Update 378


Poetry in the Hebrew Bible

On Saturday, January 24, 2009, Norbert Link will give the sermon, titled, “Poetry in the Hebrew Bible.”

The services can be heard at www.cognetservices.org (12:30 pm Pacific Time; 1:30 pm Mountain Time; 2:30 pm Central Time; 3:30 pm Eastern Time). Just click on Connect to Live Stream.

Back to top

"Each in His Own Order…"

by Norbert Link

In the Q&A in this week’s Update, we address, among other concepts, the need for the Church of God to continue preaching the gospel of the Kingdom of God. We show from Scripture that God will still do a powerful short Work just prior to Christ’s return. In a recent sermon, I explained that God is not trying to convert all people right now and lead them to salvation at this time–and neither should we! For most, their opportunity will still come in the future–AFTER Christ’s return!

In this day and age, God only calls the very few–the firstfruits–the “little flock”–those who were “predestined” to be called from the foundation of the earth–in fact, before time began. He wants His Church today to announce, as a witness or testimony, that Christ’s return is imminent and that the Kingdom of God will soon be established on this earth (Matthew 24:14). He wants His Church to warn the world of what is going to happen, and to proclaim the need to repent and to change (Luke 24:47). Most will reject our message–but some will listen and respond. We don’t know who will change their lives because of our preaching–but God knows. He knows whom He WANTS to call OUT OF this world, and whom He IS calling. He expects us to do our job of preaching the gospel, because how can they believe in the true God unless they have heard Him proclaimed first (Romans 10:14-15)?

But then what? In order to be saved from this present evil generation, one must receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. We are clearly taught in the Bible that God promises His gift only to those who repent, believe and are baptized for the remission of their sins (Acts 2:38; 4:4; 10:43). God is not giving His Holy Spirit to those who refuse to obey Him (Acts 5:32)–and God will take His Holy Spirit away from those who turn away from His truth after they have embraced it, and who will live again a life of disobedience (Hebrews 6:4-8;10:26-29; 2 Peter 2:20-22).

Once someone has responded to God’s call and has received His Holy Spirit, such a person is then able to comprehend more clearly the mysteries of God. Prior to God’s involvement or calling, a person cannot understand the truth. Once God’s Spirit begins to work with a person and opens his mind, he will be able to comprehend some of it–enough to show God that he is serious by obeying Him. But it is only after the receipt of God’s Spirit that we can begin to really comprehend the truth more and more perfectly–that we can really grow in the KNOWLEDGE OF JESUS CHRIST (2 Peter 3:18)–the knowledge WHICH CHRIST HAS and which He wants to share with us.

Notice that the Bible gives us an order or time sequence which pertains to collective and individual salvation!

In 1 Corinthians 15:22-24, Paul explains that there is an order of salvation for mankind:

“For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive [through a resurrection from the dead]. But each one in his own ORDER: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are [or “were” at the time of their death] Christ’s at His coming. Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father…”

The “end” includes those in the “second resurrection,” who will be “raised up” from the dead after the time of the Millennium. (Compare the commentary of Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, equating “the end” with “the general resurrection, and final judgment and consummation.”) Revelation 20:4-5 refers to the first and the second resurrection. We read about those in the first resurrection–who were in Christ and Christ in them, when they died: “And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.”

Verse 5 clarifies that this describes those in the “first resurrection.” But the same verse speaks also of those who would be resurrected later: “But the rest of the dead did not live again UNTIL the thousand years are finished.” Their resurrection after the Millennium is described in Revelation 20:11-12–a time referred to in the Bible as the “Great White Throne Judgment” period.

Jesus referred to that judgment period in many passages. For instance, He prophesied the resurrection “in the judgment” of the men of Nineveh, the queen of the South and the Jews at the time of His first coming. He showed that they would all be resurrected AT THE SAME TIME. They will all be RAISED TOGETHER–in the second resurrection–and it is THEN that they will be offered salvation.

Note Christ’s exact wording in Matthew 12:41-42: “The men of Nineveh will RISE UP in the JUDGMENT WITH THIS generation… The Queen of the South will RISE UP in the JUDGMENT WITH THIS generation…” Christ also spoke of the resurrection of the people of Sodom and Gomorrah at that time of “JUDGMENT”–the Great White Throne judgment period of the second resurrection (compare Matthew 10:15; 11:24; compare also Luke 10:13-14).

As God deals with collective salvation according to a time order, so He deals with individual salvation in progressive stages as well. He does not reveal all of His truth right away to a newly-called person. It requires time to grow in spiritual knowledge, and it is impossible to do so unless God’s Spirit dwells IN us and is used by us.

Notice Christ’s sayings regarding the progressive stages of individual salvation. First, the gospel must be preached as a witness or testimony. That includes the preaching of repentance. Regarding those who respond to the preaching, Christ said in Matthew 28:19-20:

“Go therefore and make disciples of [“from among” or “in,” compare Living Bible] all nations, baptizing them in [“into,” compare “Literal Translation of the Holy Bible”] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe ALL THINGS that I have commanded you…”

First comes the preaching of the gospel, including the admonishment to repent or change. Those who respond, being called by God, believe and become obedient to what they understand, are to be baptized, as an outward sign of inner repentance. Christ did not say, of course, that all nations are to be baptized today–only THOSE who RESPOND to the preaching.

