Update 182


Predestination and the Heavenly Books

On Saturday, February 26, 2005, Norbert Link will give the sermon, titled, “Predestination and the Heavenly Books.”

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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Our Duty to Work!

by Norbert Link

Almost a year ago, I wrote in an editorial, “Would we be ready if Christ were to return today? Not that He will — but ARE WE READY, NOW?… Rather than trying to figure out when, exactly, Christ will return, we should concentrate on getting READY for that event… ‘Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect’ (Matthew 24:44).” (Editorial, “Are We Ready–Now?”, Update #152, July 16, 2004).

In about two months, baptized members of the Church of God will be partaking of the annual Passover. Before they do, they will examine themselves as to their spiritual condition, so that they may eat the bread and drink the wine in a worthy manner (1 Corinthians 11:27-29). When they are ready to eat the Passover, they proclaim “the Lord’s death till He comes” (verse 26).

Some have wondered what being “ready” for Christ’s return means, in practical application. We must be SPIRITUALLY ready, not living in spiritual darkness (1 Thessalonians 5:4). Rather than sleeping and being drunk with the ideas of this world, we are to be “sober” and to watch our own spiritual make-up (verse 6). But, getting or being “ready” does definitely NOT mean, ceasing to work hard, pursuing a career, or putting our whole being into the necessary activities of this physical life. It may be tempting to say: “Since Christ will be returning soon, why should I concentrate on going to college, getting an education, finding a satisfying and somewhat stable job, getting married, having children, or enjoying this physical life in the right way?” But such thoughts are not in accordance with the Holy Scriptures.

The Bible’s timeless admonition in this regard is very illustrative, and must be carefully applied, especially by members of God’s Church. Notice just a few examples, dealing with our duty to work:

“For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat. For we hear that there are some who walk among you in a disorderly manner, not working at all, but are busybodies. Now those who are such we command and exhort through our Lord Jesus Christ that they work in quietness and eat their own bread. But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary in doing good” (2 Thessalonians 3:10-13).

“Let him who stole steal no longer [including wasting time — the time of others, as well as God’s time given to us, by not doing what God has instructed us to do], but rather let him labor, working with his hands [and with his mind and energy] what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need” (Ephesians 4:28).

“He who tills his land will be satisfied with bread, But he who follows frivolity [Lit. vain things] is devoid of understanding” (Proverbs 12:11; compare Proverbs 28:19).

“In all labor there is profit, But idle chatter [Lit. talk of the lips] leads only to poverty” (Proverbs 14:23).

“Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might…” (Ecclesiastes 9:10).

“In the morning sow your seed, And in the evening do not withhold your hand” (Ecclesiastes 11:6)

“The hand of the diligent will rule [including preparing diligently for a career in which one will ultimately excel; compare Proverbs 21:5: “The plans of the diligent lead surely to plenty…”], But the lazy man will be put to forced labor [e.g., he will have to work in an unsatisfying position]” (Proverbs 12:24).

“Laziness casts one into a deep sleep, And an idle person will suffer hunger” (Proverbs 19:15)

“Wealth gained by dishonesty will be diminished, But he who gathers BY LABOR will increase” (Proverbs 13:11).

Of course, God warns us not to overwork for the purpose of becoming rich (Proverbs 23:4), and not to “trust in uncertain riches” (1 Timothy 6:17). But this does not mean that we should cease working, if we are able to work (We are not addressing, of course, those who are unable to work because of health reasons or old age). In fact, Proverbs 27:23-24 tells us: “Be diligent to know the state of your flocks, And attend to your herds; For riches are not forever…”

In addition, God commanded that a man and a woman should get married — provided, that they are compatible. If we are patient, God WILL provide the right mate for us. Proverbs 18:22 tells us: “He who finds a wife finds a good thing, And obtains favor from the LORD.” We also read that “a prudent wife is from the LORD” (Proverbs 19:14). And notice that a prudent or virtuous wife works hard, as described in Proverbs 31:

“(Verse 13) She seeks wool and flax, And willingly works with her hands… (Verse 16) She considers a field and buys it; From her profit she plants a vineyard… (Verse 21) She is not afraid of snow for her household, For all her household is clothed with scarlet. (Verse 22) She makes tapestry for herself… (Verse 24) She makes linen garments and sells them… (Verse 27) She watches over the ways of her household, And does not eat the bread of idleness… (Verse 31) Give her of the fruit of her hands, And let her own works praise her in the gates.”

