Update 175


Your Relationship with God, Part 5

On Saturday, January 8, 2005, J. Edwin Pope will give the sermon, concluding his series on “Your Relationship with God.”

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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The Beginning of Sorrows

by Rene Messier (Canada)

The year 2004 was quite an interesting one in regard to pre-Tribulation events spoken of by Christ for the end-time. We experienced flooding in the Philippines, droughts in parts of the United States and Africa, starvation and genocide in the Sudan, hurricanes in Florida, earthquakes in diverse places, and — to top off the year — a huge earthquake and subsequent tsunamis causing over 150,000 fatalities in South-East Asia. We also heard of continual conflicts, terrorist attacks and bombings in Israel, Iraq, and other parts of the world.

What can we expect for 2005? Unfortunately, more of the same, according to what the Bible says, and possibly even in increasing and progressively worse proportions, as we approach the final stages of Satan’s rule over this earth.

We must always bear in mind the truth and reality that Satan is the present ruler over this world. As outlined in Matthew 4:8-9, Satan offered the kingdoms of this world to Christ, if He would bow down and worship him. He could not have offered them to Christ, if they were not his to give. You will notice that Christ did not challenge this issue. We also know that Satan deceives the whole world (Revelation 12:9) — that is the reason why most don’t recognize the fact about who really rules over this earth.

Unfortunately, all those curses which we experienced in 2004 are the result of disobedience to God and His laws. They are the direct result of sin.

The recent earthquake in Asia is nothing compared to what we will encounter going forward. Yet, man’s general attitude will continue to be one of defiance. Let us notice this prophecy in Revelation 6:12-14: “I looked when he opened the sixth seal, and behold, there was a great earthquake… Then the sky receded as a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island was moved out of its place.”

It is hard for us to imagine the magnitude of an earthquake that will move every mountain and island out of its place. Still, we don’t find that man will repent. Rather, they will try to hide themselves from God (verses 15-16), as Adam and Eve tried to do, after they had sinned.

Further events are described in Revelation 16:18-21, talking about another great earthquake; in fact, it will be such “a mighty and great earthquake as had not occurred since men were on the earth” (verse 18). We read that “the great city [modern Babylon or Rome] was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell” (verse 19). In addition, “every island fled away, and the mountains were not found” (verse 20). This unprecedented earthquake will be so powerful that islands will disappear and great mountains will become small hills. We cannot really imagine such an event. In addition, we are told that “great hail from heaven fell upon men” (verse 21). Still, man won’t repent. Rather, we read in the same verse that “Men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail, since the plague was exceedingly great.”

However, we do read, in Revelation 11:13, about another “great earthquake, and a tenth of the city [of Jerusalem] fell. In the earthquake seven thousand people were killed, and the rest were afraid and gave glory to the God of heaven.” While most people won’t repent, some will, as these terrible tragedies continue to strike.

Christ told us that these things, which we are experiencing right now, are just the “beginning of sorrows” (Matthew 24:8). It will get much worse. It is critical that we are maintaining a close relationship with God, so that we can be protected by Him in the years ahead.

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Death Toll in Asian Catastrophe

Some American news programs, such as CNN, have consistently understated the official death toll of the terrible tragedy in Asia. When the German news already announced during the last week of December that the death toll was, at that time, over 100,000, CNN still stated that it was under 80,000. On December 30, 2004, CNN gave the official figure as 118,000, while the official toll was, at that time, at least 125,000, according to the Drudge Report. Quoting from “My Way,” it was stated: “Asia’s tsunami death toll soared above 125,000 on Thursday as millions scrambled for food and clean water and rumors of new giant waves sent many fleeing inland in panic. Aid agencies warned many more, from Indonesia to Sri Lanka, could die in epidemics.”

By now, the official death toll stands at 155,000. However, the real figures are, without any doubt, astronomically higher.

Bernama.com reported that the death toll “in Acheh, the region worst hit by last Sunday’s tsunami, may exceed 400,000 (!) as many affected areas could still not be reached for search and rescue operations, Indonesia’s Ambassador to Malaysia… said Thursday.”

