Update 152


Babylon's Ways–How You Are Affected

On Saturday, July 17, 2004, Edwin Pope will be giving the sermon from Colorado. His sermon is titled, “Babylon’s Ways–How You Are Affected!”!

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Are We Ready — Now?

by Norbert Link

It seems that at all times, people have wondered about the imminent end of this world — as we know it. The Jews hoped that the Messiah would restore the kingdom to Israel at the time of Christ’s first coming, making an end to Roman occupation. The early apostles asked Christ what the sign of His coming and the end of this present age or civilization would be — believing that Christ would return during their life time (Matthew 24:3; Acts 1:6). For a while, Paul believed that he would experience the return of Christ during his life (compare 1 Thessalonians 4:17) Professing and true Christians wondered about Christ’s return at the time of Charlemagne, the Middle Ages, the 19th and the 20th centuries. Now we have reached the 21st century, and we can say, without any doubt, that the time of our salvation has drawn nearer than when we first believed (Romans 13:11).

But — how imminent is Christ’s return?

Christ said that the generation of the last days will be able to see by the signs of the time that His return will be near (Matthew 24:32-35). But how near?

These are some of the events which we know will still have to happen first:

We know that the last and final resurrection of the Holy Roman Empire must still occur, headed by a powerful religious and a powerful political leader who will receive authority from ten European nations or groups of nations for “one hour” (Revelation 17:12-13; compare, too, Daniel 2:41-44). We see the beginning stages of this final resurrection, and we are watching world events to observe the fulfillment of those prophetic events.

We know that the Middle East, and especially Jerusalem, will be overrun by armies of the coming European Empire, once it has reached its final formation (Luke 21:20-24; Daniel 11:41).

We also know that this future European Empire will fight against the United States of America, Great Britain, and other English-speaking nations, as well as, ultimately, a powerful Eurasian bloc, consisting of, in all likelihood, Russia, China, India and Japan (Daniel 11:44-45; Revelation 9:13-21).

We know that it is very likely that a temple will be built in Jerusalem (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4; Revelation 11:1-2; Psalm 79:1-7) — we know that the Jews will start to bring sacrifices within Jerusalem, prior to the European armies invading Jerusalem and preventing those sacrifices to continue (Daniel 8:13; 11:31; 12:11).

We also know that the preaching of the gospel of the Kingdom of God must still go forward (Matthew 10:23) — that it is to be proclaimed in all the world as a witness unto all nations, and then the end will come (Matthew 24:14).

We know that the end will come at a time when most won’t expect it. We know that it will come at a time when people live in relative peace (1 Thessalonians 5:3) — a fragile and temporary “peace” which might have been brought about with the means of force, weapons and war.

From everything we can observe, we know that we are living in the end time. But — how much time we have to collectively fulfill the job God gave us, and to individually prepare for Christ’s return — only the Father knows — because it is the Father who will determine the exact timing (Mark 13:32; Acts 1:7).

The real question which we should ask ourselves, is: Would we be ready if Christ were to return today? Not that He will — but ARE WE READY, NOW?

We read that God does not want anyone to perish, but that all of us come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). We read, too, that at the time of Christ’s return, the bride will have made herself ready (Revelation 19:7). This means that the Church, as a whole, will be ready — but this does not mean that everyone claiming to be part of the Church, will be ready. Christ says to the members of the last era of His Church that unless He sees repentance, He will vomit them out of His mouth (Revelation 3:16, 19-20).

Rather than trying to figure out, when, exactly, Christ will return, we should concentrate on getting READY for that event. Paul tells us that we should not be in spiritual darkness when that Day comes (1 Thessalonians 5:4-6, 8). Let us, instead, heed Christ’s sobering warning: “Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Matthew 24:44).

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Bird Flu a Terrible Worldwide Threat

The web site www.theage.com.au published an article on July 10, 2004, titled, “Bird flu a danger of pandemic magnitude.” The article pointed out: “The bird flu strain that killed 24 people in East Asia earlier this year and has resurfaced in recent weeks is now endemic to the region, and the virus could trigger a global health crisis if it goes unchecked, a study says. In the study published by the London-based science journal Nature, researchers led by a Hong Kong microbiologist found that domestic ducks in southern China had played a key role in the creation of the H5N1 influenza virus, while wild birds had probably helped its spread through Asia. Early this year, the virus raged through Asia’s poultry farms and transferred to humans in cases that were mostly traced to direct contact with sick birds, killing 16 people in Vietnam and eight in Thailand. Health officials raised concerns about the illness mutating into a strain that could easily be passed between humans, but said there was no sign that had happened. New outbreaks from the same deadly strain re-emerged in eastern China and two central Thai provinces this week, and Chinese and Thai officials are slaughtering thousands of chickens to halt its spread. Vietnam also has been dealing with bird flu outbreaks in recent weeks.”

