|Editorial||Beware of Apostasy in God’s Church|
|Current Events||This Week in the News|
|Q&A||Are the Land Sabbath and the Jubilee Year still to be observed today? (Part 2)|
|The Work||Preaching the Gospel and Feeding the Flock|
|Forums||The Simple Things|
Beware of Apostasy in God’s Church
by Norbert Link
There is nothing new under the sun, but unless we get up early in the morning, we might miss the sunrise. During the day—busy as we are—we might not even notice the storm clouds, and when the winds begin to blow and the rain comes pouring down, darkness has overpowered us, before we know it. I’m talking in figurative terms, of course, speaking of doctrinal changes. They are like a dam which first allows a little bit of water to get through, until it breaks down entirely and the resulting devastating deluge tears down everything in its path; or they are like an avalanche, which buries everyone and everything under it.
Many of us have experienced abominable changes in the Worldwide Church of God (“Worldwide”), after Herbert W. Armstrong had died in 1986. Under the new leadership, a proverbial apostasy or falling away from the truth set in, destroying everything that Mr. Armstrong and those loyal to the truth had worked for. The changes were introduced subtly at first, and many were caught unawares, until the changes became bigger and swallowed up those who embraced them. Today, most unsuspecting, gullible or willingly ignorant “victims,” as well as the actively promoting perpetrators, have lost just about every aspect of the truth which they had once embraced.
We write about these horrible changes in the last section (“Why It Matters”) of our free booklet, “Are You Already Born Again?” If you don’t know the history of the apostasy in Worldwide, and how these changes were introduced, please read this booklet immediately.
Because, you see, the past will repeat itself—in fact, we are already seeing the beginning stages. Changes are taking hold in unsuspecting and trusting members of certain organizations, which are reminiscent, even though under a slightly different mantle, of what we all experienced in the days of Worldwide’s heresies and spiritual downfall. Make no mistake—the apostasy is not over, but ongoing, and it will raise its ugly head again with strong deception and persuasive temptation. Jesus said that because lawlessness (sin) will abound, the godly love (“agape” in Greek) of many (in the Church of God) will grow cold (Matthew 24:12), and many will be offended and betray and hate one another (verse 10).
When a Church organization changes established teaching and attempts to introduce “new truth,” one must ask the question, “Why is this being done? What’s the motive? What’s behind the move?” Now, sometimes, the leaders or those advising them might not know themselves where a particular change may lead, but Satan, the originator of everything in opposition to God and His truth, knows very well what he is doing, and whom he may be able to use to carry out his purposes.
Some are teaching now that the end-time apostasy, which Paul talks about in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-3, describes a major religious organization outside the Church of God, and it is claimed that the apostasy will set in with full force when that church becomes very influential and powerful. But this is most emphatically NOT what Paul is addressing here. (Compare also our Q&A in this regard). Paul is saying that in the end-time, when the man of sin is being revealed, an apostasy or falling away from the truth in the Church of God will occur, and many Church members will be deceived, because they did not receive and maintain the LOVE of the truth (verse 10). After all, the very word “apostasy” describes a falling away from the truth—it must be talking about the Church of God, which alone has the truth (compare 1 Timothy 3:15). How can an organization fall away from the truth, which it never had, to begin with?
The recent apostasy started, without any question, in Worldwide, after Mr. Armstrong died, but it is ongoing. And it will raise its ugly head again and become extremely powerful in the very near future. This means, God’s people will be severely tested, and many will fail. They must be warned today, not to fall for religious deception. Most in the Church might say: “It can’t happen to me.” But don’t be too sure. Paul warns us: “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12).
Religious deception will not begin with obvious and big doctrinal changes. No Church of God organization will declare right away that the Sabbath and the Holy Days need not be kept anymore; that we are now free to eat unclean meat; or that we don’t have to tithe anymore. When Worldwide introduced its changes, they did not begin to address the “big ones”—they began by fooling around with seemingly minor issues, so that most did not even realize, at first, that real changes were being made.
Some changes might be tolerated or even accepted by some, because, so they reason, they are unimportant, non-salvational, or only a matter of semantics—changes related to concepts such as: Are we already born again? Are we allowed to serve on the jury or vote in governmental elections? Are we embracing the idea that Christ was created by God the Father? Are we saying that the Holy Spirit is God; that is, a separate and third entity? Must we celebrate new moons today? Should we begin to create our own calendars for the determination as to when to observe the annual Holy Days? Should God’s ministers perform interracial marriages, or a marriage between a believer and an unbeliever? Should we teach that the Sacrifice of Christ has nothing to do with physical healing? Should we teach that the woman riding the beast in Revelation 17 is the USA riding Europe? Should we teach that Christ is going to return on Pentecost? Should we believe in a rapture and that we are going to go to heaven at some point in time? Should we teach that the marriage supper is going to be celebrated in heaven?
All of these ideas are, and have been circulating in certain corners within some Church of God organizations, but not one of them is biblically correct or sound. However, far too many have already begun to entertain or even believe and teach these and other concepts. But not one of them is new, as there is nothing new under the sun.
Let’s take the marriage supper as an example. Some preach that Christ will return to resurrect the saints and change those alive, and take all of them to the third heaven, where the marriage supper will be celebrated, and then return together with the saints to the earth. The concept is that He comes first FOR the saints, and then later together WITH the saints. This is clearly a variation of the false secret rapture teaching—a doctrine of demons. Some even teach or have taught that after Christ’s “third” coming with the saints and their short stay on earth, Christ and the saints will return to the third heaven to rule the earth from heaven during the Millennium.
The idea that Christ will “rapture” the saints to celebrate the marriage supper in the third heaven was introduced by some in the Church of God as early as 1997, if not even before then. At that time, the Global Church of God (“Global”) decided, for biblical reasons, NOT to teach this concept.
At that time, I sent a memo to Global’s leading ministry. After discussing the Scriptures which were used to support a marriage supper in heaven, I wrote in November of 1997: “The above-mentioned scriptures do NOT prove that we will go to heaven, not even for a short time. Further, there is NO Scripture which says that the wedding banquet… will take place in heaven. Rather, all implications are that it will take place on earth.”
After discussing those passages, I set forth the following conclusion: “I would feel that we would make a big mistake if we were to preach that it [the marriage supper] will take place in heaven, as this runs absolutely contrary to the long-standing teaching of the church under Mr. Armstrong.”
At the same time, Evangelist Colin Adair submitted a paper on the matter, in which he wrote: “I believe it would be a mistake to teach as established fact and doctrine that the marriage supper occurs in heaven… We should not be looking for something ‘new’ just to please some brethren who think that growing as a church means discovering some new doctrine or teaching. Growing as a church means personal spiritual growth as Christians and getting the Work done, not ‘some new thing.’”
Others raised similar concerns, and so, the decision-making body of leading ministers in Global decided correctly at that time not to teach that the marriage supper will take place in heaven. The Church of the Eternal God and its corporate affiliates in Canada and the UK–the Church of God, a Christian Fellowship, and the Global Church of God—maintain that it is unbiblical to teach that the wedding supper will take place in heaven or, that there will be a rapture of some kind and that Christ will return twice, and we have written several Q&A’s, http://www.eternalgod.org/qa/11537 ; http://www.eternalgod.org/qa/4125; http://www.eternalgod.org/qa/16 setting forth the biblical reasons for our stance on the matter.
