Update 165


The Road Ahead

On Saturday, October 30, 2004, Dave Harris will be giving the sermon, titled, “The Road Ahead.”

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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Will You Rule With Jesus Christ?

by Edwin Pope

The previous Editorial written by this author was entitled “Choose Righteously!” That Editorial addressed the necessity of living our lives righteously. But what is the ultimate objective of God in His requirement of our making right decisions? We have just completed our observance of the Feast of Tabernacles for 2004. We previewed once again, according to God’s instructions, the wonderful world which will soon be established on this earth — 1,000 years of perfect rulership by Christ and those who qualify to rule under Him, during this coming Millennium — and a subsequent 100 year period, called the Great White Throne Judgment. During that time all who have ever lived without knowing God’s Truth, will have an opportunity to choose to live their lives according to God’s Way — to live righteously!

But who will do the ruling? And how will they rule?

While only a handful of this world’s population kept the Feast of Tabernacles this year according to the commandment, we are told in Zechariah 14:16-19 that all peoples of the earth at the beginning of the Millennium will go up to worship God and to keep His Feast at the appointed time! All will be taught the Truth of God’s Way and He will enforce the obedience to that Way throughout the world! In Revelation 2:26-27 Christ tells us that: “…he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him will be given power over the nations.” And that “He (this one who keeps His works) will rule over them with a rod of iron.” (Notice in the KJV that this “he” is not capitalized, thus showing the translator’s understanding that this refers to the one who overcomes). Christ shows that He also received such authority from the Father (verse 27).

But what is this “rod of iron” with which those who overcome will rule? A rod in the hand of a ruler is also referred to as a scepter — a symbol of one’s authority. To give one a scepter is to vest in such a one the authority to rule. A king over a nation will carry such a symbol of his authority. What does God reveal to us about this in Hebrews 1:8? Notice: “But to the Son He says: ‘Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your Kingdom.'” Yes, Jesus Christ will rule the nations with a scepter of righteousness! And if we have qualified to rule with Him, we will rule with that same scepter of righteousness.

In Proverbs 29:2 we read: “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice; but when a wicked man rules, the people groan.” Isaiah prophesies that: “…a king will reign in righteousness, and princes will rule with justice” (Isaiah 32:1). In Isaiah 30:20-21 we are told: “…though the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, Yet your teachers will not be moved into a corner anymore, But your eyes shall see your teachers. Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it,’ Whenever you turn to the right hand Or whenever you turn to the left.” They will rule according to Psalms 111:7-8 (KJV), which reveals: “…All His commandments are sure. They stand fast for ever and ever…” And Isaiah 11:9 adds: “The earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord.” Daniel tells us that: “…the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever, even forever and ever” (Daniel 7:18). Verse 27 reveals: “Then the kingdom and dominion, And the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven, Shall be given to the people, the saints of the Most High. His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, And all dominions shall serve and obey Him.”

Christ discussed our future as He taught His disciples while on the earth. In Luke 22:29-30 He said: “And I bestow upon you a kingdom, just as My Father bestowed one upon Me, that you may eat and drink at My table in My Kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. Paul, in 1 Corinthians 6:2, asked of those of the Church in Corinth: “Do you not know that the saints will rule the world?” And John, speaking to the seven churches in Asia, stated that Jesus Christ: “…has made us kings and priests to His God and Father…” In Revelation 22:12, Christ states: “…I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work.”

This Feast which we have just observed was a wonderful blessing to those who have remained faithful to God or who are being drawn to God at this time, and who observed the festival as God has commanded. It spoke to us of this soon coming Kingdom and the wonderful opportunity we will have if we continue in this Way and are faithful to Him; to His commandments, statutes and judgments, whereby He continues to rule. If we are faithful, we will have a part in ruling with Jesus Christ with the “rod of iron” with which He will rule, to establish the righteousness of God’s Way of Life!

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Germany’s Economic Interests

On October 18, 2004, Spiegel Online reported: “Chancellor Gerhard Schröder is hurriedly redefining the priorities in German foreign policy. Human rights have become a subordinate issue, business is the way to maintain influence. First Turkey, then China and most recently Libya — what started off as a vague outline is now assuming concrete shape: an about-face in German foreign policy. Instead: the focus lies on promoting German economic interests. The new strategy does not only include the demand for a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council; the portfolio also comprises a new attitude towards German arms exports and overall a more relaxed approach to Germany’s own interests.”

