Update 164


Balanced Christian Living

On Saturday, October 23, 2004, Norbert Link will be giving the sermon, titled, “Balanced Christian Living.”

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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Why the Ministry?

by Norbert Link

From all the reports that we have received, attendees at our Feast sites in the United States and England had an enjoyable, uplifting and spiritually refreshing time. The messages that were delivered should help us on our journey toward the Kingdom of God. As the old saying goes, “And how shall they hear without a preacher?” (Romans 10:14). Feast messages, as well as weekly Sabbath sermons, are given by God’s “preachers” or ministers, as well as those who have been selected by the ministry: “And how shall they preach unless they are sent?” (verse 15).

Many understand the need for true and faithful ministers of Christ, who have proven, through their service and dedication to the truth, that they CAN be trusted. But due to the disappointments in times past, when the teaching, behavior and approach by certain ministers fell far short of the required standard, some have concluded that NO minister can or should be followed. They have set themselves on a course of constant criticism
— trying to find fault with the messages delivered — only to find a reason as why NOT to follow.

This is not the attitude we ought to have regarding true and faithful ministers of God. Rather, “As it is written: ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, Who bring glad tidings of good things!'” (Romans 10:15).

It is true, of course, that we are not to follow a minister — even a true minister of God — when he deviates from the Word of truth or acts in a way that is opposed to true Christianity. This does not mean, however, that we are to spend all of our time in desperately looking for mistakes. Since nobody is perfect, mistakes will be made, and if we look long and hard, we will find them. If that is all we are looking for, we are judged by the Bible as self-righteous, proud, and contentious. This is not the attitude, which the proverbial Bereans had. Rather, we read: “These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all READINESS, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11). They did not accept and follow blindly, what was preached. They compared what was said with the Scriptures. They SEARCHED the Scriptures to see whether these things were so. Notice, however: They did NOT search the Scriptures to “establish” that these things were NOT so. Their attitude was one of wanting to accept the truth, not one of wanting to find error!

What was the consequence? “THEREFORE many of them believed, and also not a few of the Greeks, prominent women as well as men” (verse 12).

The ministry of God is here to serve and feed God’s sheep. God’s sheep will recognize the voice of God, as it is being preached through His shepherds, and they will follow them (John 10:1-5). This is the attitude we ought to have toward God’s ministry, as so strongly and boldly put by John, an apostle of Jesus Christ: “We are of God. He who knows God hears us; he who is not of God does not hear us” (1 John 4:6). Didn’t Christ Himself say: “If they kept My word, they will keep yours also.” (John 15:20)? And: “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word” (John 17:20)?

Someone who rejects God’s ministers, thinking that he has no need of them, is in mortal spiritual danger. God gave the ministry to the body of Christ to edify, strengthen and enlighten the body (compare Ephesians 4:11-16).

Paul encouraged the brethren to follow him, as he followed Christ. He URGED the brethren to follow or imitate him (1 Corinthians 4:16). He said: “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). He reminded the Thessalonians that they “became followers of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 1:6). Paul did not preach: “Don’t trust us! Rely on your own understanding. There is no minister whom you could trust or follow.” No, Paul preached exactly the opposite.

Paul had proven, through his converted life, that he was approved of God. And as such, he could and should be followed. He held fast the faithful word as he had been taught (compare Titus 1:9). He, as well as all of those with the same mindset, kept and would keep Christ’s word, never denying His name (compare Revelation 3:8).

In these last days, God has preserved faithful ministers to lead and serve His body — the Church. Christ said that the “gates of hell (in Greek, Hades)” would never prevail against it (Matthew 16:18), and that He would be always with His Church — until the very end of this age (Matthew 28:19-20). For, so He said, the gospel of the kingdom of God will be preached (through God’s faithful ministry, which is supported by the body of Christ) in all the world as a witness unto all nations, and THEN the end WILL come (Matthew 24:14). The end has not yet arrived. The Church of God still has a job to do. And true and faithful ministers are needed, as well as the loyal and dedicated flock, to carry out this job. Many are waiting to hear God’s truth: “How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard?” (Romans 10:14). And so, Paul continues, as we read earlier: “And how shall they hear without a preacher?” (verse 14). This world, as well as God’s Church, NEEDS true ministers of God. Christ tells us that we are to pray: “…The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore PRAY the Lord of the harvest to SEND OUT laborers into His harvest” (Matthew 9:37-38).

