Update 132


Blessed Are the Merciful

On Saturday, February 28, 2004, Edwin Pope will be presenting the sermon, titled, “Blessed Are the Merciful.”

The services can be heard at www.cognetservices.org at 12:30 pm Pacific Time (which is 2:30 pm Central Time). Just click on “Connect to Live Stream.”

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Humble or Humiliated?

by Dave Harris

Human as we are, we probably have all suffered times of humiliation. Shame and disgrace in the eyes of friend or foe are never pleasant experiences.

When evil despots lose power or when selfishly ambitious leaders in society have their unlawful acts revealed, few mourn for them.

Among people there always seem to be those who seek to exalt themselves. While this occurs at the expense of others, the individual who acts in such a manner faces certain humiliation.

This understanding is central to the teachings of Jesus Christ. We find one such example in the 23rd chapter of Matthew. The focus of His lesson is in verse 12: ” ‘And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.’ “

In this instance, Jesus taught that the scribes and the Pharisees were consumed with their own self-importance instead of setting right examples and walking in obedience to the pattern of life that God had established through Moses.

In another example found in Luke 14, Jesus took note of those who chose the best places. He then explains how we can avoid humiliation (verses 8-9). Also, in verse 10, Jesus gives us this instruction: ” ‘But when you are invited, go and sit down in the lowest place, so that when he who invited you comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, go up higher.’ Then you will have glory in the presence of those who sit at the table with you.’ “

This is the same way in which we must approach God. In contrasting the difference in approach by both a Pharisee and a tax collector in their prayers, Jesus shows that only the one who was humble was heard: ” ‘I tell you, this man [the tax collector] went down to his house justified rather than the other [the Pharisee]; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted’ ” (Luke 18:14).

Throughout the Bible, the examples of those who exalted themselves, only to end up in disappointment and loss, stand in striking difference to those who lived their lives committed to obeying God and awaiting His magnificent promises.

We have the choice as to whether we humble ourselves or exalt ourselves leading to our own humiliation. In making that choice, we will do well to always consider God’s view in the matter: ” ‘But on this one will I look: On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, And who trembles at My word’ ” (Isaiah 66:2).

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Dangerously Dependent

With this headline, U.S. News & World Report described in its February 9, 2004 edition, the U.S. dependency on others for its energy, its capital, and its labor. The article pointed out: “The world’s only superpower is becoming increasingly vulnerable to an ever expanding dependence on other nations… Our national policies are leading the United States, at the height of its strength, toward diminished economic and political power and unprecedented vulnerability to external forces that we may, one day, not be able to control. Never before has the United States followed policies that are certain to create dependence and vulnerability.” It was then explained that the U.S. is “reliant on the rest of the world” for its energy supply and on “foreign immigration to meet its labor force requirements,” which was described as “principally the result of so many businesses being unwilling to pay a fair living wage to our native workforce to fill those jobs.” The article also stated that “the most striking evidence of our national dependence is the U.S. trade deficit… Almost half of U.S. treasury bonds are now owned in Asia.”

The article concluded: “The trend away from national self-reliance, in general, is something that the Bush administration has been either unable or unwilling to take on. The Democrats are just as reluctant. [This] should concern all Americans.”

Stretched Thin

With this headline, U.S. News & World Report discussed in its February 9, 2004 edition, the problems faced by the U.S. military. The article stated: “The recently authorized Pentagon budget rings in at $401 billion, the LARGEST IN REAL TERMS SINCE THE REAGAN ERA. Yet at the same time, the active-duty military force–at 1.4 million–is one-third smaller in size than it was under Ronald Reagan, and THE DEMANDS ON IT ARE GREATER THAN AT ANY TIME SINCE THE VIETNAM WAR, when the military was twice as large. Exactly 30 years after the draft was abolished, the all-volunteer military is confronting its first great crisis. A Bush administration that came into office pledging to cut missions–and planning further cuts in the force–is now immersed in a war likely to be measured in years instead of months… After making quick work of Saddam Hussein’s eviscerated military during the war, the relatively small U.S. force in Iraq was quickly overwhelmed by the enormous task of nation building.”