In a related article, Associated Press reported on October 26, 2004: “The euro hit an eight-month high against the U.S. dollar on Tuesday, with fears over high oil prices weighing on the greenback. The euro traded at $1.2841 Tuesday morning, the highest since a record of $1.2927 on Feb. 18 – the peak since the shared currency came into existence in 1999.”

The Bible reveals that in the very last days, a United States of Europe under German leadership will emerge. This power bloc is prophesied to be very strong politically, economically and militarily. Revelation 18, in particular, describes the enormous and wide-ranging economic influence of this soon-coming power bloc.

The U.S. Presidential Elections and Germany

On October 26, 2004, the German mass tabloid, Bild, has become the first — and so far, the only European newspaper or magazine that endorsed an American candidate as president. Under the headline, “Why George Bush Is the Better President,” the tabloid listed 10 reasons for its endorsement, as follows: (1) Bush’s priorities are clear — he views Islamic fundamentalism as the greatest danger in the world; (2) Bush has learned the lessons from history — that one must fight with military strength against fanatics; (3) Under Bush, mostly the US will carry the costs and responsibility in the “Holy War” against Islamic fundamentalists; (4) Bush will do everything to prevent that new nuclear powers develop; (5) Bush will seek international cooperation, without being dependent on Syria or Iran; (6) Bush knows that Europe has no means of helping the U.S. militarily and won’t therefore ask for their help; (7) Under Bush, America will be a reliable partner of Israel; (8) Bush will support free trade; (9) Bush made mistakes, from which he learned; and (10) We know what to expect from Bush.

Der Spiegel speculated what Bild is trying to accomplish, given the fact that Germans don’t vote in American elections, and that, according to the poll by the weekly, Der Stern, 75% of Germans are favoring John Kerry as the next President. Could it be that Bild, on behalf of Germany, wants to tell Bush that not all Germans are against him, should he be re-elected?

Churches and the IRS

Tax-exempt churches and religious organizations must be careful that they don’t violate IRS regulations, when they are tempted to endorse a political candidate for the U.S. Presidency. As WorldNetDaily reported on October 28, 2004, “In a letter of clarification requested by a traveling minister, the Internal Revenue Service has declared people gathered in tax-exempt churches can’t pray for President Bush to win the election on Tuesday.” In addition, the Pittsburgh Tribune reported on October 27, 2004, that “A watchdog group [Americans United] that pushes separation of church and state claims that ministers at churches in Pennsylvania and Ohio are abusing their tax-exempt status by supporting Democrat presidential candidate John Kerry from their pulpits. Under the Internal Revenue Service code regulating tax-exempt organizations, churches can be cited for a violation if they endorse political candidates… Americans United says churches that support or oppose a candidate may face an IRS audit, fines and loss of tax-exempt status.”

More Money for War

On October 26, 2004, the Washington Post reported: “The Bush administration intends to seek about $70 billion in emergency funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan early next year, pushing total war costs close to $225 billion since the invasion of Iraq early last year, Pentagon and congressional officials said yesterday… In making cost estimates for the supplemental budget request, Pentagon officials have distanced themselves from the Bush administration’s public optimism about trends in Iraq. Instead, they make the fairly pessimistic assumption that about as many troops will be needed there next year as are currently on the ground… Yale University economist William D. Nordhaus estimated that in inflation-adjusted terms, World War I cost just under $200 billion for the United States. The Vietnam War cost about $500 billion from 1964 to 1972, Nordhaus said. The cost of the Iraq war could reach nearly half that number by next fall, 2 1/2 years after it began.”

What a world it will be, when all nations recognize the futility of war and when they, as prophesied in Isaiah 2:4, “beat their swords into plowshares, And their spears into pruning hooks; Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, Neither shall they learn war anymore.”

Murder Rate High in the U.S.

On October 25, 2004, Associated Press stated: “After reaching a low point in 1999 of about 15,500 homicides, the number has crept up steadily since then to more than 16,500 in 2003 – or almost six murders for every 100,000 U.S. residents… James Alan Fox, criminal justice professor at Northeastern University, said the recent rise in murders is partly traceable to an upsurge in urban youth gang violence. The FBI report indicates there were 819 juvenile gang killings last year, compared with 580 in 1999… The report showed more than two-thirds of last year’s murders were committed with a firearm, roughly the same portion as every year since 1999.”