Why the ministry? To help fulfill the job that God has given His Church to do. And what a great and awesome job it is!

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Halloween — the Feast of the Devil!

On October 15, 2004, CNN.com ran an interesting article regarding this year’s celebration of Halloween, as it falls on a Sunday. Many claim that Halloween, as a celebration for the devil, should not be kept on Sunday, the “Lord’s Day, the Day of Jesus,” but should be kept on Saturday, instead. The interesting fact is that Saturday, NOT Sunday, is the “Lord’s Day” (compare Mark 2:28), and that Halloween is recognized as Satan’s feast. We must ask: Why, in the world, would ANYONE want to celebrate Halloween, recognizing the fact of WHO is worshipped on that day? CNN reported:

“Across the Bible Belt this Halloween, some little ghosts and goblins might get shooed away by the neighbors — and some youngsters will not be allowed to go trick-or-treating at all — because the holiday falls on a Sunday this year. ‘It’s a day for the good Lord, not for the devil,’ said Barbara Braswell… Some towns around the country are decreeing that Halloween be celebrated on Saturday to avoid complaints from those who might be offended by the sight of demons and witches ringing their doorbell on the Sabbath… ‘You just don’t do it on Sunday,’ said Sandra Hulsey of Greenville, Georgia. ‘That’s Christ’s day. You go to church on Sunday, you don’t go out and celebrate the devil. That’ll confuse a child.'” At least for those true Christians and others, who refuse to celebrate Halloween, this debate might help them. As CNN stated: “With so many towns split over when Halloween should be celebrated, many are going with a porch-light compromise: If people do not want trick-or-treaters, they simply turn off their lights, and parents are asked not to have kids knock there.”

Halloween Madness

“According to the National Retail Federation’s (NRF) 2004 Halloween survey, total Halloween spending is estimated to grow 5.4 percent to 3.12 billion from $2.96 billion last year” (cnnmoney 10/16/04).

This article, appearing on CNN/Money’s web site continues with these astounding statistics: “The report said Halloween is the sixth-largest spending holiday of the year. The winter holidays top the list at $219.9 billion in sales followed by $12.79 billion spent on Valentine’s Day, $10.47 billion spent on Easter, $10.43 billion spent on Mother’s Day and $8.04 billion for Father’s Day.”

All of this is occurring in the United States. In this light consider the results of a Pew Research Center for the People & the Press survey report from December 19, 2002: “Religion is much more important to Americans than to people living in other wealthy nations. Six-in-ten (59%) people in the U.S. say religion plays a very important role in their lives. This is roughly twice the percentage of self-avowed religious people in Canada (30%), and an even higher proportion when compared with Japan and Western Europe” (www.people-press.org).

One must wonder at the commercialism of what passes for religion in America. God reveals that the modern descendants of Jacob’s birthright would indeed talk about religion: “‘Hear this, O house of Jacob, Who are called by the name of Israel, And have come forth from the wellsprings of Judah; Who swear by the name of the LORD, And make mention of the God of Israel, BUT NOT IN TRUTH OR IN RIGHTEOUSNESS'” (Isaiah 48:1).

You can find the Biblical truth of these practices and about what Christians should and should not observe in our free booklets: “God’s Commanded Holy Days,” and “Don’t Keep Christmas.” In addition, please note our comprehensive discussion on Halloween in the Q&A of Update #114, dated October 24, 2003. All of these are available at www.eternalgod.org.

God’s Word No Place in the EU?

On October 11, 2004, www.eubusiness.com reported about the EU’s rejection of “the nomination of the proposed new commissioner for justice because of his views on homosexuals.” The article explained: “The parliament’s civil liberties committee voted by 27 to 26 to reject the nomination of Italy’s Rocco Buttiglione, a devout Roman Catholic, as Justice, Security and Liberty commissioner in the new 25-member college that takes office at the end of this month. During confirmation hearings Buttiglione outraged some members of the parliament with his views on homosexuality, which he called ‘a sin’…”

Most shocking is the way in which this incident was reported. For instance, the German tabloid Bild castigated Buttiglione for having voiced such an antiquated view, stemming from the Middle Ages. German politicians were quoted as saying that such a viewpoint does not belong in today’s Europe. This might not be that surprising, as there are several high-ranking politicians in Germany, who are known to be homosexuals. In other words, what is being told to us is that God’s Word, the Bible, must be rejected and does not belong in today’s Europe. This is an interesting assessment, indeed!

