Update 195


The Trials of Your Faith

On Saturday, May 28, 2005, Edwin Pope will give the sermon, titled, “The Trials of Your Faith.”

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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Have You Heard?

by Dave Harris

What generally follows an opening statement such as, “Have you heard”? Usually, it is gossip. Most often, it is half-truths missing some important facts! But not always!

Consider the reaction of people who heard Jesus teach: “And so it was, when Jesus had ended these sayings, that the people were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes” (Matthew 7:28-29). Even those who opposed Jesus were shocked by the message Jesus proclaimed: “Then the officers came to the chief priests and Pharisees, who said to them, ‘Why have you not brought Him?’ The officers answered, ‘No man ever spoke like this Man!'” (John 7:45-46).

Contrasting the wisdom of men against God’s revealed knowledge, Paul writes: “‘Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man The things which God has prepared for those who love Him'” (1 Corinthians 2:9).

In an earlier biblical account, Job admits that what he had heard about God was not even close to the reality of Who God actually is: “‘I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, But now my eye sees You. Therefore I abhor myself, And repent in dust and ashes'” (Job 42:5-6).

It isn’t so different for us, today. We hear things. We form beliefs around our understanding in a matter, and sometimes, not unlike Job and so many others in this deceived world, we are simply wrong! Jesus Christ gives us both a warning and an important key concerning what we hear. Note His statement in Mark 4:24: “‘Take heed what you hear. With the same measure you use, it will be measured to you; and to you who hear, more will be given.'”

Over the many years since God created man, the record stands that the vast and overwhelming majority have REFUSED to hear God! Even among those whom God has called, there is the dangerous potential of growing dull of hearing. Paul, in speaking of God’s Church, addresses a problem that would arise in our day: “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables” (2 Timothy 4:3-4).

The warnings apply to all of us–perhaps right now, as never before! Have you heard?

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Catholics and Anglicans

As the Seattle Post-Intellgencer reported on May 17, 2005, “The historical separation between Roman Catholics and Anglicans has narrowed after both found common ground on the position of Mary, mother of Jesus, according to a document conceived at the highest church levels and released in Seattle yesterday. Anglicans, already close to Catholics because of liturgy and traditions, have moved even closer through their understanding of Mary as outlined in the joint statement, which took five years and an international committee to complete. The document seeks to transcend past controversies on Catholic dogma, including the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption of Mary…

“The result might be an elevation, or at least a heightened acknowledgment, of the place of Mary — particularly for Anglicans, the denomination born in England during the Reformation and called the Episcopal Church in the United States. Anglicanism is considered closest to Catholicism because it gives Mary a pre-eminent place among the saints, includes her in Communion prayers and holds six Marian feast days. Among other matters, Catholics and Protestants disagree over the Catholic dogmas of the Immaculate Conception — the assertion that Mary lived a life free from sin from the moment she was conceived — and the Assumption, the belief that her body and soul were taken into heaven when her earthly life ended. Those dogmas have ‘created problems not only for Anglicans but also for other Christians,’ the document said, largely because they are not explicitly supported by Scripture.”

The Catholic Church and Sunday

As Zenit reported on May 22, 2005, “Every parish is called to rediscover the beauty of Sunday, the day of the Lord, says Benedict XVI… ‘in which Christ’s disciples renew, in the Eucharist, communion with the One who gives meaning to their joys and exhaustions of each day.’… The theme of the Italian Eucharistic Congress — ‘We Cannot Live without Sunday’ — repeats the words expressed before their death by the 49 martyrs of Abitene, a city of the Roman province of ‘pro-consular Africa,’ present-day Tunis, in the year 303, at the time of Diocletian’s persecutions. ‘This is what we are called to repeat today,’ said the [pope].”

The Catholic Church and Spain

Zenit reported on May 23, 2005: “Benedict XVI in his message said he is aware that ‘the Catholic Church in Spain is ready to take firm steps in its evangelizing projects’ and added that ‘the transmission of the faith and believers’ religious practice cannot be confined to the purely private realm’…. Cardinal Antonio Rouco of Madrid offered a catechesis in the Church of St. James the Elder affirming: ‘Spain will be Christian and Catholic or it will cease to exist as such. In other words, if it loses its roots, not only will it cease to be Catholic Christian, but it will cease to be Spain.'”

Pope Benedict XVI and the British Press

As Zenit reported on May 23, 2005, Peter Jennings, press secretary to Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Birmingham, had some strong words about the negative coverage of the British press pertaining to the new pope. In his interview with Zenit, he stated:

“The British media works out of a framework of liberal secularism and does not understand events from the perspective of faith… Attitudes towards the Catholic Church in Britain have changed considerably for the better over the past three decades. Unfortunately there is still a trace of an anti-Roman mentality combined with a general British suspicion of all things ‘foreign.’