The Times of India reported that “there are indications that the number of dead projected by authorities is way below the reality.”

The Los Angeles Times reported on December 31, 2004:

“As the toll from this week’s earthquake and tsunami in Asia continues to climb, the certainty about how many people have died is another casualty of the disaster. With entire villages swallowed by the sea and beach dwellers swept away along thousands of miles of coastline, hundreds or thousands of people have disappeared with no one left behind to report them missing. To prevent disease, bodies are being bulldozed into mass graves before they have been identified. Many of the corpses still unburied four days after the tsunami no longer are recognizable… In Sri Lanka, Muslim officials tried to bury the dead within a day in accordance with Islamic tradition, before the official count started. In Indonesia’s Aceh province, corpses were scooped into mass graves before pictures could be taken. Officials simply guessed how many could fit into each pit. In many places, there had never been a census, so without knowing how many people had lived there, authorities can only estimate how many may have died.”

AFP also just announced that “India’s last active volcano… has erupted in the aftermath of the huge earthquake,” and that people “have been evacuated from Barren Island since the eruption begun.”

Religious Beliefs and Superstitions

Regarding the religiously-motivated reactions to the terrible disaster in Asia, the differences could not be greater. As was reported by washingtonpost.com on December 31, 2004, “people of different faiths search for meaning.” The article was titled, “Seeking the hand of God in the waters.” It was pointed out:

“In a world of Muslims and Christians and Jews and Hindus and Buddhists, with the disaster in South Asia so far claiming more than 110,000 lives [by now in excess of 155,000] — many of them children — folks all over the world, in all places of worship, are pondering similar questions… Shlomo Amar, Israel’s Sephardi chief rabbi, has said, ‘This is an expression of God’s great ire with the world. The world is being punished for wrongdoing — be it people’s needless hatred of each other, lack of charity, moral turpitude.’ Some organizations in India say the tsunami is ‘divine retribution’ for the arrest of Jayendra Saraswati, a Hindu religious leader….

“On his Web site Watch.org, Bill Koenig writes: ‘The Biblical proportions of this disaster become clearly apparent upon reports of miraculous Christian survival. Christian persecution in these countries is some of the worst in the world.’ Eight of the 12 countries hit — Malaysia, Burma, Bangladesh, Somalia, Maldives, Sri Lanka, India and Indonesia, he says — ‘are among the top 50 nations who persecute Christians.’… Sutadhara Tapovanaye, a Buddhist monk for 38 of his 48 years, tries to explain it differently. This, he says, is a part of life, the dynamics of nature, an always-changing world… Martin E. Marty, professor emeritus of religious history at the University of Chicago, has… been an ordained Lutheran minister since 1952. ‘It’s only natural to repose yourself in the will of God,’ he says. ‘If you’re a believer, then you must believe that God, somehow, is a presence in all of this. But God didn’t tell anybody that you go through life without disasters.'”

None of these comments give comprehensive answers. Nor does the opinion of the Archbishop of Canterbury, who admitted, according to an article of the news.telegraph.com.uk of January 2, 2005: “This makes me doubt the existence of God.” The article stated: “The Asian tsunami disaster should make all Christians question the existence of God, Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, writes in The Telegraph today…. Dr Williams, who, as head of the Church of England, represents 70 million Anglicans around the world…, adds: ‘The question, “How can you believe in a God who permits suffering on this scale?” is therefore very much around at the moment, and it would be surprising if it weren’t – indeed it would be wrong if it weren’t.'”

For a full explanation as to the real REASONS for this terrible disaster, please read our previous Update (#174), and listen to Dave Harris’ sermon, “Not of This World,” as well as to our StandingWatch program on the topic.

Sadly, this world is in utter spiritual darkness! True UNDERSTANDING is needed as never before.

Ratzinger the Next Pope?

