The book of Ecclesiastes has many layers. It describes the lives of people under the sun who are cut off from God. To that extent, life is vain and a grasping for the wind. In addition, when Solomon addresses the reader DIRECTLY, he is not talking about people who have turned away from God and who refuse to submit to God. It is important to see the distinction.
Body of Christ
What Does the Bible Reveal about the Third Temple prior to Christ’s Return?
The building of the Third Temple on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem is about to begin. Some claim that there will be no physical Temple, and that biblical references to the Temple strictly refer to the Church of God. This sermon will show from the Bible why this opinion is incorrect. We will also show who will be involved in the building of the Third Temple, and what will happen when the Temple has been erected.
Let Us Be Clean and Holy!
As members of the spiritual Body of Christ we must be clean and holy, and we may think many times that we are, but may deceive ourselves. We must recognize our uncleanness and eradicate it with God’s help.
A Holy People
What is a saint? Do saints live in heaven? Should we pray to saints for help? Or does the Bible tell us something else? Are you a saint? Do you belong to a holy people? Are you a citizen of a holy nation? If so, what are your responsibilities and privileges?
Leaving the Church of God?
There have always been those who left the Church of God because of numerous reasons. Not everyone who attends Church services is part of the Church of God. Still, membership in the true Church of God is necessary for salvation. This sermon shows what is the Church of God; who leads and directs it; and why one must not forsake the Church of God, if one wants to inherit eternal life.
Where will the marriage supper between Christ and His Church be held?
Revelation 19:7-9 states the following about the marriage between Christ and His Church: “Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb [Jesus Christ, compare Revelation 5:1-14] has come, and His wife [the Church, compare Ephesians 5:31-32] has made herself ready. And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. Then he said to me, ‘Write: “Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!”‘…”
Please note that this Scripture does not say where the marriage supper will take place. Other Scriptures strongly imply that it will take place here on earth, after Christ’s return.
Christ gave a parable of the wedding feast in Matthew 22, presupposing that the wedding feast or marriage supper will take place here on earth. We read in verse 11: “But when the king [who had arranged the marriage for his son, verse 2] came in to see the guests, he saw a man there who did not have on a wedding garment.” In the parable, “the king” represents God the Father, and “the son” represents Jesus Christ. If the marriage supper were to take place in heaven, the guest without a wedding garment could not have been there — neither as a physical being nor as a fallen spirit being. He could not have been a disqualified saint, as there are no physical beings in heaven and as the disqualified saint would not have been changed to spirit. Nor could he have been a “fallen” spirit being, i.e., Satan or a demon, as by that time, Satan and his angels will have no more access to God’s throne in heaven. Revelation 12:8 speaks of a time, before the marriage supper, stating, “…nor was a place found for them [Satan and his demons, verse 7] in heaven any longer.”
Christ tells another parable in Matthew 25, comparing the Church with five wise and five foolish virgins, “who went out to meet their bridegroom” (verse 1). While the five foolish virgins tried to buy oil for their lamps, the bridegroom (Jesus Christ) came, “and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding; and the door was shut” (verse 10). We then read that “afterwards the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open to us!'” Christ, though, refused them entrance to the wedding supper. Where did the five foolish virgins go? Obviously, as physical humans, they could not go to heaven to try to get entrance there. Christ’s parable of the five wise and the five foolish virgins clearly presupposes and implies that the events take place here on earth.
Nevertheless, some have suggested that the wedding supper will take place in heaven before Christ returns to the earth to establish the Kingdom of God. It has been suggested that Christ will come back to take His saints to heaven, have the marriage supper in heaven with them, and then return with His saints to establish the Kingdom of God.
However, the Bible does not teach that Christ will return “twice.” The Bible is consistent that Christ comes back a second time to reward His saints and, at the same time, to punish the wicked that are still alive (Matthew 24:27-39; 2 Thessalonians 1:3-10). God’s saints will be resurrected and changed to immortality at the time of Christ’s return and at the sound of the seventh and last trumpet (1 Corinthians 15:50-54; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17). However, at the same time, that is, at the sound of the last trumpet, Christ will also begin His reign over the world (Revelation 11:15-18). There can only be ONE seventh and last trumpet. There cannot be a sound of the seventh trumpet to signal the resurrection of the saints and their “going to heaven with Christ” for the marriage supper, and ANOTHER seventh or last trumpet to signal the subsequent return of Christ with His saints from heaven to set up the Kingdom of God.
Rather, we read that Christ will return; that at that time, the saints will be resurrected and changed and meet Christ in the air; and that Christ and His saints will descend immediately together on the Mount of Olives (Zechariah 14:4). That particular day is a twenty-four-hour-day, as Zechariah 14:6-7, 9 reveals.