“In addition, hostility now is based more on an aggressive secular agenda that dominates the British media… The British media is hostile to the Church of England, too. In fact, for some journalists, there is a respect for the strength and coherence of the Catholic Church… Don’t judge British society by the British press! The press has its own agenda. There was very widespread and positive interest among British society, at every level, in the death and funeral Mass of Pope John Paul II, and the conclave, election and inaugural Mass of Pope Benedict XVI. People who had never been into a Catholic Church attended a special requiem Mass for Pope John Paul II celebrated in St. Chad’s Cathedral, situated in the center of Birmingham, on the day of the funeral Mass in Rome….

“The attitude of the British press to Christianity is generally hostile. Its attitude to Judaism and Islam is completely different because of the potential criticism that would follow hostile and negative reporting of these faiths.”

New Elections in Germany

As The Associated Press reported on May 23, 2005, “[German Chancellor Gerhard] Schroeder shocked the country on Sunday, announcing his high-risk early election plan shortly after his Social Democrats (SPD) were booted out of office in North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW), Germany’s most populous state, ruled by the party for 39 years. Bringing forward the election by one year to this autumn carries huge risks for Schroeder.”

The article continued to explain:

“The result solidifies the conservative majority [the Christian Democratic Union party, “CDU”] in the Bundesrat [upper house of parliament], although it leaves them just shy of a two-thirds majority that would allow them to block virtually all government legislation, including the budget. The SPD has now seen its support decline in nine consecutive state elections. NRW was the last state ruled by a coalition of the SPD and the leftist-environmentalist Greens, leaving the federal coalition in Berlin as the last ‘Red-Green’ alliance.”

Schroeder’s challenger in new elections will be “Opposition leader Angela Merkel [who] vowed on Monday to oust Gerhard Schroeder — a move that could make her Germany’s first woman chancellor — after he put his job on the line with a shock call for early elections. Merkel grew up in the former East Germany and became a protege of ex-Chancellor Helmut Kohl after the 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall. Now she is the favorite to take on Schroeder in a federal election that could come as early as September.”

Better Future Relations Between USA and Germany?

The Associated Press asked the poignant question in its article of May 24, 2005: “With Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder soon to face disgruntled voters, would a different Berlin government improve the tattered U.S.-German relationship?” The article continued: “Angela Merkel, leader of the Christian Democratic Union opposition party, would find it a stretch to restore the relationship to its Cold War heyday – but she’s been far less critical of President Bush and the Iraq war. A Protestant minister’s daughter who grew up under communist rule in East Germany, Merkel is almost certain to be the conservative CDU’s candidate in early elections called for by Schroeder after his party badly lost a local weekend election.”

The article pointed out: “People in Germany remember in particular Merkel’s visit to the United States on Feb. 24-25, 2003, as the [Iraq] war neared. She met with Vice President Dick Cheney, said the danger from Iraq was real and that pressure must be kept on Saddam Hussein. She disputed Schroeder’s refusal to support a war under any circumstances, even with the approval of the United Nations. ‘Anyone who rejects military action as a last resort weakens the pressure that needs to be maintained on dictators and consequently makes a war not less but more likely,’ she wrote in a Washington Post opinion piece ahead of her visit.”

At the same time, according to The Associated Press, “Merkel differs sharply with Bush on one pressing issue: She opposes European Union membership for Turkey, which Bush has supported.” In addition, if people think that a German government under Merkel will become a strong friend of the USA, they might be wrong. The Associated Press stated:

“Thomas Risse, a professor of international politics at Berlin’s Free University, said that if elected, Merkel might bring more a change in style than in substance… ‘As far as the substance of the trans-Atlantic relationship goes, I don’t see much difference,’ he said. Germany is not going to send troops to Iraq no matter who the chancellor is, he said, and Merkel’s party supports a U.N. security council seat for Germany, just as Schroeder does. The U.S. has not taken a public position on a seat for Germany, but it’s unlikely the Bush administration looks with much comfort on the idea. ‘If people in Washington think it’s going to be that much easier with a CDU government,’ Risse said, ‘they’re in for a lot of surprises.'”

Most conservative American journalists have given up on Schroeder and are already celebrating Merkel’s perceived soon-coming victory. As Der Spiegel reported on May 25, 2005, in its article, “Who is Angie?”: “The White House won’t miss Schroeder… But who is Merkel? The American government is pretty unsure about her… The biggest concern is the coming German election campaign. Bush’s government is afraid that the old wounds of the Iraq war will be opened. Schroeder will take every opportunity, it is feared, to remind the Germans that Merkel was a supporter of the US-led war. In light of the present disaster in Iraq, Merkel could be facing difficulties in Germany, according to American commentators. And that would be likewise true for Bush at home.”