John Gill’s Exposition to the Entire Bible explains that the command to baptize “them” does not refer to “all nations” “since… the words for ‘all nations’, are of the neuter gender, whereas ‘them’, is of the masculine: nor can it be thought that it should be the mind of Christ, that all the individuals of all nations should be baptized, as Heathens, Turks, and Jews…”

Those who ARE properly baptized receive the gift of the Holy Spirit at the time of their baptism, and with the help of the Holy Spirit which now dwells within them, they are able to understand God’s truth more and more, and the need for their obedience of ALL THINGS which Christ teaches to His Church.

We see the same pattern of individual growth INTO the knowledge and obedience of Christ in John 14:15-17, 23:

“If you love Me, keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper that [it] may abide with you forever–the Spirit of truth [which] the WORLD CANNOT receive, because it neither sees [it] nor knows [it]; but you know [it], for [it] dwells WITH you and will be IN you… If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word, and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.”

Note the time sequence. First, we show that we love God by keeping His commandments. However, we can only show true love for God and His Word, when God the Father draws us to Christ (John 6:44, 64-65)–when the Holy Spirit of God works WITH us. Then, when we are ready, we will be baptized and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, which will then dwell IN us–not only WITH us. Both God the Father and Jesus Christ will live IN a converted person by and through the Holy Spirit. They will make their HOME with him, or, as the New Jerusalem Bible translates John 14:23: “.. and we shall come to him and make a home IN him.”

The Holy Spirit, living IN us, will gradually guide or lead us into all truth (John 16:13). But we must OBEY God FIRST–to the extent that we understand His commandments–BEFORE we can even receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. And once we have received the gift of His Spirit, we must continue to GROW in godly understanding and OBEY God MORE and MORE–not less and less. Christ said that when we TRULY love Him, we WILL keep His Word.

How WONDERFUL and exciting are “the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God” (Romans 11:33). As He deals with mankind at large, pursuant to a time order to lead them to collective salvation, so He deals with us today individually, pursuant to a time order, to lead us to our individual salvation (Romans 13:11; Matthew 24:13).

But we need to respond to God, on an ongoing basis! How receptive are we to God’s lead? How much have we GROWN in knowledge and understanding since the time of our baptism? How much have we grown within the last year? Are we holding on to wrong concepts, even though we see them disproved in the Bible? Are we refusing to accept knowledge which God may reveal to us through His true and faithful ministers (compare Ephesians 4:11-13)?

Are we refusing to GROW in the knowledge of Christ–including how to live better Christian lives? Are we becoming more and more obedient to God’s words–or less and less? Are we going forward on our path to our salvation, or backwards? God has no pleasure in those who draw back (Hebrews 10:38). Therefore, let us not be “among those who draw back and perish, but among those who have faith and will posses [eternal] life” (Hebrews 10:39, New American Bible).

Back to top

The Inauguration of the 44th President

On Tuesday, January 20, the world watched the inauguration of the 44th President of the United States, Mr. Barack Obama, with excitement and optimistic hope for a better future. ABC News reported on January 19 that even though the “country is in the middle of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, … this isn’t stopping rich donors and the government from spending $170 million, or more, on the inauguration of Barack Obama.”

The German paper, Die Welt, wrote on January 20: “Hundreds of thousands of people erupted in roars of approval on the broad National Mall grounds as they watched Obama stand with one hand raised, one hand on a Bible used to swear [in Abraham Lincoln’s inauguration] in 1861, and repeat the brief oath to become the 44th U.S. president and succeed George W. Bush.”

The paper added that “The inauguration of Obama, 47, the son of a black Kenyan father and a white mother from Kansas, was steeped in symbolic meaning for African-Americans, who for generations suffered slavery and then racial segregation that made them second-class citizens.”

During the Benediction, Joseph Lowery uttered the following controversial lines which were somewhat offensive to white people: “Lord, in the memory of all the saints who from their labors rest, and in the joy of a new beginning, we ask you to help us work for that day when black will not be asked to get in back, when brown can stick around… when the red man can get ahead; and when white will embrace what is right. That all those who do justice and love mercy say Amen. Say Amen’…”

Some moments during the inauguration, even though embarrassing, might have been deeply symbolic–from the limping President Bush Sen. to Vice President Dick Cheney sitting in a wheelchair, to Ted Kennedy’s collapse, to the moment when the oath was messed up by Chief Justice John Roberts (so that the oath was re-administered the next day in the White House, without the use of a Bible). Also, it might have been better, depending on taste, if the musical “performance” by Aretha Franklin and the recital of the somewhat disjointed “poem” by Elizabeth Alexander had been dispensed with. Neither did the musical instrumental presentation of a rather boring piece by four performers merit enthusiastic approval. 

A strange sight remained the traditional READING of the prayers at the beginning and the end of the inauguration–the Invocation and the Benediction. Are we to believe that King Solomon READ his inspired prayer when he dedicated the Temple?

In President Obama’s historic inauguration speech, hope for a better world and the reality of calamity painted a colorful picture which was accentuated by contrast.

In Mr. Obama’s own words, “we are in the midst of crisis… Our nation is at war, against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred. Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age. Homes have been lost; jobs shed; businesses shuttered. Our health care is too costly; our schools fail too many; and each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet.”

President Obama continued:  

“Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real.  They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America –  they will be met. On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.”

On Wednesday, January 21, 2008, President Obama took part in a prayer at the National Cathedral in northwest Washington. As one of the articles quoted in this Update points out, it seemed that representatives of virtually all religious belief systems participated, except perhaps for Atheists, Wiccans and Pagans. But wasn’t America built on the foundation and the faith of the Bible–and didn’t the Founding Fathers believe in the God of the Bible?

