Update 525


How Much Time Is Left?

by Eric Rank

This is it. The final year of the Mayan calendar has begun. Predictions abound that the end of the world is imminent – this year. However, most of those predictions rely on speculative theories, superstition and misapplication of science. We should all know better than to be influenced by such nonsense. The fact remains, as stated in Matthew 24:36 “… of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only.” Human predictions, no matter how thoroughly researched, will fail.

What we do seem to know is that many of us will be able to see the end of these days coming if we watch closely for the events of prophecy to unfold. And certainly, based on the current events of the times, prophecy is unfolding before our eyes.  Yet even with the ability to see and understand how prophecy will be fulfilled, this knowledge only lets us know that the Kingdom of God is near (compare Luke 22:31). Dates and times of events will remain a secret kept by God the Father alone.

Does it make you uneasy to know that dates and times of the end of this age are hidden to us? Does it make you uncomfortable to know that you may be caught off guard by the return of Christ? Is it disconcerting to you that you cannot answer the question, “How much time is left?”

If the answer is “Yes” to any of the questions above, we need to take some time to meditate on whether we have our priorities in order. The time we have left may be short, but we are not to value this physical  life we live more than the eternal life waiting for us (John 12:25). If we want to know how much time we have left before Jesus Christ returns to establish the Kingdom of God, we need to ask ourselves why we want to know dates and times in the first place. Are there things we want to experience in this life before that time comes? Do we need this information so we know how much time we have to prepare ourselves? A deadline certainly helps plan, right? Make no mistake, we need to prepare spiritually so that we are fully converted, but this preparation should begin at the moment we commit our lives to God. Once we make that commitment, our hearts should be faithful to drop everything and follow the path of righteousness in front of us. And that is what it takes to be prepared for the coming of God’s Kingdom.

Every day we have the opportunity to practice how to handle the coming of the end of this age. Every day, we make choices between following the paths of Godly righteousness, or something less. When the day of the Lord is upon us, we will be faced with the very same kind of decisions. Choose right, or not. Choosing what is right and good is all we can ever do, both now and in the future. If we consistently choose what is right and are faithful to do it in the future we should be ready at any time, making the amount of time between now and the return of Christ irrelevant.

Back to top

What will be the next crisis to strike the nations? We report on the simmering and ever-present rumors concerning the issue of Iran’s attempt to build a nuclear weapon–and its certain consequences. As Eastern Europe becomes more vocal about its unequal status, the EU flexes its control to bring Hungary into line. We note the election as president of the European Parliament, German socialist, Martin Schulz, known for his fiery personality and outspoken viewpoints. We report on the S&P cut of France’s triple A financial rating while Germany maintains its triple A status. Finally, we address the battle over freedom on the Internet, which has gained worldwide attention this week.

Back to top

More Negotiations?

The New York Times wrote on January 18, 2012:

“Israel moved to calm the increasingly tense discourse over Iran’s nuclear program on Wednesday, with the Israeli defense minister asserting that any decision on a possible pre-emptive military strike on Iranian targets was ‘very far off.’

“The assertion by Defense Minister Ehud Barak was at least the third indication from the Israeli government in the past few days that it was not considering armed confrontation over the nuclear issue with Iran anytime soon, and it came amid signs that Iran and Western powers led by the United States might resume talks that have been stalled for a year.”

While reports of this sort paint a more promising picture for peace in the Middle East, there always lurks the dark reality that an inevitable confrontation is waiting to explode between Israel and Iran–which will pull many other nations into the clash. More insightful information on this critical issue can be found in a recent message given by Norbert Link, titled: “The Covenant With Levi.”

But is Time Running Out For Diplomacy?

As reported by the Jerusalem Post on January 19, 2012, General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff, arrived in Israel this week to make the case for more negotiations with Iran along with enforcing sanctions. However, comments quoted in this same article from Israel’s IDF Chief of Staff, Lt-Gen. Benny Gantz, show that the nearness for conflict is growing ominous:

“Addressing a meeting of NATO military commanders at the western military alliance in Brussels, Gantz said that the world needed to ‘strengthen moderate elements and weaken the radicals.’

