Update 181


Split Sermons

On Saturday, February 19, 2005, Rene Messier and Brian Gale will give split sermons in San Diego.

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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Lessons From History

by Brian Gale (United Kingdom)

When God decided to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah because of its depravity (compare Genesis 18 and 19), Lot lingered (Genesis 19:16), rather than fleeing from such an ungodly place. But eventually sanity prevailed, and Lot, his wife and his daughters escaped from the scene of such ungodliness. Lot’s wife, however, “looked back” and died (Genesis 19:26). While there are a number of aspects of this story that could be discussed, I want to just briefly mention two of them in this editorial.

First, it seemed that Lot and his family had become so accustomed to wrong behavior and a society that had strayed so far from the way of God, that escaping from such a place seemed madness, so much so, that Lot’s sons-in-law thought he was joking (Genesis 19:14). Apparently, even righteous Lot did not think that God would actually DESTROY the place. So, why should they flee? For example, today homosexuality is considered an alternative life style rather than the perversion and the abomination that the Bible describes. No doubt, many of the attitudes displayed today are a reflection of the same sort of attitudes that prevailed around 4,000 years ago in Sodom and Gomorrah. Nothing, it would appear, seems to change! But the place was obviously a hotbed of sin of all descriptions. Lot and his family were to forsake the city emotionally as well as physically, and were to loathe it as God loathed it. Do we feel the same about the Sodom and Gomorrah-type-society that we live in, and loathe its many sins?

Second, it is obvious that such reluctance to flee the place was because they accepted the society which afforded them a pleasant life and a comfortable standard of living. Even though Lot “tormented his righteous soul from day to day by seeing and hearing their lawless deeds” (2 Peter 2:8), he still had chosen to dwell and stay there (same verse), because of the wealth it had to offer (compare Genesis 13:9-11). As an Englishman abroad at present, currently in southern California for the Church conference, I have, yet again, been reminded that this is truly a land flowing with milk and honey, probably much greater than that promised to ancient Israel (compare Deuteronomy 6:3). There is a super abundance of everything which just seems to be taken for granted by so many. But, do we trust in our riches and have we set our hearts on them, so much so, that we would be unwilling to leave them behind, if God were to require it?

Let us remember these two important lessons that can easily be forgotten:

(1) We must not accept ungodly behavior, irrespective of what is happening around us and what society deems to be acceptable.

(2) While we must never take for granted the many blessings that God constantly gives to us all, we must never set our hearts on physical things. A godly attitude in every aspect of our life will enable us to obey God and to cope with whatever faces us in the future. Failure to trust God as we should will prove to be a recipe for disaster.

1 Corinthians 10:11 sums it up perfectly: “Now all these things happened to them as examples and were written for our admonition….” Let us be among those who learn from history, which is something that rarely seems to happen.

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Anniversary of Destruction of Dresden

As the Associated Press reported on February 13, 2005, “Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder warned Germans not to forget their Nazi past Sunday as far-right supporters rallied in Dresden on Sunday to protest a devastating Allied bombing in Second World War that killed an estimated 35,000 residents 60 years ago. Schroeder said the anniversary was an occasion for people everywhere to unite against the ‘inhumanity of war.’ But the rally – and fears of street clashes – cast a shadow over a day of remembrance and reflection on the U.S.-British air raids, which set off firestorms and destroyed the centuries-old city centre. ‘Today we grieve for the victims of war and the Nazi reign of terror in Dresden, in Germany and in Europe,’ [Schroeder] said in a statement. ‘We will oppose in every way these attempts to reinterpret history. We will not allow cause and effect to be reversed.'”

The article of The A.P. continued: “Some 5,000 far-right activists later rallied at the Saxony legislature and then marched through the city. Heading the march were leaders of the nationalist, anti-immigrant National Democratic party, which won seats in the legislature last fall. Dozens of marchers carried flaming torches and loudspeakers blared music by Richard Wagner, Hitler’s favourite composer. Banners described the attack as a ‘bomb Holocaust’ and said, ‘The day of revenge will come.’

“At least 4,500 people demonstrated against the far right, and police were out in force to keep the two sides apart. At dusk, residents in the old town lit 4,000 candles that were arranged to spell ‘This city is sick of neo-Nazis’ in Germany.”