In summary, people might be surprised either way: Although not too many give Schroeder a chance to win in the next election, Schroeder might surprise them. And if Merkel wins, she, too, might surprise many people.

Turkey and the EU

As the EUobserver stated on May 24, 2005, “A change of government in Germany in September to favour the Christian Democrats could spell trouble for Turkey’s bid to become a member of the EU. Chancellor Gerhard Schröder’s decision to seek early elections after his party’s regional election defeat on Sunday (22 May) has already prompted the CDU to let it be known that one of its campaign themes will be its opposition to Turkish EU membership.”

The article continued:

“CDU politician Matthias Wissman, the head of the Europe committee in the Bundestag, told German daily FT Deutschland, ‘We will tell people that the likelihood of full EU membership for Turkey is much much lower under a [CDU] government. Of course, Germany does not decide alone about [Turkey’s] membership,’ he added, ‘but Germany’s weight in the EU means that a German change of position can also lead to a change in the EU’s position.'”

EU Battle Groups

The EUobserver reported on May 23, 2005: “EU defence ministers meeting on Monday in Brussels took some more steps towards the creation of the bloc’s own rapid reaction ‘battle groups’ by deciding to speed up the bloc’s notoriously slow decision-making process… Meanwhile Germany signed itself up to two more battle groups with France and Spain as well as with Poland, Slovakia, Lithuania and Latvia with the first to be ready in the second half of 2008 and the second during the first half of 2010.”

Water Shortage in Middle East?

AFP reported on May 21, 2005, about the possibility of serious water shortage in the Middle East. The article stated:

“The Middle East is faced with the prospect of a serious water crisis that could lead to political tensions and hamper prosperity, experts told a session of a World Economic Forum (WEF)… Hazem Nasser, former Jordanian water and irrigation minister, [told the audience:] ‘In 1950, the Arab population was 75 million. In 2,000, it was 300 million, and is expected to grow to 600 million by 2025.’ He said the deficit of water in the region was 30 billion cubic meters (approximately 7.95 trillion imperial gallons) last year and is expected to grow to 175 billion cubic meters (46 trillion gallons) in 2025. ‘Most of the countries in the region have exhausted their water resources,’ he said.”

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Would you please explain Revelation 14:11? Does this Scripture teach that the wicked will be forever tormented in hell fire?

Let us consider Revelation 14:11 in context with the previous two verses. The entire passage reads:

“Then a third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, ‘If anyone worships the beast [an end-time political leader, as well as the political system that he represents] and his image [an end-time religious system, as well as a religious leader representing that system]. and receives his mark on his forehead or on his head [permitting or preventing him to buy and sell, Revelation 13:16-17], he himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation. He shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb [Jesus Christ]. And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.”

Most commentaries teach that this passage describes the never-ending torment of wicked souls in an eternal hell fire. The Nelson Study Bible, in altering the literal wording of the passage, states:

“A third angel announces with a loud voice the tragic eternal destiny of the one who rejects the offer of the gospel (vv. 6,7) and worships the beast (ch. 13)… In the just outworking of God’s wrath, unbelievers who worship the beast will be tormented… forever and ever, with no rest day or night.”

However, reading the passage carefully, it does not say that the wicked will be “tormented… forever and ever.”

The Broadman Bible Commentary discusses the problems with such an interpretation. It states, in volume 12, on page 320:

“The greatest problem of interpretation in this passage is the apparent vindictiveness. Christian interpreters have regarded it as sub-Christian reflecting the stress of the time but impossible to reconcile with the teaching of Jesus. Some reject its obvious implications since such endless and horrible suffering could serve no good purpose and offer no prospect of release… Others see the language as dealing with ultimate realities and prefer a literal interpretation. Their case merely points out that man has brought this judgment on himself. Others believe that if there are those who resist God’s love finally, they, with Hades and Death, will be thrown into the lake of fire (20:14ff), which is ‘extinction and total oblivion.'”

The last interpretation comes closer to the truth than the others. But even it misunderstands, apparently, that the passage in Revelation 14:11 does NOT talk about the final fate of the wicked.

As we pointed out in our last Update 194 and in our booklets, “Do You Have an Immortal Soul,” and “God’s Commanded Holy Days,” there is NO ever-burning hell fire, NOR will the wicked be tormented for all eternity. Rather, they will be BURNT UP in the THIRD resurrection — that is, after the Millennium and the Great White Throne Judgment period (compare Revelation 20:4-15).

The passage in Revelation 14:11 does not talk about that time period. It refers to the coming of Jesus Christ and the time when people worship the beast and have its mark. All of this will occur BEFORE the Millennium.

What, then, IS the meaning of Revelation 14:11?

