Where Are We Going?
Edwin Pope will give the sermon this Sabbath, May 3, 2003. The sermon is titled, “Where Are We Going?”
The services can be heard at www.cognetservices.org at the appropriate time, just click on “Connect to Live Stream.”
Looking Forward To Pentecost
by Rene Messier (Canada)
We have just finished celebrating Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread. These feast days reminded us of our commitment to God the Father and Jesus Christ. We renewed our relationship with God at Passover, accepting and claiming the great sacrifice that is bringing about the forgiveness of our sins. We continued to walk in God’s way by, symbolically, removing from our lives the leaven of sin during the seven days of Unleavened Bread, as we had physically removed all leaven from our homes. The number seven pictures completeness – the symbolism of seven days shows us the need to eradicate sin completely. We realize, of course, that we cannot do that without God’s help. God, though, offers and provides us with this help – through the gift of His Holy Spirit.
Now, we look down the road to the next Holy Day, the Day of Pentecost. There is a strong connection between the Passover season and the Feast of Pentecost. During the Passover season, we renew our commitment by counting the cost of living a Godly life. At the same time, we start quite literally to count fifty days, beginning with the Sunday following the weekly Sabbath after the First Day of Unleavened Bread. On that Sunday, the wave sheaf offering was waved in ancient Israel. This is quite symbolic, as it pictures Christ’s ascension to heaven on that very day, being accepted by God the Father. Christ was resurrected from the dead on the Sabbath, just before sunset, but He ascended to heaven on Sunday morning, exactly at the same time when the priest waived the wave sheaf offering. Fifty days later, we reach the Feast of Pentecost. That is where the name “Pentecost” comes from – it means “counting fifty.”
God the Father accepted Christ as the first of the firstfruits. Since Christ is the first of the firstfruits, who are the other firstfruits? We know, of course, that Christ’s Church comprises the other firstfruits. It is interesting that the Feast of Pentecost is also called the Feast of Firstfruits – it is focusing on the collective spiritual body of Christ who were called and still will be called to salvation prior to Christ’s return.
There is another strong connection between the Passover and the Pentecost seasons – having to do with the process of conversion. Conversion starts with God’s calling and enlightening of our minds, followed by repentance and faith in God and His Son Jesus Christ, baptism and the laying on of hands. After that, God bestows on us the gift of His Spirit. Applying this to the symbolism attached to the Feasts of Passover, Unleavened Bread and Pentecost, we have, during the Passover season, gone through the requirements, spiritually speaking, of repentance and baptism. In looking forward to Pentecost, we are approaching the event of receiving of the Holy Spirit. The Festival of Pentecost does, of course, remind us of the time when God bestowed His Holy Spirit on the collective body of the Church. God gave the Holy Spirit so that the disciples could keep the law more perfectly.
Historically, God spoke to Moses and ancient Israel the Law of the Ten Commandments on the day of Pentecost. At that time, there was a tremendous display of God’s awesome power and magnitude, so much so that the Israelites told Moses, “You talk to God.” They were afraid of talking to God themselves (Exodus 20:18-19).
The New Testament Church began in 31 AD on the Day of Pentecost. We can read the account in Acts 2. When God gave the Holy Spirit, He saw to it that there would also be a mighty display of signs and wonders – as had been the case when the law was declared to ancient Israel. In 31 AD, there were also unusual events – the sound of a mighty wind, flames of fire resting on the disciples, the ability of the many foreigners assembled in Jerusalem to hear the disciples speak in their own language, and of course Peter’s inspired moving sermon causing 3000 people to repent, believe in Christ’s sacrifice, and get baptized on that very same day (Acts 2:41).
God saw to it that great signs and a powerful witness of the power of the Holy Spirit accompanied the giving of His Holy Spirit. He made it clear for all times that man NEEDS this power in order to be able to overcome, to remain in the grace of God, and to finally conquer sin. In addition, all who have received God’s Holy Spirit have become the begotten children of God, beginning to fulfill what God always wanted to happen. God’s desire is revealed in Rev. 21:3 – God wants to be our God, and that we should become His children.
As we look forward to the Feast of Pentecost, let us be mindful of the fact that we must allow Christ to work in and through us by the power of His Holy Spirit.
This Week in the News
“ROAD MAP” TO PEACE PLAN
Once again the Mideast is the target of a plan for bringing peace to the region. However, expectations are not high that this current proposal will bring an end to the killings and ever-present fear that now rules.
