October 20, 2017
It Takes Practice; The God of the Bible
On October 21, 2017, Eric Rank will present the sermonette, titled, “It Takes Practice,” and Dave Harris will present the sermon, titled, “The God of the Bible.”
The live services are available, over video and audio, at http://eternalgod.org/live-services/ (12:30 pm Pacific Time; 1:30 pm Mountain Time; 2:30 pm Central Time; 3:30 pm Eastern Time; 8:30 pm Greenwich Mean Time; 9:30 pm Central European Time). Just click on Connect to Live Stream.
A Man of Principle
by Brian Gale (United Kingdom)
We have just had the privilege of keeping the Feast of Tabernacles where the truth of God has been clearly and resolutely expounded. We have not been hounded by the general public because of what we believe because it probably doesn’t particularly concern them as they have their own holidays to enjoy and because they don’t really know about God’s wonderful festival which is held behind closed doors.
So far, so good. But does this allow us to make known all of our beliefs and not suffer persecution? The answer should be obvious.
I was much taken by the honesty of a Conservative MP (an elected Member of the UK Parliament) who, in early September 2017, was asked his views on a couple of controversial subjects. He has been touted as a future leader of his party and most people would have been evasive on these subjects if they had any ambition to be promoted to a more senior political position. But not this gentleman!
He was being interviewed on a television programme and he said that his devout Catholic faith meant he could not support gay marriage. That’s a show stopper to start with. But there was more.
A newspaper report said that he “faced a furious backlash today after saying he ‘morally’ opposes abortion for women who have been raped. There was further fury as he said that he is ‘morally’ opposed to abortion even when women have been victims of rape or incest. He said that “life is sacrosanct and begins at the point of conception and I think it is wrong.”
The newspaper report continued: “Pressed specifically on whether a woman who was raped should have a right to an abortion, he made clear that they would have a ‘right under UK law’ and the ‘law is not going to change’. But he added: ‘My personal opinion is that life begins at the point of conception and abortion is morally indefensible.’”
Here was a man in the public eye, and a man of principle.
You can imagine what the outrage was from those who think that any behaviour is acceptable but he presented his views in a reasoned and professional way. Women’s rights campaigners branded his views “extreme” and “out of touch”. A Labour MP said they were “shocking” and “belonged in the 18th Century”. One young female journalist said that “he and his right-wing followers should accept that, as in almost every other facet of his life, he represents an obscure minority.” Little did any of these opponents realise, and probably wouldn’t even have cared had they known, that in these observations he was following clear biblical instruction and that they were, in essence, setting their face against God.
It was all very, very predictable. Several days later, as one newspaper wrote: The explosion of fury was predictably volcanic, and the waves of the aftershock are still rumbling today. However, he refuses to be ruffled. “It’s a free country and everyone’s entitled to express an opinion. Why should I get flustered?” he asked equably.
It was said that “Downing Street also made clear that the Prime Minister did not share his opinions.” And so we see that the Prime Minister, a Sunday church going Christian, endorses the liberal view even though the Bible is very explicit on these issues. The fact of the matter is that no one would be able to retain high office if they didn’t conform to the requirement of supporting such outrageous behaviour.
I have not seen or heard of any of the other MP’s (there are 650 in the House of Commons) who have had the guts to say the same thing although there were many who opposed abortion and same sex marriage. Have they changed their mind or are they just keeping quiet to keep their jobs?
Why raise this now? Well, for two very pertinent reasons.
First of all, we have seen that this person was, and is, a man of principle. We, too, have to be men and women of principle and the time may not be that far away when we are put into a similar scenario. How will we fare? Will we duck and dive about the way of God that we currently espouse or will we be straightforward and confirm our biblically held views, irrespective of the consequences, which could be more hot air from other politicians and journalists? It is something to think about.
Secondly, as I said at the beginning of the editorial, we have just enjoyed God’s festivals, the Feast of Tabernacles and the Last Great Day. We were presented with clear teaching about the way of God and what the future holds in store for us and for mankind. In the not too distant future, when Jesus Christ returns to earth to save man from blowing himself off the face of the planet, the government of God will rule with love, equity and a concern for every individual.
There will be no more nonsense about gender issues, no more killing of any kind (of which abortion is just one of the methods used), no more arguing about governmental positions, and the certainty of completely fair treatment for everyone for an initial 1,000 years, and for eternity after that.