“’Only through joint work combining tough and soft power can we deter and in the long term overcome these radical elements,’ Gantz said.

“Earlier in the day, Gantz met with the Canadian and Italian chiefs of staff.

“Gantz said that NATO’s decision to establish a missile defense system throughout Europe was a demonstration of the severity non-conventional weapons pose to the world.

“’Ballistic missile defense systems need to be the last line of defense and the initiative needs to come earlier by exhausting all of the available means to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction,’ he said.

“On Tuesday, Gantz called on NATO military commanders to think up new strategies for dealing with the growing instability in the Middle East and the subsequent increase in threats.

“’We are today in a different and more dramatic reality that includes new threats and a period of instability requiring all of us to reassess,’ he said during a meeting with General Knud Bartels, the chairman of the NATO Military Committee.

“Gantz also met with Britain’s Chief of Staff General Sir David Richards and Russia military chief Nikolai Makarov, as well as the chiefs of staff of France, Spain, Australia, Greece and Poland.”

Eastern Europe: A Return to Populism and Nationalism!

Spiegel Online International wrote on January 18, 2012:

“A dangerous storm is brewing in the shadow of the euro crisis. The devastating consequences of the 2008 global financial crisis were never fully overcome in Eastern Europe, and more countries in the region are falling into financial and economic imbalance, battling sprawling debt, high budget deficits, recessions and unemployment.

“But it’s not just the fragile economies that are at risk. Many central and southern European societies also lack political and social stability. These regions have two decades of uninterrupted reforms and tough austerity policies behind them. Many people there are exhausted, and democracy fatigue, euroskepticism, and aversion towards the once deified West are on the rise.

“‘In many respects, it’s a process similar to the disillusionment in Eastern Europe with socialism in the 1970s and 1980s,’ says Hungarian economic scholar and publicist László Lengyel. ‘The danger of this is that entire social classes or regions like those in eastern Poland, Slovakia and Hungary fall victim to hopelessness and extremism…'”

“…The EU has long since lost its role as a force for order in Eastern Europe. From the Baltic States to Bulgaria, hardly an Eastern European country truly stands behind EU projects. In the Czech Republic, President Václav Klaus has always agitated against the EU and the euro and has thereby stirred political turmoil in the country. Most recently, the battle over the EU fiscal pact has led to a government crisis. In Estonia, resentment is growing against the cost of the euro bailout efforts. After elections in March the populist Robert Fico, who previously governed between 2006 and 2010, could take the helm again. And when in doubt, Romania’s populist President Traian Bsescu supports the United States rather than the EU. Meanwhile there have recently been major clashes in Bucharest against his government’s austerity measures…

“Polls reveal a climate of hate spawned by the right-wing nationalist and extremist discourse of the last few years. For example, nearly two-thirds of Hungarians believe that the influence of Jews is too great in their economy, and that the Roma have a genetic predisposition towards criminality.”

In spite of this unrest–particularly from the Hungary’s prime minister–the EU exerts powerful influence, and it seems more than willing to enforce its control, as the next article shows.

Hungary Gives Way

Reuters reported on January 18,2012:

“Hungary’s prime minister yielded on Wednesday in a dispute with the European Union that threatens aid for his country, saying he was willing to change contested laws tightening government control over institutions including the central bank.

“Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s conservative Fidesz party has been criticised by the international community for introducing measures that threaten the independence of the media, the judiciary and the central bank since sweeping to power in 2010.

“The Commission, the EU’s executive, said in a letter sent on Tuesday that new laws on the central bank, the retirement age of judges and the country’s data protection authority violated EU rules. They needed to be changed within one month if Hungary wanted to avoid a procedure that could end up at the European Court of Justice, the EU’s highest court.