We can learn from all of this that it is important to stick to the trunk of the tree and not to change anything, just for the sake of changing and pleasing somebody. We should and must only change an established teaching, when the Bible dictates the necessity of such a change. It is too dangerous to fall into the trap of wanting to declare something new—because the avalanche of change might ultimately bury those unaware, who are busy altering teachings and approving new doctrine. The Bible warns us, and not without reason: “Do not associate with those given to change” (Proverbs 24:21).
Focusing first on the USA, the economic situation is bound to deteriorate, but the government is facing additional international problems as well. While Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner suggests that “Congress should stop placing legal limits on the amount of money the government can borrow and effectively lift the debt limit to infinity,” Franklin Graham states that the USA is facing numerous problems because we have turned our backs on God. This is clearly the case; the Obama administration seems to be stumbling from one problem to another, and it seems that the USA is about to give up one of the last sea gates still in their possession.
The UK is struggling with their own problems—not the least of which is their ongoing persecution of small religious organizations.
The state of Israel does not seem to fare much better, facing condemnation from just about every side and outright wars on several fronts. The surprise announcement that Germany wants to strengthen its strategic ties with the Arab League should cause everybody to pause and think. At the same time, even though Angela Merkel is still the most popular German politician in Germany, her government is not liked. At this point, no real challenger seems to be in place, but this can change quickly.
We conclude with articles about the financial curse of Christmas, and the real dangers of solar storms.
This Week in the News
Timothy Geithner: “Raise Debt Limit to Infinity”
CNSNews.com wrote on November 19:
“Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said Friday that Congress should stop placing legal limits on the amount of money the government can borrow and effectively lift the debt limit to infinity… Geithner’s Treasury Department quietly warned at the end of October that the Treasury would reach current legal limit on the federal government’s debt by about the end of the year.
“In August 2011, President Barack Obama and Congress agreed to lift the legal debt limit by another $2.4 trillion–allowing the government to borrow up to $16.394 trillion. However, as of the close of business on Thursday, the Treasury had only $154.3 billion of that $2.4 trillion in new borrowing authority left. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid… said last week that the Senate stands ready to increase the debt limit by another $2.4 trillion…”
Of course, lifting any debt ceiling would mean that the incredible, foolish and ungodly borrowing habits of the US government could continue unabated, until the whole house of cards, that the USA has created, will come crumbling down and burying everybody with and under it.
“We Have Turned Our Backs on God”
Newsmax wrote on November 15:
“Franklin Graham charged in an exclusive Newsmax TV interview that America is in a deep economic quagmire because ‘we have turned our backs on God.’ ‘The more we turn our backs on God, the bigger our problem becomes,’ Graham, the son of world-renowned evangelist Billy Graham, tells Newsmax in a wide-ranging interview. “I didn’t hear any of the candidates say that we needed to call our nation to prayer. I didn’t hear any of the candidates say that we needed to ask God for help. We still think that we can work our way out of this problem – and I don’t think we can,’ Graham added. ‘I don’t have confidence in the Republican Party right now, and I don’t have confidence in the Democratic Party. I don’t believe there is leadership in Washington that can solve this problem. We just deal with it as issues for the day, and it kicks the can further and further down the road. We need God’s help to solve this problem – we can’t go without God.’ Last week’s election results, which sent President Barack Obama back to the White House for another four years, put the nation further along a ‘path of destruction,’ Graham said.
“’There is no question that America has been a nation that has been blessed by almighty God. There is no other nation in the history of mankind that has done what this nation has done – and it’s because of God’s hand and his blessing… What has happened is we have allowed ourselves to take God out everything that we do – and I believe that God will judge our nation one day.’ And, ‘maybe God will have to bring our nation to our knees – to where that we just have a complete economic collapse’ to do that, Graham said. ‘Maybe at that point, people will again call upon the name of almighty God.’
“Graham is the president and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. The association’s tax-exempt status is under threat from a complaint filed with the Internal Revenue Service by the Freedom From Religion Foundation… The move by the Wisconsin group, Graham said, reflected a broader push by the far left. ‘They want to shut the mouths of evangelicals. They want to shut the mouths of Christians. One hundred years ago, political leaders in every community were the pastors. They were the voices that were heard. They were the voices that had the influence. Politicians know that and the government knows that – and they are trying to shut the mouths of especially evangelicals. I’m going to continue to speak out,’ Graham vowed. ‘I’m not afraid. I’m not worried.’”
That the USA has turned its back on God—and that for quite some time now—is without any doubt. God blessed this country because of the faith and obedience of Abraham, so that God promised him unconditionally that He would bless his descendants—and the USA are part of the modern descendants of Abraham. But the fate of the USA is much worse than mere economic downfall. The Bible shows that the USA will be defeated in a nuclear war, and survivors will be brought into captivity. It is then, while in that miserable state, but sadly not before then, that some will begin to repent.
Petraeus: Benghazi Was Terrorist Attack
Newsmax wrote on November 16:
“[The former CIA chief] David Petraeus is telling lawmakers he believed all along that the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Libya was a terrorist attack… Lawmakers say Petraeus told them that CIA talking points written after the attack in Benghazi that killed four Americans referred to it as a terrorist attack. But Petraeus says that reference was removed by other federal agencies that made changes to the CIA’s draft…
“Petraeus’ comments are a challenge to the Obama administration’s timeline of events which indicated the attack on the Libyan consulate were spontaneous, caused by an angry mob upset at an anti-Muslim video… the fact that talking points were changed as information made its way through various agencies is sure to spark another round of controversy for the Obama administration…”
The problems for the US Government don’t seem to diminish, but just to increase constantly.
Loss of Another Sea Gate?
National Review wrote in its November 2012 edition:
“On June 27, a plane carrying Wen Jiabao made a ‘technical’ stop on the island of Terceira, in the Azores. Following an official greeting by Alamo Meneses, the regional secretary of environment of the sea, the Chinese premier spent four hours touring the remote Portuguese outpost in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Wen’s Terceira walkabout, which followed a four-nation visit to South America, largely escaped notice at the time, but alarm bells should have immediately gone off in Washington and in European capitals. For one thing, Wen’s last official stop on the trip was Santiago, the capital of Chile. Flights from Chile to China normally cross the Pacific, not the Atlantic, so there was no reason for his plane to be near the Azores…
“Terceira, however, has one big attraction for Beijing: Air Base No. 4. Better known as Lajes Field, the facility where Premier Wen’s 747 landed in June is jointly operated by the U.S. Air Force and its Portuguese counterpart. If China controlled the base, the Atlantic would no longer be secure. From the 10,865-foot runway on the northeast edge of the island, Chinese planes could patrol the northern and central portions of the Atlantic and thereby cut air and sea traffic between the U.S. and Europe. Beijing would also be able to deny access to the nearby Mediterranean Sea. And China could target the American homeland. Lajes is less than 2,300 miles from New York, shorter than the distance between Pearl Harbor and Los Angeles.