Israel’s Barrier and Europe’s Hypocrisy

Reuters reported on July 9, that the “World Court strongly condemned Israel’s West Bank barrier Friday, saying it had illegally imposed hardship on thousands of Palestinians and should be torn down. The court said in a nonbinding ruling hailed by Palestinians and rejected by Israel that the barrier violated international humanitarian law. It called on the U.N. Security Council and General Assembly to stop its construction. But the United States, which has vetoed Security Council resolutions against the Jewish state in the past, dismissed the court’s intervention and an American judge on the 15-member panel did not back the ruling. Israel was forthright in its rejection of the ruling, saying not one Palestinian suicide bomber had managed to slip into the Jewish state wherever the barrier had already been constructed.”

At the same time, according to israelnationalnews.com of July 4, 2004, the “European Union funds a separate fence” in Northwest Africa. The article pointed out: “…while the European Union attacks Israel mercilessly for the partition fence it’s building to protect Jewish lives, the EU itself funds and operates a similar fence designed only to protect itself from illegal immigrants.”

The article went on to explain: “The fence is located in a Spanish enclave in northwestern Africa, the coastal city of Ceuta just across the Straits of Gibraltar from Spain. Unknown to most of the world, when Spain handed over most of northern Morocco to the newly independent kingdom in 1956, Spain retained Ceuta and Melilla (about 250 kilometers further east) – thus that the European Union is present in Africa as well. Poverty-stricken Moroccans attempting to cross into Ceuta, from where they will then be able to work anywhere in Europe because of the EU’s no-checkpoints policy, are stopped in their tracks by the eight-meter-high, double layer fence. Funding for the fence, some 60 million Euros, came from European Union coffers.” The article concluded: “The EU continues to oppose Israel’s fence, constructed to protect against murderous terrorists and suicide bombs – even as it plans to build another fence of its own around Spain’s second enclave in northern Africa, the Moroccan town of Melilla.”

No Right to Life for a Fetus

The web site news.bbc.co.uk reported last week: “A woman whose pregnancy was wrongly terminated in a French hospital has lost her fight at the European Court to enshrine a foetus’ right to life.” The article continued to report about this outrageous incident, as follows: “Mrs Thi-Nho Vo went to the court after French courts said the doctor could not be prosecuted for homicide as the foetus did not have the right to life. She said it had that right under the European Convention on Human Rights. But the Court of Human Rights ruled against her, and involuntary abortion did not constitute manslaughter. The ruling sets a precedent on the legal status of unborn babies that will be applied across European countries… Mrs Vo argued that the foetus is protected by article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which guarantees a right to life… Nuala Scarisbrick of the pro-life charity Life, told BBC News Online: ‘This is not a surprising decision. But it is a disgusting one. It is morally bankrupt. It’s a disgraceful situation that a child of that stage, who is perfectly viable, is not given the right to life.'”

Biblical Truth and Worldly Persecution

World Net Daily reported last week that “A Swedish court has sentenced Ake Green, a pastor belonging to the Pentecostal movement, to a month in prison, under a law against incitement, after he was found guilty of having offended homosexuals in a sermon, according to Ecumenical News International. Green had described homosexuality as ‘abnormal, a horrible cancerous tumor in the body of society’ in a 2003 sermon. Soren Andersson, the president of the Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender rights, said on hearing Green’s jail sentence that religious freedom could never be used as a reason to offend people. ” We wonder whether the Swedish Court, bowing to pressures from homosexuals, would have sentenced the apostle Paul to prison as well (compare Romans 1:20-32)?

The Vatican and the American Catholic Bishops

NewsMax.com reported on July 7, 2004 about a private memorandum from Cardinal Ratzinger, telling American bishops that Communion must be denied to Catholic politicians who support legal abortion. The article continued: “While never mentioning Sen. John Kerry by name, the memo implicitly aims at the pro-choice Catholic Massachusetts senator and presidential candidate. Ratzinger’s ban is broad and includes all other pro-abortion Catholic politicians who are defying the church’s ban on abortion. According the Culture of Life Foundation, which obtained a copy of the confidential document, the Cardinal began by stressing the serious nature of receiving Communion and the need for each person to make ‘a conscious decision’ regarding their worthiness based on ‘the Church’s objective criteria.’ But the Cardinal adds that it is not only the responsibility of the pro-abortion politicians such as Kerry to make a judgment about their worthiness to receive Communion. It is also up to those distributing Communion to deny the sacrament to those in conflict with the Church’s prohibition of abortion and the duty of office holders to oppose the procedure.”