At the same time, we are told that we are to first prepare financially for marriage through our work and a good education: “Prepare your outside work, Make it fit for yourself in the field; And afterward build your house” (Proverbs 24:27). Some may feel that they should not get married or have children, because of the times that we are living in. There may indeed come a time in the future, when this might be an appropriate advice (compare 1 Corinthians 7:26-27). But that time is not here yet! And we don’t know, exactly, when it will arrive. In the meantime, we are to live by obeying the specific commands of God.

To get ready for the return of Christ INCLUDES living diligently in obedience to God’s laws of labor, so that we are able to provide for ourselves and those in our care (compare 1 Timothy 5:8; Proverbs 13:22). Our physical labor will have a reward, and the way we conduct our work may even determine whether we will inherit eternal life. Proverbs 10:16 says: “The labor of the righteous leads to life, the wages of the wicked to sin.”

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Special Report — President Bush in Europe and Russia

Before President Bush began his trip to Europe and Russia, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported on Sunday, February 20, 2005, about President Bush’s “mission to heal European relations.” In the front-page article, the following astonishing and telling comments were published:

“With U.S.-European relations thawing and U.S.-Russian ties frayed, President Bush departs today in a five-day fence-mending trip to the heart of some of the harshest criticism of American foreign policy… The president’s decision to begin his three-country trip in Brussels, Belgium…. is seen as highly significant by European diplomats, who feel Bush finally is giving a UNITED EUROPE THE RESPECT IT DESERVES… Bush is scheduled to spend tomorrow [Monday] and Tuesday in Brussels, a city some in the administration call ‘THE BELLY OF THE BEAST’ BECAUSE IT IS HOME TO THE HEADQUARTERS OF THE EUROPEAN UNION AND IS WHERE MANY PLANS ARE HATCHED TO BUILD UP EUROPEAN INFLUENCE AS COUNTERWEIGHT TO AMERICAN SWAY.”

In the book of Revelation, the presently developing European power bloc is indeed identified as the last resurrection of the Holy Roman Empire, or, “the beast.” It is therefore remarkable that some in the Bush administration use this term to refer to the city of Brussels — the seat of the European Parliament — as the “belly of the beast.” The Bible shows that the relationship between the United States of America and the European power bloc, in its final configuration, will NOT be friendly. The following excerpts from various publications show that we have clearly reached the beginning stages of these Biblically prophesied developments:

Reuters reported on February 19, 2005, that President Bush “is taking issue with a Chirac notion that a united Europe would serve as a counterbalance to the United States… Bush as well took exception to German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder’s recent comment that NATO was no longer ‘the primary venue’ for trans-Atlantic dialogue.”

On February 18, 2005, The Associated Press stated: “… throughout Europe — in countries like Italy whose governments supported the Iraq war and in those like France which vehemently opposed it — antagonism toward Bush remains widespread… For Europeans, the friendlier new Rice doctrine seems to amount to this: We’d be delighted to work with you — as long as it’s on the U.S. agenda of spreading democracy around the world. Most Europeans think that’s a very dangerous idea. A recent German Marshall Fund poll indicated that 65 percent of the French felt American leadership in the world was undesirable. Europeans are all the more wary of U.S. leadership because they feel they were lied to about the main reason for going to war in Iraq: Weapons of mass destruction. A German poll this month illustrated just how widespread the feeling is in Europe that Washington can’t be trusted. The Infratest dimap research group survey indicated about 70 percent of Germans believe the United States was already planning an attack on IRAN over its nuclear program.”

In spite of the friendly appearances for the cameras and the press, President Bush and Chancellor Schroeder remain sharply divided on certain issues. As The Associated Press reported on Wednesday, February 23, 2005, “Bush and Schroeder remain far apart on the subject of how to make Iran give up any plans it has to build such an arsenal, although both said they agreed that the end result must be a nuclear-arms free Iran.” In addition, according to the report, “The two remain far apart… on Europe’s desire to end a 15-year-old arms embargo on China.”