Iran’s Missiles

On September 25, 2004, WorldNetDaily published a frightening report about the capacity of Iran’s nuclear missiles. The article stated: “Iran said today it has successfully test-fired a long-range ‘strategic missile’ and delivered it to its armed forces, saying it is now prepared to deal with any regional threats and even the ‘big powers.’ Iran’s new missiles can reach London, Paris, Berlin and southern Russia, according to weapons and intelligence analysts…. The news comes shortly after Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards staged military maneuvers near the border with Iraq, seen as a signal to Washington Tehran is prepared to fight back against any attempts to prevent the development of a nuclear reactor that could be used to make weapons-grade plutonium.”

How England’s Press Views Iraq

The British newspaper, The Week, published the following article on September 25:

“For once, Tony Blair is ‘telling the unvarnished truth,’ said the Daily Mail. We are indeed engaged in a horrific new conflict in Iraq. But if Iraq is now the ‘crucible’ of the war on terror, it is Blair who has helped make it so by joining America’s reckless invasion in the first place. Be that as it may, said The Independent, ‘Blair’s judgment is sound on one point’. This is not the time for anyone to ‘wobble’ over the election timetable. ‘Having so abysmally failed in our promises to bring peace to Iraq, the very least we can do now is stick to our pledge on elections.'”

The article continued: “If the coalition is to achieve that formidable task, said The Times, it will need all the help it can get from the U.N. To that end, Kofi Annan has not helped matters by ‘raking over the past with his highly debatable and essentially irrelevant comments about the legality of the intervention’. We should be looking forward, not back, said the Washington Post. In his relentlessly upbeat speech, he [President Bush] refused to admit to the worsening situation on the ground, still less give any clue as to how he proposes to respond to it. This ‘duck-and-cover’ strategy may play well politically, ‘but it is also deeply irresponsible and potentially dangerous.”

In a related article, the paper stated:

“Iraq: the warnings Blair ignored… A cache of secret documents, leaked to the Daily Telegraph last week, has revealed that some of Tony Blair’s closest advisors warned him repeatedly of the perils of invading Iraq… There was, after all, no real justification for it — as Peter Rickens, the Foreign Office policy director, bluntly informed Blair. ‘Even the best survey of Iraq’s WMD programmes will not show much advance in recent years,’ he wrote. ‘Military operations need clear and compelling objectives. For Iraq, ‘regime change’ does not stack up. It sounds like a grudge match between Bush and Saddam.’… ‘No one has satisfactorily answered how there can be any certainty that the replacement regime will be any better,’ [Foreign Secretary Jack Straw] warned. ‘Iraq has no history of democracy, so no one has this habit or experience.'”

Tony Blair in Trouble

The British newspaper, Daily Express, commented on October 8, 2004, on Tony Blair’s attempts to create an army in Africa. The paper stated: “Tony Blair was accused of ‘living on another planet’ yesterday when he committed the over-stretched British Army to new foreign missions. The Prime Minister pledged to put up to 1,500 troops on permanent standby to be raced into African war zones to ‘hold the fort’ for up to 210 days. They will form part of a European force ready to dash into trouble spots at 10 days’ notice. Mr Blair made the announcement in Addis Ababa.'”

In a related article, titled, “Blair’s African Absurdity,” the paper said: “Whenever Tony Blair is in trouble at home, as now, he slips into the role of world statesman. This time, he is trying to solve the problems of Africa… It all sounds so noble. But the number of soldiers involved is too small to make much difference in Africa. However this crazy plan will place an extra burden on our already under-manned and under-resourced British army, as well as putting more of our soldiers in mortal danger. Mr Blair’s meddling has involved us in many conflicts around the world but, he has cut it. Our army is already stretched to breaking. What would happen if more forces were needed in Iraq or if there was renewed unrest in Afghanistan or Northern Ireland? It is possible that an entirely new conflict not currently on the military’s radar could begin. Britain’s forces are too small for us to take on the role of world’s policeman.”