Especially young people are growing up with violence and without hope for the future. Easy access to firearms is a terrible indictment against a society which is unable to control its fears and to eradicate capital crime, such as murder.

Biological Weapons Biggest Threat

On October 26, 2004, thescotsman.scotsman.com reported: “The threat posed to the world by biological weapons is now far greater than that from nuclear and chemical because of the ‘riotous’ development in biotechnology, a leading scientist [Professor Malcolm Dando, the head of Peace Studies at Bradford University] has warned. He said if nothing is done, bio-weapons technology could be harnessed by terrorists to target specific ethnic groups to release devastating diseases, such as the 1918 Spanish flu. Among the biological weapons with the potential to wreak havoc are genetically engineered anthrax and a synthetic version of the polio virus.”

Halloween, Witchcraft, All Saints and Guy Fawkes Days

On October 27, MSNBS reported about Halloween and its connection with witchcraft, All Saints Day and Guy Fawkes Day:

“Over the weekend, millions worldwide will adorn a witch’s hat, cape, and broom or some other outlandish garb, but how do real witches celebrate Halloween? And where did the holiday originate?… The Catholic observance of ‘All Hallows Day’ — or ‘All Saints Day’ — now lends its name to the occasion. But, the holiday is actually rooted in a harvest festival first celebrated around five centuries before the birth of Christ by the Celts who lived in what are now Ireland, Britain, and northern France. The Celtic summer officially ended on the last day of October and the New Year, called Samhain (pronounced Sow-en), began on the first of November. On the night between years, the Celts believed that the living and the dead could interact with each other. And most modern-day witches believe they can too…

“While the modern American version of Halloween — which has recently been exported back to Britain — is a potluck of Celtic, Roman, and Christian tradition, heavily infused with its own commercial traits, practitioners of witchcraft relate more closely to the original celebration of Samhain… Until 1951, witchcraft was illegal in Britain. Since then, the ancient religion has crept out of the occult and into the mainstream… Although Halloween has its origins in Celtic Britain, until recently the holiday was largely celebrated here in unison with Guy Fawkes Day — the Nov. 5 anniversary of a conspiracy to blow up the English Parliament and King James in 1605… From Britain’s most haunted city of Exeter to its mysterious stone circles, thousands of witches and pagans will be gathering to commune with the dead this Oct. 31.”

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Recently, another Church organization claimed in an article that circumcision, as given by God to Abraham and ancient Israel, is a health law that is still in force and effect today. Is this your understanding, too?

This is clearly not our understanding! In fact, such a teaching would totally misrepresent and ignore what God is saying about circumcision.

As we explain in our free booklet, “And Lawlessness Will Abound…”, God gave man timeless physical and spiritual laws, including health laws, as well as temporary ritual laws, which had a passing and time-related purpose. For instance, God told man that certain animal food is good to eat, while other animals are not fit for consumption (Leviticus 11; Deuteronomy 14). These are health laws, given for the good of man, which are still in effect today. In fact, they will still be in effect at the time of Christ’s return (compare Isaiah 66:16-17).

The law of circumcision was clearly not a timeless health law, but a temporary ritual law. We should, first of all, consider why God commanded circumcision. God commanded the practice of circumcision as a sign of the covenant (Romans 4:11; Genesis 17:11), which God made with Abraham and his descendants, along with any who would want to come under the same covenant of promise. At the same time, circumcision constituted itself a covenant (Acts 7:8). But circumcision was not to be understood as a timeless health law. The reason is that the law of physical circumcision only came into effect long after the creation of man, and that it is no longer required today. If it were a health law, then it should have been in effect from the time of man’s creation, and God would still require it today, as He would not deprive man of something that is good for him.

In some regions of the world, including the state of Israel, parts of the Middle East, and the USA, circumcision is still popular and it is being practiced by some or many. In other parts of the world, for instance in Europe, circumcision is mostly ignored. Some claim that circumcision has beneficial physical effects; for instance, that it reduces the risk of urine infection; lowers the risk of cancer of the penis; or protects women, married to circumcised men, from cervical cancer. Those claims are by no means undisputed — and the same results can be achieved, in any event, by proper hygiene and cleaning. In fact, there exist today two streams of scientific medical schools, which either advocate or speak against the wisdom of physical circumcision.