The fact that Mr. Obama became the 44th President exactly 220 years after the first President of the United States took office in 1789, might be deeply significant. In the Bible, the number 4 (in 44; i.e. 11 times 4) is associated with the revelation of God (compare the four gospel writers, for example). And the number 10 (in 220; i.e. 22 times 10) is associated with God’s judgment (compare the Ten Commandments which will be the basis for God’s judgment of man). Further, combinations of the numbers 4 and 10 signify God’s revelation IN judgment (compare Israel’s dwelling in the wilderness for 40 years because of disobedience and unbelief). Is it therefore possible that during the term of Mr. Obama’s office, God will reveal Himself more and more in judgment–showing that He will judge man severely, unless he repents?

In other news, we are reporting on the ongoing volatile situation in Gaza and the international reaction to the conflict; the attempts of certain Arab nations to unite; the desire of Iran to stay involved and of the EU to get involved in the Middle East; German fears of and hopes for the future; and Dresden’s incredible bestowal of honor on the former KGB officer Vladimir Putin.

After the Inauguration–Prayer Service at the Washington National Cathedral

USA Today reported on January 16:

“U.S. religious diversity will be on full display Wednesday (January 21) at the prayer service to be held at the Washington National Cathedral…

“Several folks invited to the pulpit are almost as controversial or nationally outspoken as… Rick Warren, who’ll give the invocation on Tuesday. There will be:…

“The presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church USA, the denomination riven over whether to accept a gay bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori. She is a supporter of Gene Robinson, the gay Episcopal bishop who will give the invocation at Sunday’s We Are One concert… The official prayer service plan is to ’embody the themes of tolerance, unity and understanding (in) a worship service for all Americans’ (except the atheists who lost their suit to bloc events like this)…

“Leaders of the Washington National Cathedral, an Episcopal Church that’s huge and beautiful and frequently the location for great national moments of prayer, will host Baptists, non-denominational church leaders, Greek Orthodox, Hindu and more… Who’s missing? Wiccans? Pagans?…”

The Associated Press added on January 16:

“Roman Catholic Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington will deliver a prayer for the nation… Sharon Watkins, the first woman president of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), a Protestant group, will also be the first woman to deliver a sermon at the National Prayer Service. Several other women leaders will take part in the event.

“They include Ingrid Mattson, the first woman president of the Islamic Society of North America;… Cynthia Hale, senior pastor of Ray of Hope Christian Church in Atlanta;… Suzan Johnson-Cook of the Bronx Christian Fellowship in New York; and Dr. Uma Mysorekar, president of the Hindu Temple Society of North America…

“The Jewish community will be represented in the service by Reform Rabbi David Saperstein, Conservative Rabbi Jerome Epstein and Orthodox Rabbi Haskel Lookstein of Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun in New York. Greek Orthodox Archbishop Demetrios and Auxiliary Catholic Bishop Francisco Gonzalez of Washington will also take part…”

Germans Worry About the Future and Welcome the EU

Der Spiegel Online wrote on January 16:

“57 percent of German citizens believe the economic situation in their own country will get worse, compared to 51 percent of Europeans as a whole. Regarding the economic prospects for the European Union, 47 percent of Germans believe the situation will worsen. Forty-one percent of Europeans as a whole share their view…

“The survey also reveals that Germans are more likely to trust their own system than the average European: 38 percent of German respondents feel that things are moving in the right direction in Germany, compared to only 28 percent in Europe. Germans are also more likely to believe that the European Union is moving in the right direction (41 compared to 35 percent).

“… the EU enjoys high approval ratings in Germany, with 64 percent of Germans believing that membership of the bloc is a good thing, 11 percentage points more than the EU average of 53 percent. European Commissioner Verheugen [who is German himself] sees this as a positive sign. He feels that Germany has a special responsibility for Europe because of its history and because of its role as the largest and economically strongest member state.

“However, German enthusiasm for the European project does have its limits. The Germans are not so keen on EU enlargement, with only 26 percent supporting the admission of new member states, compared to 44 percent of Europeans.”

OPERA BALL SCANDAL– Dresden Medal of Honor for Ex-KGB Agent Putin

Der Spiegel Online wrote on January 16:

“It’s a big night for Russian Prime Minister Putin. The former KGB officer will return to his old Dresden haunt for the Semper Opera Ball. There, [he] will receive a medal of honor… [The medal] is a stunning replica of the ‘Heilige Georg zu Pferde’… And it is a special symbol: St. George symbolizes the victory of good over evil…

“The award… is to be pinned to the breast of [Putin], a man who has just cut off natural gas supplies to half of Europe. It is hard to imagine such an event taking place anywhere other than in Saxony…

“Just why Putin was chosen for the award is not entirely clear… From 1985 to 1990, he was stationed in the city as a KGB officer and resided in a villa located just across the street from the Stasi’s district offices. The Stasi was the feared East German secret police. Under the codename ‘Adamov,’ his job was to recruit new spies for the Soviet intelligence apparatus…

“The Saxony governor, Stanislaw Tillich — who back in 1989 was himself a functionary in the local government and has been put under massive pressure recently for apparently trying to cover up his ties to the communist system — will hand the former Dresden KGB officer a thank you medal 20 years after the fall of the Wall.”