Rift Between Washington and Europe Widens

The Week reported on September 25: “Paris Snubs Washington. The rift between Washington and ‘old Europe’ widened still further last week when France and Belgium blocked an American plan to establish a Nato military academy in Iraq… [Reportedly] Germany and Spain backed the French stance. The move was widely seen as a strong signal to the US that it should not ask for more help from Nato to help control the violence in Iraq.”

In a series of related articles, the German weekly magazine, Focus, on October 11, 2004, addressed the issue of the widening rift between Washington and Europe, as well as within the United States, and asked the question whether an election of John Kerry as the next President would help or hurt the relationship between the two power blocs. The magazine stated:

“Both candidates exemplify the seemingly incurable rift within the American people. It is a rift that has polarized the people in the USA within the last two years into two political worlds. Rarely has a president divided the nation before so much as President Bush… Frightening questions loom at the horizon: Will Bush start additional wars, if he wins?… But if one thinks that Kerry is a dove, he is mistaken. ‘Iran and North Korea are more dangerous than ever before,’ he warns. ‘I don’t know yet whether we have to act in a preemptive manner, but I will keep my watchful eye on them.’ Contrary to Bush, Kerry wants to bring the traditional allies back on board.. Some of it is wishful thinking. France has clarified that they will not send troops to Iraq, even under Kerry [In the meantime, Germany has said the same.].”

In an interview with the magazine, former German Minister of Defense, Rudolf Sharping, stated that the relationship between the US and Germany might even get worse and more difficult under Kerry. The magazine pointed out that a German refusal to send troops to Iraq might be viewed by Washington, under Kerry’s leadership, as an even greater and more serious affront than under Bush.

The International Press on Putin

The Press in Great Britain, France, Russia and the United States condemned Putin’s recent “unambiguous step towards tyranny.” As The Week reported on September 25, “The Russians expected draconian action following the terrorist outrage in Beslam. And they got it, says… Le Monde (Paris), but not quite as they imagined… President Putin simply tightened his grip on power, ending the system of direct elections for regional governors and abolishing the first-past-the-post contents to Russia’s parliament… Even President Bush, who has praised Putin as an ally in the war on terror, was moved to protest at this undermining of democracy… Our would-be dictator has made his move, says… the Moscow Times… Of course Russia must take action to fight terrorism, says… The Washington Post. But the changes Putin has imposed aren’t directed at that: they’re an ‘unambiguous step towards tyranny.’ Bush was right to speak out against them; but he must go further, and put pressure on Putin to preserve democracy. ‘Did the US help undo Soviet Communism only to watch tyranny take its place?'”

Israel Fears Strong EU

Deutsche Welle reported on October 14, that Israel is concerned about a strong and powerful EU. The article, titled, “Israel Fears Strong EU,” stated: “A confidential report from the Israeli Foreign Ministry has predicted relations with the European Union could further deteriorate in [the] future, hitting Israel economically and diplomatically… The EU and Israel have been at loggerheads for months over the implementation of a Middle East peace plan and the construction of Israel’s security barrier. Israel also regards Europe as a bulwark of pro-Palestinian sentiment and has long complained of what it sees as growing anti-Semitism in Europe… The report also warns that influence over world politics by the US, Israel’s most important ally, could diminish as the EU’s role grows, German daily Berliner Zeitung reported on Thursday… Though Europe is Israel’s major trading partner, they have very definite differences of opinion over Mideast peacemaking. Earlier this week, EU foreign ministers criticized Israel’s use of force in Northern Gaza… In the security area, the EU is said to be considering a police mission on the ground to help train Palestinian security services in the event of an Israeli withdrawal [from Gaza in 2005], in co-ordination with the Egyptian government. ”

Beatification of Karl I

On October 3, 2004, MSNBC.com reported about the recent beatification of Austrian Emperor Karl I. The article pointed out: “Another newly beatified figure stirring controversy was Karl I, who led the Austro-Hungarian Empire in the final years of World War I. Also known in the West as Charles I, he took the throne in 1916 and worked for peace, abdicating at the end of the war, a few years before his death in 1922. Critics have said the Vatican had no business honoring a monarch who commanded troops who used poison gas in the conflict. The pope hailed Karl as a model ‘especially for those who have political responsibility in Europe today.'”