“Lajes is certainly the reason Wen went out of his way to win friends in Terceira. For years his country has been trying to make inroads into the Azores and waiting for opportunities to pounce. There is nothing the Chinese can do if the U.S. stays, but Pentagon budget cutters, according to some observers, are planning to make Lajes a ‘ghost base.’…
“In recent years, Beijing has identified Portugal as its entry point into Europe, and Chinese officials now know their way to Lisbon. It is in this context that the Portuguese are already thinking about the planned closure of Lajes Field. They don’t want to invite the Chinese in, but they have quietly indicated they will have no choice if the U.S. Air Force decides to leave the base…
“We will, as a longtime ally, need to work closely with Lisbon over an especially thorny issue, but in the interim, there are things that can be done. For instance, it’s not entirely clear why the U.S. Africa Command should be based at Kelley Barracks, outside Stuttgart. A transfer of the approximately 1,500 staff there to Lajes, which is much closer to Africa, would solve the problem overnight, and the move might actually improve Africom’s effectiveness. There are undoubtedly other stopgap solutions that the Pentagon could implement. None of them will be perfect, but all of them would be better than having Beijing’s red flag flying over the Atlantic — and permitting Chinese aircraft to patrol the waters connecting America to Europe.”
The Bible has prophesied that the USA and the UK will lose all its strategic sea gates. They have already lost most of them, and it seems that another one is about to fall into the hands of the Chinese.
“Outrageous” Decision by England’s Charity Commission Against Churches
Mail on Line wrote on November 16:
“MPs are demanding an inquiry into the Charity Commission after the watchdog banned a Christian group from charitable status on the grounds that religion is not always for ‘public benefit’. More than 50 MPs from all the main parties have signed a Commons motion calling on the charity regulator to think again, amid fears that hundreds of religious groups could be stripped of their tax-exempt status, threatening their very existence.
“They accuse the Charity Commission of ‘politically correct bias’ against faith groups after it ruled that the Preston Down Trust of the Plymouth Brethren Church – which has 16,000 members across Britain – is not entitled to charitable status because it does not do enough good works in the community…
“Tory MP Robert Halfon said: ‘There is something rotten in the Charity Commission. I cannot understand why the Brethren, good people who do so much in their communities, have been singled out. I believe an inquiry is needed into the role of the Charity Commission, to consider how it came to make the decision. What has happened is unjust and is creating fear in many churches across the country.’
“Garth Christie, an elder in the Plymouth Brethren… said that he and the other members had spent hundreds of thousands of pounds on trying to prove their charitable status, and they would appeal all the way to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg if necessary. The group has already appealed to the Charity Tribunal in what is seen as a test case that could threaten the charitable status of hundreds of small religious groups.
“Several MPs are threatening to table amendments to the Small Charitable Donations Bill before Parliament later this month in a bid to protect faith groups… The threat to amend the Small Charitable Donations Bill seeks to overturn measures in the 2006 Charities Act which removed the presumption for charities that education, religion, or poverty relief are for the public benefit.
“In a ruling that sent shockwaves through even the established church, the Charity Commission ruled that its decision ‘makes it clear that there was no presumption that religion generally, or at any more specific level, is for the public benefit, even in the case of Christianity or the Church of England’. The commission’s decision will have a huge impact on the Brethren’s tax relief…”
This decision is just another example of a development in Europe severely limiting the rights of religious freedom and free exercise of religion… and this move is of course directed at the smaller churches.
Israel’s Coming Wars at Several Fronts
Stratfor Global Intelligence wrote on November 17:
“While Hamas is preparing for an Israeli ground assault into Gaza, Hezbollah’s movements on Israel’s northern frontier bear close watching. Iranian Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi on Nov. 17 called on the Muslim world to retaliate against Israeli actions in Gaza. Naturally, many are looking in the direction of Lebanon, where Hezbollah, Iran’s most capable militant proxy, could open a second front against Israel.
“Though Iran would welcome the opportunity to demonstrate the spectrum of its militant proxy strength, especially after supplying Hamas with the long-range Fajr-5 rockets that have been targeting Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, Hezbollah will likely be extremely cautious in deciding whether to participate in this war. The group’s fate is linked to that of the embattled regime of Syrian President Bashar al Assad; should Syria fracture along sectarian lines, Lebanon is likely to descend into civil war, and Hezbollah will have to conserve its strength and resources for a battle at home against its sectarian rivals. Indeed, Hezbollah has already been preparing for such a scenario by seizing control of villages along the Orontes River Basin in order to maintain connectivity with Syria’s Alawite community.
“At the same time, if Hamas is able to bog down Israeli ground forces by drawing them into a war of attrition in densely populated Gaza City, Hezbollah may see a political opportunity to burnish its credentials as the region’s leading ‘resistance’ movement. In this case, Hezbollah would likely monitor the situation until it could be assured that Israeli forces are sufficiently constrained on the Gaza front before it begins attacks on the northern front… Israel is already preparing for a two-front contingency…”
Ultimately, Israel will be attacked from all fronts, and there will be nobody there to help. Note the next article as well.
Turkey Condemns Israel
CBS wrote on November 19:
“A top Turkish official has claimed that Israel is committing acts of terrorism by bombing Hamas targets in Gaza. Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan told the Eurasian Islamic Council conference in Istanbul that the Jewish state is systematically mass-killing Muslims. ‘Those who associate Islam with terrorism close their eyes in the face of mass killing of Muslims, turn their heads from the massacre of children in Gaza,’ Erdogan said, according to Reuters. ‘For this reason, I say that Israel is a terrorist state, and its acts are terrorist acts.’…
“Obama reiterated U.S. support for Israel’s right to self-defense and discussed possible ways to scale back the conflict, the White House said. It did not offer specifics. Separately, Obama called Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi on Friday and praised Egypt’s efforts to ease tensions in the region, the White House said. Obama expressed hope that Egypt’s efforts would be successful, officials said. In both calls, Obama expressed regret for the loss of Israeli and Palestinian civilian lives and underscored the importance of resolving the situation as quickly as possible.”
President Obama wants to please both sides, and won’t please either. Egypt and Turkey are turning against Israel to become strong enemies of Israel, as the Bible predicted. Note also the next article.
Egypt Turns Against Israel
The New York Times wrote on November 19:
“While holding itself out as an honest broker for truce talks between Israel and Hamas over the Gaza conflict, Egypt’s new government sought on Monday to plunge into the battle over international public opinion on behalf of the Palestinian cause — an arena where the Israelis, more experienced in the world of the free press and democratic politics, have historically dominated.