“The latest plan was drafted by the so-called quartet of Mideast mediators: the United States, European Union, United Nations and Russia. It calls for an immediate cease-fire, a crackdown on Palestinian militias, an Israeli withdrawal from Palestinian towns and the dismantling of Jewish settlements erected since 2001. A Palestinian state with provisional borders could be established by year’s end, with full statehood possible within three years, according to the timetable” (www.msnbc.com 5/1/2003).
This same article reports on yet another terrorist attack coinciding with the delivery of the peace initative: “It was the 89th suicide bombing targeting Israelis in the past 31 months. Since September 2000, 2,287 people have been killed on the Palestinian side and 763 people on the Israeli side.”
In addition, as Reuters reported on May 1, “Twelve Palestinians, including a two-year-old boy, were killed on Thursday when Israeli forces thrust into a Gaza neighborhood in a sweep for wanted militants shortly after the release of a Middle East peace ‘road map.’ The tank and infantry raid sent a strong signal to a ‘Quartet’ of U.S.-led mediators and to the new Palestinian government that Israel would press ahead with such operations despite the new proposal to end 31 months of bloodshed… Israeli officials said they will not change the way they confront an uprising for statehood until the Palestinians show they are cracking down on militants as required by the road map.”
Israel’s champion from the outside remains to be the United States while the European Union clearly sides with the Palestinian cause. For President Bush, there is overwhelming political pressure from the religious right as well as his own perceived stand to not place too much pressure on Israel to concede either their safety or their land. Meanwhile, the Europeans are pressuring for an independent Palestinian state, while the Palestinians want Jerusalem to be their capital. As Reuters reported on May 1, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell is expected to arrive for talks on the road map on May 8, while EU’s foreign policy chief Javier Solana will leave on May 11 for a week-long visit to the Middle East, in order to “move things forward for implementation of the road map.”
However strange and out of proportion it may seem to other hot spots and troubling world circumstances, the land of Israel, and in particular Jerusalem, continues to garner front page headlines. This area is destined to play an ongoing role in world affairs. In fact, as prophecy shows, this part of the earth will become center stage for the events leading to the return of Jesus Christ. Zechariah 12:3 speaks of these times: ” ‘And it shall happen in that day that I will make Jerusalem a very heavy stone for all peoples; all who would heave it away will surely be cut in pieces, though all nations of the earth are gathered against it.’ ” Daniel 11:45 also speaks of a time when a great religious/political power will seek to establish its rule in the land of Israel. At the same time, as shown in Revelation chapter 11, two witnesses–prophets of God who will be given great power to resist the false political and religious leaders then in power–will be in Jerusalem for a period of three and one-half years.
As we watch events in our daily news, let us not lose sight of the ominous reality that all of these things portend! While we seek to understand these things from the true perspective of God’s Word, let us also carefully attend to the admonition in Hebrews 10:25: “…exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.”
NEWS ON IRAQ
Although President Bush is declaring that major combat in Iraq is finished, Iraqi attackers lobbed two grenades into a U.S. Army compound Thursday, wounding seven soldiers just hours after the Americans had fired on Iraqi protestors in the street outside, according to Yahoo! News of May 1, 2003. This incident is “the latest in a series of clashes and deadly shootings involving U.S. troops in Fallujah,” according to the report. On Monday, “16 demonstrators and bystanders were killed and more than 50 wounded… In that clash, an 82nd Airborne company, whose members said they were being shot at, fired on a protest outside a school occupied by U.S. soldiers.”
The Associated Press reported on April 30, 2003, that “France has sent a diplomat to Baghdad despite U.S. resistance to a prominent French role… ‘France wants to be present at the side of the Iraqi people,’ Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said. He added that Paris wanted to take the initiative under the supervision of the United Nations but was moving ahead to lay the groundwork… The foreign minister did not spell out exactly how France plans to contribute to the reconstruction, nor how it intends to overcome American and British resentment over its oppostion to the war. French-U.S. relations will recover, if only ‘out of necessity,’ De Villepin said. ‘We have to work together, the problems (of the region) are beyond the capacity of just one power.'”
The Bible predicts quite a different outcome for the region, as anticipated by most observers and politicans today. Our free booklet, “The Great Tribulation and the Day of the Lord,” sheds much light on the real future of the Middle East.