The article continued:

“John Paul declared Oct. 21, the date of Karl’s marriage in 1911 to Princess Zita, as Karl’s feast day. ‘He was a man of peace,’ said the Rev. Ivan Csete, a pastor of St. Thomas Aquinas Church in Forestburgh, N.Y., who rode to the ceremony in a city bus crowded with Hungarian students. ‘History would have been different had he succeeded in 1916’ in his efforts to end the war, added Csete, who said he fled his native Hungary after participating in the ill-fated 1956 uprising there against Communist rule…. The Vatican ruled that the required miracle for beatification included the recovery… of a Brazilian nun whose varicose veins were healed after she prayed to the monarch, who died in 1922. The church was ridiculed for the miracle it attributed to Karl’s intercession.”

In a related matter, Bild, on October 16, 2004, asked the surprising question whether Germany and Austria will return to a monarchy. The paper said: “Otto von Hapsburg (91), oldest son of the last Emperor of Austria [Karl I], stated to the TV station Phoenix that he perceives the possibility that Germany and Austria will once again embrace a monarchy.”

Cat Stevens a Terrorist?

In a bizarre development of events, Yusuf Islam, formerly known as the famous pop-singer Cat Stevens (“Morning Has Broken,” “Peace Train,”) was refused entry to the United States during the week of September 25. He was informed that he had been placed on a “watchlist for terrorists,” and that he was not allowed entry for reasons of security. The British citizen had been on a United Airlines flight from London to Washington. In mid-flight, the plane was diverted to Bangor airport, Maine, and, after a brief interview, Stevens was returned to Great Britain.

On September 30, 2004, the LA Times published the following letter from Cat Stevens, aka Yusuf Islam, introducing the same as follows: “Something Bad Has Begun.The former Cat Stevens says he hasn’t changed but the U.S. has.”

In the letter, Stevens wrote: “I was flying to Nashville last week with my 21-year-old daughter to explore some new musical ideas with a record label there. Ironically, I was trying to remain low-profile because of the speculation that it might have raised in the music world about a return of ‘the Cat.’ Media attention was the last thing I wanted. But it seems God wanted otherwise. Toward the end of our journey from London to Washington, the plane was diverted. The captain announced something about ‘heavy traffic.’ After landing in Bangor, Maine, six tall, blue-uniformed officers boarded and surrounded me and my daughter. ‘Is your name Yusuf Islam?’ they asked. ‘Yes,’ I confirmed. ‘Do you mind coming with us and answering a few questions?’

“At that point my heart stopped, and my daughter’s face turned aspirin-white. This was the start of the nightmare. Three FBI agents escorted me away from my daughter and asked me questions. At first, it sounded like they might have me mixed up with somebody else, as they repeated the spelling of my name. ‘No. Y-u-s-u-f,’ I carefully spelled out. The agents looked a bit puzzled. As they continued asking questions, some of their queries were obviously not related to me, so I thought this must be a matter of simple mistaken identity. Whether it was a mix-up or not remained unclear because they weren’t under any obligation to give me a reason; the green visa waiver form I had so neatly filled in earlier had effectively denied me any right to appeal or answers. It was only when an immigration official read out to me a legal reference number that he mentioned some implication with ‘terrorism’ — no further details necessary.

“The most upsetting thing was being separated from my daughter for 33 hours — not knowing how she was or when and where we might be united. Because my phone was confiscated, I couldn’t contact my family… Is this the same planet I’d taken off from? I was devastated. The unbelievable thing is that only two months earlier, I had been having meetings in Washington with top officials from the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives to talk about my charity work. Even further back, one month after the attack on the World Trade Center, I was in New York meeting Peter Gabriel and Hillary Rodham Clinton at the World Economic Forum! Had I changed that much? No. Actually, it’s the indiscriminate procedure of profiling that’s changed. I am a victim of an unjust and arbitrary system, hastily imposed, that serves only to belittle America’s image as a defender of the civil liberties that so many dearly struggled and died for over the centuries.