Deutsche Welle added on January 16:

“‘[Putin] doesn’t deserve to be honored,’ the German-based Society for Threatened Peoples said, blaming Putin for human rights violations by Russian troops in Chechnya. During his time as president, the Russian leader was responsible for the deaths of around 80,000 men, women and children in the breakaway republic, the society said in a statement…

“Werner Schulz [a former civil rights activist in East Germany] told the newspaper Leipziger Volkszeitung that shortly before the fall of the wall [in 1989], Putin threatened to open fire on East German dissidents if they approached KGB headquarters in Dresden.”

Is German Pacifism Anti-Semitic?

Press TV wrote on January 16: “The German chancellor and British prime minister say they have been ‘shocked’ by the humanitarian tragedy created by Israel in the Gaza Strip…”

But on January 15, the German Netzeitung published an article about “German pacifism” by Ze’ev Avrahmi, a Berlin-based freelance correspondent for the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz. Avrahmi is asking the question whether German pacifism is actually nothing else but German anti-Semitism. We are reproducing the following excerpts:

“During these times of war in the Middle East, there is nothing that bothers me more than German pacifism. Or, to put it more correctly, I look at the Germans’ pacifism with a mixture of anger and envy, because it is a luxury that we Israelis can’t afford. If I had a choice, I would also like to end the conflict without guns. I would also self-righteously like to point out that violence only creates more violence. I would like to be leftist, pacifist and completely unaware of the daily attacks from Gaza on Israel for the past eight years.

“And at the same time, here is something I want to ask these German pacifists: Would you still condemn the right to self-defence if Austria or Poland would attack Berlin and Munich with daily barrages of rockets? I also want to ask them: Where is the preaching against violence when there are daily attacks on foreigners in Germany? Why don’t you cry out loud when your fellow German citizens beat up and attack innocent refugees and immigrants on the outskirts of Berlin or in small towns in Bavaria or Saxony?

“And where is your outspoken pacifism when Jews, only 60 years after the Holocaust, have to wear baseball caps to hide their kippas when they walk in the streets of Berlin because they are, again, afraid to identify themselves as Jews in the former Nazi capital? And why do you keep silent when German police force their way into an apartment in Duisburg to tear down Israeli flags to placate Muslim protestors who were becoming violent?

“I would like to know why pacifism gains so much strength every time it is directed against Israel. How come the newspaper pictures of the war are so one-sided and pro-Palestinian? Could it be that anti-Semitism is again prevalent in Germany, only this time it conveniently disguises itself as being anti-Israel?…”

Ceasefire in Gaza

Haaretz reported on January 18:

“Trying to hide a smile and a sense of self-satisfaction Prime Minister Ehud Olmert faced the cameras at the Defense Ministry and declared to the Israeli public, ‘We won.’ The Israel Defense Forces objectives for its operation in the Gaza Strip were ‘obtained in full.’ Hamas was ‘surprised and badly beaten,’ the government ‘made decisions responsibly and wisely,’ the IDF’s performance was excellent and the southern home front ‘displayed resilience’…

“The Gaza operation was undoubtedly intended to redeem Olmert, and will be used as a springboard for a comeback – if he avoids conviction on any of the charges pending against him…

“Israel succeeded in hurting Hamas and in creating an international awareness of the need to prevent weapons from being smuggled into the Gaza Strip, but not all the operation’s objectives were accomplished… Hamas’ gains cannot be ignored: It has won international legitimacy and sympathy, and its forces still control the Gaza Strip.”

Gaza–“The Situation Will Change Only for the Worse”

Welt-On-Line reported on January 18:

“In Gaza, families began emerging from their places of hiding, including U.N. school compounds where some 45,000 people sought refuge during the fighting, and returning to their homes — some only to find them damaged or destroyed… With no formal deal between the two sides, despite mediation efforts by Egypt, the situation looked much like that before the conflict…

“Israel’s leading newspapers put pictures of victorious Israeli troops on their front pages on Sunday, but behind the banner headlines some commentators wondered whether the conflict had not worsened the prospects for peace with Gaza. ‘This war was a just war,’ wrote one leading commentator in Ma’ariv, a right-of-centre tabloid. ‘But this was not a wise war. This war presumed to change the situation … But the situation, regrettably, will change only for the worse.'”

German Reactions to Ceasefire in Gaza

Der Spiegel Online commented on January 19 as follows on the cease fire in Gaza:

“German commentators ask what Israel actually achieved with its three-week offensive… Hamas for its part claimed that Israel had failed to achieve its war aims. ‘God has granted us a great victory, not for one faction, or party, or area, but for our entire people,’ said the top Hamas leader in Gaza, Ismail Haniya, in a televised speech… As the post-war analysis begins, many questions remain… Hamas… was adamant in its attention to re-arm…

“The center-left Süddeutsche Zeitung writes:

“‘What has Israel’s offensive actually achieved, apart from more than 1,300 people dead, more than 5,300 wounded, and some relatively unproductive crisis diplomacy? Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announced that the aim of the offensive had been achieved. But so far he still hasn’t spelled out what the objective of the war against Hamas actually was…

“… the majority of the 1.5 million people in the Gaza Strip see Israel as being responsible for the devastation and destruction. Israel’s supposed victory, which Olmert talks of, is in reality a defeat. The campaign has sown hatred and anger and brought Israel only insecurity in return.’