“In Egypt’s most concerted effort to win more global public support for the Palestinians, advisers to Egypt’s President Mohamed Morsi, a former leader of the Muslim Brotherhood who has been an outspoken supporter of Hamas, invited foreign correspondents in Cairo to a background briefing at which a senior Egyptian official sought to blame Israel for the conflict while at the same time maintaining Egypt’s role as an intermediary pressing both sides for peace…
“Speaking on condition of anonymity to avoid upsetting the talks with the Israelis, the Egyptian official argued that the West, which supports Israel’s right to defend itself against rocket attacks from Gaza, was essentially blaming the victim… He implicitly compared the leaders of Hamas to George Washington in America or Charles de Gaulle in France: Heros because they resisted foreign occupation by armed force…”
The negative outcome of the Arab Spring for Israel becomes more and more obvious. But the liberal press is still refusing to admit it, and everyone’s praise for President Morsi’s accomplishment of a ceasefire arrangement between Israel and Hamas is shortsighted and premature at best. Even in the unlikely event that it holds, it did not and will not change a thing. Note the next two articles.
The Washington Times wrote on November 21:
“The tenuous truce between Israel and Hamas militants after eight days of savage fighting now relies on Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi to guarantee the cease-fire he spent days crafting. Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who once suggested bombing the Aswan Dam and flooding the Nile Valley in Egypt, went out of his way Wednesday to praise Mr. Morsi, a member of the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood…
“Mr. Morsi played a delicate diplomatic role as a leader of the Brotherhood, which sided with Hamas in the conflict. Last week, Mr. Morsi called Israelis the ‘aggressors’ after they retaliated for months of Hamas rocket attacks on Israeli communities. He even threatened Israel, claiming they will ‘pay a heavy price if they continue this aggression.’
“However, Mr. Morsi balanced his support for Hamas — an offshoot of the Brotherhood that is dedicated to Israel’s destruction — with his need for support from the United States, which sided with Israel and defended the Jewish state’s right to defend itself from terrorist attacks…President Obama ‘thanked President Morsi for his efforts to achieve a sustainable cease-fire and for his personal leadership in negotiating a cease-fire proposal,’ the White House said. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who rushed to the region Tuesday to help with the peace talks, also praised Mr. Morsi, saying Egypt is ‘assuming responsibility and leadership’ in the Middle East.
“She warned, however, that this ‘is a critical time for the region.’ Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak also cautioned about the reliability of a cease-fire with Hamas. ‘We expect the agreements to be fully honored, but from past experience we are aware it might be short-lived,’ he said. Although Israel agreed to a cease-fire, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned of ‘severe military action’ if Hamas or Islamic Jihad, another designated terrorist group in Gaza, breaks the truce…
“Israel insisted that the agreement announced in Cairo deal only with a cessation of hostilities. Negotiations on other substantive issues will begin in a few days after Israel confirms that the Palestinians are honoring the cease-fire. Mr. Obama also applauded Mr. Netanyahu and expressed his ‘appreciation for the prime minister’s efforts to work’ the Egyptian government, the White House said…
“Mr. Obama promised the Israeli leader additional U.S. funding for Israel’s Iron Dome missile-defense system that shot down incoming rockets. The system destroyed at least 360 Palestinian rockets and deflected others… Israel flew more than 1,500 airstrikes, killing 161 Palestinians. Israeli officials said most of those killed were Hamas terrorists, although others were civilians… Mr. Netanyahu left open the option for a ground invasion of the Gaza Strip if the cease-fire fails…
“The Cairo agreement requires Israel to end airstrikes and targeted assassinations of suspected terrorists in Gaza and for Hamas to stop shelling Israel and trying to send terrorists across the border. Future talks will deal with Hamas’ demands for Israel to lift the embargo imposed on the territory five years ago, when Hamas seized power and started attacking Israel. Israel also is demanding an end to the flow of weapons into the Gaza Strip. Iran has been Hamas’ chief arms supplier…”
The Times of Israel wrote on November 21:
“The absence of a ground operation speaks to the vulnerabilities that both sides prefer to conceal. Israel, though it states publicly that it has the right to defend itself, knows that Hamas rockets cannot be silenced without a prolonged house-to-house ground offensive, which could claim thousands of lives and erode further Israel’s public standing in the world.
“Moreover, as King Abdullah of Jordan reportedly made clear Tuesday afternoon to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, such an operation could threaten the stability of the entire region — that was a nice way of the king saying that Jordanian Hamas members could topple the Hashemite throne, leaving Israel’s eastern border open to Islamist regimes and chaos all the way through to India…
“Iran and its proxy Hezbollah sat remarkably still during the days of warfare between Israel and Gaza. But surely the silence from Tehran and the Dahieh is not to be interpreted as a lack of concentration. Quds Force leaders will chart where the rockets fell, how Israelis responded, and which salvos proved most difficult for Iron Dome to handle. They will readjust their smuggling routes as necessary and make every attempt to keep Hamas — in essence, the first Sunni Islamist revolutionaries of the Arab Spring — within its Shiite sphere of influence.
“In agreeing to an Egypt-brokered ceasefire, Israel, too, can learn a perhaps unpleasant lesson about its ongoing and looming struggle with Iran… both Iran and Hamas have arduously amassed weapons — whether by tunneling through the sand or moving the chess pieces of a military nuclear program forward in a masterful way… On both fronts, as even the ceasefire appears to indicate, Israel will have to consider making painful concessions.
“Finally, as relates to the conflict with Hamas, the real test will be not so much in the immediately disputed provisions of the agreement, but in the reality that ensues… If, in several months, the flow of weapons resumes its pace, then lsrael’s accomplishments will be quickly forgotten and all too swiftly challenged.”
Germany Wants Strategic Partnership with Arab League
German-Foreign-Policy.com wrote on November 16:
“The German foreign minister is pleading for a ‘strategic partnership’ between the European Union and the Arab League. During a meeting of foreign ministers of the two organizations, yesterday in Cairo, Guido Westerwelle noted that lately, the association of Arab states has been ‘assuming a growing amount of regional responsibility,’ which is why cooperation should be reinforced. Observers have been pointing out for quite some time that following the overthrow of the secular regimes in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya, the dictatorships on the Arabian Peninsular have seized leadership of the Arab League, and are using their newly acquired margin of maneuver to reinforce Islamist forces throughout the Arab world – including those among Syrian insurgents. They are cooperating closely with the West – which hopes to set them against Iran and uses Islamist associations in other countries, for example in Egypt. The losers are the secular forces, which, since 2010, have been in rebellion to overthrow their repressive, western-collaborating, secular regimes and who are now confronted with repressive, Islamist allies of the EU and USA…
“At the EU/Arab League foreign ministers’ meeting in Cairo yesterday, the German Foreign Minister demanded that cooperation between these two regional organizations be significantly enhanced. ‘I would like to see the Arab League become a strategic partner of the European Union’ proclaimed Westerwelle, and pointed to the League’s substantial increase in activity since the beginning of the transformation process in the Arab world in early 2011…
“The plans for cooperation are flanking the unrelenting intensification of German cooperation with Islamist forces in North Africa, as well as in the Middle East. For example, Berlin had already expanded its links to the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood before Islamist President Muhammad Mursi took office. German authorities are also cooperating with Syrian Muslim Brotherhood militants, in their efforts to overthrow Syria’s president. In Morocco, Tunisia and Libya, from the standpoint of the German government, a pronouncedly closer cooperation with the respective dominant Islamist networks is indispensible[sic]. Therefore, this development has been observed by experts and think tanks for quite a while. The CDU-affiliated Konrad Adenauer Foundation had recently published a study on this subject. According to the paper on North African Islamist sectors, which, up to now, the West had only confronted militarily within the framework of the so-called war on terror, but is now being sought as allies, ‘detailed information’ is currently lacking on major aspects of these milieus, which are ‘not very transparent to the outside world.’…
“Social concepts pursued by the new Islamist rulers are currently of little interest to the West. ‘The only sectors that are relatively immune to constant reference to Islam are the economic and foreign policy sectors,’ writes the Adenauer Foundation… The Gulf dictatorships, which have taken over leadership in the Arab League, throughout the past few years, have proven themselves to be the most trustworthy Western allies throughout the Middle East – in spite of, or perhaps because of, their repression of any democratic movement within their respective borders. Under their influence, the Sunnite-Islamist form of worshiping Islam is becoming the force of social cohesion throughout the entire region, enabling them to oppose, in a consolidated front, those forces considered a threat by the West – Shiite Iran, as well as its allied Shiite associations elsewhere in the Middle East…”
This perceptive article is in total line with the prophecies of the Bible. We read in Psalm 83:3-8 that a confederacy of Arab nations will try to wipe Israel off the map, and modern-day Assyria (i.e. Germany) will be part of it. Shiite nations, however, such as Iran and Syria, are not mentioned in the context. In this regard, the next article should not come as a surprise.