“Need I say that any form of terrorism or violence is the antithesis of everything I love and stand for? Anyone who knows me will attest to this. I have spent my life in the search for peace and understanding, and that was mirrored clearly in my music. Since becoming a Muslim, I have devoted my life to education, charity and helping children around the world. Consistently I have condemned the attacks of 9/11, stating that the slaughter of innocents, the taking of hostages and coldblooded killing of women and children have nothing do with the teachings of Islam. I’ve openly and publicly repudiated the actions of groups that resort to such acts of inhumanity — whatever their names. Any allegations to the contrary are fabricated. The Koran equates the murder of one innocent person with the murder of all of humanity.

“Ever since I embraced Islam in 1977, people have regularly tried to link me with things I have nothing to do with. Take the Salman Rushdie case as an example, or the regurgitating of the accusation that I support groups like Hamas. I am a man of peace, and I denounce all forms of terrorism and injustice; it is simply outrageous for anyone to suggest otherwise. The fact that I have sympathy for ordinary people in the world who are suffering from occupation, tyranny, poverty or war is human and has nothing to do with politics or terrorism.

“Thank God my daughter and I were relieved of our ordeal and delivered home safely. I also thank all those who prayed for me and supported me through this dark episode; I have never harbored any ill will toward people of God’s great Earth anywhere — and wish the reverse was also true.”

Since then, Cat Stevens has tried to have his name removed from the watch list, and he has asked for an explanation as to how he ever got on the list. It has not been reported, so far, whether his attempts have been successful.

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What does the Bible say about cremation as opposed to burial? Is it proper for a Christian to practice the ritual of cremation?

Originally, the Church under Mr. Herbert Armstrong was not sympathetic towards cremation as a form of burial, as there doesn’t seem to be any Biblical examples, as will be explained herein, where holy people of God actually chose this method of burial. The Church later, under Mr. Armstrong, changed its stance on the matter, realizing that the form of burial today differs from the form used in Biblical times. Cremation was not known in Biblical times, as it is known today. In ancient times, one would have only had a funeral pyre which did not burn bone, but only tissue. The bones would still need to be buried much in the same way as the body, making the procedure rather pointless. Today, we only have the ashes in a small container which then can be “buried” in a vault or in the ground, if so desired. In addition, the Church rightly concluded that it is not a matter of salvation. In certain instances, cremation might be the only kind of burial which some families can afford. On the other hand, we must be careful that we do not unnecessarily offend family members and friends who might be conscientiously opposed to cremation.

Much is said in the Holy Scriptures concerning the disposition of a body after death. Solomon wrote these poignant words in the Book of Ecclesiastes, Chapter six: “If a man begets a hundred children and lives many years, so that the days of his years are many, but his soul is not satisfied with goodness, or indeed he has no burial, I say, that a stillborn child is better than he” (Ecclesiastes 6:3).

In the book of Deuteronomy, God commanded His people Israel: “If a man has committed a sin worthy of death, and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, his body shall not remain overnight on the tree, but you shall surely bury him that day, so that you do not defile the land which the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance; for he who is hanged is accursed of God” (Deuteronomy 21:22-23).

Even in such a case, unless God pronounced a specific curse on an individual or nation because of their abominations, He required their burial in the ground to be in an expedient manner.

In one case where God was extremely angry with certain people because of their gross disobedience to His Way, He inspired Jeremiah to write out what God said to him concerning these matters, in Jeremiah Chapter 16: “The word of the Lord also came to Jeremiah, saying, ‘.concerning the sons and daughters who are born in this place, and concerning their mothers who bore them and their fathers who begot them in this land; They shall die gruesome deaths; they shall not be lamented nor shall they be buried, but they shall be like refuse on the face of the earth.’ For thus says the Lord: ‘Do not enter the house of mourning, nor go to lament or bemoan them; for I have taken away My peace from this people’ says the Lord, ‘lovingkindness and mercies. Both the great and the small shall die in this land. They shall not be buried; neither shall men lament for them . Nor shall men break bread in mourning for them, to comfort them.'” (Jeremiah16:1, 3-7).

In the case cited above, God was angry because of the evils being performed by these people in their disobedience to His commands. The curse He pronounced upon them was in the form of their not being allowed to bury their dead.

A proper burial was a blessing from God and according to the New Bible Dictionary (page 171), the “Lack of proper burial was a great misfortune,” pointing to 1 Kings 13:22, which says, “‘but you came back, ate bread and drank water in the place of which the Lord said to you, “eat no bread and drink no water,” your corpse shall not come to the tomb of your fathers.'”