According to the German press, including Bild Online and Der Spiegel Online, the number of those who demonstrated against the Neo-Nazis was FAR GREATER than the figures reported by the Associated Press. Bild Online stated that more than 50,000 (!) residents of the city of Dresden [not, as stated by The A.P., 4,500] demonstrated AGAINST the Neo-Nazis.

Chancellor Schroeder is absolutely right, when he warns against the abominable activities of Neo-Nazis in Germany; the re-writing of history; and the attempt to reverse cause and effect. He is also to be applauded for pointing out the inhumanity of war — ANY war! The Bible agrees with this assessment — war only leads to more war and terrible suffering, pain and death of many innocent people. The death of 35,000 civilians in Dresden 60 years ago is only one example of the many cases of history, which prove this point beyond the shadow of any doubt. And still — have we learned the lesson of history? Sadly, the answer is a resounding, NO! Man still thinks that war may solve ANYTHING — and so, we still hear of wars and of rumors of wars (compare Matthew 24:6). Paul’s words are still true today: “Their feet are swift to shed blood; Destruction and misery are in their ways; And the way of peace they have not known” (Romans 3:15-17).

Election Results in Iraq — Good or Bad?

As The Associated Press reported on February 13, 2005, “Clergy-backed Shiites and independence-minded Kurds swept to victory in Iraq’s landmark elections, propelling to power the groups that suffered the most under Saddam Hussein and forcing Sunni Arabs to the margins for the first time in modern history, according to final results released Sunday. But the Shiites’ 48 percent of the vote is far short of the two-thirds majority needed to control the 275-member National Assembly… Interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, the secular Shiite chosen by the United States to lead this country for the last eight turbulent months, fared POORLY – his ticket finishing a distant third behind the religious Shiites and Kurds. ..

“The election results highlighted the SHARP DIFFERENCES among Iraq’s ethnic, religious and cultural groups – many of whom fear domination not just by the Shiites, estimated at 60 percent of the population, but also by the Kurds, the most pro-American group with about 15 percent. The results also draw attention to the close and longtime ties between now-victorious Iraqi Shiite leaders and clerics in neighboring IRAN. The Shiite ticket owes its success to the support of Iraq’s clerics, including Iranian-born Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.”

In spite of the optimistic reactions to Iraq’s elections, the fact that the person supported by the US fared poorly; that the different groups in Iraq are sharply at odds with each other; and that the elected Iraqi Shiite leaders have close ties with Iran raises cause for concern regarding the future developments in Iraq.

Iran and the West

The Associated Press reported on February 13, 2005, that “Germany appealed Saturday for the United States to join Europe in ending Iran’s isolation, saying economic and security incentives were needed to persuade Tehran to abandon its nuclear ambitions… Germany, France and Britain are leading European efforts to persuade Iran to drop activities that could be used to develop nuclear weapons, and have been offering technical assistance and trade talks as incentives… The United States has worried Europeans by refusing to rule out military strikes if diplomacy fails. Washington has urged the Europeans to take a tougher line by threatening Tehran with U.N. sanctions.”

In a related article, The Associated Press reported on February 13, 2005, that “Iran rejected a European demand to stop building a heavy-water nuclear reactor that provides a simpler way of extracting weapons-grade fuel, and it warned the United States on Sunday ‘not to play with fire’ by repeatedly threatening Tehran. Iran has indicated previously it will keep its heavy-water reactor, but Sunday’s announcement that it will not replace it with a light-water reactor was the clearest statement yet of its nuclear plans and represented a hardening of its position… The statement underscored the unresolved differences between Iranian and European negotiators, who are continuing their talks over Iran’s nuclear program even as the United States escalates its criticism of Iran.”

It is interesting that it is, again, Germany, in alliance with France and Britain, which is taking a leading role on the world scene. It is also noteworthy that Europe (especially Germany and France) and the United States are, once more, in disagreement — in this case, as to how to deal with Iran. If European peace efforts fail (as the U.S. contended happened in the case of Iraq), will the U.S. once again pursue its course of action toward Iran without, or even against, the interests and concerns of the Europeans? The distinct possibility exists — and we are called upon to watch events like these, as they could very well lead to a further fulfillment of end-time prophecy.