“On Wednesday, Orban offered amendments and said he could accept some of the criticisms made by the Commission.”

EU Parliment Presidency Goes to Shultz

The euobserver.com reported on January 12, 2012:

“Martin Schulz has promised to live up to his reputation as something of a political bruiser in his new role as European Parliament president, with references to his “temper” and “strength of personality” featuring in post-election appraisal speeches by colleagues.

“The German Socialist MEP was elected to the largely ceremonial post after one round of voting Tuesday morning (17 January), gaining 387 of the 699 votes cast.

“Although the outcome was virtually pre-ordained given the agreement between the Socialist and the centre-right EPP to divide the 5-year presidency, Schulz was clearly emotional as he told the chamber that his family, his former primary school teacher and members of his youth football team were all present to witness the vote.

“Schulz, who differs enormously in style to his emollient predecessor – centre-right Pole Jerzy Buzek – promised that he was ‘not going to be an amenable president.'”

BNO News reported:

“The 56-year old German Member of the European Parliament (MEP) replaced the outgoing President Jerzy Buzek of Poland and will lead the parliament for two and half years until the beginning of the next legislature in July 2014.

“‘We must grasp the fact that people in Europe have little time for institutional debates because they are too busy worrying about their future, their jobs, their pensions,’ Schulz stated in Strasbourg following the vote. ‘This Chamber is the place where the interests of the people are defended.’

“Schulz received a total of 387 votes, more than the 336 votes needed to win an absolute majority under the Parliament’s Rules of Procedure.

“President Schulz also warned that ‘for the first time since it was founded, the failure of the European Union is a realistic possibility’, adding that ‘our interests can no longer be separated from those of our neighbors; on a shared understanding that the EU is not a zero-sum game, in which one person must lose so that another can win.’

“‘The reverse is true’, Schulz continued, ‘either we all lose – or we all win. The fundamental basis for this is the Community method. It is not a technocratic concept, but the principle at the heart of everything the European Union stands for.'”

The European Union is facing tremendous challenges on many fronts, but as biblical prophecy emphatically reveals–the EU will coalesce to emerge as the world’s most influential political and religious power. More incisive information on this can be found in our free booklets, “Germany In Prophecy” and “Europe In Prophecy–The Unfolding of End-Time Events.”

“Bombshell” For France!

The euobserver.com wrote on January 14, 2012:

“US-based ratings agency Standard & Poor’s (S&P) has cut France’s triple-A rating and trashed the EU’s new fiscal treaty.

“It said in a statement out Friday (13 January) the EU draft fiscal compact ‘does not supply sufficient additional resources or operational flexibility to bolster European rescue operations.’

“It noted that: ‘a reform process based on a pillar of fiscal austerity alone risks becoming self-defeating, as domestic demand falls in line with consumers’ rising concerns about job security and disposable incomes, eroding national tax revenues.’

“It added ‘there is a risk [of] reform fatigue’ in the worst-hit countries, creating ‘lower levels of predictability’ on the political front.

“The agency also downgraded Austria, Cyprus, Italy, Malta, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain, scalping another triple-A country (Austria) and moving Cyprus and Portugal into junk territory.

“On the positive side, it kept Germany’s triple-A status and praised the European Central Bank, saying it ‘has engaged in unprecedented repurchase operations for financial institutions, greatly relieving the near-term funding pressures for banks.’

“The blow comes two weeks before 26 EU countries aim to sign the new treaty at a summit in Brussels. It also comes 100-or-so days before French leader Nicolas Sarkozy tries to get re-elected.”

“Darkness” Falls on the Internet

Reported by the San Francisco Chronicle, January 18, 2012:

“In an unprecedented display of Internet force, thousands of websites went dark or censored themselves Wednesday to protest twin antipiracy measures pending in Congress.