Reuters added in an article, dated February 23, 2005: “‘Europe is America’s closest ally,’ Bush said on the second stop of a European tour. ‘In order for us to have good relations with Europe we have to have good relations with Germany.'”

Although this statement is absolutely correct, Biblical prophecy and present reality show that it is more or less wishful thinking. The article continued: “Germans remain bitter about the Iraq war and polls show they do not trust Bush, who told a Berlin audience in May 2002 he had ‘no war plans on my desk’ 10 months before the invasion.”

The German press has been rather outspoken in regard to the Bush visit to Germany. Der Spiegel Online referred to President Bush as the “most endangered man in the world” (“Bush-Besuch,” February 17, 2005). Former German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt wrote in Die Zeit that the relationship between the United States and Europe is a “question of dignity.” He stated: “We Europeans don’t want to be vassals. We want to maintain our dignity.” In a related article, Die Zeit wrote that the “temperature between Europe and the United States will remain chilly” — mainly because of “different interests.” The German newspaper raised the question whether the real reason lies in the fact that it is just popular these days, in the eyes of the world, to differ from the United States.

Der Spiegel Online reported on February 23, 2005, that President Bush avoided supporting his father’s [former U.S. President George Bush’s] expressed opinion that Germany and the United States are to be the leaders in the world, to guarantee freedom and peace. Der Stern reported that even after President Bush’s visit to Germany, 80 percent of Germans believe that Bush will continue to refuse to listen to his European allies in questions of foreign politics.

Euobserver.com published several additional articles, dated February 23, 2005, showing the remaining and even deepening rift between the United States and Europe, including Germany. The publication pointed out:

“US President George W. Bush has resisted calls from some quarters in Europe for a forum other than NATO to discuss transatlantic relations… ‘In order for NATO to be vital it’s got to be relevant, and if it stays stuck in the past it’s slowly but surely going to fade into oblivion”, said the president. His remarks were a rebuff to French President Jacques Chirac who on Tuesday backed a call by Germany suggesting that NATO was no longer the ‘primary venue’ for transatlantic relations. ‘Europe and the United States are real partners. So we need to dialogue and listen to each other more’, said Mr Chirac.”

In addition, President Bush and President Putin continued to disagree on certain important issues. As The Associated Press reported on Thursday, February 24, 2005, “President Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed Thursday on new efforts to keep nuclear arms out of dangerous hands, but their sharp differences over Russian backsliding on democracy spilled into an open and sometimes prickly exchange.”

Biblical prophecy shows that the United States will become more and more isolated in the world. Alliances will be formed without or even in opposition to the United States. It is also revealed in Scripture that a mighty power bloc in the East, consisting of countries such as Russia, China, Japan, and India, will be at odds with Europe in the near future. For more information, please read our free booklets, “Europe in Prophecy,” and “The Great Tribulation and the Day of the Lord.”

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Did Jephthah sacrifice his own daughter? If so, how could he still be granted access to the Kingdom of God?

The account referred to can be found in Judges 11:30-31, 34-40. We read:

“And Jephthah made a vow to the LORD, and said, ‘If You will indeed deliver the people of Ammon into my hands, then it will be that whatever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the people of Ammon, shall surely be the LORD’s, and I will offer it up as a burnt offering.’… When Jephthah came to his house at Mizpah [after having defeated the Ammonites], there was his daughter, coming out to meet him with timbrels and dancing; and she was his only child. Besides her he had neither son nor daughter. And it came to pass, when he saw her, that he tore his clothes, and said, ‘Alas, my daughter! You have brought me very low! You are among those who trouble me! For I have given my word to the LORD, and I cannot go back on it.’ So she said to him, ‘My father, if you have given your word to the LORD, do to me according to what has gone out of your mouth… let me alone for two months, that I… bewail my virginity…’ And it was so at the end of two months that she returned to her father, and he carried out his vow with her which he had vowed. She knew no man. And it became a custom in Israel that the daughters of Israel went four days each year to lament the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite.”

Before addressing whether Jephthah actually sacrificed his own daughter, let us point out that Jephthah will be resurrected, as an immortal spirit being, at the time of Christ’s return, to enter the Kingdom of God, as Hebrews 11:32, 39-40 clearly implies. This fact alone does not answer the question, however, whether or not Jephthah committed the abominable act of killing his own daughter — we understand that EVERY sin can and will be forgiven by God upon true repentance.

