Update 97


Time and Chance–What About It?

Norbert Link will give the sermon this Sabbath, June 14, 2003. The title of the sermon is, “Time and Chance — What About It?”

The services can be heard at www.cognetservices.org at the appropriate time, just click on “Connect to Live Stream.”

Standing Watch
As previously mentioned, we are in the beginning stages of a new project. We are producing a short weekly video segment about current events and how they relate to Bible prophecy. Our pilot program of “Standing Watch” can now be viewed at: http://www.eternalgod.org/standingwatch/. A fast internet connection is required at the moment in order to avoid delays in streaming.

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Lessons From the Apostolic Church

by Brian Gale (United Kingdom)

The New Testament Church which was founded on the day of Pentecost and of which we are a part today, can teach us many things. We can see a number of characteristics that were predominant within the church at that particular time. We would do well to try and emulate those characteristics today.

In this editorial, I’d like to briefly discuss three main characteristics of the early Church. The first one is that of purpose and determination.

The early disciples had a deep sense of purpose. They were promised the Holy Spirit. In the 40 days between His resurrection and ascension, Jesus made many recorded appearances to the disciples to banish forever from their minds any doubt as to His continued existence as a living person. They were to receive power – the same Greek word is also translated as dynamite. In Acts 2:1, we read that they were all with one accord in one place. We see the Holy Spirit appearing like cloven tongues sitting on them. In verse 4, we are told that they were filled with the Holy Spirit. It would be hard at that time not to have a deep sense of purpose! In Acts 2, Peter gave the first New Testament sermon. In verse 40, we are told, “And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, ‘Be saved from this perverse generation.'” Here he showed, with quite a sense of urgency, the determination and purpose motivating and driving him.

In chapter 4, Peter and John were brought before the council. The rulers who had crucified Jesus were alarmed at the spreading of the message and the growing popularity of this new religion as they saw it. Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke boldly. This was the same Peter who, a few weeks before, in the same place, had been embarrassed at the remarks of a girl and had denied Christ. Now, in utter fearlessness, he defied Christ’s murderers. Being empowered by the Holy Spirit, Peter and the other apostles were transformed and filled with courage to proclaim the gospel. They were “steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15: 58). There is no question that the New Testament Church certainly had a deep sense of purpose. WE SHOULD HAVE THAT SAME SENSE OF PURPOSE TODAY. They had to endure opposition and persecution then. We have opposition today. Things have changed little over the last 2,000 years. They had a deep sense of purpose and nothing was going to distract them. They got on with the job irrespective of all other considerations.

The second characteristic of the early disciples is that of unconquerable courage. Remember that Stephen gave an answer to his accusers. In Acts 7:54 they were just a little upset! Stephen didn’t flinch. In Acts 6:15 it says that as he spoke, his face “shone as the face of an angel.” He didn’t fear death. He died without a trace of resentment, which must have put his killers to shame. We read in 2 Corinthians 11 about Paul, an apostle of Christ, who was beaten with rods, who received five times 39 stripes, who was stoned, who was shipwrecked and who suffered all manner of things for the name of Christ. You don’t go through those sufferings and trials without knowing your cause is right. Paul had to have unconquerable courage. Tradition has it that John was the only apostle that was not martyred. He apparently lived his life out fully, but all of the other apostles apparently suffered martyrdom. You don’t give up your life for a lie – you give up your life for that which you totally believe in and are fully convinced about.

We also find, as a third important characteristic of the early New Testament Church, that it was a caring Church. We see in Acts 2: 44-47 that they all worked together for the common good, sharing all that they had. At the outset, they had all things in common and a community spirit was born. Of course, it was all new and later, problems surfaced – they always do! One problem that immediately springs to mind is the problem with Ananias and Sapphira who received the ultimate form of discipline because of their treachery. However, such an incident cannot hide the fact that there was a togetherness in the New Testament Church at the inception of the true Christian faith – a togetherness that assists everyone when problems arise. There were, of course, other examples including the collection for the saints in 1 Corinthians 16 where produce was collected for those less well off.

These are just three characteristics of the New Testament Church that we can learn from. Times are getting more and more difficult, and it behoves us all to ensure that the examples that are there in the Bible are not wasted on us. The New Testament Church which was founded on the day of Pentecost and which we are a part of today, can teach us much. Let us take these lessons seriously!

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Events following the supposed implementation of the “Road Map to Peace” have taken their predictable course, and that is more violence from both the Palestinians and Israelis!

On June 11, 2003, Newsday.com reported: “The Bush administration doled out a rare dose of criticism to Israel over its military attack on a Hamas leader yesterday but failed to dissuade the Israelis from launching a second assault in Gaza a short time later.” President Bush was quoted as saying that he doesn’t “…believe the attacks help Israeli security.”

The Washington Post reported on June 10, 2003, “President Bush this afternoon scolded Israel, saying he was concerned that its attacks today on Palestinian targets could derail the road map toward Middle East peace, less than a week after he assembled Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas in Jordan for an upbeat summit… Earlier in the day, White House press secretary Ari Fleischer said… it was correct to say Israel’s action was not keeping with the road map.”