“The center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung writes:

“‘Israel has largely achieved what can be achieved militarily in terms of weakening Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Moreover, its tough — sometimes too tough — response to the rocket attacks against Israeli towns is a signal to the Lebanese group Hezbollah and other terrorist groups, who are equipped with missiles of ever-increasing range and who will therefore sooner or later have the capability to strike targets in the Israeli heartland. The offensive against the terrorist attacks from the Gaza Strip was also aimed at Tehran, home to the weapons suppliers and those who stir up the conflict’…

“The left-leaning Die Tageszeitung writes:

“‘Israel is certainly a big step closer to its aim of bringing weapons smuggling into Gaza under control… But did it really need a war to achieve this? Did the Europeans and the Americans really need a military operation and hundreds of dead children in order to be convinced that cooperating with Israel makes sense?… Hamas has survived the war. It exists, and it is here to stay…’

“The conservative Die Welt writes:

“‘… The main issue which needs to be addressed is the support that religious — in this case Islamic — fundamentalism and its representatives receive from both governments and, especially, religious leaders. The most important thing is the rhetoric of hate which originates in many mosques and is then spread by Arab TV and radio stations and the Internet. The fight — including the armed struggle — of Islam against all “infidels” is not only promoted but both encouraged and demanded. Potential suicide bombers are praised and promised glorious rewards in paradise…. Only when all imams stop glorifying murder can there be real peace in the Holy Land…'”

EU Gets Involved in Gaza

The EUObserver wrote on January 19:

“European Union states have engaged in a flurry of diplomatic activity following the announcement of a ceasefire…, with the EU’s big three [France, Germany and the UK] pledging naval support to prevent the delivery of weapons into Gaza.”

Unhappy Lieberman

On January 20, Haaretz published an interview with Israeli Yisrael Beiteinu party leader Avigdor Lieberman. We are bringing you the following excerpts:

“What was achieved here? Zip, nada. The strategic objective of the operation should have been the collapse of Hamas. This goal could have been reached not by capturing Gaza and Jabalya, but [simply] by taking over the crossing points and the Philadelphi route… if we had closed the Strip in a vice, we would have strangled Hamas.

“… after the cease-fire, everyone wants to know how it could be that the strongest army in the Middle East was unable to overcome 12,000 terrorists. The result is similar to that of the Second Lebanon War: damage to our deterrent capability. Instead of destroying Hamas, the operation upgraded it, turning it into an important regional player. It’s only a matter of time before the government in Ramallah collapses and falls into Hamas hands…

“Iran threatens us three ways. Once through Hamas and Hezbollah. A second time through preparing global public opinion for the possibility of doing without Israel. A third time with nuclear [weapons development] and ballistic missiles. If we were a normal country, we would stop quarreling over the Palestinian issue and the Golan Heights issue and we would deal with Iran… Only after the source of the problem – Iran – is resolved will it be possible to discuss the symptoms of the problem in Judea, Samaria and the Golan… To accept an Iranian nuclear bomb in 2010 is like accepting Hitler’s election in 1933. A nuclear Iran is like Hitler with nuclear weapons…”

“Hurray! We Lost!”

On January 20, Der Spiegel Online wrote the following:

“Israel’s war in Gaza is a military victory. But with 1,300 dead and thousands wounded, it is also moral defeat. The painful lesson: Israel can only defeat itself. Hamas leader Ismail Haniya only had to hide to emerge as the winner…

“Approximately 1,300 dead is no trifle and no collateral damage from an act of war even when many of the dead were militants who just happened to forget to put their uniforms on and who hid behind civilians. Approximately 1,300 dead is a tenth of a percent of the population of Gaza. If it were Germany, that figure would be 80,000…

“Thirteen hundred dead: That screams to the heavens. That is not an issue of ‘proportionality,’ which is impossible in any asymmetrical war. A pile of corpses like that is a nightmare, a catastrophe… That is a down payment on the Apocalypse — no matter who started it, who bears responsibility and who ultimately settles the score… Hamas cannot win against Israel, but Israel really can lose against Hamas.”

“Gaza War Utter Failure for Israel”

Haaretz reported on January 22:

“On the morrow of the return of the last Israeli soldier from Gaza, we can determine with certainty that they had all gone out there in vain. This war ended in utter failure for Israel. This goes beyond the profound moral failure, which is a grave matter in itself, but pertains to its inability to reach its stated goals. In other words, the grief is not complemented by failure. We have gained nothing in this war save hundreds of graves, some of them very small, thousands of maimed people, much destruction and the besmirching of Israel’s image…

“The initial objective of the war was to put an end to the firing of Qassam rockets. This did not cease until the war’s last day. It was only achieved after a cease-fire had already been arranged. Defense officials estimate that Hamas still has 1,000 rockets. The war’s second objective, the prevention of smuggling, was not met either. The head of the Shin Bet security service has estimated that smuggling will be renewed within two months… this war has served to prove that only poor quality, rudimentary weapons passed through the smuggling tunnels connecting the Gaza Strip to Egypt.

“Israel’s ability to achieve its third objective is also dubious… The deterrence we supposedly achieved in the Second Lebanon War has not had the slightest effect on Hamas, and the one supposedly achieved now isn’t working any better: The sporadic firing of rockets from the Gaza Strip has continued over the past few days.

“The fourth objective, which remained undeclared, was not met either. The IDF has not restored its capability… The heroic descriptions and victory poems written abut the ‘military triumph’ will not serve to change reality… The describing of the operation as a ‘military achievement’ by the various generals and analysts who offered their take on the operation is plain ridiculous.