It is clear to us that God would not have asked Abraham and ancient Israel to become circumcised, if this procedure had been harmful to them, and if it had produced medical side-effects. At the same time, we must emphasize that God did NOT give this law as a health law. It was strictly a temporary ritual law, such as the laws of sacrifices and washings.

IF circumcision were a health law, why did God conceal the knowledge of the same from those who lived prior to Abraham, including righteous people such as Abel, Enoch or Noah? There is no hint that they practiced circumcision — but this does not mean that they thereby violated any health law. The same is true for righteous Abraham, BEFORE God asked him to get circumcised, at the age of 99 (Genesis 17:1, 24), and to circumcise his son Ishmael at the age of 13 (Genesis 17:24) and newborn sons on the eighth day (Genesis 17:12), in addition to all the men of Abraham’s household (Genesis 17:27).

We also read that Paul taught the Gentiles, who wanted to become Christians, that they did not have to become circumcised. IF circumcision were a health law, Paul would have taught them to violate and break one of God’s timeless physical health laws. This very concept, that Paul would have taught this, is preposterous.

Notice Paul’s teaching in Galatians 5:1-3:

“Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. Indeed, I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing. And I testify again to every man who becomes uncircumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law” — including all of the other rituals and sacrifices, which were likewise abolished at the time of Christ’s death.

In fact, as Acts 15 reports, a big controversy arose in the early Church over the issue of circumcision (Acts 15:5). Some felt that Gentiles had to get circumcised to become part of the body of Christ. We see that this question had nothing whatever to do with whether circumcision was a health law — that thought did not seem to have even entered the minds of the advocates of circumcision — but, as mentioned before, it had to do with an outward sign (Genesis 17:11; Romans 4:11) of the “covenant of circumcision” (Acts 7:8). The apostles and elders agreed, however, that circumcision was not required for Gentiles, in order to become a part of the Church. Note Peter’s clear response to the advocates of circumcision: “Now, therefore, why do you test God by putting a yoke [the yoke of bondage, referred to by Paul in Galatians 5:1] on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?” (Acts 15:11).

In Ephesians 2:11-15, Paul explains again that uncircumcised Gentiles can become part of the “commonwealth” of spiritual Israel — the Church — without having to be first physically circumcised. (At the same time, the Bible teaches that the heart of a converted, baptized person is spiritually circumcised, compare Colossians 2:11; Deuteronomy 10:16; Jeremiah 4:4; 9:25-26). Therefore, the law of circumcision never was a physical health law, nor was it ever intended to be understood as one. It was a ritual law that served a purpose from Abraham until the time, when Christ died for man.

This is the reason why Paul tells us, in 1 Corinthians 7:18-19: “Was anyone called while circumcised? Let him not become uncircumcised. Was anyone called while uncircumcised? Let him not be circumcised. Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing, but keeping the commandments of God is what matters.” Notice, too, Romans 2:28-29: “For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly [i.e., by being circumcised, verse 27], nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.” Finally, notice Galatians 6:15: “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation.”

Whether parents decide to have their son(s) circumcised or not, is a matter of individual choice. We neither advocate nor condemn the practice, as long as it is not done with the erroneous belief that it is required today, either from a spiritual or a physical standpoint. Circumcision must not be practiced, if one believes one can become justified thereby (in that case, Christ will profit him nothing, compare Galatians 5:2), and it would be a misconception if it is practiced in erroneous compliance with the belief in a time-less godly “health law” for man.

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Preaching the Gospel & Feeding the Flock

A new member letter was sent out this week, showing from the Bible that the Church of God has an ongoing duty to preach the gospel as a witness into all the world. You can find the member letter at “Letters to the Brethren.”

We received the following note from the Philippines: “Thanks for the booklets. By next week we’re going to photocopy all your booklets for distribution in our area.”

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How This Work is Financed

This Update is an official publication by the ministry of the Church of the Eternal God in the United States of America; the Church of God, a Christian Fellowship in Canada; and the Global Church of God in the United Kingdom.

Editorial Team: Norbert Link, Dave Harris, Rene Messier, Brian Gale, Margaret Adair, Johanna Link, Eric Rank, Michael Link, Anna Link, Kalon Mitchell, Manuela Mitchell, Dawn Thompson

Technical Team: Eric Rank, Shana Rank

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While we do not solicit the general public for funds, contributions are gratefully welcomed and are tax-deductible in the U.S. and Canada.

Donations should be sent to the following addresses:

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