One key point is to realize that the torment of their SMOKE will ascend forever and ever. The passage does NOT say that THE WICKED will be tormented forever and ever. Rather, the wicked will be burnt up in fiery plagues, and it is their smoke — evidence that the fire has done its work — which ascends forever and ever. Smoke results from something burned. This indicates that they were consumed, and that all that remains is smoke. We also read in Malachi 4:3 that the ASHES of the wicked will be under the feet of the righteous. Psalm 37:20 tells us that the wicked shall “perish” — “into smoke they shall vanish away.” It is not the punishment of the fire, but the result of that punishment, which is being addressed in Revelation 14:11.

We also need to understand that the Biblical expression “forever” does not have to mean, “for all eternity.” The words are often a translation from the Hebrew “olam” and the Greek “aion” or “aionios,” meaning “age,” or “age-lasting” (compare Young’s Analytical Concordance to the Bible). In Revelation 14:11, the Greek words translated as “for ever and ever” mean, according to Young’s, “to ages of ages.” The Englishman’s Greek New Testament translates this verse as follows: “And the smoke of their torment goes up to ages of ages…”

We read in Exodus 21:6 that the servant would belong to his master “forever.” Here, the word describes a relationship which would last until the death of either the master or the servant. In 1 Samuel 1:22, Hannah, the mother of Samuel, took him up to the temple to remain there forever. Verse 28 explains that this meant, “as long as he lives.”

In Jonah 2:6, the term “forever” describes the time span of “three days and three nights,” as made clear in Jonah 1:17. Jonah, when in the belly of the sea monster, prayed that the earth with her bars was about him forever. What he was actually saying here is that as long as he was in that particular situation, the earth was about him.

Jude 7 speaks of the vengeance of eternal fire that burned Sodom and Gomorrah. But these cities are not still burning or suffering that vengeance. They only burned for a while. An “aeonian fire” does not refer to a fire that never goes out. After it completely destroyed and obliterated those ancient cities, it burned itself out when there was nothing else left to consume. The smoke from that fire ascended for a while. It is not ascending today. Jesus shows that the people in the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah will be resurrected in a period of judgment yet future (Compare Matthew 10:15).

The people worshipping the political and religious leaders of the end-time Babylonian system will be tormented “forever” — that is, until they die. They “have no rest day or night,” as long as they are alive and remain part of that system falling under God’s wrath; that is, before they are destroyed by the fiery plagues of God’s last seven bowls judgment (Revelation 16:1-21).

The smoke of their torment will ascend for a while — as long as the conditions exist allowing smoke from burned bodies to ascend. But this does not mean that burned wicked souls will be tormented for all eternity. We read that the smoke from the Babylonian system — and from the city of modern Babylon, which is built on seven hills (Revelation 17:18, 9) — will rise up “forever and ever” (Revelation 19:3 — based on the Greek, it should say, according to Young’s and the Englishman’s Greek New Testament, “to the ages of the ages”). Babylon “will be utterly burned with fire, for strong is the Lord God who judges her” (Revelation 18:8). The kings of the earth “will weep and lament for her, when they see the smoke of her burning, standing at a distance for fear of her torment” (verses 9-10). This is a reference to the smoke from buildings, but the fire won’t burn for all eternity. In fact, we read that the great city of Babylon (verse 10) “shall not be found anymore” (verse 21). Likewise, we read in Isaiah 34:9-10, that the smoke from the land of Edom will “ascend forever” — that is, until the fire has burnt up all consumable material. As in the case of the burned cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, that fire of Edom will not burn for all eternity.

The unrepentant wicked will ultimately be burned up. That will happen after the Millennium and the Great White Throne Judgment. However, the passage in Revelation 14:11 does not address that time period. It merely serves as a forerunner and a warning. Most people who will worship the false political and religious system of Babylon, as well as its human representatives, won’t fully comprehend what they will be doing — they will not commit the unpardonable sin leading to the second death, from which there will be no resurrection (Revelation 20:14-15; 21:8). Rather, God will bring them back to life in a Second Resurrection, when the gravity of their wrong conduct will be revealed to them, and when they will be given an opportunity to repent and accept God’s Way of Life.

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Report on Public Bible Lecture

Public Bible Lecture
We would like to thank all of you for your prayers regarding our first public bible lecture, which was held last Sunday evening in Arcadia, California. This was the first time that some of the visitors experienced an official CEG function. The response, overall, was positive.

Set forth below are a few of the comments which we received after the lecture:

“Thought the lecture went well. Very much enjoyed the material. Many quotes hadn’t heard before. Good work. Had pleasant conversation afterwards.”

“I enjoyed your presentation. It has been a while since I have gone through that material. It is very timely. I know this is the first step and hope that it will be something that you can continue.”

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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.

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