Some have suggested that Revelation 14 speaks of a marriage supper in heaven. However, Revelation 14 does not mention a marriage supper. It states that the Lamb and 144,000 of those “who were redeemed from the earth” stand on Mount Zion (verse 1), and that they are “without fault before the throne of God” (verse 5). Although “Mount Zion” can refer to a spiritual mountain in heaven (compare Hebrews 12:22), it can also refer, of course, to the physical mountain here on earth. The saints might be standing, on Mount Zion, before God’s transportable throne, which was on earth before (compare Ezekiel 1). Or, verse 5 might just express the thought that they are without fault “in the sight of” God. The Greek word for “before,” i.e., “enopion,” literally means, “in the sight of” or “in the face of.” (Compare, Luke 1:15; 16:15; Acts 4:19). Even today, we appear daily “before” God’s throne in heaven, through prayer.
Another Scripture that has been used to suggest that the marriage supper will be in heaven, is Revelation 15:2. Again, this passage does not even remotely suggest a marriage supper. The passage states that saints are “standing on the sea of glass, having harps of God.” This is another vision (verse 1), which, simply judging by its wording alone, without consideration of other Scriptures, does not have to take place in heaven. The sea of glass could very well be a reference to a sea of glass before Christ’s throne which will be here on this earth. In addition, we find in Ezekiel 1:22, 26, that Christ’s transportable throne has a firmament or crystal, in other words, a sea of glass. Note, for instance, that we read in Exodus 24:9-10: “Then Moses went up, also Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, and they saw the God of Israel. And there was under His feet as it were a paved work of sapphire stone, and it was like the very heavens in its clarity.” In addition, the saints in Revelation 15:2 are portrayed as standing on a sea of glass, singing the victory song of Moses. This reminds us, of course, of God’s victory over the Egyptians, when they drowned in the Red Sea. Therefore, this vision might very well picture the saints’ symbolic victory over the beast power (compare verse 2), as ancient Israel was victorious over Egypt. This is especially true in light of the fact that Exodus 15:18 conveys a future victory of God and His people over God’s enemies: “The LORD SHALL reign forever and ever.” One must be careful not to deduce an entire teaching from a symbolic phrase.
A third Scripture quoted to support the speculation that the marriage supper takes place in heaven is Revelation 7:9-17. Again, nothing is mentioned in this Scripture referring to a marriage supper. We are told that a great multitude of all nations stands before the throne and before the Lamb. This is clearly another vision — such as the vision of dead souls under God’s altar that cry out with a loud voice (Revelation 6:9-11). Still, even when analyzing carefully the text of the vision in Revelation 7, we find that the described event does not occur in heaven. Revelation 7:14 says that the saints “washed their robes and made them white.” Verse 15 says, “Therefore they ARE before the throne of God, and SERVE Him day and night in His temple.” This cannot be happening in heaven, as the last part of the verse says that God “WILL dwell among them.” If this passage described a situation in heaven, God would ALREADY dwell among them.
The passage conveys, however, that those of the great multitude, who had to go through the Great Tribulation to become spiritually clean, will from that time on serve God daily in His temple — the Church, a spiritual organism, the bride of Christ. We are today the temple of God (1 Corinthians 3:17; Ephesians 2:21). But we are not in heaven.
The idea that the marriage supper will be held in heaven is nowhere taught in the Bible. All Biblical passages strongly imply that it will occur here on earth, after Christ’s return to this earth.
Why don't we see more spiritual gifts in the Church of God today?
It depends what is meant by “spiritual gifts.”
“spiritual gifts” with magnificent spectacular miracles and wonders,
such as public healings or the calling down of fire from heaven. It is
true, of course, that Jesus Christ, when He was here on earth,
performed many spectacular miracles (Acts 2:22), and that some of the
early apostles of the New Testament Church were able to do likewise
(Acts 2:43: 5:12). We read that Christ did many more miracles than have
been recorded in the Bible (John 21:25). We are also informed that
people were even healed when Peter’s shadow fell on them (Acts
5:14-16). We are told that at the very end time, just prior to the “Day
of the Lord” and Christ’s return, His Church will be given the power to
perform spectacular miracles (Joel 2:28-31), and the Two Witnesses will
have the power to call down fire from heaven, when and if necessary
We should also realize, however, that God
has wisely decided not to grant such spectacular powers to the Church
or His disciples all the time, because of very important reasons. We
read that John the Baptist, even though he was the greatest of all men
born of a woman (Matthew 11:11), did not perform ANY sign or miracle
(John 10:41). During His public ministry, Christ was at times very
careful NOT to perform miracles in public, or to have made His miracles
known (Matthew 8:1-4; 9:27-30; Mark 1:40-45; Mark 5:43; Mark 7:36; Mark
8:26). He even commanded the demons, as well as His disciples, not to
tell anyone that He was the Messiah–the Son of God (Matthew 16:20;
Mark 1:34; 3:11-12). He knew that once He was revealed as the Messiah,
it would be difficult for Him to preach the gospel openly (Mark 1:45;
Luke 5:15-16), and He said that the preaching of the gospel was one of
the reasons for His First Coming (Luke 4:43).