How different will be the Way of the true God for eternity than the way of man at this time, which can be ridiculous in the extreme.
God has all the answers, man has very few. The replacement with true values, for eternity, is well worth waiting for, and it shouldn’t be too long now!
Profound changes are shaping up in Europe! We report on the convincing election of hardliner Sebastian Kurz in Austria, as other European nations note the emergence of a far-right political presence;
We present an article about French President Macron’s call for new kinds of heroes to lead Europe; and cite the Vatican plans for a high-level Forum to insert its support for the “European Project.”
We report on China’s congress featuring the now powerful place China has taken on the world stage; we conclude with reports of a powerful hurricane hitting Ireland and news about the historic fires in California.
Throughout this section, we have underlined pertinent statements in the quoted articles, for the convenience and quick overview of the reader.
This Week in the News
Austria Elects Hardliner Sebastian Kurz
The Washington Post reported on October 16:
“Austria became the latest European country to take a sharp turn right on Sunday, with the conservative People’s Party riding a hard-line position on immigration to victory in national elections and likely to form a government with a nationalist party that has long advocated for an even tougher stance.
“The result puts the 31-year-old foreign minister and People’s Party leader, Sebastian Kurz, in line to become Austria’s next chancellor after a campaign in which he emphasized the need to strengthen border controls, reduce caps on refugees and slash benefits for newcomers.
“Much of Kurz’s rhetoric echoed positions long held by the Freedom Party, which for decades has anchored the far right of politics in this nation of 8.7 million…
“Freedom Party backers were in a jubilant mood Sunday night, eating schnitzel, dancing to Austrian folk music and waving flags at the party’s election-night celebration. Heinz-Christian Strache, the party leader, said the results proved that ‘our message has reached the mainstream…’
“The elevation of Kurz to chancellor would put another young and charismatic leader at the helm of a European government, after the election of 39-year-old Emmanuel Macron in France.
“Kurz, though ideologically to the right of Macron, modeled much of his campaign after the Frenchman’s. The Austrian politician styled his run for the nation’s highest office as a movement, not a conventional election, and personalized his party, informally renaming it ‘the Sebastian Kurz List.’
“Kritzinger said Kurz’s opponents were flummoxed by how to counteract the charismatic People’s Party leader, who took the reins in the party this year and promptly remade it as his own.
“’From a rhetoric perspective, he’s an absolute talent,’ Kritzinger said. ‘The other parties didn’t know how to deal with him.’”
The Times of Israel commented on October 16:
“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday called to congratulate Sebastian Kurz on his victory in Austria’s elections, according to a statement from his office that made no mention of the success of the far-right Freedom Party.
“On Sunday, the 31-year-old Kurz’s People’s Party (OeVP) swept to victory with a projected 31.7 percent of the vote, ahead of the Social Democrats (SPOe) at 26.9% and the anti-migrant Freedom Party (FPOe) at 26%, leading to the expectation that Kurz would turn to the far right party as a coalition partner…
“Kurz, for his part, told the prime minister of his interest in boosting Austria’s ties with Israel, the PMO said.
“The statement did not make any mention of the Freedom Party’s expected role as the junior partner in Kurz-led coalition. In 1999, Israel recalled its ambassador after the party, then under Jörg Haider, joined the government.
“The success of the FPOe, which was founded by former Nazis in the 1950s, has created a dilemma for Israel, whose government refuses to meet with members of the party. If senior party member Norbert Hofer were to become foreign minister, as is common for runners-up in Austrian coalition governments, Jerusalem would have to choose between ending its longstanding policy of not interacting with ultra-nationalist parties and boycotting a top diplomat of a friendly country.
Politico wrote on October 18:
“Regardless of whether it joins the next Austrian government, the far-right Freedom Party was the victor in the country’s election last Sunday. Like Geert Wilders in the Netherlands, the anti-immigration party has built the theater in which the mainstream parties are now performing.
“Sebastian Kurz — the 31-year-old leader of the Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) — is set to lead a right-leaning coalition that includes the far-right Freedom Party. The last time Austria’s populists won more than a quarter of the vote and played kingmaker, in 1999, the other EU members isolated Vienna through bilateral sanctions. But what shocked EU leaders then is barely causing a stir now.
“In part, this is simply because the inclusion of the far right is not as shocking as it was 20 years ago. Since then, governments across Europe — from Hungary to Italy — have turned rightward and a host of mainstream political leaders have adopted anti-immigrant rhetoric in an effort to keep the political fringes at bay.