NATO Forces in the Middle East?

The Associated Press reported on February 12, 2005, that “NATO should be ready to play a major role in supporting any peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, if the two sides ask for its help, the alliance’s top diplomat [Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer] said Saturday… Also, German Defense Minister Peter Struck told the conference his country was ready to take part in any NATO peacekeeping mission in the region… In Munich, [Scheffer] underlined NATO’s long peacekeeping experience and its ability to bring together the United States – Israel’s close ally – and Europeans, who are perceived as closer to Palestinians… However, officials from France and some other European nations have expressed caution about entering the Middle East. Israeli officials are wary about bringing in a NATO force, and some Arab leaders have doubts about an alliance led by the United States… The EU’s foreign affairs chief, Javier Solana, also called for increased international assistance for the revived peace process, particularly by supporting the Israeli pull out from Gaza and aiding economic development for the Palestinians.”

The Bible prophesies that Jerusalem WILL BE surrounded by armies — in the future (compare Luke 21:20, 22, 24). We also know from Scripture that it will be a mighty European military force, under German leadership, which will enter the Middle East, perhaps with the declared goal to create or maintain peace in the region. The present discussion, as reported in the quoted article, is therefore worth observing.

NATO Outdated?

As RFE/RL reported on February 14, 2005, “German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder surprised participants at an international security conference over the weekend by suggesting the NATO alliance is outdated. Speaking through Germany’s defense minister [Peter Struck], Schroeder [who did not attend the meeting] told the meeting in the German city of Munich that NATO no longer is the main vehicle for setting trans-Atlantic strategy… ‘[NATO] is no longer the primary place where trans-Atlantic partners consult and coordinate their strategic ideas,’ Struck said. ‘The same goes for the dialogue between the European Union and the United States, which in its present form does not correspond with the growing weight of the alliance or the new challenges of trans-Atlantic cooperation.’… Schroeder’s comments came as a shock. Several European and U.S. delegates [including U.S. Defense Secretary Rumsfeld] told the conference they regretted Schroeder was not present to explain his remarks. Struck said he was not in a position to do so but added that it was not Schroeder’s intention to put NATO in the grave but to improve international cooperation. [Struck] began by saying circumstances in both Europe and the United States had changed with the end of the Cold War and Europe wanted to be more deeply involved in decision-making.”

Whether or not Chancellor Schroeder’s comments are “premature,” the Bible clearly reveals that in the future, NATO will indeed lose more and more importance and influence, and it will be replaced by a powerful European power bloc, which will be ultimately at odds with the United States.

Assassination in Lebanon

As The Associated Press reported on February 15, 2005, “An angry mob attacked Syrian workers in southern Lebanon Tuesday and another group threw stones and set fires outside a Syrian government office in Beirut, blaming Damascus for the bomb that killed former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Syria has denied any involvement in Hariri’s assassination, which raised fears that Lebanon might revert to the political violence of the 1970s and ’80s, and the U.S. Embassy in Beirut warned Americans in the Lebanese capital to exercise extreme caution. Condemnation and expressions of shock came from around the Arab world and beyond. The United States called Monday’s attack ‘a terrible reminder’ that Lebanon still must shake free of occupation by Syria, which maintains 15,000 troops [there]… since the civil war ended in 1990 and has the final say in internal Lebanese politics. Before his assassination, Hariri had positioned himself in opposition to a faction more solidly backed by Syria.”

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Are there any reliable historical records that show how, where and when the apostle Paul died?

The Holy Scriptures do not record Paul’s death, and although historians agree that Paul was murdered, they are somewhat divided regarding the precise events leading to Paul’s death.

For instance, the 27th edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica, copyright 1959, writes on page 394, under “Paul”:

“Paul’s fate is hardly obscure. He himself saw that the charge against him, unrebutted by independent evidence, must bring him to the executioner’s sword, the last penalty for a Roman citizen. With this late and century tradition agrees (Tertullian, ‘De praescr. haer.’ 36), namely the very spot on the Ostian Way, marked by a martyr-memorial (‘tropaion,’ Caius ‘ap.’ Euseb. ii 25), probably at the modern Tre Fontane, some three miles from Rome. But the traditional date (June 29) reaches us only on far later authority. Acts simply suggests summer A.D. 62; and we may perhaps imagine Timothy reaching Rome in time to share Paul’s last days.”