Time Magazine published a remarkable article on January 2, 2005, titled, “Rome’s Next Choice?” The article stated:

“Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, the chief architect of Pope John Paul II’s traditionalist moral policy, has long been a bugaboo for liberal Catholics. But they had stopped worrying that the German might one day ascend to St. Peter’s throne. His hard-line views and blunt approach had earned him the epithet of panzerkardinal and too many enemies. Well, their worrying may now resume. Sources in Rome tell TIME that Ratzinger has re-emerged as the top papal candidate within the Vatican hierarchy…

“There are no immediate signs that John Paul’s health has taken a turn for the worse, and he has publicly ruled out becoming the first Pope in eight centuries to retire voluntarily. But as his long papacy grows ever longer, some feel the next conclave will seek a shorter-term ‘transitional’ figure. Ratzinger, 77, may fill that bill. His doctrinaire ways have been tempered of late by a deft and more pragmatic approach to issues such as rising Western secularism and Islamic fundamentalism. During the recent U.S. controversy about giving Communion to pro-choice candidates, Ratzinger authored a careful letter to American bishops reasserting the Vatican’s antiabortion stance without dragging the Holy See into election-year theatrics. ‘There was a stigma,’ said the Vatican official of Ratzinger. ‘He rises above that now.'”

The New York Post added on January 3, 2005, that Ratzinger, a “hard-nosed German cardinal known as the ‘Panzerkardinal’ has re-emerged as a front-runner to become the next pope.”

Cardinal Ratzinger has already been, according to some commentators, the most influential personality in the Vatican. He is certainly a person to take note of. IF he should become the next pope, he might or might not turn out to be just a “transitional” figure.

The Catholic Church and the Jews

As the Associated Press reported on January 2, 2005, “A document that surfaced recently has revived debate about the Vatican’s attempt to keep control over some Jewish children protected from Nazis by Christian families. The 1946 circular apparently instructed French church authorities that Jewish children baptized as Roman Catholics, for safety or other reasons, should remain in the church — even if that meant not returning them to their own families once the Nazi occupation ended.”

The article continued: “The document, published last week in Italy’s Corriere della Sera newspaper, caused a stir for its tough, clear wording… One Jewish leader called the letter ‘horrible.’ ‘It’s a dry, bureaucratic document, which has no feeling for the Holocaust, I’m sorry to say,’ Amos Luzzatto, president of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities, told the Apcom news agency. The one-page document, dated Oct. 23, 1946, advised French church authorities on how to handle information requests from Jewish officials, asking them not to put anything in writing.’ Children who have been baptized must not be entrusted to institutions that cannot ensure their Christian education,’ says a copy of the French-language letter obtained by The Associated Press. One of the letter’s most jarring lines says that children whose families survived the Holocaust should be returned, ‘as long as they had not been baptized.’

“That stance on baptism predated the Holocaust by nearly a century. In 1858, papal guards took a 6-year-old Jewish boy named Edgardo Mortara from his family in Bologna, Italy, after hearing that he had been secretly baptized by a Catholic housemaid.”

Priest Apologized for Telling the Truth

As the Los Angeles Daily Journal reported on November 22, 2004, a Catholic priest from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles apologized in writing to parents “for telling kindergarten to third-grade students at a private Catholic school [during a morning Mass] there is no Santa Claus.” The Archdiocese hastened to add that “the priest didn’t have permission to tell children there is no Santa Claus.” According to the article, a parent felt that the priest took the “innocence” out of his daughter’s childhood, who does not believe anymore in Santa Claus.

What a mixed-up and confused world we are living in, where religious teachers are not allowed to tell children the truth!

U.S. Marine Corps Jails C.O.

A thought-provoking article was published on January 1, 2005, by bellagio.org, reporting about the jail sentence of a Conscientious Objector in the U.S. army because of his refusal to carry a weapon. The article stated:

“U.S. Marine Cpl. Joel D. Klimkewicz says he’s willing to clear land mines and risk his life for his country. He’s just not willing to pick up a gun. Because of his new-found religious faith, the Birch Run native is spending his holidays behind bars as a conscientious objector, convicted by military superiors who see him as a disobedient soldier. ‘I couldn’t see Jesus Christ taking human life,’ said Klimkewicz in a phone interview from the Camp LeJeune military prison. ‘In my faith, what I believe is that we’re all citizens of heaven. Citizens of heaven are of all nations, and I refuse to take a life of a fellow citizen of heaven.’

