Update 226


Abraham, Part 2

On January 14, 2006, Norbert Link will give the final sermon on
certain aspects in the life of Abraham, titled, “Abraham, Part 2.”

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 Two Trees

by Rene Messier (Canada)

In the latest member letter, which you will receive shortly, Mr.
Link mentions that Mr. Armstrong, in the latter part of his life,
preached repeatedly about the two trees. Mr. Link also states that Mr.
Armstrong remarked on numerous occasions that some “just did not get
it.” We remember well those sermons, which he gave on that subject, and
I am glad that some of us did get it and remained faithful to God and
His way.

For the benefit of those who were not around then, or
who might not have been church members, I want to discuss just what Mr.
Armstrong meant by these statements.

The two trees are mentioned
in Genesis 2:16-17 and Genesis 3:1-6, respectively. They are called the
“tree of life,” and the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” They
represent two ways of life. One–the tree of life–is the give way, the
way of co-operation and love, which will lead to eternal life. The
other one–the tree of the knowledge of good and evil–is the get way,
the way of competition and strife, which, if not repented of, will
ultimately lead to eternal death, from which there is no resurrection.

one way is based on the demonstration of love by keeping the
commandments of God. The first four of the Ten Commandments show us how
to love God; the last six show us how to love our neighbor. The get way
is going against God’s laws and results in sinning.

History has
shown that many people, who were viewed once as being Church members,
“did not get it,” since they turned their backs on God and went back
into the world. Peter compares this action with a dog turning to his
own vomit.

It is really a matter of choice. God lamented that
fact when He asked: “Why will you die, O Israel?” They were making the
wrong choice, adopting the way of get which leads to pain, suffering
and death. In Deuteronomy 30:15-16, God tells ancient Israel (and
spiritual Israel today): “See, I have set before you today life and
good, death and evil, in that I command you today to love the LORD your
God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commandments, His statutes,
and His judgments, that you may live and multiply; and the LORD your
God will bless you in the land which you go to possess.”

continues His warning in Deuteronomy 30:19-20: “I call heaven and earth
as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and
death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and
your descendants may live; that you may love the LORD your God, that
you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your
life and the length of your days; and that you may dwell in the land
which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to
give them.”

Notice that we demonstrate LOVE through obedience.
Let us not become part of future statistics, listing those who are not
getting it, brethren, but let us rather ensure, through faithful
obedience, that we make the right choice. Let us always turn from the
tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and let us continue to choose
the tree of LIFE.

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Iran and the Mahdi

On January 6, 2006, WorldNetDaily published an interesting article about the belief of the President of Iran in the near arrival of an Islamic Messiah, the Mahdi. The paper pointed out:

“Iranian President Mahmoud’s Ahmadinejad’s mystical pre-occupation with the coming of a Shiite Islamic messiah figure–the Mahdi–is raising concerns that a nuclear-armed Islamic Republic could trigger the kind of global conflagration he envisions will set the stage for the end of the world.”

The article continued that the Iranian President’s “apocalyptic religious zealotry has received less attention” than it should have. It related an interesting episode in the life of the President:

“In a videotaped meeting with Ayatollah Javadi-Amoli in Tehran, Ahmadinejad discussed candidly a strange, paranormal experience he had while addressing the United Nations in New York last September. He recounts how he found himself bathed in light throughout the speech. But this wasn’t the light directed at the podium by the U.N. and television cameras. It was, he said, a light from heaven… Ahmadinejad wasn’t the only one who noticed the unearthly light. One of his aides brought it to his attention. The Iranian president recalled being told about it by one of his delegation: ‘When you began with the words “in the name of Allah,” I saw a light coming, surrounding you and protecting you to the end.’ Ahmadinejad agreed that he sensed the same thing… ‘On the last day when I was speaking, one of our group told me that when I started to say “Bismillah Muhammad,” he saw a green light come from around me, and I was placed inside this aura,’ he says… Ahmadinejad’s ‘vision’ at the U.N. is strangely reminiscent and alarmingly similar to statements he has made about his personal role in ushering in the return of the Shiite Muslim messiah.