One can only imagine the emergence of future momentous problems and challenges, should the United States decide to get involved in further military actions against other countries, in addition to Afghanistan and Iraq.

Pentagon report predicts worldwide famines and wars

As AFP reported on February 22, “a secret report prepared by the Pentagon warns that climate change may lead to global catastrophe costing millions of lives and is A FAR GREATER THREAT THAN TERRORISM.” According to the article, the report predicts that “abrupt climate change could bring the planet to the edge of anarchy as countries develop a nuclear threat to defend and secure dwindling food, water and energy supplies… Once again, warfare would define human life.” The report predicted the following possible scenarios:

“Britain will have winters similar to those in current-day Siberia as European temperatures drop off radically by 2020. By 2007 violent storms will make large parts of the Netherlands uninhabitable and lead to a breach in the aqueduct system in California that supplies all water to densely populated southern California. Europe and the United States become ‘virtual fortresses’ trying to keep out millions of migrants whose homelands have been wiped out by rising sea levels or made unfarmable by drought. ‘Catastrophic’ shortages of potable water and energy will lead to widespread war by 2020.”

The article continued that Randall, one of the authors of the report, “called his findings ‘depressing stuff’ and warned that it might even be too late to prevent future disasters.”

Bird Flu On the Rise

As Bild Online reported last week, the bird flu has now affected cats. Scientists are alarmed. When the flu virus “jumps” to another kind, the risk that it will affect humans increases. This is especially true for house cats which live in close proximity to man. The bird flu has also reached Canada by now. In addition, migrating birds, like the stork, have been affected as well. This is especially troublesome as those birds migrate up to 16,000 kilometers. They could thereby carry the disease to other countries and areas within a short time. U.S. News & World Report stated on February 9, 2004, in its article, “Playing chicken with the flu,” that the explosive emergence of this pathogen in so many different countries at once is unprecedented… and alarming. Already the disease has killed millions of chickens and led to the slaughter of many millions more in an attempt to contain it. More ominous, this bird flu has jumped the species barrier, infecting a minimum of 11 people and killing at least eight.” The article continued: “The real scare is that we could be watching a human flu pandemic in the making.. Adding to the urgency is evidence that our usual weapons against flu might not work well against an avian pandemic… It is an open question whether an effective vaccine could be ready for mass use if the avian flu becomes a human threat.”

AIDS Catastrophe in Eastern Europe

As News-Networld reported on February 24, 2004, Aids is presently exploding in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. While 300,000 were infected with the HIV virus in 1995, it is now more than 1,5 million people. More than 90 percent of those infected have no access to life-prolonging medicine. Ireland’s Minister President Bertie Ahern stated that AIDS must be taken as seriously as terrorism, echoing the sentiments of experts that it is within Europe’s interest to fight the disease, given the fact “that the EU with 500 million people will soon be the strongest economic power in the world.”

Anti-Semitism in Europe

As A.P. reported on February 19, “European Commission President Romano Prodi said he will ask EU justice and interior affairs ministers to take a lead role in fighting anti-Semitism. He said the campaign ‘calls for law enforcement measures as well as preemptive action in the field of education.’ In turn, he asked Jewish leaders not to equate European criticism of Israeli government policies with anti-Jewish sentiments.” If this advice would have been followed by German politicians and the German press in the Juergen Moellemann affair, the tragic outcome of his apparent suicide might perhaps have been avoided.

California’s ongoing debacle

As A.P. reported, “California is quickly running out of cash and is bracing for acute financial pain after three years of political procrastination and budget bungling. Now voters must decide if it makes more sense to approve a $15 billion bailout bond that might extend the misery for a decade or more, or suffer it more quickly through temporary tax increases and deep spending cuts… In either case, it’s clear that the time has finally come for California to balance its checkbook — the state will literally run out of money unless Schwarzenegger and the legislature find a way to produce $14 billion by June 16. If voters refuse to authorize the bond under Proposition 57 on the March 2 ballot, Schwarzenegger says he’ll have to make ‘Armageddon’ spending cuts that will make California a less desirable place to live.”