Der Spiegel Online commented on June 10, 2003, “The Israeli government is obviously determined to do everything they can to sabotage President Bush’s road map to peace.”

USA Today reported on June 11 that “Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was unapologetic about Tuesday’s botched strike against Hamas co-founder Abdel Aziz Rantisi, despite a sharp reprimand from President Bush… Sharon said after Bush’s rebuke that Israel will ‘continue to fight the heads of the extremist terrorist organizations – those who initiate, those who fund and those who send terrorists to the Jews.'”

On June 11, events in this area of the world simply exploded with some commentators calling the conflagration a war between Israel and Hamas. MSNBC.com reported on Wednesday (6/11/2003): “Privately though, administration officials admitted that what they believed was a triumph at the summit in Aqaba, Jordan, has been shattered in a matter of days.”

First, as USA Today reported on June 11, “a suicide bomber blew himself up on a bus in downtown Jerusalem on Wednesday, killing at least 13 people and wounding nearly 70 a day after Hamas threatened bloody revenge for an Israeli attack on one of its leaders.” Shortly thereafter, Israel killed at least six Palestinians in a first rocket attack in Gaza City. Israel claimed that that attack was unconnected with the suicide attack in Jerusalem. However, two more Israeli attacks followed.

USA Today reported on June 12, 2003: “In the third Israeli airstrike in 24 hours, Israeli helicopters fired several missiles at a car of a Hamas fugitive Thursday, killing seven people, including the wanted man [Yasser Taha], his wife [Fatima] and 2-year old daughter [Asnan].” This latest strike injured 29 people. The article continued, “The latest spike in violence – 35 Israelis and Palestinians killed and more than 130 wounded in two days – suggested a new stage in the 32-month-old conflict, with ISRAEL AND HAMAS THREATENING TO FIGHT EACH OTHER TO THE FINISH. Hamas said it would unleash multiple attacks and urged foreigners to leave Israel for their safety. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said that despite a new U.S.-backed peace plan, he would hunt Palestinian militants ‘to the bitter end.'”

Der Spiegel Online reported on June 12, 2003, that Hamas advocates attacks against Ariel Sharon personally. The magazine stated, “Ever increasing attacks from Israel and the extremist group Hamas destroy the hope that violence in the Middle East might stop.”

Things will get worse! The lesson of history is that violence leads to more violence, and wars lead to more wars. We see a vicious cycle of violence in the Middle East, with no end in sight.

Even the unique support and alliance enjoyed between the U.S., Israel and Great Britain will not hold. Isaiah 9:21 prophecies: “Manasseh Ephraim’s, and Ephraim Manasseh’s, And both of them AGAINST Judah” (Tanakh translation)! The New International Version renders this passage this way, “Manasseh will feed on Ephraim, and Ephraim on Manasseh; together they will turn against Judah.”

In chapter 11 of Isaiah, we find this statement about a future change in relationships that will actually correct a problem that is even now arising between Judah and Ephraim: “Also the envy of Ephraim shall depart, And the adversaries of Judah shall be cut off; Ephraim shall not envy Judah, And Judah shall not harass Ephraim” (verse 13).

Events in the very near future will see Judah isolated. The Arab world enjoys more and more sympathy and support from countries within the European Union. Although this doesn’t yet entail any military overtures, prophecy clearly shows that Europe will find itself embroiled militarily in the Middle East. It will be Europe that will be called upon to bring “peace” to the Middle East. However, their efforts will create more havoc in that part of the world. Notice this frightening prophecy in Zechariah 12:2-3, “Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of drunkenness to all the surrounding peoples, when they lay siege against Judah and Jerusalem. 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.”

For more about the prophecies of these events, please note the publications available on our web page http://www.eternalgod.org/


CNN.com published an interesting article on June 10, stating the following: “This is the way the world might end: A genetically engineered pathogen is released, debris from an erupting ‘supervolcano’ blocks the sun or scientists in the biggest ‘bioerror’ of them all accidentally trigger a matter-squeezing ‘big bang.’

“The demise of civilization has been predicted since it began, but the odds of keeping Planet Earth alive and well are getting worse amid a breakneck pace of scientific advances, according to Martin Rees, Britain’s honorary astronomer royal. Rees calculates that the odds of an apocalyptic disaster striking Earth have risen to about 50 percent from 20 percent a hundred years ago.

“The 60-year-old scientist, author of the recently published ‘One Final Hour,’ says science is advancing in a far more unpredictable and potentially dangerous pattern than ever before. He lists as mankind’s biggest threats: nuclear terrorism, deadly engineered viruses, rogue machines and genetic engineering that could alter human character. All of those could result from innocent error or the action of a single malevolent individual. By 2020, an instance of bioterror or bioerror will have killed a million people, Rees contends.”

The Bible prophesies that at the time of Jesus Christ’s return, the conditions on this planet will be so bad that no human being would be saved alive, unless God were to intervene and “those days were shortened” (compare Matthew 24:22). We seem to be moving toward this final climax of human “accomplishments” with frightening speed.

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Q: I have heard that you teach that there are three heavens mentioned in the Bible. Would you please elaborate on this? If true, why do the Jews and some Christian groups teach that there are seven heavens?