“He sees his main mission, as he recounted in a Nov. 16 speech in Tehran, as to ‘pave the path for the glorious reappearance of Imam Mahdi, may Allah hasten his reappearance.’ According to Shiites, the 12th imam disappeared as a child in the year 941. When he returns, they believe, he will reign on earth for seven years, before bringing about a final judgment and the end of the world. Ahmadinejad is urging Iranians to prepare for the coming of the Mahdi by turning the country into a mighty and advanced Islamic society and by avoiding the corruption and excesses of the West… Ahmadinejad and others in Iran are deadly serious about the imminent return of the 12th imam, who will prompt a global battle between good and evil (with striking parallels to biblical accounts of ‘Armageddon’).”

Subsequently, the paper reported on January 10, 2006, that the Iranian President told a crowd of theological students in Iran’s holy city of Qom that “Islam must prepare to rule the world.”

Muslims Pray for Salvation

The Associated Press reported on January 9, 2006, that “More than 2 million Muslim pilgrims from 178 countries prayed for salvation Monday at Mount Arafat, Islam’s most sacred site… With hands raised to heaven, the mass of pilgrims converged on the mount, not far from Mecca and the site of the last sermon by Islam’s 7th century prophet Muhammad three months before he died in 632… Islam requires that all Muslims who are financially and physically able make the hajj at least once. Sheik Abdul-Aziz al-Sheik, the kingdom’s grand mufti, said Muslims faced critical challenges, among them accusations of terrorism and human rights abuses and calls for revisions in their school textbooks. ‘Oh, Muslim nation, there is a war against our creed, against our culture under the pretext of fighting terrorism. We should stand firm and united in protecting our religion,’ he said, speaking at a mosque on the plain of Mount Arafat. ‘Islam’s enemies want to empty our religion from its contents and its meaning. But the soldiers of God will be victorious,’ said al-Sheik, the Saudi kingdom’s top religious authority…

“The Kaba, the huge cube-like edifice, is considered the focal point of the hajj. It also serves as the Qibla, or center of the Islamic world toward which all Muslims turn in prayer. The Quran declares the Kaba was the first place of worship designated by God. Muslims believe that the Kaba was built by Abraham on the foundations of an earlier temple built by Adam, the progenitor of all mankind.”

Disputed African Border

The Associated Press reported on January 9, 2006, that “The United States launched a diplomatic initiative Monday to try to mark the contested border between Ethiopia and Eritrea, a dispute that led to a 2 1/2-year war in an area where both countries are again massing troops… Ethiopia has refused to implement the international boundary commission’s April 2002 ruling, which awarded the key town of Badme to Eritrea. Angry that the ruling was not enforced, Eritrea in October banned U.N. helicopter flights and vehicle movements at night on its side of the buffer zone… Everybody recognizes that the goal must be the demarcation of the border and normalizing relations between the two poverty-stricken countries so they can focus on development rather than spend money preparing for a possible war.”

Ethiopia and Eritrea are regions filled with historical significance. In the 4th century AD the region, later known as Eritrea, was part of the ancient Ethiopian kingdom of Aksum. Italy occupied some coastal regions in 1885 and established a colony in 1890, calling it Eritrea, from the Roman name for the Red Sea. From 1936 to 1941 this colony was joined with Italian-occupied Ethiopia and Italian Somaliland to form Italian East Africa.

As Mr. Armstrong pointed out in the Plain Truth, June 1967, the prophecy of Daniel 11:40 was fulfilled in February/March of 1896, when King Menelik II of Ethiopia ‘pushed at’ the Italians at Aduwa, and when subsequently, in 1935, Mussolini came against Ethiopia “like a whirlwind.” He did, however, not enter the “Glorious Land”–this prophecy of Daniel 11:41 will still have to be fulfilled by a modern European leader. Whether the prophecy in Daniel 11:40 will be fulfilled a second time, will have to be seen.

Earthquake in Greece

On January 8, 2006, “A powerful earthquake shook Greece,” according to an article in The Associated Press. The article continued: “The Athens Geodynamic Institute said the epicenter of the 6.9-magnitude quake was located beneath the seabed about 125 miles south of Athens and 12 miles east of the island of Kithira in the Sea of Crete. ‘It was a very powerful quake which shook all of Greece…’, institute head Giorgos Stavrakakis said. ‘The quake occurred deep undersea and that’s what saved us.’ The earthquake was felt as far away as Cairo, Egypt, [and] across southern Italy but there were no reports of damage or injuries, Italian news reports said… scientists project that as many as 6 million people may have felt the earthquake.”