He also stated that
many of those who began to follow Him did not do so because they wanted
to learn the truth from Him, or because of His signs which He
performed, but because of the physical benefits which accompanied the
signs (John 6:26). It is true that the signs and miracles which He did
should have been enough evidence for the people, and for us today, that
He was and is the Son of God (John 10:25, 37-38; 20:30-31).
However, they were not sufficient in many cases (John 12:37; 15:24),
and when they were, they did not provide a lasting basis for the people
to stay loyal and committed. Even though His own disciples had seen His
signs and wonders, many of them left when they became offended by His
teachings (John 6:60-66). We also read, of course, that the public
miracles of Christ and the early apostles brought about persecution
(John 5:15-16; 11:45-53), preventing Him to “walk… openly among the
Jews” (verse 54).
We should also consider the possibility that a
lack of faith might prevent God from granting power to the Church to
perform public miracles. Even Jesus could not do many miracles among
those who did not believe in Him or God’s Power (Matthew 13:53-58; Mark
Most importantly, however, is the realization that God
has a time table. He knows WHEN the time is right to give His end-time
Church the power to perform public miracles, which will, in turn,
invite persecution from Satan and those under his influence (Matthew
24:9; John 15:20). Right now, God is more interested in the Church’s
fulfillment of its ongoing commission to preach the gospel in all the
world as a witness (Matthew 24:14). At the same time, He warns us that
some will arise to perform miracles and signs, but they will DECEIVE
many (Matthew 24:11, 24). Even a charismatic religious figure, soon to
manifest himself on the world scene, will be able to perform public
miracles, but he will do so with the power of Satan, not of God
(Revelation 13:11-14; 2 Thessalonians 2:8-9).
Christ came to
proclaim the gospel or the good news of the Kingdom of God to the
people–mainly those in Judea. But He told His disciples that they
would preach the gospel in all the world (Acts 1:8), and that He would
give them the power of the Holy Spirit to be able to do that. He said
that His Church would do greater WORKS (not necessarily public signs
and wonders) than He did, as He would go to the Father (John 14:12). He
poured out of the Holy Spirit from on high which He received from the
Father (Luke 24:49). And we can safely say that Christ has already
fulfilled His promise in these days–the gospel of the Kingdom of God
is being proclaimed in all the world. This has been made possible
through the marvelous technical inventions of the printing press,
radio, television and the Internet. It was not Christ’s purpose at His
time to have the gospel proclaimed in many other countries, but He knew
that in subsequent times, He would do so through His Church. Of course,
we realize that the technological advances have also made it possible
that big, powerful churches proclaim false gospel messages in all the
world–hence Christ’s warning to His disciples not to be deceived by
such false churches and doctrines.
The fact, however, that we do
not see God’s Church perform spectacular public miracles today, which
would attract worldwide attention, does not mean that God does not use
His Church today to perform miracles; or that He has not bestowed
spiritual gifts on His ministry and the Church as a whole. Every time
God’s ministers anoint sick persons with oil and pray for their
healing, or send an anointed cloth to the sick person, and that such
sick person is healed, God has performed a miracle. Every time God
protects His children from physical or spiritual harm, God has
performed a miracle. Every time God’s disciples are obedient to His
laws, even in situations which seemingly make it impossible to do so,
God has performed a miracle. Every time a person understands the truth
and responds to the gospel message, repents of his sins, believes in
Christ and His sacrifice, becomes obedient to God’s Word, and is
baptized and receives the Holy Spirit, God has bestowed spiritual gifts
on that person and has performed a miracle. Every time God’s Church is
receiving a better understanding of God’s Word, thereby growing in the
knowledge of Jesus Christ, God has performed a miracle and bestowed on
His Church a priceless spiritual gift. And every time one of God’s
children overcomes the temptation of forsaking the truth, resisting
false teachers and wrong doctrines, God has performed a miracle.
greatest miracle of all is that both the Father and Jesus Christ are
willing to live in true Christians, through the power of the Holy
Spirit. And what a great miracle it will be when, at the return of
Jesus Christ, true Christians will receive the gift of eternal life
(Romans 6:23) and the gift of the inheritance of the Kingdom of God
(Luke 12:32)–when they will be changed from mortal to immortal; from
flesh and blood to spirit; from a human being to a God being! Rather
than looking for outward signs and wonders, let us concentrate on what
God HAS BEEN giving to His true Church. Christ said that the greatest
GIFT which God the Father is willing to bestow on us, is His Holy
Spirit (Luke 11:13; John 4:10; Acts 2:38; Acts 10:45). God’s Spirit in
us enables us to develop the very MIND of God (2 Timothy 1:7),
including His very characteristics, such as His love, His peace, His
joy and His faith (Galatians 5:22-23).