EU Warns Israel
Haaretz reported on November 19:
“[The] White House and European countries, including Britain, France and Germany express strong opposition to ground operation… Both Netanyahu and Barak are said to be reluctant to launch a ground operation, believing it should be ordered only if Hamas rebuffs all of Egypt’s mediation efforts. The two fear the diplomatic fallout that a ground operation would have on Israel’s relationships with Egypt and Jordan, as well as the blow such an operation would deliver to Israel’s image in the west.
“Strong messages against launching a ground invasion have been issued by the White House and European countries, including Britain, France and Germany… On Sunday, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius arrived to tell Netanyahu that a ground invasion of Gaza would gravely endanger Palestinian civilians and make it difficult for the international community to continue giving the current Operation Pillar of Defense its backing… The EU ministers Monday expressed support for Israel’s right to defend itself and condemned the rocket fire from Gaza, but in the same breath called for a cease-fire and demanded that Israel act proportionately and avoid harming innocent civilians…
“It’s unlikely, however, that many of the demands made by both Israel and Hamas will be readily accepted by other parties. For example, Israel is demanding that any cease-fire remain in place for a period of several years. Israel is also demanding an Egyptian commitment to prevent the smuggling of weapons from Sinai into Gaza, and that Hamas or other terror group members be kept 500 meters from the border fence. Israel also wants international assurance that, if necessary, it would be allowed to operate over the border to foil terror attacks.
“Hamas, for its part, wants the naval blockade of Gaza removed, and the full opening of all the border crossings to and from Israel – particularly the regular opening of the Rafah crossing with Egypt for the passage of people and goods. Hamas also wants international assurances that Israel will stop the assassination of senior members of the Palestinian factions.”
Merkel Ahead Only Because of Lack of Competition
Der Spiegel Online wrote on November 19:
“With less than a year to go before Germans head to the polls for the 2013 general election, a quick glance at public opinion surveys would seem to indicate that Chancellor Angela Merkel has little to fear from her center-left challenger Peer Steinbrück. Her party holds a comfortable lead of 39 percent to 30 percent and some 53 percent would prefer to see Merkel remain chancellor, compared to just 38 percent backing Steinbrück.
“Such numbers, however, don’t tell the whole story. In reality, German voters are not at all impressed with the job her government is doing… an overwhelming majority believes that Merkel’s governing coalition… is not focused on the public good… close to seven out of 10 Germans think that Merkel’s coalition only pursues special interests, with just 24 percent believing that the public good is her administration’s priority. Furthermore, 65 percent of respondents believe the Merkel’s government is ‘not at all’ or ‘not very strongly’ focused on problems of the future…
“Not surprisingly, Merkel’s key coalition partner, the FDP, has emerged as the greatest drag on her government’s popularity… the party remains below the 5 percent hurdle necessary for representation in German parliament… Ironically, despite voters’ apparent frustration with the work of Merkel’s government, her own popularity remains high and most tend to believe that she is cutting a good figure in the euro crisis. The chancellor is, in fact, the most popular politician in Germany at the moment according to a separate survey conducted last week. Right behind her, Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble, with 67 percent surveyed valuing his performance as ‘very good.’”
All personal favoritism aside—the growing discontent of the German people with the German government will lead to a surprising rise of a powerful charismatic figure, who will enter the political arena and the occupation of the highly esteemed leadership role through flattery. Once in power, his mind will change, and he will become dictatorial and even demonically possessed. Biblical descriptions in the book of Daniel of certain “kings of the North” — leaders of the ancient Roman Empire and its revivals — are striking and very relevant today. A famous figure of the very distant past, i.e. Antiochus Epiphanes—and another figure of the not-too-distant past—Adolf Hitler–serve as historical example and forerunner of what the Bible predicts to happen very soon.
Powerful Solar Storms Coming
About.com wrote in its current November edition:
“NASA is predicting that the coming solar maximum could produce very energetic solar flares and coronal mass ejecta. These events have the potential to cause significant damage to our power grid as well as our orbiting satellites. But how do we know what to expect?… Should a solar storm erupt in the coming years, it will release a massive amount of high energy charged particles streaming toward Earth. Such a storm occurred in 1859.
“Shortly after the Sun reached solar maximum in 1859, the Sun experienced a significant increase in sun spot activity as well as a sequence of intense solar flares. The largest solar flare on record during the maximum was then observed by British astronomer Richard Carrington. The result of the flare was a coronal mass ejection that sent charged particles streaming toward Earth, reaching the atmosphere only 18 hours after the ejection. This is startlingly quick given that the trip normally takes several days.
“Once the particles reach the Earth they caused a series of phenomena to occur, the likes of which the Earth has not experienced since. First of all, charged particles are usually captured by the Earth’s magnetic field, and primarily get funneled to the poles. There, they interact with the Earth’s atmosphere creating brilliant colors known as aurorae. In this case, however, the flux of particles was so high that the magnetic field could not shield the Earth from them all. So instead of aurorae only being created near the poles, they came into existence throughout the Earth. Reports of aurorae were common over the Caribbean, as well as the central United States. At one point the glow in the Rocky Mountains was such that it awoke the sleeping miners, causing them to begin getting prepared for the day, believing that it was in fact dawn.
“Another, and perhaps more significant, problem was that the charged particle flux began to reek [sic] havoc on electronic systems. Specifically, failure of telegraph systems worldwide were reported. Knowing that such an event has happened in our worlds history would surely lead the world’s leaders to prepare for another such event, right? With all of today’s advanced technology we must be prepared.