“This month, a Marine Corps court sentenced 24-year-old Klimkewicz — a combat engineer who is a member of a Seventh-day Adventist Church — to seven months behind bars for refusing an order to pick up a weapon for training. He received a reduction in rank to private and a bad conduct discharge. Since joining the church a year ago and becoming a conscientious objector to combat, he has taken some criticism from friends who have questioned his patriotism.”

The Marine Corps questioned Klimkewicz’s sincerity and charged that he refused to pick up a weapon, as he does not want to go to Iraq. The Marine Corps claims that he was sentenced for refusing to obey the order of a superior officer, not because he requested to be recognized as a conscientious objector.

In a related article by Der Spiegel Online, dated November 17, 2004, it is stated that currently 2,000 U.S. reserves have applied for C.O. status, or refuse to serve for other reasons, including age. The magazine claimed that on November 7, 2004, out of 2,500 reserves, 733 reserves did not show up in their barracks, and that out of 4,000 former soldiers, 1,800 applied for exemptions.

Otto von Habsburg

Der Stern Online published, on December 13, 2004, an interesting interview with Dr. Otto von Habsburg (92), the oldest son of the last emperor of Austria and Hungary. For 20 years, the Austrian Otto von Habsburg had been a member of the European Parliament, representing the Bavarian party, CSU. When asked about the beatification of his father in 2004, and a future role of the monarchy, he stated:

“A reference to God in the European Constitution is very important. We need a higher authority for our principles. And who — apart from God — could that be?… Theodore Roosevelt once asked Emperor Franz-Josef what the role of a monarchy would be in the modern world. His answer: ‘To protect the people from their government.’… The monarchy can establish continuity.”

Most Foreign Languages

AFP reported on December 23, 2004, that “Britons are the worst in Europe when it comes to speaking a foreign language… Britain comes bottom of the pile of 28 countries… behind Hungary… and neighbouring Ireland… Luxembourg performed best… followed by the Netherlands… and Denmark… The report also showed while English is the most common second language across Europe, German, Russian and French are more widely spoken in some countries… In Romania, as many people speak French as English. French is also strong in Italy and Portugal. German is widely spoken in central Europe and the Baltic countries, with more Czechs and Slovaks speaking German than English.”

Putin’s Imperial Dreams

A commentary by Vytautas Landsbergis, Lithuania’s first president after independence from the Soviet Union, was published on December 19, 2004, by The San Diego Union Tribune. In the article it is pointed out:

“To divide a people in order to conquer them is an immoral strategy that has endured throughout recorded history. From Alexander the Great to Stalin the Cruel, variants of that strategy have been used to keep nations in thrall to the will of an emperor. We are now seeing the strategy at work again as President Vladimir Putin stealthily seeks to restore Kremlin supremacy over the lands treated as ‘lost’ when the Soviet Union imploded in 1991…

“Europe and the world are… being tested. Russia is passing from being the Russian Federation of Boris Yeltsin to a unitary authoritarian regime under Vladimir Putin and his former KGB colleagues. Europe, America, and the wider world must see Putin’s so-called ‘managed democracy’ in its true light, and must stand united against his neo-imperialist dreams. The first step is to make Russia honor its binding commitment to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, to remove its troops from Moldova and Georgia.”

Worst December in New Zealand

Surprise about this winter in New Zealand was raised by nzherald.co.nz of January 4, 2005, when stating: “Yes, it was a shocker… Snow, frost, hail and a tornado marked the first month of summer, with the coldest temperatures recorded in December since 1945. National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research figures for last month show it was the fifth coldest since records were established in 1853….The record-breaking low temperatures not only kept the summer clothes in the cupboard but slowed the growth and ripening of berries, stone fruit and crops…. Auckland recorded only 174 hours of sunshine – 83 per cent of the normal figure and the third lowest since records began in 1963.”