Let us consider what
spiritual GIFTS, in particular, God is referring to in His Word, which
He gives to us today, and which we must deeply appreciate and value. We
read in 1 Corinthians 12 about all kinds of spiritual gifts, such as
gifts of healing, working of miracles, prophecy, discerning of spirits,
and different kinds of tongues or languages (verses 1, 9-10). Paul says
that not everyone in the Church has the same identical gifts (verse 4),
but all gifts are given “to each one for the profit of all”–the entire
Church (verse 7). God gives individual spiritual gifts to some so that
the entire Church can be built up. That is why He GIVES “some to be
apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and
teachers, for the equipping of the saints… for the edifying of the
body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the
knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man” (Ephesians 4:11-13).
But, the greatest or best spiritual GIFTS of God to us are His love,
His faith and His hope (1 Corinthians 12:31; 13:13).
let us never belittle God’s awesome POWER which He gives to all of us
if we are His children, through the indwelling Holy Spirit. God’s power
WILL change the world–in His due time. In the meantime, let us make
sure that the spiritual GIFT of God’s power changes US.
Lead Writer: Norbert Link
What did Paul mean when he told us to discern the Lord's body (1 Corinthians 11:29)?
In the passage in question, Paul was addressing the yearly Passover
ceremony. Beginning in 1 Corinthians 11:23, Paul reminded the disciples
of the event when Christ instituted the New Testament symbols of bread
and wine at the annual Passover service (compare verses 23-26). He then
“Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup
of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood
of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the
bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy
manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s
body. For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep.”
Sacrifice of Jesus Christ includes His death for the forgiveness of our
sins, as well as His suffering for our physical healing. While the
symbol of the wine points to Christ’s shed blood for the forgiveness of
sins, the symbol of the bread points to His physical suffering for our
Passages regarding the forgiveness of our
sins, by our acceptance of His supreme Sacrifice, can be found in
Isaiah 53:12; Matthew 26:28; Hebrews 9:11-14; 1 John 1:7; and Romans
Passages regarding our physical healing, by our
acceptance of His supreme Sacrifice, can be found in Isaiah 53:3-5;
Psalm 103:1-3; and Matthew 8:16-17. The symbol of the broken bread,
pointing to Christ’s wounded, torn body and His stripes, stands for our
When Paul talked about the need that we
discern the Lord’s body, he was addressing Christ’s PHYSICAL body which
was beaten for our physical healing. Some have said that Paul was
talking about Christ’s SPIRITUAL “broken” body, the Church. They claim
that Paul wanted to make reference to the broken, shattered condition
of the Church (having in mind many different corporate Church
organizations). They teach that we don’t experience physical healing if
we are responsible for any of the divisions in the different Church
organizations, thereby failing to “discern” the spiritual body of
Christ–the Church. It is true that we cannot expect to be healed, if
we refuse to be spiritually reconciled or “healed” with God and with
His people. It is also true that we cannot expect physical healing if
we don’t repent of our sins and trespasses or refuse to forgive our
brethren their trespasses against us (James 5:13-16). However, this
does not mean that Paul was addressing our discernment of the Church,
as Christ’s body, in 1 Corinthians 11. Rather, he spoke clearly of the
idea that we must consider the totality of Christ’s
Sacrifice–including His broken PHYSICAL body–if we want to experience
Let us again notice the context: Paul quotes
Christ in verse 24, saying that we are to eat bread, “which is [or,
which symbolizes] My body which is broken for you.” We are obviously
not to “eat” the Church, but we are to internalize Jesus Christ in our
lives so that He can live in us continuously (compare Galatians 2:20).