“Well, no. In fact a report commissioned by the office of the President showed that… such a storm would not only cause problems for electronic devices, but could potentially bring down the entire power grid. And not just here, but around the world. The kind of damage that would be caused could take months or, more likely, years to repair. Could you imagine? No electricity for years? No phones, no computers, no internet? That is the possibility that we are facing. However, this would take a massive storm like the one in 1859 to even approach such cataclysmic events, but it is something that we need to be aware of…”
Cosmic disturbances will occur. The Bible refers to most of them as the heavenly signs—the fifth seal of the seven seals in the Book of Revelation.
Christ Born Several Years before 1 AD and Christmas Derived From Paganism
The Telegraph wrote on November 22:
“The entire Christian calendar is based on a miscalculation, the Pope has declared, as he claims in a new book that Jesus was born several years earlier than commonly believed… ‘The calculation of the beginning of our calendar – based on the birth of Jesus – was made by Dionysius Exiguus, who made a mistake in his calculations by several years,’ the Pope writes in the book, which went on sale around the world with an initial print run of a million copies. ‘The actual date of Jesus’s birth was several years before.’
“The assertion that the Christian calendar is based on a false premise is not new – many historians believe that Christ was born sometime between 7BC and 2BC [Actually, He was born in 4 BC]. But the fact that doubts over one of the keystones of Christian tradition have been raised by the leader of the world’s one billion Catholics is striking…
“John Barton, Professor of the Interpretation of the Holy Scripture at Oriel College, Oxford University, said most academics agreed with the Pope that the Christian calendar was wrong and that Jesus was born several years earlier than commonly thought, probably between 6BC and 4BC. ‘There is no reference to when he was born in the Bible – all we know is that he was born in the reign of Herod the Great, who died before 1AD,’ he told The Daily Telegraph. ‘It’s been surmised for a very long time that Jesus was born before 1AD – no one knows for sure.’
“The idea that Christ was born on Dec 25 also has no basis in historical fact. ‘We don’t even know which season he was born in. The whole idea of celebrating his birth during the darkest part of the year is probably linked to pagan traditions and the winter solstice.’”
The Financial Curse of Christmas
CNBC reported on November 19:
“Despite a whittling away of consumer debt that has been underway since the recession, many Americans are still entering the holiday season unprepared to cope with the expenses that crop up around this time of year… Some 45 percent… said the holiday season brings so much financial pressure, they would prefer to skip it altogether. Almost half said their level of stress related to holiday expenses is high or extremely high. That’s probably because nearly the same amount — some 45 percent — say they do not expect to have enough money set aside to cover holiday expenses… the financial anxiety may be more widespread than it had been in prior years…
“Half of the consumers polled in the survey who make between $75,000 and $99,999, said they would put items on layaway, and 32 percent who earn more than $100,000 said they did. Think Finance CEO Ken Rees said the fact that consumers of all income levels are using layaway shows there is a demand for financial options beyond just credit cards… ‘everyday Americans are still working hard to cover expenses making holiday spending particularly stressful,’ Rees said.
“It’s easy to understand why the holidays are a source of worry when you consider how many Americans are living paycheck to paycheck. About 41 percent said they would only be able to get by for two weeks without a paycheck, while an additional 25 percent say they could only survive a month. The holidays are expected to only make the situation worse. About 59 percent of those in the survey expect to carry debt with them into the New Year, including more than half — some 54 percent — of those who earn more than $100,000 a year.”
But they still are willing to keep a pagan Feast which has nothing to do with true Christianity. For our readers outside the USA, we might want to explain the concept of “layaway.” The Wikipedia Encyclopedia says the following: “Layaway (lay-by in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa) is an agreement in which the seller reserves an item for a consumer until the consumer completes all the payments necessary to pay for that item. Rather than taking the item home and then repaying the debt on a regular schedule…, the layaway customer does not receive the item until it is completely paid for. There is sometimes a fee associated, since the seller must ‘lay’ the item ‘away’ in storage until the payments are completed. Because there is little risk involved for the seller, layaway can be readily offered to those with bad credit. If the transaction is not completed, the item is returned to stock and the customer’s money is returned minus a fee. The main advantage of layaway is that no interest is charged.”
Are the Land Sabbath and the Jubilee Year still to be observed today? (Part 2)
In this second installment on the questions raised, we are proceeding with answering whether those Old Testament institutions are still of any validity today. In last week’s first installment, we quoted the relevant biblical passages (mainly Exodus 23:10-11 and Leviticus 25:1-7, 18-22), and we cited numerous commentaries to show their understanding as to what these passages meant for the ancient Israelites. Now, we are beginning to answer the question as to what they mean for us today.
At the end of the previous installment, we alluded to the fact that we had addressed the issue of the ongoing validity of the Land Sabbath or the Sabbatical Year in previous Q&As, which also quote numerous commentaries to the effect that they do not feel that the Land Sabbath only applied to the nation of Israel for the time while in the Promised Land.
In our Q&A, addressing Leviticus 25:1-7, we wrote the following:
“Many commentaries acknowledge the wisdom contained in these verses to let the land lie fallow every seventh year. The Broadman Bible Commentary states, ‘…there were also agricultural advantages in leaving a field fallow once in seven years, to alleviate the exhaustion of the soil…’ Likewise, the Nelson Study Bible points out, ‘A sabbath to the LORD is the same phrase used for the weekly Sabbath (23:3). The people rested weekly from their work; the land was to rest every seventh year from its work. The principle of the land needing rest has been rediscovered in recent years and is practiced in various ways by farmers of many nations.’
“Jamieson, Fausset and Brown agree, ‘This year of rest was to invigorate the productive powers of the land, as the weekly Sabbath was a refreshment to men and cattle…’
“But, how are we to understand Leviticus 25: 5-7? Some claim that these verses teach that the owner of the land was in no way permitted to take for himself what grew in the seventh year (compare Broadman). This view has been correctly rejected by most commentaries, as it does not agree with the Biblical text. For instance, the Nelson Study Bible points out:
“‘Reaping and gathering for storage and selling were not permitted in the Sabbath year. However, harvesting for daily needs was permitted. Since the purpose of these laws was to promote social equality in Israel, anyone, regardless of social standing, was permitted to use anything that grew, wherever it grew. Even the wild beasts of the field are mentioned here, to emphasize that God would provide for every creature. Of course, Israel’s main provision during this time was the bumper crop produced the year before the Sabbath year (vv. 21, 22).’
“The Soncino Cumash concurs, pointing out, ‘In this year you must not think of yourself as the sole owner, but others have an equal right to its produce with you. That which grows on its own accord, without any effort on your part, is permitted.’
“The Ryrie Study Bible also concurs, ‘Every seventh year the land was to have a sabbath, a rest. Whatever grew during the year was freely available to all alike (vv. 6-7). It was also a time of special instruction in the Law of God (cf. Deut. 31:10-13).’