“We have not weakened Hamas. The vast majority of its combatants were not harmed and popular support for the organization has in fact increased. Their war has intensified the ethos of resistance and determined endurance… The population in Gaza, which has sustained such a severe blow, will not become more moderate now. On the contrary, the national sentiment will now turn more than before against the party which inflicted that blow – the State of Israel…

“When it comes to assessing Israel’s international situation, we must not allow ourselves to be fooled by the support parade by Europe’s leaders, who came in for a photo-op with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert… The conclusion [of the world] is that Israel is a violent and dangerous country, devoid of all restraints and blatantly ignoring the resolutions of the United Nations Security Council, while not giving a hoot about international law…”

“Hamas Use of Children During Gaza Operation Was Monstrous”

Haaretz reported on January 22:

“The Israel Defense Forces’ Gaza Division Commander on Thursday branded Hamas’ use of women and children during Israel’s recent offensive in the coastal strip as ‘monstrous’ and ‘inhumane.’ Brig. Gen. Eyal Eisenberg said the civilians were sent by Hamas to transfer weapons to gunmen during the offensive. He also accused the Islamist militant group of booby-trapping many of the civilians’ homes…

“Israel has been heavily criticized for the high number of Palestinian civilian casualties in the operation. Eisenberg, however, asserted that Israel Defense Forces soldiers adhered to moral principles while fighting in Gaza. Palestinian civilians, meanwhile, have accused Hamas of forcing them to stay in homes from which gunmen shot at Israeli soldiers during the recent hostilities in Gaza, the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera reported Thursday.

“The Italian paper also quoted a doctor at Gaza City’s Shifa Hospital as disputing the number of Palestinians said to have been killed in the campaign. ‘It’s possible that the death toll in Gaza was 500 or 600 at the most, mainly youths aged 17 to 23 who were enlisted by Hamas – who sent them to their deaths,’ he said… The Gaza doctor was further quoted as saying: ‘Perhaps it is like Jenin in 2002. At the beginning they spoke about 1,500 dead, and at the end it turned out to be only 54 – of whom 45 were militants.'”

Iran Gets Involved Again

The Jerusalem Post reported on January 20:

“Iran has renewed efforts to supply advanced weaponry to Hamas… On Monday, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said that renewed weapons smuggling would be legitimate grounds for Israel to renew attacks against Hamas.”

Iran–The Nuclear Clock Is Ticking…

Haaretz wrote on January 22:

“The policy Obama is formulating is one of engagement and negotiation. He hopes the Iranians will be tempted to respond to the generous proposals he intends to offer them, diplomatic relations, lifting sanctions, improved commercial ties, and in return a halt or at least suspend uranium enrichment.

“Iran… will ostensibly respond favorably to the American courtship and will even reciprocate with some gestures of its own, but in practice, Iran will accelerate its nuclear program and there are already signs of this. Even leading U.S. intelligence officials acknowledge that Iran is likely to produce its first nuclear bomb as early as this year. Remarks to this effect were made last week by CIA Director Michael Hayden, and the director of national intelligence, Michael McConnell, who said he is concerned Iran would continue along a path that will end with nuclear weapons…

“This is a race against the clock for all parties involved, Israel foremost among them, which may be obstructed by Obama’s policy, even though his intention to negotiate with Iran is good. It is clear to all the experts that Israel will be unable to attack without coordinating it on one way or another – probably tacitly with the American administration. And such coordination will be difficult, certainly a decision to let Israel attack Iran’s nuclear facilities so long as negotiations are underway between Washington and Tehran.

“The concern in Israel is that if the negotiations end in failure and even if Obama’s administration reaches the conclusion that Iran was toying with it and never intended to reach a compromise and suspend its uranium enrichment, it might already be too late. Iran might have nuclear weapons and then it will be too late and too dangerous to attack it.”

Will Syria, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan and Egypt Unite?

The New York Times wrote on January 19:

“At the talks in Kuwait, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia pledged $1 billion toward a $2 billion reconstruction fund [for Gaza] that Palestinians are seeking to establish… King Abdullah exhorted Arab nations to overcome their divisions and urged Israel to embrace an Arab peace plan put forward in 2002 or risk its being withdrawn… On the sidelines, leaders from Syria, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan and Egypt met privately, apparently seeking to present a united front. Syria called for declaring Israel a terrorist state…”

The Los Angeles Times added on January 19:

“By offering cash and talking tough, Saudi King Abdullah sought to absorb popular anger directed at the so-called moderate Arab states, which have been accused of failing to do enough to halt the Israeli offensive. He also hopes to recapture Saudi Arabia’s diminished stature in the Arab world.

“The nation has been eclipsed by Syria and Iran, which support Hamas, and Qatar, which emerged as a diplomatic powerhouse in May after bypassing the Saudis in brokering a deal between competing Western-allied and Iranian-backed factions in Lebanon.”

Interview with Syria’s Bashar Assad

On January 19, Der Spiegel Online published a revealing interview with Syrian President Bashar Assad. We are bringing you the following excerpts:

“Basically, Hamas is not the problem in this conflict, but Israel… The fact is that for six months Hamas complied with the cease-fire that had been agreed upon… Hamas captured an absolute majority of votes in the internationally recognized parliamentary election three years ago, a landslide victory… During the most recent six-month ceasefire, Israel targeted and killed more than a dozen Palestinians, but no Israeli died. And yet Europe remained silent…

“We do not recognize Israel and Israel is still our enemy — it occupies part of our country, the Golan Heights. If the Israelis withdraw from Golan, we will recognize them. First comes peace, then recognition — not the other way around… Hamas must be included. Nothing will work without Hamas… Hamas today must be part of an agreement…

“Hamas will not disappear… Hamas has the trust of the people, and anyone who wishes to destroy it must destroy an entire people… we would welcome it if the Germans, in general, played a larger role… Peace without Syria is unthinkable.”