That is why we read in John 6:48-58 that we need to partake of the
annual Passover symbols of bread and wine to have a continued part with
Christ. We are also told in 1 Corinthians 11:26 that we proclaim the
death of Christ until He returns, when we eat the bread and drink the
wine on the annual occasion of the Passover service. Obviously, Paul
was not addressing the Church in verse 26, but the body and blood of
Jesus Christ. Paul continues with the same theme in verse 27: “Whoever
eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy
Again, there is no hint that Paul was suddenly
talking about anything else but Christ’s physical body–it was CHRIST
Who was tortured and killed. Verse 28 continues that we must eat the
bread and drink the cup after self-examination. Verse 29 warns us that
we eat and drink judgment to ourselves, if we don’t eat the bread AND
drink the wine in a worthy manner, “not discerning the Lord’s body.” It
is still the same theme and context; to say that Paul suddenly
addressed the Church as Christ’s [spiritual] body, while still talking
about eating the bread and drinking the wine, is introducing a thought
which is clearly not contained in that passage. After all, if the
“Lord’s body” was suddenly meant to refer to the spiritual body of
Christ–the Church–are we to EAT the CHURCH (verse 29)? And what would
the meaning of the “blood” be in that context (same verse)–as we are
to eat AND to drink? It is obvious that the analogy of Christ’s body
referring to the Church simply does not fit in 1 Corinthians 11:29.
Bible Commentary: Revised agrees: “Every Christian is unworthy, but
Paul defines his meaning as not discerning (lit. not distinguishing)
this bread as signifying the body… of the Lord. Some think body here
refers to the church (cf. 10:17), but a change of meaning from v. 27
Matthew Henry’s Commentary concurs: “The
Corinthians came to the Lord’s table not discerning the Lord’s
body–not making a distinction between that and common food.”
Bible Handbook explains the meaning of the passage in this way: “in an
unworthy manner … means in an attitude of unconfessed sin, and thus
being guilty of the body and blood of the Lord, transgressing against
the very essence of the meaning of Christ’s death… Self-examination
is necessary… to avoid condemnation and consequent chastening,
entailing physical weakness, sickness and even death.”
conclusion, when we partake, during the annual Passover ceremony, of
the bread and the wine (as well as the preceding footwashing ceremony,
compare John 13:1-17), we must understand and accept, in faith, the
supreme meaning of the totality of Christ’s Sacrifice. If we discern
Christ’s body, with the knowledge that CHRIST was severely beaten and
then killed on our behalf, we understand that we can have forgiveness
of our sins, as well as physical healing, because of what Christ did
for us: “…having made peace through the BLOOD of His cross… now He
has reconciled [you to the Father] in the BODY of HIS FLESH THROUGH
DEATH, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His
sight–if indeed you CONTINUE in the faith…” (Colossians
1:20-23). And: “By that will [of God the Father] we have been
sanctified through the offering of the BODY of Jesus Christ once and
for all” (Hebrews 10:10). And finally 1 Peter 2:24: “… who Himself
bore our sins in His own BODY on the tree, that we, having died to
sins, might live for righteousness–by whose stripes you were healed.”
message rings loud and clear: As Christ suffered and died for us in His
own body, we are to discern His sacrifice and let Him live in us, so
that we can live for Him.
Lead Writer: Norbert Link
Can you identify the seven Church eras, as described in the book of Revelation?
In the second and third chapters of the book of Revelation, John received a message for the “angels of the seven churches” (Revelation 1:20). As we have pointed out before [compare the Q&A in Update 157], these messages were to be meant for seven existing local Church congregations in seven distinct cities at John’s time, but they were also directed to all Christians at all times (compare Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, and 22), and they included messages for seven consecutive Church eras, beginning at the time of John, and ending at the time of Christ’s Second Coming (compare Revelation 1:19-20).
The seven Church eras can be briefly described as the eras of Ephesus (Revelation 2:1-7); Smyrna (Revelation 2:8-11); Pergamos (Revelation 2:12-17); Thyatira (Revelation 2:18-29); Sardis (Revelation 3:1-6); Philadelphia (Revelation 3:7-13); and Laodicea (Revelation 3:14-22).
The following sets forth our understanding of the identities of the seven Church eras, as taught by the Church of God for over the past 50 years:
The first era of Ephesus describes the Nazarenes. The Bible itself identifies the early Christians as the “sect of the Nazarenes” (Acts 24:5). Worldly records tell us that the Nazarenes kept the Sabbath and the annual Holy Days, abstained from eating unclean meats, and practiced the “ceremonies of Moses” — in other words, they adhered to both the Old and the New Testaments. Historians tell us that the Nazarenes and the Ebonites escaped the Roman destruction of Jerusalem by fleeing to the city of Pella in 69 A.D. The Ebonites were not part of the Church of God, however, but they clung to converted brethren. The Nazarenes are still mentioned in records of the 5th century. They preserved the book of Matthew. Paul spent much time in the city of Ephesus (1 Corinthians 16:8). According to tradition, John and Philip died in Ephesus. According to Revelation 2:2, the Church of that era was originally zealous, but by the time of the second or third generation, it began to lose “its first love” (verse 4). [This might perhaps constitute a parallel of God’s Church in this day and age.]
