Update 174


Not of This World

On Saturday, January 1, 2005, Dave Harris will give the sermon, titled, “Not of This World.”

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.

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The World's New Year Is Next!

by Brian Gale (United Kingdom)

Christmas has come and gone, but now the world will have its New Year celebrations. Here in the UK, as in many other parts around the world, parties will abound on December 31, 2004, and January 1, 2005. The Scots have a special long rich heritage associated with this event. They have their own name for it — “Hogmanay.”

One of the websites, which gives the background to Hogmanay, states the following: “And it is worth remembering that January 2nd is a holiday in Scotland as well as the first day of the year — to give us all time to recover from a week of merry-making and celebration, all part of Scotland’s fascinating cultural legacy of ancient customs and traditions surrounding the pagan festival of Hogmanay.”

Did you catch it? The pagan festival of Hogmanay! There was a time when the mention of paganism brought about a gasp of shock and horror, but no longer. Paganism, in all its many ways, is in its most simplistic form the antithesis of true reverence and acceptance of the one true God. It is now paraded as an acceptable form of worship, and, like so many other things, resistance to that which God clearly condemns in His Word, is seen as intolerance.

While Christmas is viewed by many people in today’s society as having a Christian connection, however loosely (although it really does not have one), New Year’s celebrations are a time when no church attendance is required in many “Christian” nations. It is just a time of unabashed personal indulgence.

But what is “New Year’s Day”? In simplistic terms, it is merely the passing of one day and the dawning of another. It is also based on the Roman calendar — a human invention — and not on God’s Calendar, as used in Scripture. But “New Year’s Day” seems to have “magical” qualities to many –“qualities” that will not be championed by those who know God’s Word. The Bible clearly reveals what days are to be kept holy. Neither December 25th nor January 1st fall into that category. If you are unsure about such matters, please read our booklet, “God’s Commanded Holy Days.” This booklet reveals God’s truth — unlike the pagan observances of this world.

It really does matter – to God – which days we keep holy. Christmas and New Year’s Day are not among them. God, who clearly reveals in His Word the days we are to keep (see Leviticus 23), is the source of all knowledge and the One whom we should obey. No other course of action is acceptable in His sight.

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Historical Catastrophe in Southern Asia — WHY?

As many articles reported on Sunday, December 26, 2004, “the world’s most powerful earthquake in 40 years triggered massive tidal waves that slammed into villages and seaside resorts across Asia on Sunday.” The extent of the disaster was not immediately foreseen. The death toll has been rising daily and, as of Thursday, December 30, it has been verified as exceeding 120,000, with the fear that it may double, due to epidemics and diseases. Tens of thousands of people are still missing. About 5 million people are homeless. On Thursday, Bild Online called this disaster “the greatest natural catastrophe of all times.”

According to an article, published by Bild Online on December 26, this has been the WORST tsunami, in terms of lost human lives, in the recorded history of man. The second worst tsunami was recorded in August of 1883, when 36,000 died in the region of Indonesia, followed by the death of 26,000 in Japan on June of 1896.

As news programs pointed out, the earthquake in Asia hit exactly, TO THE DAY (referred to by some as the “Second Christmas Day”), one year after the devastating earthquake, which hit Iran in December of 2003.

As the BBC reported, “the sea surges produced by the earthquake off Indonesia have swept 6,000 km (3,700 miles) to hit east Africa and islands off its coast. Waves struck Kenya and Somalia after hitting Mauritius, Reunion and the Seychelles on the way.”

WorldNetDaily reported on December 26: “The largest earthquake in the past 40 years (with a magnitude of 9.0 on the Richter scale) and the resulting deaths of thousands from 33-foot tidal waves [some reported 40-foot tidal waves] are being compared by an American reporter (of the Washington Post) to descriptions of disaster from Holy Scripture.” The article continued that the quake was “the biggest since a 9.2 temblor hit Prince William Sound Alaska in 1964. “

On December 27, the Associated Press reported that the disaster caused by the quake and the tsunami, with a speed of 500 mph before crashing into the region’s shorelines, “may be the COSTLIEST disaster in history, reaching billions of dollars.” So far, “over 350 million dollars have been raised or pledged worldwide for relief in Asian countries swept by tidal waves,” according to AFP of December 30, 2004.