Alaska Volcano

WorldNetDaily reported on January 11: “The Augustine Volcano in Alaska could erupt in hours or days, according to the Alaska Volcano Observatory… Over the past six hours, earthquake activity beneath Augustine has increased markedly… The volcano showed signs of unrest last week with steam explosions and blasts of ash from the summit… The volcano hasn’t seen much activity since it erupted in 1986, spraying ash over the city of Anchorage, Alaska’s most populated city.”

Pat Robertson in the News

The Associated Press reported on January 5, 2006, about Pat Robertson’s highly controversial statements. The article pointed out: “Christian broadcaster Pat Robertson suggested Thursday that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s stroke was divine punishment for ‘dividing God’s land.’ ‘God considers this land to be his,’ Robertson said on his TV program ‘The 700 Club.’… Sharon, who ordered Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza last year, suffered a severe stroke on Wednesday… Sharon ‘was dividing God’s land and I would say woe unto any prime minister of Israel who takes a similar course to appease the EU (European Union), the United Nations, or the United States of America,’ Robertson said.”

In a follow-up article, The Associated Press reported on January 11: “Israel will not do business with Pat Robertson after the religious leader suggested Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s massive stroke was divine punishment for the Gaza withdrawal, a tourism official said Wednesday. Robertson is leading a group of Christian evangelicals who have pledged to raise $50 million to build a large Christian tourism center in Israel’s northern Galilee region, where tradition says Jesus lived and taught. But Ido Hartuv, a spokesman for Tourism Minister Avraham Hirschson, said Israeli officials were furious with Robertson.”

The article also pointed out that “Robertson’s comments drew condemnation from other Christian leaders and even President Bush.”

British Values Under Siege

On January 9, 2006, The Daily Mail published an article by columnist Melanie Phillips, titled, “Who will save us from the zealots who treat common sense as bigotry?”

In the article, the following was stated:

“Not for the first time, this country appears to have taken leave of its senses. Ed Greening served for five years on Wiltshire County Council’s adoption panel. As a Christian, he thought that adoption by same-sex couples was wrong, and so he abstained whenever the panel approved such an arrangement. This accommodation, however, was not enough. Last month he was told he would not be re-appointed to the adoption panel because, according to advice from its lawyers and the national Commission for Social Care Inspection excluding people as adopters on the grounds of sexual orientation was ‘not an option’. This is the outcome of an adoption law which recently came into effect and which gives the same status as adopters to samesex couples as to heterosexuals.

“… But what is happening is that same-sex couples are actually being preferred to heterosexual couples who are being turned down as adopters, because the new law means that if adoption panels choose heterosexual couples, they might be accused of discrimination against samesex couples. Or at least, that’s the excuse that’s been given. Of course, such panels would never be accused of discrimination against heterosexual couples, even though that is patently what is happening.

 “.. As a result, vulnerable children are to be deprived of the most favourable home life and subjected instead to potential disadvantage – simply to pander to the doctrine that gay lifestyles have to be treated in an identical fashion to heterosexual ones, and anyone who objects is a bigot… And these doctrines represent a deliberate attack on the traditional values of our society and their replacement by what used to be considered irregular behaviour. Where once homosexuals were excluded from public life, now it is those who uphold traditional family values who are excluded.

 “… British values are under siege. The freest and most tolerant society on earth now leads the way in intimidation, moral degradation and lies. The need to identify, reclaim and defend the real centre ground, in order to rescue the progressive ideal of social justice which has been taken hostage, is the single most urgent task in British politics.”

Austria and the EU Constitution

The Independent reported on January 9, 2006, that “Austria has pledged to help bring Europe’s constitution out of cold storage as its EU presidency started amid calls to salvage key elements of the treaty. With no sign of agreement among EU member states on how to proceed, Ursula Plassnik, the Austrian Foreign minister, yesterday promised new consultations before decisions in June on what to do next. Ms Plassnik called for a ‘new step in the debate on the future of Europe’ under the ‘constitution process which has slowed down and which is now covered in a blanket of snow, waiting for Spring’. She added: ‘What we need is climate change.'”