A very serious and deadly earthquake struck Eastern Turkey on May 1, with at least 150 deaths and 300 injuries. The magnitude of this quake was 6.4, followed by several aftershocks with the magnitude of 5.0 (Der Spiegel Online, May 1, 2003).
This week has also seen the occurrence of unusual earthquakes in the United States. One centered in Alabama with a magnitude of 4.9, and another centered in Blytheville, Arkansas, with a magnitude of 4.0. The Arkansas earthquake activity is close to the scene of the great New Madrid earthquake of the early 1800’s which literally was felt across much of the United States. Nothing of that scale has hit the U.S. since then. However, with the vastly increased population now in this area, another super earthquake approaching the earlier magnitude would be utterly devastating. In addition, new findings reveal a previosuly undetected additional fault line under the city of Los Angeles.
The Bible predicts the increase of earthquake activity prior to Christ’s return. Matthew 24:7-8 states, “‘ For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows.'” Compare also Mark 13:8 and Luke 21:11.
Q: Does the Church of the Eternal God believe in and teach tithing? Does the Church believe in three tithes? If so, how, and for what purpose are those three tithes to be collected?
A: The Church of the Eternal God believes in and teaches the Godly command of tithing. Our booklet, “And Lawlessness Will Abound,” explains on pages 18-20 that tithing is a binding command today that was not abandoned by Christ. (Our booklet explains that Hebrews 7 did not abandon tithing – contrary to what some may erroneously claim.) Our Updates have consistently upheld and referred to God’s command to tithe — compare, for example, Edwin Pope’s Editorials in Updates #38 (dated April 12, 2002) and #53 (dated July 26, 2002). That tithing is a command for today is taught in many Scriptures, including Matthew 23:23; Luke 18:12; and Malachi 3:8-10.
The Church of the Eternal God also believes and teaches that God has indeed instituted THREE different types of tithes – commonly referred to as the first, second and third tithe.
Some teach that the Bible never instructed second and third tithes. However, this conclusion is clearly false, and historical records show that ancient Israel practiced a tithing system of three tithes. The apocryphal book of Tobit, which was apparently written about 250 BC (compare Encyclopedia Britannica, Vol. 22, p. 264, copyright 1959, under “Tobit”), confirms the practice in ancient Judah of a three-tithes system. Although apocryphal, the book of Tobit is useful from a strictly historical standpoint to show that Jews of that day were knowledgeable of and practiced the same tithing commands as revealed through Moses. Tobit 1:6-8 (New Revised Standard Version) states the following:
“But I alone went often to Jerusalem for the festivals, as it is prescribed for all Israel by an everlasting decree. I would hurry off to Jerusalem with the first fruits of the crops and the firstlings of the flock, the tithes of the cattle, and the first shearings of the sheep [describing the FIRST tithe]. I would give these to the priests, the sons of Aaron, at the altar; likewise the tenth of the grain, wine, olive oil, pomegranates, figs, and the rest of the fruits to the sons of Levi who ministered at Jerusalem. Also for six years I would save up a SECOND tenth in money and go and distribute it [use or spend it] in Jerusalem. A THIRD tenth I would give to the orphans and widows and to the converts who had attached themselves to Israel. I would bring it and give it to them in the THIRD year, and we would eat it according to the ordinance decreed concerning it in the law of Moses and according to the instructions of Deborah, the mother of my father Tobiel, for my father had died and left me an orphan.”
Our Statement of Beliefs discusses the FIRST tithe as follows, “We believe in the Godly institution of tithing to enable the Church to carry out its commission of preaching the gospel and feeding the flock.”
The first tithe is the first ten percent of someone’s “increase” (compare Proverbs 3:9) – his or her job earnings and/or other income (such as proceeds from rental, interest, gains from stocks, etc.). The Worldwide Church of God, under Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong, had made the administrative decision that in certain countries, such as Scandinavia and the United Kingdom, because of the extremely high income tax rates and the inability to deduct most or all contributions from individual tax returns, “increase” is defined as the amount of earnings after the deduction of the income tax. The Church of the Eternal God is following this teaching and practice. On the other hand, each individual is responsible before God to determine the amount of his or her “increase” in his or her individual circumstances.