Worldwide Earthquakes

On February 24, a powerful 6.5 earthquake struck northern Morocco early Tuesday, killing at least 600 people. The press also reported that Monday evening, unrelated earthquakes with a magnitude of 5.1 hit the Alps region in southeast France. The tremors were felt in Freiburg, Germany, as well as in Basel, Switzerland. In addition, an earthquake with the magnitude of 4.5 or 5.0 hit Macedonia on Tuesday morning. No injuries or damages were reported.

Mel Gibson’s New Movie on Jesus

As Reuters reported on February 24, 2004, “many scholars complain” that Mel Gibson’s new movie on the passion of Christ “is riddled with historical errors.” Concerning the movie, this is a summary from www.cinemasavvy.com (2/20/2004): “This film’s script is based upon several sources, including the diaries of St. Anne Catherine Emmerich (1774-1824) as collected in the book, ‘The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ’, ‘The Mystical City of God’ by St. Mary of Agreda, and the New Testament books of John, Luke, Mark and Matthew.”

In addition, some scholars explain that Jesus would not have talked to Pilate in Latin, as depicted in the film. The most interesting mistake deals, however, with hairstyle. The article pointed out:

“‘He has a long-haired Jesus… JESUS DIDN’T HAVE LONG HAIR,’ said physical anthropologist Joe Zias, who has studied hundreds of skeletons found in archaeological digs in Jerusalem. ‘Jewish men back in antiquity DID NOT HAVE LONG HAIR.’ ‘The Jewish texts ridiculed long hair as something Roman or Greek,’ said New York University’s Lawrence Schiffman. Along with extensive writings from the period, experts also point to a frieze on Rome’s Arch of Titus, erected after Jerusalem was captured in AD 70 to celebrate the victory, which shows Jewish men WITH SHORT HAIR taken into captivity. ERRONEOUS DEPICTIONS OF JESUS IN WESTERN ART HAVE OFTEN MISLED FILM MAKERS IN THEIR PORTRAYAL OF JESUS, EXPERTS SAID.”

According to the article, others criticize the “historical accuracy” of the movie, by challenging the historical accuracy of the Bible itself. Such self-serving complaints must, of course, be disregarded and rejected.

Regarding the inaccuracy of hair length, however, those concerns are valid. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 11:14: “Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him?” It is therefore inconceivable that Christ would have worn long hair. This fact has been pointed out by the Church of God for over 50 years.

News from the Catholic Church

CNN.com reported on February 20, 2004, that most Catholic school books in the United States do not accurately depict official Catholic teaching. Some textbooks avoid saying adultery and premarital sex are sins, while others downplay the spiritual value of the Bible. Archbishop Alfred Hughes of New Orleans complained that “our young people are not learning… that the sole Church of Christ subsists in the Catholic Church,” thereby upholding the long-standing teaching of the Catholic Church that it, and it alone, is the true Church.

In other news, the Netzeitung reported on February 20 that Bishop Mueller, of Regensburg, Germany, has issued a decree prohibiting his Catholic parishioners from going to court against other Catholics, in regard to issues involving Church matters. He referred to Matthew 5:25. He could also, of course, have referred to 1 Corinthians 6:1-6. In the U.S., it has been a long-standing legal concept that the courts of the land will not rule over church-related matters, such as the termination of a minister from the church. However, the application of such a law is not that clear at all in Germany; hence, the decree of the Roman Catholic Bishop.

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Will there still be physical people after the Great White Throne Judgment?

The short answer is that there will not be any physical people after the time period called “the Great White Throne Judgment,” which is described in Revelation 20:11-15.