“So does The New Bible Commentary: Revised: ‘In the law of the sabbath rest, the principle is applied to all human beings, whether free or bond, and also to the cattle (Ex. 20:10), to the ox, the ass, or any cattle, as beasts of burden (Dt. 5:14), as well as to the sojourner. Here it is extended to the land. Every seventh year the land is to have a sabbath of solemn rest… from sowing and reaping. The land is to be left untilled and that which grows of itself, called in v. 6 the sabbath of the land (i.e. what the sabbath of the land produces of itself), is to be food for all alike, for the owner and the servant, for the sojourner and the cattle…’
“Leviticus 25:1-7 teaches us important lessons, including reliance on God and sharing our goods with others. Food growing by itself during the seventh year could be eaten by everyone. Applying these principles today, this would be like walking through the forest and finding wild berries that grow on their own accord. In some areas of the world, these could be freely plucked and eaten by the one who is hungry.
“God warned His people not to neglect to obey His law regarding the land Sabbath. Ancient Israel and Judah refused to carry out God’s command to let the land rest every seventh year. God prophesied that Israel and Judah would go into captivity, if they were not to obey His laws. ‘Then the land shall enjoy its sabbaths as long as it lies desolate and you are in your enemies’ land; then the land shall rest and enjoy its sabbaths. As long as it lies desolate it shall rest – for the time it did not rest on your sabbaths when you dwelt in it’ (Leviticus 26:34-35).
“Because of their disobedience of God’s laws, ancient Israel and Judah actually went into captivity. 2 Chronicles 36:20-21 states, ‘And those who escaped from the sword he carried away to Babylon…, to fulfill the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed her Sabbaths. As long as she lay desolate, she kept Sabbath…’
“Today, the modern tribes of Israel and Judah do not obey their God, either, including God’s command to grant their land rest every seventh year. The prophecy in Leviticus 26 is dual. As it was fulfilled in the past, so it will be fulfilled again in the future…”
In our Q&A, addressing fruit trees during the Sabbath Year, we wrote the following:
“Leviticus 19:23-25 prescribes what we are to do with newly planted fruit trees. This law…is still valid today…
“These verses prohibit the consumption of fruit from a NEWLY PLANTED fruit tree for the first three years… In the fourth year, the fruit is to be used to praise God… In the fifth year, and all following years, the fruit belongs to the individual — but the individual is of course still obligated to tithe on the increase.
“This law… does not refer to shrubs, bushes, grapefruits, or olive trees. Those ‘trees’ are described in the Bible as field crops, as they have a different production cycle. The distinction is shown in the law of gleaning (Leviticus 19:9-10; Deuteronomy 24:19-22). It is also shown in the law of the Sabbath rest (Leviticus 25:3-5; Exodus 23:10-11). Notice carefully that the law of gleaning and the Sabbath rest does NOT refer to fruit trees… Leviticus 25:3-4 instructs us not to sow our field, nor to prune our vineyard during the Sabbath year. (Again, this passage does not refer to fruit trees.) We are also told, in verses 7 and 8, that the Sabbath produce of the land shall be food for us and our livestock and other beasts during the Sabbath year.”
Leviticus 25 shows that the Sabbatical Year and the Jubilee or Fiftieth Year are closely connected.
We read in Leviticus 25:8-14:
“And you shall count seven sabbaths of years for yourself, seven times seven years; and the time of the seven sabbaths of years shall be to you forty-nine years. Then you shall cause the trumpet of the Jubilee to sound on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the Day of Atonement you shall make the trumpet to sound throughout all your land. And you shall consecrate the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a Jubilee for you; and each of you shall return to his possession, and each of you shall return to his family. That fiftieth year shall be a Jubilee to you; in it you shall neither sow nor reap what grows of its own accord, nor gather the grapes of your untended vine. For it is the Jubilee; it shall be holy to you; you shall eat its produce from the field. In this Year of Jubilee, each of you shall return to his possession. And if you sell anything to your neighbor or buy from your neighbor’s hand, you shall not oppress one another.”
Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible remarks:
“A jubilee shall that fiftieth year be unto you,…. Which, clearly shows, that not the forty ninth year was the year of jubilee, as many learned men have asserted, chiefly induced by this reason, because two years would come together in which were no sowing [and] reaping; but that God [who] could cause the earth to [bring] forth fruit for three years, Leviticus 25:21, could make it bring forth enough for four years; and in order to make their sentiment agree with this passage, they are obliged to make the foregoing jubilee one of the fifty, and begin their account from thence; but this could not be done in the first account of the jubilee… ye shall not sow; in the year of jubilee, which shows also that this could not be the forty ninth year, which of course being a sabbatical year, there would be no sowing, reaping [etc.], and so this law or instruction would be quite needless.”
In the Jubilee Year, according to Matthew Henry’s Whole Bible Commentary, “… besides the common rest of the land, which was observed every sabbatical year (v. 11, 12), and the release of personal debts (Deu. 15:2, 3 [Year of Release]), there was to be the legal restoration of every Israelite to all the property, and all the liberty, which had been alienated from him since the last jubilee… The property which every man had in his dividend of the land of Canaan could not be alienated any longer than till the year of jubilee, and then he or his [offspring] should return to it, and have a title to it as undisputed, and the possession of it as undisturbed, as ever…”
We wrote the following in our Q&A regarding the Jubilee Year:
“In Old Testament times, God established a system whereby the poor would not be in perpetual poverty… Notice that the Jubilee Year began on the Day of Atonement. This annual Holy Day points at a future time when mankind will be released from the captivity of Satan and from the oppression of this present evil world. At the time of ancient Israel, the Jubilee Year designated a release from all debts and a repossession of the land which had been initially allocated to the debtor.”
In our Q&A on bankruptcy, we wrote this:
“There are numerous Biblical passages which, judging by their spiritual implications, allow for [declaring bankruptcy]. These passages deal with God’s institution for ancient Israel of the ‘Sabbath’ and the ‘Jubilee’ Year.
“(1) On the ‘Sabbath Year,’ that is, at the end of every seventh year, ‘debts of fellow Jews [correctly: Israelites] were to be canceled’ (Halley’s Bible Handbook, 24th ed., p. 139). One needs to note that this was an automatic release of debt, by God-given law. It was not required that an agreement was reached between creditor and debtor, or that the creditor agreed to release the debt of the debtor. Quite to the contrary, the debts had to be released every seventh year, whether the creditor liked it or not. This was not just a postponement of debts, either; it was, rather, a cancellation of debts.
“Notice Deuteronomy 15:1-3, 9: ‘At the end of every seven years you shall grant a release of debts. And this is the form of the release: Every creditor who has lent anything to his neighbor SHALL RELEASE IT; HE SHALL NOT REQUIRE IT OF HIS NEIGHBOR OR HIS BROTHER, because it is called the Lord’s release. Of a foreigner you may require it; but you SHALL GIVE UP YOUR CLAIM TO WHAT IS OWED TO YOUR BROTHER… Beware lest there be a wicked thought in your heart, saying, “The seventh year, the year of release, is at hand,” and your eye will be evil against your poor brother and you give him nothing [knowing that by the time of the seventh year, the lender or creditor would never receive back what he gave] and he cry out to the LORD against you, and it become sin to you.’
“References to the Sabbath Year can also be found in Exodus 21:2, Nehemiah 10:31, and in Jeremiah 34:14. The release of debt was to occur automatically, without the necessity of an agreement between creditor and debtor. An interesting application of these principles can be found in Nehemiah 5:1-13.