Yahoo-News explained in its article of December 28, 2004 the incredible power of that earthquake: “…it made the Earth wobble on its axis and permanently altered the regional map… The 9.0-magnitude temblor that struck 250 kilometers (155 miles) southeast of Sumatra island Sunday may have moved small islands as much as 20 meters (66 feet)…”

The Associated Press reported on December 28, 2004, that the quake might have been “equal to detonating a million atomic bombs.”

Tom Skilling, WGN-TV chief meteorologist, stated on December 28, 2004: “Incredibly, the magnitude 9.0 earthquake… caused a vertical displacement of so much material that the rotation period of the Earth has been permanently altered. By a tiny but measurable amount, the Earth is now rotating more quickly on its axis, and the 24-hour day is now one ten-thousandth second shorter.”

The Drudge Report, as well as The New York Times, warned its readership again of a dire scenario which was first published in August of 2004, stating that “The bad news is tens of millions of people along the eastern seaboard of the United States and Canada may drown if the slow slippage of a volcano off north Africa becomes a cataclysmic collapse… [A] giant tidal wave or tsunami triggered by such a collapse would hit the other islands of the Spanish-owned Canaries within an hour and reach the north African coast within two hours.”

People all over the world have asked the question: Why does “Nature” treat us that way? Locals wondered why “the god of the waters” wants to destroy them? Christians raised the question: “Why does God allow it?” On December 30, 2004, Der Spiegel Online initiated a discussion amongst its readership, to respond to the question whether God even exists.

These are critical and very important questions. We need to understand that this is NOT God’s world. This world is ruled by Satan (Luke 4:5-7). Satan has great wrath, because he knows that his time is short (Revelation 12:12). God the Father will send Christ back soon to bring peace and happiness to this world, while banishing Satan (Revelation 11:17-18; 20:1-3).

In the meantime, God has allowed man to go his own way and to follow Satan’s way of life. Man is called upon to repent, to turn to God and to give Him glory (Acts 17:30; Luke 24:47; Revelation 16:9). Most, however, have been refusing to do so. And so, Christ predicted that further devastating catastrophes and disasters will occur in the future, to wake us up. Notice these frightening prophecies:

“And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon and in the stars; and on earth distress of nations, with perplexity, THE SEA AND THE WAVES ROARING; men’s hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken” (Luke 21:25-26). Of course, Christ also predicted that there will be “famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places” (Matthew 24:7).

It is true that God promised never to bring or allow a worldwide flood to destroy the earth and cut off ALL flesh, as had happened in the days of Noah (compare Genesis 9:11). Nowhere does the Bible contain a promise, however, that local floods would not destroy parts of the earth. God will allow these things to happen, as man has rebelled against his Maker. Many “willfully forget” or are “willfully ignorant” (2 Peter 3:5) that a time of reckoning and accounting is coming! God asks all of us to cease walking in the futility of our minds as many of the Gentiles of that day were walking, “having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart” (Ephesians 4:18).

God wants all of us to come to our senses. Future disasters, including an all-encompassing world war, IS prophesied! Many will perish during these terrible times, including many innocent people. It WILL happen, UNLESS we all, collectively, REPENT (compare Luke 13:1-5).

For more information, please read our free booklets: “Europe in Prophecy,” “The Great Tribulation and the Day of the Lord,” and “And Lawlessness Will Abound…”

More on Christmas…

Professing Christians all over the world have celebrated Christmas this year with ever-increasing activities. Although some may feel that Christmas is somehow of Christian origin, most know better — or at least, they should, and they can know. After all, it is no secret that Christmas, and its customs, is pagan to the core.

Der Spiegel Online published an article on December 24, 2004, stating that Christmas trees are a “PAGAN custom.” The article continued: “It was customary in oldest cultures to surround oneself in the winter time with fir trees. The trees were to appease ghosts.”

Bild Online published an entire series on the “Jesus Miracle.” In the articles, the tabloid pointed out:

“The early Christian Church transferred the birth of Christ to December 25, according to Vatican researcher Dr. Barbaglio. In Rome, the feast of Sol Invictus [‘the invincible Sun god”] was celebrated (at that time)… Emperor Aurellian combined both feasts in 274 A.D… According to Dr. Percy A.H. Seymor, the gospel of Luke contradicts the idea that Christ was born on December 25, as shepherds kept the flocks by night. That would have been impossible in the winter, as it would have been far too cold. The sheep only stayed outside from spring to autumn.”