We read in Revelation 21:4 that after that time, there will be no more death. We also read in Revelation 20:14 that “Death” was cast into the lake of fire. This means, that whatever physical human being existed, they will, by that time, either have been burned up and destroyed in the lake of fire (thereby ceasing to exist forever), or they will have been changed into immortal spirit beings, unable to die. Physical people die. One cannot keep a physical human being alive forever. Therefore, since there will be no more death, there cannot exist physical people for all eternity at that future time.

We also read that we cannot enter the kingdom of God, unless we are spirit beings. Since God is not a respecter of persons, what He is offering us now He will offer to all of mankind later — during the Great White Throne Judgment. If He were only to offer eternal life to us today, but not later to the rest of mankind (not being called today), God would arbitrarily discriminate against all of mankind — as we are called today by grace, not by our works so that no one should boast in God’s sight.

A few Scriptures may at first sight perhaps imply that there will still be physical people around, after the Great White Throne Judgment. However, those Scriptures do not teach that.

For instance, Isaiah 25: 6-9; 65:17-20; 66:22-23; Ezekiel 48:30-35 and the book of Joel speak of the time of the Millennium and the Great White Throne Judgment, not after that time (For more information on the Millennium and the Great White Throne Judgment, please read our free booklet, “God’s Commanded Holy Days”).

It is correct that Revelation 21:24-26; 22:2 speaks, indeed, of the time after the Great White Throne Judgment. These Scriptures do not state, however, that at that time, physical humans will still exist. Rather, God the Father will dwell on earth and those on earth will see His face (Revelation 22:4) — and no human can look at God the Father in His glory and live. The fact that these Scriptures speak of “nations” or “kings of the earth” does not allow us to reach a different conclusion.

Please note, first, that Christ, a Spirit being, is still referred to in Scripture as “the MAN,” even in His glorified state (1 Timothy 2:5). One may read that Scripture and misconstrue it to mean that Christ is still a physical Man today. We know, of course, that He is not. With that same rationale, we might look at the passages in Revelation 21:24-26 and 22:2, speaking of “kings” and “nations,” and conclude that these passages speak of physical human beings. They might, however, only refer to those spirit beings who WERE, during their physical state of existence, kings or subjects. The point being made in Revelation 21 and 22 would be then, that regardless of what they had been in their physical life (“kings” or “nations” or “subjects”), they all will enter Jerusalem to worship God. Everyone will come to bring glory and honor to Jerusalem. Even though all of us, as spirit beings, will be members of the God Family and “sons” of God the Father (Revelation 21:7), we will always remain UNDER God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ — we will always remain His servants (Revelation 22:3), but we will be spirit beings, of course, no more flesh and bone.

In addition, there may be another reason why the Bible talks about “kings” and “the nations of them which are saved” (Revelation 21:24). The Lamsa translation says: “And the people who have been saved…” Why is there still a differentiation made between kings, and nations or people?

It is possible that these passages speak of former human beings who will by that time make up the nations of spirit beings, who will have qualified for different levels of rulership. If so, the spirit beings would then be grouped or organized as “nations” and “kings” after the Great White Throne Judgment. That is, the “kings” would be ruling over other spirit beings (“the nations” or “people that have been saved”). We are being rewarded according to our works. Some will rule over more than others. In the end, though, we all will rule forever and ever (Revelation 22:5).

Some feel that Revelation 22:2 proves that there will still be physical human beings in existence after the Great White Throne Judgment. Revelation 22:2 speaks of healing of the nations, but this is not talking about physical healing, but spiritual healing or refreshment. As spirit beings, we still have emotions. God can feel joy or anger, depending on what we do. It says that when God had ended His recreation work of the earth, He was refreshed (compare Exodus 31:17).

Taking all the Scriptures together, it is clear that there will be no human physical life in existence after the Great White Throne Judgment, when God will create everything new (Revelation 21:5). For more information regarding that “new” world, please read our free booklet, “God Is A Family.”

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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.

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