenant” or “Old Covenants” of Exodus 19, 34 and Deuteronomy 29, that were made with the unconverted nations of Israel and Judah, are no longer valid.

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Booklet on Healing

The final text of our new booklet on Healing was sent to Shelly Bruno, our graphic designer, for finalization.

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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

Our activities and literature, including booklets, weekly updates, sermons on CD, and video and audio broadcasts, are provided free of charge. They are made possible by the tithes, offerings and contributions of Church members and others who have elected to support this Work.

While we do not solicit the general public for funds, contributions are gratefully welcomed and are tax-deductible in the U.S. and Canada.

Donations should be sent to the following addresses:

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