“The blackout represented a culmination of months of intensifying outcry over the bills, echoed and amplified by social media, blogs and tech publications, that drew more and more popular sites into the official day of protest, including Google, Wikipedia, Craigslist, Wired, Reddit, Boing Boing, Reporters Without Borders, Pressthink, Greenpeace and McSweeney’s.

“Their actions and the frenzy of media coverage in the buildup raised mainstream awareness of what, until recent days, had been a wonky set of proposals only lightly covered outside tech circles. Congressional phone lines were reportedly flooded Wednesday in what could begin the final unraveling of the already troubled measures.

“The stated goal of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and its Senate counterpart, the Protect IP Act (PIPA), is to confront the sale and distribution of pirated movies, drugs, music and consumer goods by rogue overseas sites. But in doing so, critics say the bills threaten crucial legal protections that foster online innovation while undermining due process and free speech.

“On Wednesday, many Republican backers of the bills agreed the approach was flawed, even if the goal was sound. Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida, John Cornyn of Texas and Orrin Hatch of Utah all withdrew support, following in the footsteps of several House colleagues in recent days. The Obama administration came out strongly against the proposals over the weekend.

“Some observers said the day of protest may come to represent a fundamental shift in the legislative landscape, a flexing of a newfound and untraditional source of political power in the Internet sector.”

While the freedom we experience to utilize the Internet is taken for granted, the legislative moves so far proposed may prove just a first step in restricting content on the Internet. More and more laws are passed, but what is truly missing is the kind of character and self-control that answers to God’s perfect and righteous way of living–something not often, if ever, considered in the governments of our day!

Back to top

How do you understand 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17? Does it tell us that the dead in Christ will rise first and that sometime afterwards, those in Christ who are still alive will be changed?

Let us notice this passage in context. We read, beginning with 1 Thessalonians 4:13:

“But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope… God will bring with Him [Jesus] those who sleep in Jesus… we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means PRECEDE those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up TOGETHER WITH THEM in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.”

Paul addresses the same topic in 2 Thessalonians 2:1, where he speaks of “the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him.” Particularly focusing on those who have fallen asleep in Christ, as well as those in Christ who will still be alive at the time of Christ’s return, he says in 1 Corinthians 15:51-52:

“Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall ALL be changed—in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.”

From the foregoing, we see that those who died in Christ will be raised incorruptible. They will not be raised in a physical state and then be changed afterwards. Rather, their resurrection will be one to immortality. We also read that those true Christians who are alive when Christ returns will be changed instantly into immortality as well, and both—those who were resurrected to immortality, and those who were changed to immortality—will “be caught up” in the clouds to meet the returning Jesus Christ in the air. They will then together descend to the Mount of Olives, as other Scriptures show (Q&A).

We read that the change of those in Christ who are still alive will not PRECEDE the resurrection of Christians who died (In passing, this fact, all by itself, disproves the theory of the “secret” rapture.)  But do the Scriptures tell us that the resurrection of the Christians who fell asleep will PRECEDE the change of those Christians who are alive when Christ returns? If so, the time difference between the resurrection and the change would have to be extremely short, as we read in 1 Corinthians 15:52 that at the time of the last trumpet, ALL – the dead and those still alive—will be changed, and that in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye. Lets’ read it again: “We shall not all sleep (some will still be alive when Christ returns), but we shall ALL be changed (that is, the dead will be resurrected incorruptible, and those alive in Christ will be changed to incorruptibility).” And when is all of this to occur? “… in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.”

Some commentaries propose the idea that those in Christ who died and who will be resurrected, will precede those in Christ who will be still alive when Christ returns.

For instance, Barnes’ Notes on the Bible says:

“Shall rise first – That is, before the living shall be changed. A doctrine similar to this was held by the Jews. ‘Resch Lachisch said, Those who die in the land of Israel shall rise first in the days of the Messiah.’.. It is implied in all this description, that the interval between their resurrection and the change which will occur to the living, will be brief, or that the one will rapidly succeed the other…”

Of course, that “Jewish doctrine” has no support in Scripture. All who have died in Christ will be resurrected at the same time—no matter where they died.