Back to top

Would you please explain the Vision of the Horses, as described in Zechariah 1:8-11

We explained in an earlier Q&A on Zechariah’s vision of the four chariots (in Zechariah 6:1-8), as well as in our free booklet, “Angels, Demons and the Spirit World,” that the horses mentioned in this first vision, as well as other visions in the book of Zechariah, describe angels or spirit beings. Angels can appear or manifest themselves in the form and shape of animals, including horses, as well as men. In Zechariah’s first vision, which begins in Zechariah 1:8, angels manifest themselves both as men and as horses. Notice the exact wording:

“(8) I saw by night, and behold, a MAN riding on a red HORSE, and it stood among the myrtle trees in the hollow, and behind him were HORSES: red, sorrel and white. (9) Then I said, ‘My lord, what are these?’ So the ANGEL who talked with me said to me, ‘I will show you what they are.’ (10) And the MAN who stood among the myrtle trees answered and said, ‘These are the ones whom the LORD has sent to walk to and fro throughout the earth.’ (11) So they answered the ANGEL of the LORD, who stood among the myrtle trees, and said, ‘We have walked to and fro throughout the earth, and behold, all the earth is resting quietly.”

While most commentaries apply this passage strictly and exclusively to the time and circumstances of Zechariah, all the visions of Zechariah, as we saw in previous Updates, deal mostly with the end time, just prior to Christ’s return. Of course, some aspects ARE limited to the events in Zechariah’s days–but even then, underlying principles still apply to our time.

(1) A World at Rest

In Zechariah’s first vision, a picture is painted of a world “at rest” (notice verse 11).

As Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible states to verse 11:

“There is general peace through the Persian empire, and other states connected with Judea; but the Jews are still in affliction; their city is not yet restored, nor their temple built.”

Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible adds:

“Wars, although soon to break out again, were in the second year of Darius for the time suspended [when Zechariah received his first vision]. The rest, in which the world was, suggests the contrast of the yet continuing unrest allotted to the people of God. Such rest had been promised to Israel, on its return from the captivity, but had not yet been fulfilled. Through the hostility of the Samaritans the building of the temple had been hindered and was just recommenced; the wall of Jerusalem was yet broken down…; its fire-burned gates not restored; itself was a waste…; its houses unbuilt…”

The Ryrie Study Bible explains:

“God’s patrols report that the earth ‘sitteth still, and is at rest’; i.e., the heathen nations still flourished and were self-confidently secure, while Israel was downtrodden.”

(2) A Short-Lived Rest

The peaceful rest of the world was short-lived. As mentioned above, wars would break out soon between the Persian and the Greek Empires. In any event, the peaceful rest of the Gentile nations was in opposition to the “downtrodden” condition of Israel.

In fact, the reaction of the angel of the Lord in verse 12 shows that this “rest” was detrimental to the condition of Israel: “Then the ANGEL of the LORD answered and said, ‘O LORD of hosts, how long will You not have mercy on Jerusalem and on the cities of Judah, against which You were angry these seventy years?'”

We also read in verse 15 that the nations opposed to Jerusalem were “at ease”–unaware of the destruction which would come upon them.

(3) God’s Anger for Seventy Years

We read that God was angry with Israel for seventy years. What does this time period refer to?

Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible points out:

“This cannot mean the duration of the captivity for that was nearly twenty years past. It must mean simply the time that had elapsed from the destruction of the temple to the time in which the angel spoke. As the temple was destroyed in the nineteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar, and this vision took place in the second year of Darius, the term of seventy years was completed, or nearly so, between these two periods.”

The Nelson Study Bible agrees, stating:

“The seventy years refers to the period of exile during which the temple lay in ruins (586-515 B.C., see Jer. 25:7-14).”

It is important to note that Zechariah’s vision–as is the case with ALL the visions of Zechariah–is DUAL. It has application for us today–speaking of nations and individuals alike who are not willing to obey their Maker.

(4) No Anger for Seventy Years in the End-Time

However, there is no indication in prophecy that a period of seventy years of destruction of a physical or spiritual temple will apply to end time events. That is, there is no indication in prophecy that the modern nations of Israel and Judah, after they have been defeated in war and captured by their enemies, will remain enslaved for seventy years, before Christ returns to bring them out of slavery. Nor can we say that the spiritual temple–the Church–has been, or will be in ruins for seventy years, prior to Christ’s return.

(5) A Church at Ease

In fact, just the opposite is true:

The end-time Church of God was revived, beginning in the 1930’s. But it IS correct that the building of the spiritual temple, the Church, has not been completed yet, and the preaching of the gospel of the Kingdom of God must still continue.

Unfortunately, we are facing a situation now where many in the Church (spiritual Israel) have become disillusioned and frustrated, and, being bogged down by own personal problems, have lost the zeal to finish the Work and to overcome sin in their own lives, rather than striving ever more for perfection.

In addition, we have also witnessed a terrible complacency within the modern nations of physical Israel–especially the USA. Even though the handwriting of national disaster and calamity is clearly on the wall, many in the USA still believe in the “American way of life,” which is going to save them from all their problems. Their trust in themselves–rather than in God–will be their downfall.