The second era of Smyrna began with Polycarp, a minister in Smyrna. After his release from the island of Patmos, John trained Polycarp to become his successor. Polycarp was killed by a mob for his belief in the Sabbath, Passover, and other laws of God. The Smyrna era was to be persecuted for 10 days (Revelation 2:10). A day in prophecy represents a year (compare Ezekiel 4:4-6; Numbers 14:34). This ten-year persecution occurred under Diocletian and Galerius, from 303 until 313 A.D. After that persecution, Constantine, in 325 A.D., expelled all “non-Christian churches,” that is, non-Catholic churches (including the true worshippers in the Church of God) from the Roman Empire. In 365 A.D. he prohibited the keeping of the Sabbath.
The third era of Pergamos began about 650 A.D. True Christians became known at that time as “Paulicians.” One important leader was Constantine of Mananali. Originally, the Paulicians believed what the Nazarenes and Polycarp had believed. Worldly records tell us that they kept the Sabbath, the Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread; that they preached the Kingdom of God; and that they baptized by immersion. Apparently, more than 100,000 Paulicians died as martyrs. Later, and perhaps because of persecution, many turned away from the true faith and resorted to violence. They became known as a warrior sect; their ministers were also generals.
The fourth era of Thyatira began at the time of the Reformation. The most important leader of the Church at that time was Peter Waldo, and the Church became known as Waldenses. They were active in the 12th century in the German and Swiss regions of Europe. In 1309, they preached the gospel in The Netherlands, and in 1315, in England. They kept the Sabbath and the annual Holy Days, and they rejected pagan customs which had been embraced by orthodox Christianity, such as Easter. Remnants will still exist when Christ returns (Revelation 2:25). However, when persecution began, many resorted to violence, as the Paulicians had done, and they began to forsake the truth and adopted wrong teachings to save their lives (Revelation 2:20-23).
The fifth era of Sardis began about 1585 in England. The practice of Sabbath-keeping became known again during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I (1558-1603). One important leader was Stephen Mumford who founded the Church of God in the United States in Newport, Rhode Island, in 1664. In the middle of the 19th century, true Christians became part of an Adventist movement, but separated in 1860 and began to publish numerous magazines and pamphlets, including, “The Remnant of Israel,” “The Sabbath Advocate,” and the “Bible Advocate.” Ministers were sent from Missouri, Oklahoma and Oregon to Mexico, Chile, Argentina, and the Philippines, and congregations in those countries began to keep the Sabbath and the Holy Days. Remnants of the Sardis era will exist when Christ returns (Revelation 3:3).
The sixth era of Philadelphia began under Herbert W. Armstrong, who had come into contact with the Sardis era in 1927, and was ordained as a minister in 1931. The Philadelphia era began in 1933. In 1934, the truth was preached from a radio station in Oregon, and in 1953, radio programs began to be broadcast in Europe. The Church of God became known as the Radio Church of God and later as the Worldwide Church of God, with its educational institutions of Ambassador College and Ambassador Foundation, headquartered in Pasadena, California. It is our understanding that the Laodicea era began, when Mr. Armstrong died in 1986. (Mr. Armstrong wondered in his prayer, when appointing Mr. Tkach as his successor just before his death, whether the Laodicea era was about to begin. We believe that subsequent events have shown that this was in fact the case.) Since Christ promises the Philadelphians protection from the Great Tribulation (Revelation 3:10), remnants of the Philadelphia era must still exist and be active (compare Revelation 3:8; Matthew 24:45-47) at the time of Christ’s return.
The last era, that of the Laodiceans (compare Revelation 3:14), will be predominantly in existence at the time of Christ’s return. But this does not mean that those who are called today could not become a part of the remnant of the Philadelphia era. Laodiceans are not limited to any one particular Church organization, but they can be found in every organization. Regardless of our “corporate” affiliation, and regardless of what Church era we actually belong to individually, all of us in God’s Church must remain to be or become zealous and repent (compare Revelation 3:19), and all of us must maintain or acquire the Philadelphia spirit (compare Revelation 3:11) to be accounted worthy to escape the terrible times ahead, and to stand before the Son of God, when He returns (Luke 21:36).
Do you teach that God commands His Church in the ancient book of Ezekiel to warn the modern United States of America, Great Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and other English-speaking nations, of impending disaster?
This is indeed the understanding and teaching of the Church of the Eternal God and its corporate affiliates in Canada and Great Britain.