In an interview on the Larry King Live Show which was broadcast last week, Senator Kerry explained that he has been receiving communion from Catholic Bishops — it, therefore, seems that Cardinal Ratzinger’s memorandum is presently being ignored by most American Catholic Bishops.

The article continued that Ratzinger’s “document also address the issues of the death penalty and war, contrasting these issues… with abortion. ‘Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia … There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia,’ Ratzinger wrote.”

We would like to say that there cannot and MUST NOT be “legitimate diversity of opinion” among TRUE Christians about waging war. God condemns the wars of this world that are being fought by humans. The Biblical teaching on this issue is abundantly clear.

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We read in Matthew 27:52 that many saints were raised at the time of Christ's death. How can Christ then be called the firstborn from the dead (Colossians 1:18)?

You are correct that Christ is indeed referred to as the “firstborn from the dead.” Our free booklet, “Are You Already Born Again?“, explains on pages 7 and 8:

“Christ… became born again when He was resurrected to Spirit. It was at that time that He became the firstborn among many brethren. Romans 8:29 tells us that we are to be ‘conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.’ We also read in Colossians 1:15, 18: ‘He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation… And He is… the beginning, the firstborn from the dead.’

“Christ was the first human who became born again as a Spirit being. The Greek word for ‘firstborn,’ ‘prototokos,’ designates the person who is born first. It can refer to the firstborn Son of the spiritual Family of God, and it can also refer to the firstborn son in a physical family. We read, for example, in Hebrews 11:28 that Moses kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood by faith, ‘lest he who destroyed the firstborn should touch them.’ Christ was also, quite literally, Mary’s firstborn Son (Compare Matthew 1:25; Luke 2:7. The Greek word, ‘prototokos,’ used here does not mean ‘only’ or ‘only begotten’ son. That concept is conveyed by the Greek word ‘monogenes’…). Since Christ was Mary’s firstborn Son, it goes without saying that Christ as a human being had younger brothers. In fact, He also had sisters (compare Matthew 13:53-58).

“The same Greek word, ‘prototokos,’ is also used in Revelation 1:5. The New King James Bible translates the entire passage quite accurately in this way: ‘…and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth.’ (The Authorized Version’s rendition, ‘first begotten of the dead,’ is clearly wrong. The context here is the resurrection from the dead. The Ryrie Study Bible comments that ‘Christ was the first [man] to receive a resurrection [glorified] body which is immortal.’).”

On the other hand, the Bible includes numerous examples, prior to Christ’s death and resurrection, of dead people coming to life again. 2 Kings 13:21 relates the record of a dead person who “revived and stood on his feet,” when the bones of Elisha touched him. Also, John 11:38-44 records the story of the resurrection of the dead Lazarus. We also read, in Luke 8:49-56, that Christ brought a dead girl back to life. In all these cases, however, we must realize that these were resurrections to temporary physical lives — not to eternal, immortal life. In the case of the young girl, we read that Christ commanded the parents “that she be given something to eat” (verse 55) — indicating that this was a resurrection to physical life, as immortal beings have no need to eat physical food.

When we carefully analyze the nature of the resurrection of the saints, described in Matthew 27:52, based on the testimony of the entirety of God’s Holy Word, we must conclude that these were likewise resurrections to physical life, not to eternal life. Please note the following excerpts from our free booklet, “Are You Already Born Again?“, page 25:

“The Christians who died in the faith, and whose spirits returned to God at the time of their death (Ecclesiastes 12:7), are registered in heaven (Luke 10:20). They have not been resurrected from the dead, so they are not yet firstborn — but they are first begotten — the firstfruits (compare James 1:18). They were called out of this world ‘first’ (Ephesians 1:11-14) and they received the Holy Spirit, and it will be they who are going to be in the FIRST resurrection (Revelation 20:5; 1 Corinthians 15:23-24). Christ is the first of the firstfruits (Acts 26:23; 1 Corinthians 15:20). He is, up until now, the ONLY firstborn, the only one who has been born again from the dead. Those called by God WILL BECOME firstborn as well. They will be in the first resurrection, born again first, when comparing them with the rest of the vast majority of mankind who will be called to salvation later (always excluding Jesus Christ, of course, who was the very FIRST of all the subsequent firstborn). (For more information regarding those who will be called later, please read our free booklet, ‘God’s Commanded Holy Days.’).”