“It was customary for successive generations to be buried in the family tomb; thus Sarah, (Gen 23:19); Abraham (Gen 25:9); Isaac and Rebekah, Leah (Gen 49:31); and Jacob (Gen 50:13) were all buried in the caves of Machpelah, east of Hebron. Individual burial was sometimes necessitated by death at a distance from the family tombs; so Deborah, Rebekah’s nurse, was buried near Bethel (Gen 35:8) and Rachel on the road to Ephrath (Gen 35:19, 20), their tombs being marked by an oak and a pillar respectively” (page 170).

Again, according to the New Bible Dictionary (page 172), “Jewish practices in New Testament times differed little from those described in the Old Testament . The corpse was washed (Acts 9:37); it was then anointed (Mark 16:1), wrapped in linen garments with spices enclosed (John 19:40), and finally the limbs were bound and the face covered with a napkin (John 11:44).

The discussion continues by stating that “Cremation was never a Jewish practice .” (Page 172). We need to add, here, that neither the use of coffins during burials, as is customary today, was a Jewish practice.

According to Unger’s Bible Dictionary (Page 158), “Interment in Bible times followed soon after death, as is evident in the narration of the burial of Sarah (Gen 23:1-20), Rachel (Gen 35:19, 20), and Rebekah’s nurse (Gen 35:8). The Hebrews did not normally cremate, as in the case of Saul and his sons (1 Samuel 31:11-13). Neither did they generally use coffins or embalm. Joseph’s burial in a coffin (Gen 50:26) and his being embalmed, as was his father, Jacob (Gen 50:2, 3) are to be explained as due to His eminent position and station in the land of the Nile.”

Whether or not the fact that Jacob and Joseph were embalmed was due to their eminent position and station, we point out that the Bible does not condemn them for using this procedure.

Moses, a faithful servant of the Lord, was apparently buried by the Lord Himself, or by His angel, in the land of Moab. You can read of the account of this event in the last book of Deuteronomy: “So Moses the servant of the Lord died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the Lord. And He buried him in a valley in the land of Moab, opposite Beth Peor; but no one knows his grave to this day” (Deuteronomy 34:5-6).

The evidence is, in most cases, people called of God whom we are familiar with in the Bible, where they had a choice, chose burial as the method of disposing of their bodies upon death – Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, Deborah, Leah, David, Solomon, Job, Lazarus, Stephen, and many others, plus, of course, the greatest example of all, Jesus Christ. It is true that they did not choose cremation or the use of coffins, as commonly used today in our Western society.

Does this mean that anyone not buried according to the ancient Jewish and New Testament custom, but embalmed, placed in coffins, or cremated and the ashes placed in a container or vault, or being scattered or dispersed into the ocean, has lost his or her opportunity in the first resurrection? What about those lost at sea, eaten by fish or wild animals? What about those who were, or will be, evaporated during atomic blasts or nuclear holocausts? Have these lost their opportunity for salvation?

No, absolutely not! We have a gracious and all-powerful God Whom we look to in these matters. He has all power and the ability to resurrect any He chooses. And He is faithful to those who are faithful to His way in this life.

Jacob was embalmed according to the customs of the Egyptians. Yet the Scriptures tell us that Jacob will sit with Abraham and Isaac in the Kingdom of God (Luke 13:28). Joseph, a man of God, was also embalmed according to the customs of that day in the land he was in (Genesis 50:26). Jonathan, son of Saul, was cremated and his bones and ashes buried (1 Samuel 31:11-13). There were others who were martyred in their efforts to observe this Way and received no burial. No matter the final state of a person’s physical remains, whether ashes, dust, or whatever trauma they may have encountered, the promise to the faithful in this Way, will be in the first resurrection (Acts 24:15; Revelation 20:4).

Upon final analysis, God will look upon the way we live our lives based upon the knowledge we have and upon those criteria, we will be judged based on what we do in this life (Matthew 16:27; Romans 2:6; 1 Corinthians 3:8).

In our last Q&A on “Fruit Trees” (Update #163), the last two paragraphs of the Answer were inadvertently omitted. The complete Q&A has been posted, as part of Update #163, on our Webpage (www.eternalgod.org).

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