Muslims in Europe

In its article of December 25, 2004, the Chicago Tribune reported about the growing influence of Muslims in Europe. It was pointed out:

“What is happening in Europe may provide a partial preview of what lies ahead for the United States and its fast-growing Muslim population. For the first time in history, Muslims are building large and growing minorities across the secular Western world – nowhere more visibly than in Western Europe, where their numbers have more than doubled in the past two decades. The impact is unfolding from Amsterdam to Paris to Madrid, as Muslims struggle – with words, votes and sometimes violence – to stake out their place in adopted societies…

“By midcentury, at least one in five Europeans will be Muslim. That change is unlike other waves of immigration because it poses a more essential challenge: defining a modern Judeo-Christian-Islamic civilization. The West must decide how its laws and values will shape and be shaped by Islam… Thirteen hundred years after the Frankish King Charles Martel repelled Muslim armies from the central city of Tours, Islam is now the second religion of France; there are about 10 times as many Muslims as Jews… The effect is amplified by the decline of European Christianity. The number of people who call themselves Catholic, the continent’s largest denomination, has declined by more than a third in the past 25 years…

“The results are stark. Within six years, for instance, the three largest cities in the Netherlands will be majority Muslim. One-third of all German Muslims are younger than 18, nearly twice the proportion of the general population. With that growth, and the deepening strains between the U.S. and the Islamic world, radical Muslim clerics have found no shortage of adherents. A 2002 poll of British Muslims found that 44 percent believe attacks by al-Qaida are justified as long as ‘Muslims are being killed by America and its allies using American weapons.'”

Putin Shows His Muscles

As The New York Times reported on December 24, 2004, “President Vladimir Putin on Thursday strongly defended the takeover of the main subsidiary of the Yukos oil company by a state oil company and expressed deep irritation at what he described as Western double standards over elections and support for popular uprisings in post-Soviet states. As Russia moves toward greater centralization, Putin’s remarks amounted to a restatement of his existing positions. They were also an explanation of views that are driving the nation in an autocratic direction. And they were notable at moments for their defiant tone, and even for the president’s sharply personal lines of attack.”

The article continued: “Putin was personally dismissive of President Aleksander Kwasniewski of Poland, who helped mediate the political crisis in Ukraine after the fraudulent election there on Nov. 21 and who recently said in an interview that a Russia without Ukraine is better for the world’s leading countries. Assuming a biting tone, Putin made a veiled reference to his own KGB service, and suggested that Kwasniewski was an opportunist. He noted, for example, that in his youth the president of Poland worked for Soviet interests as a member of the Communist Party’s youth wing.”

Regarding Putin’s future, the article pointed out: “By law, Putin is limited to two consecutive terms. He is serving the first year of his second term now. The possibility of his seeking a third term, either by a change to Russia’s constitution for the 2008 race or a return to politics in 2012, has been source of speculation.”

Subsequently, The Associated Press reported on December 27, 2004, that “Once-bitter rivals RUSSIA AND CHINA will hold a MASSIVE JOINT MILITARY EXERCISE on Chinese territory next year involving submarines and possibly strategic bombers… Many observers saw the announcement as Russia’s response to a spat with the United States and other Western nations over the disputed election in Ukraine.” The article pointed out that “Putin and other Russian officials allege that the United States improperly influenced Ukraine’s elections by funding democracy-building organizations.”

The article continued: “After decades of rivalry, Moscow and Beijing have developed what they call a strategic PARTNERSHIP since the Soviet collapse. China has become the No. 1 customer for Russia’s struggling defense industry, purchasing billions of dollars worth of fighters, missiles, submarines and destroyers.”

Iraq a Failure?

IPS reported on December 27, 2004, that “One of the oldest U.S. overseas relief organizations [American Friends Service Committee (AFSC)] has called for the United States to immediately withdraw from Iraq in light of the continuing carnage and Washington’s failure to restore basic services or revive the country’s economy.” The article also explained that “A majority of 56 percent of respondents in a Washington Post-ABC News poll released Tuesday concluded that, given the cost in military casualties, the conflict ‘was not worth the fight.'” According to the Board of AFSC, “‘it is now clear that the continuing U.S. military presence in Iraq is counterproductive and wrong. The occupation has lost the trust of the Iraqi people. We abhor the violence–each day Iraq becomes less safe for the occupied, the occupiers, and those who seek to relieve the suffering.'”