“Exclusion is no longer an option. The EU is too busy trying to figure out how to respond to the most blatant challenges to its rule of law and other key values — from self-proclaimed “illiberal” governments in Budapest and Warsaw.
“When it comes to Austria, the other European countries will be watching whether campaign slogans turn into action, particularly when it comes to migration policy.”
Kurz’s rise to power reflects the growing revolt across Europe over a seeming lack in answering the concern for Europe’s traditional values. Europe is turning to younger, charismatic leaders, and that opens the door for the emergence of a very powerful personality who is destined to emerge to lead a totally new kind of European nationalism!
Macron Calls for New Political Heroes
The Independent reported on October 15:
“Emmanuel Macron has said modern democracies need new political heroes and called for an end to the ‘European civil war’.
“The French President said he wanted to ‘renew the European dream and reawaken ambitions for it’ during an interview with German newspaper Der Spiegel.
“His comments come days after the fifth round of Brexit talks closed with the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, claiming the EU and UK were in a ‘deadlock’ over Britain’s financial contribution.
“Giving his thoughts on modern democracy, Macron said: ‘I am a strong believer that modern political life must rediscover a sense for symbolism.
“‘We need to develop a kind of political heroism. I don’t mean that I want to play the hero. But we need to be amenable once again to creating grand narratives.’
“He went on to call on leaders to work together to achieve ‘sovereignty, unity and democracy’ in Europe.
“‘Let’s put an end to this European civil war, the existence of which we don’t want to admit, and stop constantly looking at whether we are better than our neighbouring country at this or the other thing.’”
Vatican Prepares Forum to Support European Union
Vatican Radio reported on October 14:
“‘Rethinking Europe’ is the title of a high-level Forum of Dialogue which aims to discuss the main challenges of the European Union and the ways the Church can support the European project in a moment in which Europe itself seems to be at a crossroads.
“Organized by COMECE (the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community), in collaboration with the Holy See, the event will take place in the Vatican from 27 to 29 October.
“Presenting the Forum earlier this year, COMECE President Cardinal Reinhard Marx said: ‘Rethinking Europe will be the start of a process of dialogue between the Churches representatives (both bishops and seculars) and the politicians who have political responsibility and take decisions.’
“Participants will include hundreds of high-level Church and EU political representatives, together with other grassroots actors who will meet in a series of workshops and debates ‘in order to facilitate a frank and open discussion between stakeholders of different geographic, cultural, religious and linguistic backgrounds, putting in practice the motto of the EU: Unity in Diversity’.
“The date for the Forum has been chosen to fall on the 60th anniversary of the signature of the Treaty of Rome.
“Pope Francis, who has repeatedly reminded the EU of its role and responsibility towards the world and n citizens and encouraged EU representatives of their commitment to safeguard peace and the dignity of all women and men, will address the participants on Saturday, 28 October.
“Presenting the project for the Forum, COMECE stressed that ‘The main message of the Church is to put the human person back at the heart of the European public policy and the Dialogue of Rome will be a milestone of this process’.”
China Tightens Communism
The Washington Post wrote on October 18:
“For 3½ hours, China’s President Xi Jinping commanded the stage and the nation’s television screens as he set out a far-reaching agenda for the Communist Party, outlining a vision of total control, not only of the nation’s economy and the Internet but also of culture, religion and morals.
“The Communist Party already has a hand in just about every aspect of life here. But Xi’s speech Wednesday — opening a five-yearly congress of the party’s top leadership — cast the net even wider.
“His was a vision of a reinvigorated Communist Party, backed by a strong economy and a powerful, modern military taking an even more central role in the affairs of the nation and a more confident role on the world stage.
“‘Achieving national rejuvenation will be no walk in the park,’” Xi told more than 2,200 members of the party’s elite, speaking beneath gigantic red drapes and a huge hammer and sickle in the mammoth Great Hall of the People, a monument to Communist authoritarianism, on Beijing’s Tiananmen Square…
“The theme of the congress: that the party should remain true to its original aspiration, hold high the banner of socialism and secure a decisive victory in the battle to build a moderately prosperous society.”
Powerful Hurricane Pummels Ireland
CNBC reported on October 16:
“The Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland are experiencing some of the most extreme weather the island has seen in decades as the aftermath of Hurricane Ophelia strikes.