A: The Bible does indeed reveal the existence of “three” heavens. While the first two heavens are “physical” in nature, the third heaven is composed of spirit — it is referred to in Scripture as God’s dwelling place.

That there is more than one physical heaven can be seen in Genesis 1:1, where we read, “In the beginning God created the HEAVENS and the earth” (New KJB; RSV).” Also, in Genesis 2:1, “Thus the HEAVENS and the earth were finished, and all the hosts of them” (New KJB; RSV). These verses imply that “the whole material universe was created simultaneously with the earth” (Herbert W. Armstrong, “Mystery of the Ages,” p. 45).

The first two heavens — the physical heavens — can be divided into the earth’s atmosphere and the space beyond our atmosphere — commonly called the universe.

The atmosphere or the “first heaven” — the air that surrounds the earth — refers to the space where the birds fly, the clouds and the wind roam, and from which the dew comes. We read in Genesis 1:20: “…let birds fly above the earth across the face of the firmament of the heavens.” We also read, in Genesis 27:28, that God promises to give “the dew of heaven.” Finally, we are told in Deuteronomy 33:28, that Jacob’s “Heavens shall also drop dew.”

The physical universe, which is beyond this earth’s atmosphere, can be described as the “second heaven.” It represents the space where we find the sun, the moon, the stars, and all the other planets that God has created. We read, in Genesis 1:14-17, that God referred to sun and moon as “lights in the firmament of the heavens” (verses 14, 15, New KJB), and that He “set them in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth” (verse 17, New KJB). David pondered, in Psalm 8:3, over God’s “heavens, the work of Your fingers,” and he especially continued to talk about “the moon and the stars, which You have ordained.”

In addition to these two physical “heavens,” we find that the Bible speaks about another heaven, a heaven composed of spirit — the third heaven, where God lives. No human being has ever ascended to this heaven (compare John 3:13) — the only one who went to this heaven after His resurrection was Jesus Christ. We are specifically told that David did not ascend to heaven (Acts 2:34).

It is therefore obvious that Elijah did not go to the third heaven, where God’s throne is. We read, in 2 Kings 2:1, 11, that Elijah was taken up “into heaven by a whirlwind.” We also read that his disciples understood that Elijah did not go to the third heaven, as they were concerned that “the Spirit of the LORD has taken him up and cast him upon some mountain or into some valley” (verse 16). In fact, God transported Elijah to another place here on this earth, where Elijah continued to live until his death. He wrote a letter and had it delivered to king Jehoram, AFTER he “went to (the first) heaven,” as Jehoram became king right at the time of Elijah’s disappearance (2 Kings 1:17; 3:1). 2 Chronicles 21:12-15 gives us the contents of the letter, referring to the evil deeds of king Jehoram that he had committed after Elijah had been taken away and transported through the air to another place here on earth.

On the other hand, the Bible tells us that some have seen or even gone to the third heaven “in spirit” — that is, in a vision. We read that John went to God’s throne in heaven “in the Spirit” (Revelation 4:1-2). We also read that Paul “was caught up to the third heaven” (2 Corinthians 12:2), referring to this experience as “a vision” (verse 1).

As we see from 2 Corinthians 12:2, the heaven which is called God’s dwelling place is referred to as the “third heaven.” No additional heavens are mentioned. Notice this comment taken from the Nelson Study Bible: “The Hebrew word for heavens may refer to the physical heavens, the sky or the atmosphere of earth…, or to the dwelling place of God (Ps. 14:2), the spiritual heaven. The expression is probably derived from a word meaning ‘to be high, lofty.'”

The third heaven is, according to the Bible, located “on the farthest sides of the north.” Lucifer described his plan to dethrone God in this way, in Isaiah 14:13-14, “‘I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne [here on earth] above the stars of God; I will sit on the mount of the congregation On the farthest sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High [or, I will be the Most High.]'”

We also read that “promotion cometh neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south.” (Psalm 75:6, Authorized Version). Rather, it comes from the north — from God’s dwelling place in the third heaven.

There are indeed three heavens — not “seven.” The Encyclopedia Britannica, ed. 1959, sheds some light on the wrong concept of “seven heavens.” It points out, “In the cosmogonies of ancient peoples there was a plurality of heavens, varying from three to seven, the higher transcending the lower in glory.”

In addition, note this comment from Rienecker’s Lexicon of the Bible, “At the time of the Old Testament, Judaism knew of a plurality of heavens, which number was determined in LATE Judaism as seven. The Holy Scriptures know nothing of this number. Paul speaks of the THIRD heaven in 2 Corinthians 12:2-4. The letter to the Hebrews states that Christ was seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens (Hebrews 8:1). It adds that He, as High Priest, passed through the heavens (Hebrew 4:14) to enter into the most important heaven, where He appears in the presence of God for us (Hebrews 9:24).”

Although it is taught by traditional Christianity that we will go to heaven when we die, this is NOT the Biblical teaching. For more information as to what happens to us when we die, please read our free booklet, “Do We Have An Immortal Soul?”

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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

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