Godless Britain?

AFP reported on December 27, 2004, that “Less than half of all Britons [44 percent] now believe in God, a sharp drop from the more than three-quarters of the population who said they were believers in 1968.” The article continued: “A majority of people in Britain neither hopes nor fears for a life after death, with just about a third believing in heaven, and even fewer in hell and the devil… The proportion who do not believe in God has trebled from 11 percent in the late-1960s to 35 percent today.”

Britain’s “Dealings” With Homosexuality

The Daily Mail reported the following on December 24, 2004:

“Schools are being urged to advertise gay lifestyles to children in a Government drive to ‘challenge homophobia.’ In an attempt to clamp down on supposedly homophobic language, the guidelines say that teachers should be reported if they report boys as ‘sissies,’ accusing them of standing around ‘like a mothers’ meeting’ or call them a ‘bunch of girls.’ Staff are asked to put up flyers for Gay Pride marches and Mardi Gras festivals. They are told that promoting a ‘positive stance’ on homosexuals and lesbians can help tackle homophobic bullying. The guidance which applies to all ages from nurseries upwards, drew a furious response from Church leaders and family campaigners who say it went too far.

“The booklets which were sent to every local education authority this month, also urge schools to:
– invite in gay visitors and speakers to act as “sexual minority role models” where there are no homosexual members of staff
– keep written records of every homophobic phrase used, either by staff or pupils
– form a ‘homophobia working party’ to increase awareness of homophobic bullying
– teach pupils about homosexual public figures such as MP’s and entertainers
– avoid generic language that assumes parents and staff always have partners of the opposite sex.”

The article continued:

“Local education authorities are expected to make the guidance known to all schools in their area. Schools are urged to ‘normalise sexual minorities’ by putting up information on gay and lesbian issues in corridors and waiting areas. Staff are told never to leave unchallenged any homophobic language including the uses of ‘gay’ as a generic insult. The guidance was produced jointly by the Department for Education and Department of Health.”

Euro On The Rise!

Reuters reported on December 27, 2004, that “The dollar fell to new lows against the euro on Monday [the value of the euro exceeding 1.35 dollars]… The euro hit its highest level in almost a year against sterling at 70.64 pence. The euro also rose to its highest in 18 months against the yen at 140.80 yen as traders assessed the economic impact from the deadly tsunami that devastated parts of Asia over the weekend.”

Der Spiegel Online and Bild Online commented on December 27, 2004, that the euro’s climb appears to be unstoppable, and stated that some experts predict a rise to 1,50 or 1,60 dollars by the end of 2005.

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Will prophetic events be "cut short"–that is, will some prophecies not come to pass?

The Scripture that some use to teach this concept is Matthew 24:22. Various translations use the terms “cut short” in quoting the words of Jesus Christ. For instance, the NIV states: “‘If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened.'” Similarly, the NKJV renders this verse: “‘And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened.'”

What days will be “cut short” or “shortened”?

In verse 3 of Matthew 24, some of the disciples asked Jesus: “‘Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?'” Jesus answered them by revealing events far into the future, and He concentrated His response on the events of the generation alive at the time that the Father would send Jesus back to the earth to forcefully intervene in world affairs.

Jesus stated: “‘Now learn this parable from the fig tree: When its branch has already become tender and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near. So you also, when you see all these things know that it is near–at the doors! Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but MY WORDS WILL BY NO MEANS PASS AWAY'” (Matthew 24:32-35).

Jesus is very clear in stating that what He has spoken regarding prophecy will come to pass–all of it! This includes even everything written in the Old Testament regarding the end time, as Christ is the “Word of God” — the Father’s Spokesman –, inspiring those writings (compare Revelation 19:13; John 1:1, 14). In the parallel record of Luke, we find this statement by Jesus: “‘For these are the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled'” (Luke 21:22). Time and again, Jesus spoke of fulfilling the things written about Himself, and there is no record of Him not completing all that was written about Him (Compare Matthew 21:4; John 13:18; Matthew 26:56; John 19:28). Jesus emphatically stated that He fulfilled ALL that was written about Him: “Then He said to them, ‘These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me'” (Luke 24:44).