“Schools and hospitals are closed, many public transport and aviation services have ceased operations and the army has been sent to shore-up flood defenses in what has been called an “unprecedented storm” by Ireland’s meteorological office.
“Two people were killed in separate incidents when trees fell on their cars — a woman in her fifties in the southeast and a man on the east coast. Another man in his thirties died while trying to clear a fallen tree in an incident involving a chainsaw.
“Over 360,000 homes and businesses were without electricity with another 100,000 outages expected by nightfall, Ireland’s Electricity Supply Board said, describing it as an unprecedented event that would [a]ffect every part of the country for days.”
California Wildfires Prove Historic!
AP reported on October 17:
“The fires that swept through parts of seven counties were the deadliest and most destructive series of blazes in California history. At least 42 people died and 6,000 homes were lost.
“The flames were especially devastating in Sonoma and Napa counties on the northern edge of the Bay Area — a region that has seen housing prices skyrocket in recent years amid a technology industry boom. In San Francisco, an average one-bedroom apartment rents for more than $3,000 a month, and the median home price is about $1.5 million.
“Cities such as Santa Rosa, about 50 miles north of San Francisco, have offered more affordable housing for people willing to endure a longer commute. But that may not be the case anymore…
“An estimated 100,000 people were evacuated at the height of the fires, and about 22,000 remain under evacuation.”
As this report shows, the repercussions will last far past the time when these fires are quenched. Like so many disasters which have occurred in recent weeks, the challenge to survive and rebuild is simply overwhelming.
Will Jesus Judge Everyone AT His Return—as Matthew 25:31-46 Seems to Indicate?
Without comparing other Scriptures, some assume that Jesus will immediately judge all people at His return. But that is NOT what the Bible reveals!
These verses referenced in Matthew 25:31-46 encompass a PERIOD OF TIME in which Jesus will reign on the earth in the Kingdom of God. It is important to understand that judgment has been given to Him by the Father, as Jesus stated, “‘For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son…’” (John 5:22). Paul also taught this:
“‘Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead’” (Acts 17:30-31; compare Acts 10:42).
In saying that God “‘has appointed a day,’” what did Paul mean? Was this to be just a twenty-four-hour period—only ONE day? In speaking about those who rejected the preaching of the gospel by His twelve apostles, Jesus stated:
“‘Assuredly, I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city!’” (Matthew 10:15).
In this example with Sodom, is Jesus’ statement to be understood as implying that there is only ONE judgment period for ALL mankind —or is He referring to a very specific future time in which people will give account for themselves and be examined based on their response to being taught the Truth of God? (Compare Matthew 11:20-24). The answer is that in the example regarding Sodom, He is referring to a time period which is described in the Bible as the Great White Throne Judgment… but it does not refer to the same judgment period for ALL human beings.
Very clearly, the Bible reveals that there will be multiple resurrections, as well as multiple judgment periods, and that judgment is taking place NOW for those whom God calls in this age:
“For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God? Now ‘If the righteous one is scarcely saved, Where will the ungodly and the sinner appear?’” (1 Peter 4:17-18).
Those whom God has called and who are judged to be righteous in this life will be in the FIRST RESURRECTION:
“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” (1 Corinthians 15:22-23; compare 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).
Further proof that judgment regarding the receipt of eternal life will have been taking place already by Jesus prior to His return for those who are called now (remember, all judgment has been committed to Jesus—John 5:22) is found in the Book of Revelation. In chapters 2 and 3, it is to those people in the Church of God who “overcome,” that both eternal life and rewards of reigning with Him are offered. Also, in Hebrews 11, other righteous men and women are mentioned who await the first resurrection:
“And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us” (Hebrews 11:39-40).
All of those “who are Christ’s at His coming,” will have been judged to receive eternal life. They will receive the promise, and that will take place BEFORE subsequent resurrections occur:
“And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. 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, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years” (Revelation 20:4-6).
(As an aside, we also read in this passage that it is our incredible potential to rule and judge under Christ. And as will be mentioned below, even those in the First Resurrection will still appear before the judgment seat of Christ to be given their reward of rulership in the Kingdom of God.)
Notice how there will be a period of judgment following the thousand years:
“Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:11-15).
All people will be judged by Jesus Christ! Those not in the First Resurrection will be brought back to life. There will be a period of time in which the Way of God is taught, and the people will have a chance to choose life in God’s eternal Kingdom—it is the choice which has always been ultimately set before mankind (compare Deuteronomy 30:19-20). And, as God’s Word reveals, everyone will face Jesus Christ:
“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10; also, Romans 14:10). And this will include those in the First Resurrection as well. They, too, will appear before the judgment seat of Christ to be given their specific reward of rulership in the Kingdom of God (compare Luke 19:11-27).