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How do you understand Daniel 9:27?

Let us read Daniel 9:24-27 in context, in the Authorized Version:

“(24) Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy. Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks [i.e., sixty-nine weeks]: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times. (26) And after the threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined. (27) And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate.”

To properly understand this passage, let us note the following quote from Lesson 19 of the Ambassador College Bible Correspondence Course, copyrighted 1961, 1965, and 1967. The publication pointed out that Jesus Christ is the minister of the New Covenant (Hebrews 8:6); that He was to CONFIRM the covenant for one “week” (Daniel 9:26-27); that His ministry was to be cut in HALF (verse 27); and that Christ will COMPLETE His work of confirming the New Covenant in the future (Same verse; also Hebrews 8:10 and Jeremiah 31:31-34).

The publication continued: “A ‘day’ in the prophecy of Daniel 9:27 represents a year in fulfillment (Num. 14:34; Ezek. 4:3-6). Christ ministered three-and-a-half years — ONE HALF of this prophetical ‘week.’ For three-and-one-half years He CONFIRMED — spelled out the TERMS of — THE NEW COVENANT with His disciples who recorded them for us today. By dying for our sins in the MIDST OF the ‘week,’ He put the final STAMP on the covenant and made it binding with His blood. Through Him, ALL PEOPLE can now enter into the New Covenant and become HEIRS ‘according to the promise’ which God made to Abraham (Gal. 3:29). But Daniel 9:26-27 reveals that there yet REMAINS three-and-one-half years of Christ’s ministry to be FULFILLED! Let’s understand. When Jesus returns to this earth He will FULFILL the covenant He made with Abraham. Abraham and his SPIRITUAL seed through Christ will then inherit the world and eternal life.”

A subsequent letter from the Letter Answering Department of the Worldwide Church of God, dated 1987, commented on the passage in Daniel 9:24-27 as follows:

“To explain this prophecy, I will quote from ‘Halley’s Bible Handbook’: ‘The Captivity, which was then drawing to a close, had lasted 70 years. Daniel is here told by the angel that it would yet be ’70 weeks’ till the coming of the Messiah [see verse 24]. The ’70 weeks’ is generally understood to mean 70 weeks of years, that is, 70 sevens of years, or seven times 70 years, that is 490 years. As if the angel were saying, The Captivity has been 70 years; the period between the Captivity and the Coming of the Messiah will be seven times that long. Seven, and cycles of seven, sometimes have symbolic meanings; yet the actual facts of this prophecy are most amazing, as follows:

“‘The date from which the 70 weeks was to be counted was the decree to re-build Jerusalem [see verse 25]. There were three decrees issued by Persian kings for this purpose … The principal one of these was 457 B C [the one given by Artaxerxes]. The 70 weeks is subdivided into 7 weeks, 62 weeks, and 1 week [see verses 25 and 27]. It is difficult to see the application of the ‘7 weeks’; but the 69 weeks (including the 7) equal 483 days, that is, on the year-day theory, Ezek 4:6, which is the commonly accepted interpretation, 483 years.

“‘This 483 years is the period between the decree to re-build Jerusalem and the coming of the ‘Anointed One,’ [see verse 25]. The decree to re-build Jerusalem, as noted above, was 457 B C. Adding 483 years to 457 B C brings us to 26 A D, the very year that Jesus was baptized and began his public ministry. A most remarkable fulfillment of Daniel’s prophecy, even to the year. Further, within 3 1/2 years Jesus was crucified, that is, “in the midst of the one week” “the Anointed One” was “cut off,” “purged away sin and brought in everlasting righteousness,” [see verses 24, 26, and 27].’