The first tithe is to be sent to the Church on a regular basis (compare the principle in Exodus 22:29-30), to be used by the Church for the preaching of the gospel and the feeding of the flock. Since the Church has to rely on such regular contributions to be able to meet its expenses, it is important, of course, that those contributions are generally received on at least a monthly basis. It is also important for the contributor to recognize that the first ten per cent of his or her earnings or increase belong to God (Leviticus 27:30, 32), and that we honor God best if we give Him first, what is due to Him. An interesting example of the reinforcement of the tithing command in ancient Judah can be found in 2 Chronicles 31:4-12.
The SECOND tithe (or a second ten percent of one’s earnings or other income) is an additional tithe of one’s “increase” (Deuteronomy 14:22-26). Soncino confirms that Deuteronomy 14:23 discusses the “second tithe.” They state, “This refers to the second tithe, because the first tithe was to be given to the Levites who were allowed to eat it anywhere (cf. Num. xviii. 26, 31).” The Ryrie Study Bible has a similar comment pertaining to Deuteronomy 14:22-27, confirming the existence of a “second tithe.” So does “The New Bible Commentary: Revised,” copyright 1970, on page 220: “This is the so-called ‘second tithe,’ as contrasted with that tithe of the produce given to maintain the Levites (see Nu. 18:26-28).”
The individual saves the second tithe each year for use in observing God’s annual Holy Days – mainly the Feast of Tabernacles (FOT), as members are commanded to travel for the FOT to one of God’s designated feast sites. This tithe is to be saved for use by the individual. Only “excess second tithe” — the portion of the second tithe exceeding necessary individual use — should be sent to the Church. The Church will distribute such amount to members who were unable to save sufficient second tithe for the Holy Days, and it might use remaining funds for necessary Church-related Feast expenses (such as hall rentals).
In addition, God instituted a THIRD tithe system for the purpose of assisting and helping “Levites, widows and orphans.” The third tithe is an additional tithe of one’s “produce” or “increase” and is described in passages such as Deuteronomy 14:28-29 and Deuteronomy 26:12-15. (The third tithe was paid on the third and sixth year out of a cycle of seven years. On the seventh year, no third tithe was to be paid, as the land rested during the seventh year, Leviticus 25:4.)
Soncino confirms this understanding. They comment on Deuteronomy 26:12: “[The term] in the third year [refers to] the tithe of the produce of the third year…the year of tithing, i.e. the third in the cycle of seven years in which a special tithe was to be given to the poor.”
The principle of paying third tithe on the third and sixth year out of a cycle of seven years still applies today. Many members begin counting their third tithe years from the annual festival nearest the date of their baptism. Others decide to begin from the date that they first began tithing. It is the responsibility of each member to decide when he or she should begin the cycle, and the observance of that cycle should be carefully maintained.
Our Statement of Beliefs addresses the third-tithe system as follows, “We believe that needy members are to be helped and taken care of, through the tithing system described in the Bible, by other members of the Church (Luke 3:11; 1Timothy 5:8; James 2:15-16).” Traditionally, the Worldwide Church of God, under Mr. Armstrong, had taught that the Church can use third tithe income for first tithe expenses, if the Church has enough third tithe funds and is able to provide adequately for those of its members who need third tithe assistance. At the same time, it has been understood that if the Church does not have enough third tithe to help its needy members, it can use first tithe income for this purpose. The Church of the Eternal God is following this teaching and practice.
It should also be mentioned that “third tithe” is FOR the poor and needy, not BY the poor and needy. It is therefore not necessary for a “poor” person to pay third tithe. Someone who receives assistance from the government does not have to pay third tithe. It would also be following a wrong principle to take out a loan in order to be able to pay third tithe. Based on this principle, the Worldwide Church of God, under Herbert W. Armstrong, had made the administrative decision to excuse Church members in certain countries, such as the United Kingdom, from paying third tithe because of the high rate of taxation and mandatory social security payments in those countries. In addition, much of social security benefits constitutes, to an extent, the equivalent of third tithe payments in those countries. The Church of the Eternal God is following this teaching and practice. On the other hand, each individual is responsible before God to determine whether he or she is “poor” or “needy” and therefore excused from paying third tithe.
God expects of us to obey His tithing commands faithfully. God is the giver of all things, but He wants to know how much we appreciate His blessings. We can show Him our thankfulness by obeying Him cheerfully and willingly.
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