Historians are by no means in agreement regarding the actual year of Paul’s death.

“The Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics,” by James Hastings, copyright 1917, states on page 694:

“The close of Paul’s life, therefore, like its beginning, is enveloped in obscurity. That he suffered martyrdom at Rome there can be no doubt. That it was by beheading, and that the place of execution was three miles outside the city on the Ostian Way, is the consistent tradition of the Roman Church. The date will lie between A.D. 64 and 67, most probably nearer the former date than the latter limit.”

Historians are divided, whether Paul’s death took place immediately after the end of the events described in Acts 28:30-31, that is, around A.D. 62, or whether a few years after those events, that is, between A.D. 64 and 67. The Broadman Bible Commentary, vol. 10, states on pages 151-152:

“Luke brings his book to a close with a summary account of Paul’s stay in Rome and tells us that he had full freedom in his preaching and teaching… The abruptness of the author’s conclusion has led to much speculation among New Testament scholars. Some believe that the work was unfinished due to the author’s death. Others maintain that the ending of Acts was lost. A few contend that Luke intended to write a third volume…”

We might interject here that some feel that Luke ended the account in the book of Acts in such a drastic way, as he was not inspired to reveal, at that time, the location of the lost ten tribes of the house of Israel. The book of Acts does not report the later activities of the original apostles, such as Peter, because, as some contend, they preached the gospel to the lost ten tribes (compare Matthew 10:6).

The Broadman Bible Commentary continues: “Cadbury (The Beginnings of Christianity, V, 333) cites an imperial edict attributed to the reign of Nero which specifies the time limit when cases were dropped. For capital cases in Roman provinces across the sea which were brought to Rome, the accuser and the accused had to appear in court before the maximum limit of 18 months. If the time limit should be exceeded, the case went by default. Perhaps Luke implied that Paul’s case was dropped by telling us that the apostle lived in Rome for two whole years at his own expense. If this was the situation, the author did end his book in a highly dramatic manner. The default was equivalent to an acquittal before Caesar’s court and gave tacit legal approval to the Christian movement…

“Clement of Rome about A.D. 95 says that Paul ‘preached the gospel to the uttermost bounds of the west.’ It is quite possible that Cement’s information is based on Paul’s express hope to go to Spain (Rom. 15:24,28). Tradition also tells us that the apostle, after his release, was arrested again by Roman officials and put in prison at Rome. Further, during the persecution of Christians by Nero in A.D. 64, Paul was put to death by the executioner’s ax. He was spared from crucifixion because he was a Roman citizen.”

Eusebius explains in “The History of the Church,” edited 1965, pp. 98-99, that Paul was spared in his first trial, as he was “rescued out of the lion’s mouth, the reference being apparently to Nero [or Satan, compare 1 Peter 5:8, using Nero as one of his instruments], because of his bestial cruelty.” Eusebius also explains that “Nero’s tyranny did not begin till A.D. 62, when Paul’s first imprisonment was over.”

Frank J. Goodwin writes in “A Harmony of the Life of St.Paul,” edited 1951, on pages 194-196:

“Paul was acquitted after his first trial, and was remanded to prison… After the first trial nothing is certain. ‘That he underwent execution by the sword,’ says Alford, ‘is the constant tradition of antiquity, and would agree with the fact of his Roman citizenship, which would exempt him from death by torture.’ (Proleg., p. 97). Of his last trial and death there is tradition only, but no history (see Conybeare and Howson, II., pp. 488-490).”

Nevertheless, Conybeare and Howson state, in “The Life and Epistles of St. Paul,” reprinted 1976, on pages 782 and 783, that Paul was released from prison after his first trial, but subsequently again arrested and killed by the Romans. They point out: “The death of St. Paul is recorded by his contemporary Clement…; also by the Roman presbyter Caius (about 200 A.D.) (who alludes to the Ostian road as the site of St. Paul’s martyrdom), by Tertullian, Eusebius…, Jerome, and many subsequent writers… The statement that Paul was beheaded on the Ostian road agrees with the usage of the period, and with the tradition that his decapitation was by the sword not the axe.”