First, let us realize that the message, that God gave to the ancient prophet Ezekiel, was in fact a modern prophecy for a modern “Ezekiel”:
It is critical to understand that under Solomon’s son Rehoboam, the nation of Israel became divided. Two separate nations developed, known as the “house of Israel,” with Samaria as its capital, and the “house of Judah,” with Jerusalem as its capital. We read in 1 Kings 12:19-20 (AV): “So Israel [being reigned by King Rehoboam, son of King Solomon] rebelled against the house of David unto this day. And it came to pass, when all Israel heard that Jeroboam [a prominent officer] was come again, that they sent and called him unto the congregation, and made him king over all Israel: there was none that followed the house of David, but the tribe of Judah only.”
King Rehoboam of Judah tried to unite the two kingdoms (of the house of Israel and the house of Judah) by force, but God prevented him from doing so. We read in 1 Kings 12:21, 24 (AV): “And when Rehoboam was come to Jerusalem, he assembled all the house of Judah, with the tribe of Benjamin, a hundred and fourscore thousand chosen men, which were warriors, to fight against the house of Israel, to bring the kingdom again to Rehoboam the son of Solomon… Thus saith the LORD, Ye shall not go up, nor fight against your brethren the children of Israel: return every man to his house; for this thing is from me. They hearkened therefore to the word of the LORD, and returned to depart, according to the word of the LORD.”
The two houses or kingdoms did not unite again throughout their history. They remained separate as two kingdoms — the “house of Israel,” consisting of the ten northern tribes, and the “house of Judah,” consisting of the southern tribes of Judah (The house of Judah was later joined by the tribes of Benjamin and Levi, compare 1 Kings 12:21, 31). We even read in 1 Kings 16:5-8 about a war between Israel and Judah or the Jews. Later, the ten tribes, led by the descendants of Ephraim and Manasseh, the sons of Joseph, became “lost” from public view. Unbeknownst to most, they are today to be found in English-speaking nations around the world. Many people believe that the Jews are identical with the modern house of Israel, but this is simply not true. Christ spoke of the “LOST tribes of the house of Israel” (Matthew 10:6; 15:24). James referred to all of Israel and Judah as the “twelve tribes which are scattered abroad” (James 1:1; compare Revelation 7:4-8). We read that in the FUTURE, a unification of the houses of Israel and Judah will occur, under Christ’s rule, when they come out of a (future) captivity and return to the Promised Land (Jeremiah 30:3; 33:7).
In due time, the ancient house of Israel went into captivity, in 721-718 BC, by the hand of the Assyrians (2 Kings 17:5-6, 23). The house of Judah did not go into captivity until more than one hundred years later, by the hand of the Babylonians, under king Nebuchadnezzar (2 Kings 25:1-10).
This background is important to understand, if we want to comprehend the prophetic messages that God gave to the ancient prophet Ezekiel.
In a member letter, dated November 19, 1976, Herbert W. Armstrong (1892-1986) explained how he came to this vital understanding in the early years of his conversion and ministry:
“In those early days I was especially interested in the book of Ezekiel. A special reason was that I saw Ezekiel was first given God’s message in PROPHECY, while he was a Jewish slave, by the River Chebar in the land of Babylon. Now this was close to 120 years after the House of ISRAEL had been taken captive to ASSYRIA. My astonishment was aroused when I saw that his message was to be taken to the HOUSE OF ISRAEL. Now Ezekiel was a slave among the HOUSE OF JUDAH — not Israel. By this time many of the ‘lost sheep of the House of Israel’ had migrated north and west from Assyria. They were, by Ezekiel’s time, in Britain and Western Europe.
“… The first message, or instruction from God, comes, beginning the second chapter [of the book of Ezekiel]. ‘And He said unto me, son of man, I send thee to the children of Israel, to a rebellious nation…[and they shall know] that there hath been a prophet among them’ (Ezek. 2:3,5…)… In chapter 3:1 God says, ‘… GO speak unto the House of Israel.’ Again in verse 4, ‘Son of man, GO, get thee unto the House of Israel, and speak with my words unto them.’ NOWHERE in the Bible are JEWS called ‘the House of Israel.’ This term applies ONLY to the TEN-tribe Kingdom of Israel taken into Assyrian captivity more than a hundred years before Ezekiel and the Jews of the House of JUDAH were taken to Babylon. Nowhere in the book does Ezekiel record his journey from where he was in Babylon to those of the House of Israel who were then in Britain and Western Europe. Nowhere does he record his giving of the message to them. He merely RECEIVED the message. He merely RECORDED IT IN WRITING. There is no reason to think his message was ever delivered to the House of Israel in Ezekiel’s time. The message in fact is for today — and contained a WARNING of things to happen to Britain, America and the Western European nations NOW in OUR DAY.”