Not only will everyone appear before Christ, but everyone will submit to His authority:
“Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9-11).
Along with those in the First Resurrection, everyone who does come to repentance in the Second Resurrection will make up those who are figuratively called the “‘sheep’” in Matthew 25, verses 32 and 33. (Note that the term “Second Resurrection” does not occur in the Bible, but is revealed in Revelation 20 as following the First Resurrection when Christ will judge all of the rest of humanity.) It has been man’s potential from the foundation of the world (Matthew 25:34) to inherit eternal life, but man must decide and choose to accept God’s offer.
However, a final or third group is revealed—people who refused in this life and who will refuse in the future to accept God’s Way of Life. They will come back to life in a Third Resurrection to be destroyed in the lake of fire. They will, by that time, have been judged for eternal condemnation, as they REJECTED OBEDIENCE to God. They are those who are identified as the “‘goats’” in Matthew 25, verses 32 and 33, and who are positioned at Christ’s “‘left hand.’” Their fate is described in verse 31 of Matthew 25:
“‘Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.’”
These are those who will experience the “second death” (Revelation 20:14). As Revelation 20, verse 13, shows, this will be a period of judgment—but this is to formally condemn those who have committed sin and have fully known God’s Truth but have chosen to utterly reject God, His Son—Jesus Christ—and the opportunity for eternal life:
“For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame” (Hebrews 6:4-6).
“For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries” (Hebrews 10:26-27).
Jesus Christ will complete the judgment of mankind, and as we have seen, the Bible reveals that judgment involves a period of time and does not occur just at His return to the earth:
“But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming. Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be destroyed is death” (1 Corinthians 15:23-26).
Focusing specifically on Christ’s judgment in Matthew 25:31-46, we also note that His judgment will occur throughout the Millennium as well, in addition to the Great White Throne Judgment period of the Second Resurrection. Those who live in the Millennium will also be judged on a continuous basis—like we are being judged today and like those in the Second Resurrection who will be judged during a 100 year time period (compare Isaiah 65:20). That is, the nations mentioned in Matthew 25 will not only be judged at the very beginning of the Millennium, but throughout the 1,000 years and thereafter. The process of time and the continuation of Christ’s judgment are clearly described in verse 46, stating that the righteous will go away into everlasting life. This cannot refer to those in the First Resurrection as they will have already received everlasting life when they appear before the judgment seat of Christ. (The continuation of Christ’s judgment over all of mankind is also clearly described in Isaiah 9:6-7).
The argument is made that the entire judgment period in Matthew 25 must refer to those who have lived and died before the Millennium and can’t refer to those in the Millennium and the Second Resurrection, as in the Millennium and the Great White Throne Judgment, there will not be any prisons nor any of the other conditions mentioned in Matthew 25. This argument overlooks that Christ’s statements also address people who lived before His return (including those who will survive the Great Tribulation and live into the Millennium and those who will be brought back to life in the Second Resurrection). Their judgment will include actions committed in this life… especially when they refuse to repent (Matthew 25:46). Christ’s statements must also be viewed in the context of those who choose a way of give and those who choose to live a way of get.
The Work of God given to Jesus Christ includes judging the world, but it is not for condemnation! Rather it is the work of salvation:
“‘For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved’” (John 3:16-17).
NOTE: For further information about God’s great masterplan for salvation, please study our booklets and articles on God’s Holy Days, Punishment for Our Sins, and the Gospel of the Kingdom of God —available at www.eternalgod.org
Lead Writers: Dave Harris and Norbert Link
Preaching the Gospel and Feeding the Flock
compiled by Dave Harris
We are pleased to announce the baptism of four people in Templin, Germany, during the Feast observance. Welcome to the Church of God!
It is with heartfelt sadness that we announce the death of Joan Voss on October 13, 2017. Joan attended services in Woodburn, Oregon. Her example of optimism and true faithfulness to God remains with all who knew her. She will be greatly missed!
Sermonettes and sermons from the recent Holy Days will be posted on our websites very soon.
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, Robb Harris, Michael Link, Kalon Mitchell, Manuela Mitchell, Dawn Thompson
Technical Team: Eric Rank, Shana Rank
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