A handout on the Epistles of Paul, by the Ambassador College of the Worldwide Church of God, in the fall of 1982, stated the following under “Rome”:

“Rome, an ancient city dating back some 700 years prior to Christ’s birth, was in the time of Paul the powerful capital of a world-ruling empire. The city sat upon seven hills along the Tiber River in what is today modern Italy. The city itself rests nearly fifteen miles inland from Italy’s western coast.

“Paul’s first visit was in chains from Caesarea. He arrived in Rome after a long troublesome voyage and immediately held conference with Jewish leaders there (Acts 28:16-17). His first imprisonment was in his ‘own hired house’ (Acts 28:30). He received Onesimus here (Philemon10) as well as Epaphroditus (Philippians 4:18). He wrote the ‘Prison Epistles’ of Colossians, Ephesians, Philippians and Philemon probably in 60-61 A.D. He expected acquittal as recorded in Philemon 22.

“Activities between his two Roman imprisonments are rather sketchy. We may wonder if he was able to visit Philippi (Philippians 1:26; 2:24), Colossae (Philemon 22) and Spain (Romans 15:24, 28). We may be rather sure he did visit Ephesus and Macedonia (1 Timothy 1:3; 3:14, 15) as well as Crete (Titus 1:5), Miletus (2 Timothy 4:20), Troas (2 Timothy 4:13), Corinth (2 Timothy 4:20) and Nicopolis (Titus 3:12). It was during this time Paul probably wrote Timothy (first epistle) and Titus from Macedonia.

“Finally we come to Paul’s second arrest, his imprisonment and martyrdom. He is imprisoned as an evil-doer (2 Timothy 1:8; 2:8, 9), and writes his final epistle to Timothy in anticipation of death between 65-67 A.D. The epistle gives detail to Paul’s situation during his second imprisonment. It was here in Rome that tradition stated Paul was beheaded.”

In his remarkable book, “The Drama of the Lost Disciples,” edited 1993, George F. Jowett writes on page 127: “In the year A.D. 66 we are told that Claudia, with her husband and children, rescued the murdered body of St. Paul, interring it in the private burial grounds on the Pudens estate [at Rome], where they were all to rest together.” He continues, on pages 179-180:

“But what of Peter and Paul? Did they remain buried at Rome, in the grave where the loving hands of Claudia, Pudens and their children had placed them?… The positive answer is found in a document written by Pope Vitalian to the British King Oswy, A.D. 656. The letter is still in existence. Probably to the astonishment of many, the letter states that Pope Vitalian permitted the remains of the bodies of St. Paul and St. Peter, with the remains of the martyrs St. Lawrence, St. John, St. Gregory and St. Pancras, to be removed from Rome to England and re-interred in the great church at Canterbury. This historic record is beyond refutation… The full facts concenring this amazing incident are related by the Venerable Bede, A.D. 673-735, in his ‘Ecclesiastical History of the English Nation.'”

Excerpts from the Pope’s letter to King Oswy read [quoted from Opera Historica, Volume I, p. 501]: “But to your messengers, the bearers of this our letter, we have caused to be given the benefits of the saints, that is to say, the relics of the blessed apostles Peter and Paul, and of the holy martyrs, Laurence [or Lawrence], John and Paul and of Gregory and Pancras, all to be delivered truly to your excellency.”

It is therefore reasonably certain that Paul was murdered under Nero through beheading. He was buried in Rome, but his body was later transferred to England, where it is today. Paul is still dead, lying in his grave, and waiting for his resurrection at the time of Christ’s return to this earth, in a few years from now.

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Preaching the Gospel and Feeding the Flo

As announced in last week’s Update, please remember our annual Church conference, which will begin on Friday, February 18, 2005. Please pray for safety for all those who will still be traveling to San Diego. Please also pray to God for inspiration during the conference, and that He would give us the wisdom and understanding of His Will for us.

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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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