In very plain language, Jesus taught about His role, and He further declared that the Word of God would be carried out: “‘Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled'” (Matthew 5:17-18).

This comprehensive statement from Jesus applies to specific prophecies about Him for the time of His physical lifetime, and they apply to yet future events involving not only Himself but the entire Word of God!

From this we can understand that all of what God’s Word has recorded concerning prophecy will be fulfilled!

Some refer to 1 Corinthians 13:8, claiming that this passage says that certain prophecies will not be fulfilled. However, this is not what that passage conveys. It reads: “Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail.” Later, in verse 13, Paul says: “And now abide faith, hope, love.” The contrast here is between something which will endure forever, and something which will only endure for a while and then vanish away.

Please note that Paul is using different words for “fail” in verse 8. In the Greek, the word associated with “love” is “ekpipto,” which means, according to Young’s Analytical Concordance to the Bible, “to fall off or away.” The Greek word associated with “prophecy” is, “katargeo.” It means, according to Young’s, “to make useless.” Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible gives, as one possible rendering, the expression, “vanish away.”

While love will always endure (as it is part of God’s character–in fact, God IS love), prophecies will cease. This could be a reference to inspired preaching by men (as there will come a time when all men will have been changed into spirit beings–or those who did not qualify for God’s Kingdom will have ceased to exist); or, it could refer to prophecies of the future. If the latter, then they will cease when the events prophesied will have come to pass.

Paul is not saying that some of God’s prophecies, if they are UNCONDITIONAL, will not come to pass. It is true, however, that God has given certain prophecies which are conditional; that is, they depend on whether or not man repents. Notice, for example, Jeremiah 18:7-11; or the entire book of Jonah.

What then is meant in Matthew 24:22? What will be “cut short” or “shortened”?

In the entire record of Matthew 24, Jesus presents an overview to His followers (that includes us in our own generation) of events in the world that will lead to His return. However, He specifically states that we will be only able to recognize the generation of His return (verse 34), but not the exact day (verse 36), nor the exact times or seasons (Acts 1:7), that is, the exact year or the season of that year. Horrific events of wars, earthquakes, persecutions and great tribulation will arise during the period leading to God’s intervention in human affairs. This time period will be unique for its misery and stark hopelessness, with the real certainty of life being eradicated from the earth (Compare Matthew 24:21-22)!

When Jesus does return to this earth, He will face the challenge of dealing with a planet that has been devastated! Isaiah 49:8 states that the coming Messiah would “‘…restore the earth.'” Great future damage will occur to the earth–much of it at the hand of mankind. We find this ominous statement in Revelation 11:18: “‘The nations were angry, and Your wrath has come, And the time of the dead, that they should be judged, And that You should reward Your servants the prophets and the saints, And those who fear Your name, small and great, And should destroy those WHO DESTROY THE EARTH.'”

We understand, then, that God will send Jesus Christ back to this earth to stop what mankind is doing. Through science, various nations have now gained access to the power of nuclear weapons, as well as biological agents, along with other unimaginably vile inventions capable of destroying life on the entire planet. Prophetic events yet to occur indicate that men will begin wars in which these devastating devices will be unleashed on such a scale that only the intervention of God through Jesus Christ will put an end to this coming suicidal madness! (Our writings consistently warn of these impending occurrences. “The Great Tribulation and the Day of the Lord” deals with many of the specific prophecies in this regard; also, please see our internet video program at www.standingwatch.org.)

The answer to what will be “cut short” or “shortened” is exactly stated in Scripture: It is “the days” (Matthew 24:22), when all these terrible end-time events will take place. In other words, man’s time to completely destroy life will not be allowed to run its full course, as God will cut short the destructive actions of a world in rebellion against God–one that will even fight Jesus Christ at His return (Compare Revelation 19:11-21). None of God’s Word will be “cut short” or “shortened.” In fact ALL that God has prophesied unconditionally for the future will come to pass until the last jot and the last tittle are completely fulfilled!

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Preaching the Gospel & Feeding the Flock

The draft of our new booklet on Military Service and War has entered the first review cycle.

A new StandingWatch program was recorded Thursday and has been posted on the web. The program discusses the terrible tragedy in Asia and is titled, “Why the Catastrophe in Asia?”

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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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