We also read in the People’s New Testament:

“The dead in Christ shall rise first. Before the living are gathered, all the saints who slept in Christ shall be gathered around him. In the final day, the first act is the gathering of the departed saints; the next, the gathering of the living saints.”

A similar explanation is given in Matthew Henry’s Whole Bible Commentary:

“The dead in Christ shall rise first (v. 16), before those who are found alive at Christ’s coming shall be changed; and so it appears that those who shall then be found alive shall not prevent those that are asleep…”

But is this really what the Scriptures want to tell us?

Vincent’s Word Studies prefers the concept that 1 Thessalonians 4 is “apparently not intended to include the specific details which follow. In that word the revelation was to the effect that all believers simultaneously should share the blessings of the advent. The following description of the Lord’s descent from heaven is intended to emphasize the fact that the reunion of dead and living believers will be accomplished by the Lord in person.”

Still, the Scripture says that those who died in Christ will rise FIRST.

Gill’s Exposition on the Entire the Bible states that those who died in Christ “will rise ‘first’, before the wicked, which is the first resurrection, Revelation 20:5, even a thousand years before them; the righteous will rise in the morning of the resurrection, and so will have the dominion in the morning, Psalm 49:14, even at the beginning of the thousand years, as soon as Christ will come; but the wicked will not rise till the evening of that day, or till the close of the thousand years: and this agrees with the notions of the Jews, who thought that some will rise before other…”

Of course, if by wicked, one means those who have committed the unpardonable sin, then they will not rise until after the Millennium or 1,000 years and after the Great White Throne Judgment (which may last about 100 years). That is, they will rise in a third resurrection (Q&A). But it is true that those who died in Christ will rise first, when Christ returns, and that all those who did not die in Christ, without having committed the unpardonable sin, will rise 1,000 years later, in the second resurrection of the Great White Throne Judgment period.

The Bible confirms that some will rise FIRST, and others will rise later. Notice Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 15:22-23: “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming. Then comes the end…”

Revelation 20:4-6 states:

“… then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God… And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. This is the FIRST resurrection. Blessed and holy is he who has part in the FIRST resurrection. Over such the second death has no power…”

Even though some reject the idea that Paul makes reference to the first resurrection in 1 Thessalonians 4:16, when speaking about those who will be resurrected FIRST (compare Jamieson, Fausset and Brown), it appears that this may be what Paul was trying to convey–that only those who died in Christ as well as those in Christ who will be alive will be raised and changed to immortality, to be caught up together to meet Christ. In other words, Paul, who was wanting to give hope, told the brethren that they did not need to sorrow, because all of those who died in Christ and all of those in Christ still alive when Christ returns, will be united again in immortality.

Note how Phillips, The New Testament in Modern English, renders the phrase in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17: “Those who have died in Christ will be the first one to rise, and then we who are still living on the earth will be swept up with them into the clouds to meet the Lord in the air….”

If, on the other hand, Paul’s intention was to convey that the dead in Christ will rise before the living Christians will be changed, then the time difference between those two events would have to be extremely short; that is, less than the time it would take for an eye to twinkle.

Lead Writer: Norbert Link

Back to top

Preaching the Gospel and Feeding the Flock

A new StandingWatch program was posted on YouTube and on our Website www.standingwatch.org. It is titled, “Why Disasters and Catastrophes?” Disasters made 2011 the most expensive year ever. With the beginning of 2012, more birds die a mysterious death; devastating volcanic eruptions threaten Germany; and it is now 5 minutes to midnight on the Doomsday Clock, with midnight symbolizing humanity’s destruction. With all that bad news, it there any good news? Indeed, there is, but not in the way most people think.

The sermon titled, “Persecution,” by Norbert Link, is now posted on our website, www.eternalgod.org.

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