Paul tells us in 1 Thessalonians 4:15-16 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.” Paul explains in 1 Corinthians 15:52 that they will rise “incorruptible.” Hebrews 11:39-40 tells us that none of those who have fallen asleep have received the “promise” of eternal life, “that they should not be made perfect apart from us.”

Christ, then, is the firstborn from the dead in that He is the first human being who became born again as a SPIRIT BEING. He was the FIRST who was resurrected to eternal life. Others — those in Christ — will be resurrected as SPIRIT BEINGS — to eternal life — at the time of His Second Coming. In addition, Christ is called the Judge of the living and of the dead. After His death and resurrection, it was guaranteed that dead persons would be brought back to physical life in the future to BE JUDGED. The Bible refers to this time period, which will begin after the Millennium, as the Great White Throne Judgment (Revelation 20:11-12). The vast majority of mankind, never having heard about or accepted the Sacrifice of Christ in their lives, will be brought back to physical life to be “judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books” (verse 12). This “judgment” is quite different, however, than what most people think. For more information, please read our free booklet, “God’s Commanded Holy Days.”

All resurrections to physical life prior to the Second Resurrection which is called the “Great White Throne Judgment” period, did not occur for the purpose of the “judgment,” described in Revelation 20. Rather, because of God’s great mercy, people received their physical lives back for a short while, but then they later died and are in the grave, waiting for the resurrection to eternal life, or to be judged in the “Great White Throne Judgment” period.

The resurrected saints in Matthew 27:52-53 are no exception. They came out of the graves “after His resurrection” (verse 53), and they appeared to many in the holy city, apparently to confirm the fact that God DOES resurrect the dead. Nothing more is reported about those saints — but we know that they did die, in due time, to await the resurrection to eternal life. Otherwise, they WOULD HAVE preceded the rest of the saints who will be made perfect and receive eternal life at the time of Christ’s return.

The Nelson Study Bible points out: “Because the Lord Jesus is the firstborn from the dead… and the firstfruits of those who are asleep…, these people could not have received their resurrection bodies. They probably were raised, as Lazarus was, to ordinary physical life. The fact that the people who were raised appeared to many in the holy city implies that they had been contemporaries of the people who saw them.”

Christ is indeed the firstborn from the dead, and the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. To learn more about how you can become part of the FIRST resurrection — the “better” resurrection to eternal life (Hebrews 11:35) — please read our free booklets, “Gospel of the Kingdom of God,” “And Lawlessness Will Abound…,” and “Baptism – A Requirement for Salvation?

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feeding the flock

A new member letter was written by Norbert Link and sent out this week. In the letter, Mr. Link discusses the important question, amongst other things, how Christians, belonging to one organization, should view Christians — members of the body of Christ — in other corporate entitities. A copy of the letter can be found at: http://www.eternalgod.org/lit/letters/brethren-20040713.pdf

We received this note from Rene Messier: “I am very pleased to announce that today we have picked up from the printer the FIRST booklet printed in French, ‘God is a Family.’ The booklet looks great. This is a milestone for the work that we are engaged in in Canada, and we will be sending copies to brethren in Africa and Quebec. This booklet could not have been produced without the dedication and efforts of Kathryn Meyers from California, USA, and Isabelle Leveau from Quebec, Canada, both in regard to translating and proof reading. We are grateful for their
efforts in the translation of the booklets, as well as member letters and other material from the Updates. We are constantly adding more French articles and booklets to our Websites. So far, we have two booklets posted, with a third one on Christmas to be posted soon. We are presently working on the French version of the Born Again booklet. Hopefully, as finances avail themselves, we will be able to produce another printed booklet in French.”

We have also placed several new articles on our German Websites, in addition to our two German booklets on Germany in Prophecy and Evolution.

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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:

United States: Church of the Eternal God, P.O. Box 270519, San Diego, CA 92198

Canada: Church of God, ACF, Box 1480, Summerland, B.C. V0H 1Z0

United Kingdom: Global Church of God, PO Box 44, MABLETHORPE, LN12 9AN, United Kingdom

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