What we should notice very carefully from the foregoing is that Ezekiel was in captivity, when he received messages to be delivered to the house of Israel and other nations, including the Ammonites (Ezekiel 25:2), Moab (Ezekiel 25:8), Edom (Ezekiel 25:12), the Philistines (Ezekiel 25:15), Tyre (Ezekiel 26:2-3) and Egypt (Ezekiel 29:2) — all a great distance from his location in Babylon. We need to note, too, that Ezekiel saw visions of impending destruction upon Israel “in the fifth day of the month, which was the fifth year of king Jehoiachin’s captivity” (Ezekiel 1:2-3). Jehoiachin went into captivity in 596 B.C. The fifth year brings us to about 592 B.C. — over 125 years AFTER the removal of the house of Israel in 718-721 B.C.! Ezekiel, a young captive Jew in Babylon, was given a future prophetic message for the house of ISRAEL, including a message about future punishment and slavery, over 120 years AFTER the ancient house of ISRAEL had already been punished and gone into captivity. Ancient Ezekiel never reached the ancient house of Israel with God’s prophetic message.
As we have explained in our booklet, “The Great Tribulation and the Day of the Lord,” the modern house of Israel consists of English-speaking nations, including the United States of America, Great Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. And God has given His end-time Church the charge to proclaim the “Ezekiel warning message” to those peoples.
The Ezekiel warning message (Ezekiel 3:16-21) is something that we have to take seriously. It is part of the gospel message of the Kingdom of God, that has to be preached (Matthew 24:14). Before the wonderful world tomorrow can be ushered in, the Great Tribulation and the Day of the Lord have to be fulfilled, which will be a time of terrible trouble for the modern nations of the houses of Israel and Judah, as well as the entire world.
We find this commission from God to Ezekiel: “‘…Son of man, I am sending you to the children of Israel, to a rebellious nation that has rebelled against Me; they and their fathers have transgressed against Me to this very day. For they are impudent and stubborn children. I am sending you to them and you shall say to them, “Thus says the Lord God.” As for them, whether they hear or whether they refuse–for they are a rebellious house–yet they will know that a prophet has been among them'” (Ezekiel 2:3-5).
Ezekiel’s message has become a part of God’s Word. This warning from God is for our day, and it MUST BE PROCLAIMED–along with many other prophecies preserved in the Bible for us! That responsibility has passed along to the Church of God!
In the book of Ezekiel, the prophet is compared with, and even called a “watchman.” But the book of Ezekiel is for our time today — and it is therefore God’s end-time Church, which is to function as “a watchman” or “watchmen.” Notice these Biblical examples:
“So you, son of man: I have made you a WATCHMAN for the HOUSE OF ISRAEL; therefore you shall hear a word from My mouth and warn them of Me” (Ezekiel 33:7).
“I have set WATCHMEN on your walls, O Jerusalem; THEY shall never hold THEIR peace day or night. You [plural in the Hebrew] who make mention of the LORD, do not keep silent” (Isaiah 62:6).
“Yes, proclaim against Jerusalem, That WATCHERS come from a far country And raise THEIR voice against the cities of Judah” (Jeremiah 4:16).
“Thus says the LORD: ‘Stand in the ways and see, And ask for the old paths, where the good way is, And walk in it; Then you will find rest for your souls. But they said, “We will not walk in it.” Also, I set WATCHMEN over you, saying, “Listen to the sound of the trumpet!” But they said, “We will not listen.” Therefore hear, you NATIONS, And know, O congregation, what is among them. Hear, O EARTH! Behold, I will certainly bring calamity on this people–The fruit of their thoughts, Because they have not heeded My words Nor My law, but rejected it'” (Jeremiah 6:16-19).
We are to WATCH the events around us (Matthew 24:42), discerning the times, so that we can be effective WATCHMEN in God’s service (compare Amos 3:7), warning others of what will surely come to pass. Notice Hosea 5:9: “Ephraim [modern Great Britain] shall be DESOLATE in the day of rebuke; among the TRIBES OF ISRAEL I make known what is sure. Hosea 7:12 adds: “I will CHASTISE THEM [Ephraim] According to what their congregation HAS HEARD.”
Ezekiel 33:2-6 explains to us WHY God’s Church is to proclaim God’s warning message:
“When I bring the sword upon the land, and the people of the land take a man from their territory and make him their WATCHMAN, when he sees the sword coming upon the land, if he blows the trumpet and warns the people, then whoever hears the sound of the trumpet… [and] takes the warning will save his life. But if the WATCHMAN sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, and the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at the WATCHMAN’S hands.”
God wants His Church to preach the establishment of God’s Kingdom here on earth. This includes, blowing the trumpet and warning of impending disaster. Some will listen and change their ways so that they, too, may enter the Kingdom. Many others, though, will not heed the message. Still, if His Church shrinks back from its God-given responsibility, He will have no pleasure in it (Hebrews 10:37-39).