“(2) In addition, every fiftieth year, God’s civil law for ancient Israel demanded that ANOTHER release be granted. This was, again, not a matter of choice or agreement between creditor and debtor, but automatic. Halley points out on p. 139: ‘Jubilee Year was every 50th year. It followed the 7th Sabbatic Year, making two rest years come together. It began on the Day of Atonement. ALL DEBTS WERE CANCELED, slaves set free, and lands that had been sold returned.’
“The Year of Jubilee is mentioned in several places, for instance in Leviticus 25 and Numbers 36:4. It is associated with the proclamation of ‘liberty’ (Leviticus 25:10) and referred to as the ‘Year of Liberty’ in Ezekiel 46:17. In Leviticus 25:24, 28, 39-41, it is stated: “‘And in all the land of your possession you shall grant redemption of the land… But if he is not able to have it restored to himself, then what was sold shall remain in the hand of him who bought it until the Year of Jubilee, and in the Jubilee it shall be RELEASED, and he shall return to his possession… And if one of your brethren who dwells by you becomes poor, and sells himself to you…, [he] shall serve you until the Year of Jubilee. And then he shall depart from you — he and his children with him — and shall return to his family. He shall return to the possession of his fathers.’
“The New Testament does not abolish the principles set forth in these Scriptures. In fact, Jesus came to preach liberty, as expressed in the Year of Jubilee, at His first coming (Isaiah 61:1-3; Luke 4:17-21), applying it to total freedom of God’s people, including freedom from all sickness, disease, sin, death, and every curse (compare, for example, Edward Chumney, ‘The Seven Festivals of the Messiah,’ p. 147). It is true that there are New Testament Scriptures describing how creditors freely forgave their debtors (compare, Luke 7:41-42; 16:5-8). These additional Scriptures do not negate the principle, however, that debts can be forgiven by law and in God’s sight, regardless of whether the creditor is agreeable to such cancellation or not. In conclusion, the concept of declaring bankruptcy is Biblical under certain circumstances.”
In addition, as alluded to above, land was not to be sold forever. It had to be returned to the previous owner in the Year of Jubilee. Leviticus 25:15-16 explains that the price of the property or crops had to be determined based on the number of years left until the Jubilee Year.
Matthew Henry’s Whole Bible Commentary writes:
“What was to be done in that year extraordinary; besides the common rest of the land, which was observed every sabbatical year (v. 11, 12), and the release of personal debts (Deu. 15:2, 3), there was to be the legal restoration of every Israelite to all the property, and all the liberty, which had been alienated from him since the last jubilee… The property which every man had in his dividend of the land of Canaan could not be alienated any longer than till the year of jubilee, and then he or his [offspring] should return to it, and have a title to it as undisputed, and the possession of it as undisturbed, as ever (v. 10, 13): ‘You shall return every man to his possession’; so that if a man had sold or mortgaged his estate, or any part of it, it should then return to him or his heirs, free of all charge and encumbrance. Now this was no wrong to the purchaser, because the year of jubilee was fixed, and every man knew when it would come, and made his bargain accordingly.”
From all the foregoing, we can clearly see that the Sabbatical Year or the Land Sabbath or the Year of Release, as well as the Jubilee Year, were laws for the nation of Israel, which were indeed related to the Land of Canaan. They are of course not enforceable today, on a grand scale, as every nation today has its own laws which may quite differ in regard to cancellation of debts, long-term “employment” relationships, transactions of real property, or even the cultivation of farm land. Still, as will be explained in the next installment, the Church of God has consistently taught that certain PRINCIPLES can and should be applied as much as possible by Christians today.
(To Be Continued)
Lead Writer: Norbert Link
Preaching the Gospel and Feeding the Flock
We are pleased to announce the launching of our newly refreshed AufPostenStehen site: http://www.aufpostenstehen.de. This is the culmination of work by our technology team, and it will greatly facilitate our web presentations in Europe and specifically among the German speaking audience.
“The Christmas Tree’s Origin” is the title of our newest StandingWatch program. In this presentation, Evangelist Norbert Link challenges our acceptance of practices that actually are rooted in blatant paganism–here is a summary: Perhaps the most cherished Christmas custom of all is the Christmas tree. But did you know that the Christmas tree was a pagan object of worship long before the birth of Christ? Pagans believed that their gods were living in and actually changed into pinetrees. Does the Bible speak about Christmas trees? And if so, does it approve or condemn the custom of decorating pine trees at Christmas time?
“Don’t Keep Christmas” is a booklet we have produced which goes into even more detail on the topic of Christmas observance. Following are quotes from the Introduction:
“Were you shocked when you read the title of this booklet? Was your first thought that the publishers of this booklet either embrace a non-Christian faith, or that they are atheists? Surely, a person calling himself Christian would not possibly suggest to NOT OBSERVE such an important Christian holiday, you might say. After all, it celebrates the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ! Or, does it? Have you ever questioned the validity of Christmas?
“Is Christmas a biblically commanded festival? Does the Bible even mention Christmas? Where did Christmas and its customs originate? How did Christmas become a Christian festival? What do Christmas customs have to do with the birth of Jesus Christ? And finally, what does God have to say about the celebration of Christmas? Does it matter to Him whether we keep Christmas? Does He approve of it? Or does He condemn it? The answers may astound you!”
A new German sermon was recorded this week. The German title, “Gott Wird Herrschen” would say in English: “God Will Rule.” This sermon covers the concept as to how the Gentile nations will look for and seek Christ in the Millennium.
The Simple Things
by Michael Link
Prayers have been intensified recently in my life, and they seem to be getting longer and longer. There is so much to pray about. Aside from the many sicknesses and trials others in the church are going through, I spent a good amount of time thinking about the things going on in my family’s life and mine… But lately every morning, I have also emphasized my prayers on simply getting through the day, and that God will give me strength, patience, and wisdom, because there are many opportunities for Satan to strike. It’s the simple things I often times neglect that can lead to more harm, if not controlled.
Getting frustrated at inanimate objects is easy to do, since they can’t respond, and it’s an immediate short-term relief to let it all out. For example: yelling at a computer or the television because something isn’t working to my expectation, or lashing out at an appliance that has been in the same place for years, but still manages to stub my toe. And many times when I am working, a package takes the heat when I’m unable to find it initially, as I was ready to deliver it 30 seconds ago. I find myself yelling at traffic lights that turn red right when I’m about to cross the intersection, because I’m in a hurry and one minute at a stoplight seems like an eternity, and an utter waste of time.
This fast-paced lifestyle with more things to do than the day allows is quite normal. I realize that my patience is tested, and I know that I am going through these tests to see how I would react. What may be insignificant like yelling at a box is very significant to Satan, because it can lead to more, if I allow him to. Fortunately, I recognize this, which is why I ask for God’s help, and I am thankful that God is there to help me. Self-control is challenging at times, and over the years it has improved, but I know I can do better. If I want to be blessed as God promises, I have to do my part as well, by conquering the simple things.
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