Relative peace or “rest” or a life “at ease” in this world has lulled the senses of many inside and outside the Church of God, who are asleep and who are not aware of the storm which will engulf this planet very soon to bring “sudden destruction” (compare 1 Thessalonians 5:2-3).

(6) The Work Will Be Finished

We read in Zechariah 1:13 that God answered the angel with “good and comforting words.” Verse 14 states that God is zealous for Jerusalem and for Zion; and verse 16 adds that He will return to Jerusalem with mercy and that His house or temple will be built there. The physical temple would in fact be finished at the time of Zechariah within four years after his first vision. This shows us that when God intervenes to motivate His people to finish His work, it will be done within a VERY SHORT time.

Again, these historical events foreshadow what is prophesied for our day and age. When the prophet Habakkuk announced sudden destruction, he quoted God’s words in Habakkuk 1:5: “Look among the nations and watch–Be utterly astounded! For I will work a work in your days Which you would not believe, though it were told you.”

Habakkuk continued to state in verse 6 that God will raise the Chaldeans to bring punishment on others. But Paul later applied this passage in Habakkuk 1:5, of raising up an “unbelievable” work, to the work of the preaching of the gospel (compare Acts 13:41). Since the preaching of the gospel in all the world as a witness is a sign of Christ’s impending return (Matthew 24:14), we can see that a most powerful work of preaching the gospel must still occur–so unique that “you would not believe, though it were told you” (compare again Habakkuk 1:5).

Paul also explains in Romans 9:28 that this final work will be quick and short: “For He will FINISH THE WORK and CUT IT SHORT in righteousness, Because the LORD will make a SHORT WORK upon the earth.”

(7) Time Is Short

When Christ returns, His bride–the Church–has made herself ready, and she will be arrayed with fine white linen (Revelation 19:7-8). But this does not mean that everyone “in the church” will be ready.

Rather, Christ warns us in Revelation 16:15: “Behold, I am coming as a thief. Blessed is he who watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame.” Also, Christ warns His end-time Church in Laodicea: “[You] do not know that you are… naked. I counsel you to buy from Me… white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed” (Revelation 3:17-18).

The time is short (1 Corinthians 7:29). Satan knows it (Revelation 12:12). He knows that God will crush him under our feet shortly (Romans 16:20). He knows that all the things which are written in the book of Revelation must come to pass shortly (Revelation 1:1; 22:6). The question is, Do we in God’s Church know this, too? And if we do know it, do we ACT accordingly?

Let us heed the prophetic warning of Zechariah’s first vision. He wrote it down for us today “upon whom the ends of the ages have come” (1 Corinthians 10:11).

Lead Writer: Norbert Link

Back to top

Preaching the Gospel and Feeding the Flock

New StandingWatch program and sermons in English and German

A new StandingWatch program was posted on StandingWatch, Google Video and YouTube. It is titled, “Ambassadors for God?”

In the program, Norbert Link asks the question how converted Christians can live in a world plagued with problems? Just consider the recent war in Gaza, affecting many innocent people; renewed discussions about a mandatory draft in the USA; the recent economic warfare between Russia and the Ukraine, leaving many Europeans freezing; more big American banks asking for bailouts; or a new U.S. stimulus package on the horizon. Do we realize that none of these activities or plans are in accordance with godly standards? The Bible says that true Christians are to live as ambassadors for the Kingdom of God. But HOW are Christ’s representatives supposed to conduct themselves today?

Norbert Link’s video-recorded sermon, “The Church of God–A Great Mystery,” which was given on February 3, 2007, has been posted on our Website and on Google Video.

A new German sermon, dealing with the biblical dietary laws (“Ist Alles Fleisch Essbar?”), was recorded this week and has been posted on Google Video.

Back to top

Close Call

by Cali Harris

A recent Monday morning drive to work was on a highway covered by four inches of slick, slushy snow.  As the traffic moved at about 25 miles per hour, a car sitting at a complete stop in an exit lane decided to merge back onto the highway at the last minute—right in front of me.  I knew I would either hit the car if I couldn’t slow down in time, or be rear-ended by the cars behind me if I slowed too quickly.  As I compressed my brakes, the back end of my car fishtailed into the next lane of traffic. I slowed down enough to avoid hitting the car in front of me, and looked in my rear-view mirror to see how close the cars were behind me.  I watched a van, only about 4 feet directly behind my car, slow down and fishtail exactly parallel to my car; we moved in unison together, avoiding any collision.  The van then pulled around and passed me, and the cars behind me all slowed in time.  By man’s standards, avoiding an accident in this situation was highly improbable—in fact, the other drivers probably thought, “That was a close call!”

I was thankful for the protection I knew God had provided. In my thankfulness, something struck me: it was not a close call.  God is in total control of my life, and whether or not I had ended up in an accident, I know God would have provided the protection He promises.  Just this past Friday, my sister, Shelly, and nephew, Nicolas, were in a car accident that essentially totaled their car.  God intervened and protected them from serious injury—another example of what would be a close call by this world’s standards, but was confirmation of God’s complete involvement in our lives.

These recent situations were good preparation for the times ahead, in which only God will be able to intervene and protect.  I now more fully understand that I don’t have to worry about “close calls,” because God is in close control. 

Back to top

How This Work is Financed

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

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

Technical Team: Eric Rank, Shana Rank

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

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

Donations should be sent to the following addresses:

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

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

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

©2024 Church of the Eternal God