Praise for Merkel’s Courage

Der Spiegel Online published an article on January 9, 2006, praising German Chancellor Angela Merkel for her courage. It is rare that the left-liberal magazine praises a conservative politician, but in this case, the praise was for Merkel’s criticism of Washington. The article stated:

“German Chancellor Angela Merkel says an institution like the US Guantanamo terror prison, where suspects are held without trial or charges, ‘cannot’ and ‘must not’ exist. German Newspapers representing the entire political spectrum are praising her frank criticism of Washington. “

The article continued, quoting excerpts from other newspapers:

“In an editorial, the conservative Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung says ‘America and its president should be grateful for this criticism.’ … the conservative Die Welt… describes Merkel’s visit [this week in Washington] as a sobering one, ‘free of illusion.’… The left-leaning Berliner Zeitung praises Merkel for her statements, seeing it as yet another example of the fine stateswoman who is emerging. ‘As so often, Merkel has been underestimated in foreign policy,’ the paper writes. ‘Within a few weeks she has not just freed herself from the suspicion of being diplomatically naive,’ it says, ‘she has even managed to approach the US government with a self-confidence which Schröder could never have ventured after his election campaign escapades.’ The [right-leaning] tabloid Bild newspaper… describes Merkel’s statement as ‘courageous’ and marking a turning point in German human rights history…  ‘If Merkel speaks frankly with our American friends, she can be all the more uninhibited in demanding human rights elsewhere.’ The paper also notes that Murat Kurnaz, a native of Bremen, is still being held at Guantanamo, denied of his right to legal due process.”

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Does the Bible permit adultery, when the non-involved mate consents; or premarital sex when the involved parties subsequently marry?

The short answer is, No. We read in 1 Corinthians 6:18 that we are
to “flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the
body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body.”
Members of God’s Church are also told not to “make provisions for the
flesh, to fulfill its lusts (Romans 13:14).” Further, they are
commanded to “abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you should
know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in
passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God” (1
Thessalonians 4:3-5).

Regarding this last passage, the Ryrie
Study Bible comments that this “means either mastery over one’s own
body, keeping it pure (1 Cor. 9:24-27),” or that it “refers to an
honorable marriage (vessel = wife, as 1 Pet. 3:7).” A third possibility
is a warning for a man not to try to “obtain” for himself a
vessel–that is, a future wife–“in passion of lust.” The Nelson Study
Bible explains: “Paul strongly urged the Thessalonians not to
participate in any sexual activity outside of marriage… Sexual
involvement outside of marriage dishonors God, one’s marriage partner
or future spouse, and even one’s own body.”

The Old Testament
very clearly reveals God’s stance on adultery–a sexual sin which
involves at least one married partner. We read in Leviticus 21:10 that
“The man who commits adultery with another man’s wife… the adulterer
and the adulteress, shall surely be put to death.” There is no room for
adultery by consent from the non-involved mate. This is the reason why
Abram’s and Sarai’s conduct–to bring forth offspring through
intercourse between Abram and Sarai’s maid Hagar–constituted adultery
in God’s eyes.

The commandment against adultery included not
only a married woman who has had sexual intercourse with her husband,
but also a virgin “betrothed” to her husband, prior to the consummation
of the marriage. Betrothal in Biblical times was a binding and
enforceable contract, containing promises to marry each other. The
Bible considered betrothed partners as husband and wife, and a
betrothal could only be dissolved by a decree of divorce.

We read
in Deuteronomy 22:23-24: “If a young woman who is a virgin is betrothed
to a husband, and a man finds her in the city and lies with her, then
you shall bring both out to the gate of that city, and you shall stone
them to death with stones, the young woman because she did not cry out
in the city [thereby consenting to the adulterous conduct], and the man
because he humbled his neighbor’s wife [even though she was only
“betrothed,” and the marriage had not yet been consummated]; so you
shall put away the evil from among you.”

On the other hand, as
Deuteronomy 22:25-27 continues to point out, “… if a man finds a
betrothed young woman in the countryside, and the man forces her and
lies with her, then only the man who lay with her [i.e., the rapist] shall die. But you shall do nothing to the young woman; there is in the
young woman no sin deserving of death [since the rapist forced himself
upon her; there was no consent to this act by the woman], for just as
when a man rises against his neighbor and kills him, even so is this
matter. For he found her in the countryside, and the betrothed young
woman cried out, but there was no one to save her.”