“We must make one slight correction in Mr. Halley’s figures. His overall calculations are correct, but he did not account for the ONE YEAR which is gained in making the transition from B.C. to A.D. dates. Because there is no year 0, one year is gained and must be added to the A.D. date. It was A.D. 27 when Jesus was baptized and began His ministry — not A.D. 26… It is significant that in Daniel’s prophecy of the ‘seventy weeks’ (Dan. 9:24-27), Jesus was to be cut off ‘in the midst of the week.’ While this prophecy has the application of a day for a year, so that this 70th week became a literal seven years, Christ being ‘cut off’ after three-and-a-half years’ ministry, as He was, yet it is significant that He was also ‘cut off’ on the middle day [Wednesday] of a literal week (page 9).”

The understanding of the Church of God has been that Daniel 9:27 refers to the First Coming of Jesus Christ and His Sacrifice, as well as His confirmation of the New Covenant. Some commentaries claim, however, that the covenant mentioned in Daniel 9:27 refers to a future treaty between a European prince and the nation of Israel — the Jews — which is to last for 3 1/2 years.

Eerdman’s Handbook to the Bible explains: “Verse 26 seems to point to the death and rejection of Christ and the destruction of the temple which followed in AD 70 — with a wider reference at the end. But the subject of verse 27 is not at all clear. ‘He’ is taken by some to be the Messiah, by others to be the destroying prince of the previous verse.”

For instance, the Ryrie Study Bible claims: “The prince of verse 26, the antichrist… will make a pact with many (of the Jewish people) at the beginning of the Tribulation period. But in the midst of the week (i.e. 3 1/2 years later) Antichrist will break his covenant and desecrate the Temple by demanding worship of himself in it.”

The Nelson Study Bible concurs, stating in regard to Daniel 9:27: “‘He’ may be a reference to the antichrist, who will confirm a covenant with Israel. ‘In the middle of the week’–that is, three and one-half years later–he will break the covenant.”

Unger’s Bible Handbook claims something similar: “During the first half [of the final week of seven years] the ‘prince’ (world ruler, ‘little horn’ of 7:8, 24-25) will make a covenant with the Jews, who are restored in Palestine with a resumption of the temple worship. In the middle of the week the covenant is broken, worship for the Jews ceases (2 Thess 2:3-4), and the time of the Great Tribulation ensues.”

Apart from the fact that these commentaries, especially Unger, confuse the identity of the “little horn” (an end-time religious leader) with the beast (an end-time political leader), there is little reason to believe that the “covenant,” referred to in Daniel 9:27, refers to a future treaty between a political or religious leader and the Jews. In fact, the Bible shows that a treaty or confederation will be made between the beast (the end-time king of modern Assyria) and certain Arab nations AGAINST the Jews — not WITH them (compare Psalm 83:2-8).

The Commentary on the Whole Bible, by Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, states that Daniel 9:27 may contain an “allusion” to Antiochus Epiphanes, but that the passage clearly talks about “Christ the Prince,” His Sacrifice, and the New Covenant.

The “New Bible Commentary: Revised,” explains convincingly, on page 699:

“Who is the one that causes the covenant to prevail? Many find the subject in ‘the prince who is to come’ of v. 26, and refer this, either to Antiochus, or to the Roman ruler of a future, revived Roman Empire. However, the word prince is there in a subordinate position, and it is very unlikely that this word should be the subject in v. 27. It is better to regard the subject as the Messiah, since He has been the most prominent Person in this passage. The covenant which is to prevail is the covenant of grace wherein the Messiah, by His life and death, obtains salvation for His people. The seventieth seven… thus has reference to the time of our Lord’s earthly life. For half of this seven the Messiah, by means of his death, causes the Jewish sacrifices to cease (cf. Heb. 8:13).”

Based on the foregoing, the Church of the Eternal God and its corporate affiliates in Canada and Great Britain do not see a reason to deviate from the long-held teaching of the Church of God on this subject, and confirm the Church’s understanding that Daniel 9:27 refers to Jesus Christ, the Messiah, the “Prince of Peace,” and not to a future political or religious leader of a revived Roman Empire.

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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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