In case there
were no witnesses to the act of adultery, God had provided for a
procedure to determine the guilt or innocence of an accused wife, if
the husband so desired (compare Numbers 5:11-31).

In the New
Testament, Christ even warned His followers not to look at a married
woman with lust or evil thoughts–wanting to commit adultery with
her–because such uncontrolled desire already constitutes adultery in
the mind and heart (Matthew 5:27-28; compare Proverbs 6:23-35). Please
note that Christ did not say that one can look at another man’s wife
with evil thoughts, as long as the wife’s husband “consents” to this.
At the same time, Christ also taught that every sin can be forgiven,
upon genuine repentance. He refused to condemn the woman caught in the
very act of adultery, when He saw her humiliation and repentance
(compare John 8:1-12). God also requires mercy and compassion. Joseph,
being a righteous man, intended to leave Mary secretly when he thought
that she, who was betrothed to him, had committed adultery. He just
wanted to put her away secretly, “not wanting to make her a public
example” (Matthew 1:18-19).

In addition, we do find a remarkable difference in the Old Testament in case of fornication between two unmarried young people.

read in Exodus 22:16-17: “If a man entices a virgin who is NOT
betrothed, and lies with her, he shall surely pay the bride-price for
her to be his wife. If her father utterly refuses to give her to him,
he shall pay money according to the bride-price of virgins.”

Deuteronomy 22:28-29 adds:

a man finds a young woman who is a virgin, who is NOT betrothed, and he
seizes her [this goes beyond mere enticement] and lies with her, and
they are found out, then the man who lay with her shall give to the
young woman’s father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife
because he had humbled her; he shall not be permitted to divorce her
all his days.”

The fine of the bride-price was steep, which was
“meant to discourage young men from reckless behavior… This law
warned young men that they would be made responsible for their actions”
(Nelson Study Bible, comments to Exodus 22:16-17 and Deuteronomy

Matthew Henry’s Commentary adds that this is “a law
that he who debauched a young woman should be obliged to marry her…
This law puts an honour upon marriage and shows likewise how improper a
thing it is that children should marry without their parents’ consent.”

in the case of a somewhat forceful conduct by the man [which should, of
course, never happen; see the terrible “Dinah incident” and its
consequences in Genesis 34], he had the responsibility, if so required
by the young woman’s father, to marry her, thereby restoring her honor
and providing for her until death–without any right to divorce her.
These principles still apply today in God’s Church. If two young
unmarried people in the Church commit fornication (even though they
should not do so and are sinning, if they do), they should be aware
that, excluding extraordinary circumstances, they have a
responsibility, before God, to complete their marriage responsibilities
which they, in effect, already began through their conduct. If one
party is not in the Church, then the situation is slightly different,
as 1 Corinthians 7:39 requires that a marriage in the Church should
only occur “in the Lord”; that is, between two believers.

wants us to have happy and productive marriages, and He is against any
conduct which could destroy or jeopardize the success of a present or
future marriage. If such conduct occurs, God is willing to forgive, but
He still requires appropriate behavior to guarantee the success and
endurance of the current or future marriage relationship.

For further information, please read our free booklet: “The Keys to Happy Marriages and Families.”

Lead Writer: Norbert Link

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Preaching the Gospel and Feeding the Flock

A new member letter
has been written and will be sent out shortly. In the member letter,
Mr. Link remembers Mr. Armstrong and his death on January 16, 1986, as
well as the legacy he left us. The letter has been posted on the Web.

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How This Work is Financed

This Update is an official publication by the ministry of the Church of the Eternal God in the United States of America; the Church of God, a Christian Fellowship in Canada; and the Global Church of God in the United Kingdom.

Editorial Team: Norbert Link, Dave Harris, Rene Messier, Brian Gale, Margaret Adair, Johanna Link, Eric Rank, Michael Link, Anna Link, Kalon Mitchell, Manuela Mitchell, Dawn Thompson

Technical Team: Eric Rank, Shana Rank

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

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

Donations should be sent to the following addresses:

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