Commentaries are divided as to the question whether Jephthah sacrificed his daughter. The Ryrie Study Bible explains:

“Some understand that Jephthah’s daughter was only dedicated to the service of God in a life of celibacy and not actually slain. Others hold that she was killed according to Canaanite practices which Jephthah had embraced.”

Rienecker, Lexicon of the Bible, points out:

“The question of Jephthah’s vow is not clearly resolved. He had vowed to offer to the LORD as burnt offering what (or possibly, according to the Hebrew, who) would meet him upon his victorious return (Judges 11: 30, 31). That was his only daughter. After granting her two months to bemoan her virginity, he did what he had vowed (verse 39). This seems to indicate, in combination with his grief (verse 35), that the burnt offering was actually completed. On the other hand, the law of the Israelites did not allow human sacrifices, but it permitted to redeem a person who had been dedicated to the LORD (Leviticus 27:1-8). Some have concluded that Jephthah, who is mentioned with approval in 1 Samuel 12:11 and Hebrews 11:32, was able to circumvent the literal fulfillment of his vow. Some have speculated that a celibate, withdrawn life (Judges 11:39) could also show complete dedication to the LORD, as a burnt offering would have shown. The right conclusion is difficult, as the Holy Scriptures only report, without expressly judging either the vow itself or its fulfillment.”

The Nelson Study Bible seems to prefer the understanding that Jephthah did not actually kill his daughter. The following is stated in support of that view:

“Some have interpreted Jephthah’s vow ‘whatever comes out of the doors’ as a clear intention to offer a human sacrifice. His surprise then is not that he had to sacrifice a human being, but that the unfortunate person was his daughter. The phrase ‘to meet me’ seems to refer more appropriately to a human than to an animal… Undoubtedly, Jephthah knew that human sacrifice was strictly forbidden in Israel (Lev. 18:21; 20:2; Deut. 12:31; 18:10; Jer. 19:5; Ezek. 20:30, 31; 23:37, 39), but his foolishness and lack of faith impelled him to make a reckless vow in order to try to manipulate God (11:39).

“… But did Jephthah have to follow through on his vow? Ordinarily the answer would be yes. Vows were made only to God, and they were solemn pledges that had to be kept. People were not forced to take them, but if they did, they had to be honored (Deut. 23:21-23; Ps. 15:4; Eccl. 5:4, 5). But Jephthah had vowed something sinful in itself if his intent was to make a human sacrifice in the literal sense.

“… The text does not explicitly say that he killed his daughter, only that ‘he carried out his vow.’ When the verse goes on to say that ‘she knew no man,’ some take this to mean that she was ‘sacrificed’ by being dedicated to a life of perpetual virginity. Several arguments can be made for this interpretation. First, human sacrifice was contrary to the Law of Moses… Second, the great respect that Jephthah had for God surely would have prevented him from making such a perverse offering. Third, the fact that Jephthah permitted his daughter to bewail her virginity… for two months fits an explanation of perpetual virginity better than human sacrifice. Fourth, the indication that his daughter ‘knew no man’ also seems to be a detail that would support the idea of celibacy. Fifth, the Bible provides evidence that such devoted service for women did exist at the central sanctuary (Ex. 38:8; I Sam. 2:22; Luke 2:36, 37). In ancient Israelite society, the father had the power to prohibit a daughter to marry. Sixth, the conjunction in Jephthah’s pivotal statement in v. 31, that whatever or whoever came out of the door ‘shall be the LORD’s, AND I will offer it up as a burnt offering’ could be translated OR. Thus, if a person came out first, he would dedicate that person to the LORD, OR if an animal came out first, he would offer the animal as a burnt offering.”

However, several problems exist with that interpretation. To begin with, it is possible that Jephthah had strictly an animal in mind, when he made his vow, as Jephthah’s words (in Judges 11:31) can be translated from the Hebrew, as follows: “Whatsoever cometh forth of the doors of my house to meet me…, I will offer IT up for a burnt offering” (compare Authorized Version). It was common at that time for houses to have enclosed courtyards where animals were kept.

In any event, whatever Jephthah’s original intent, the earliest Christian and Jewish commentators all seem to have accepted the story at face value; that is, that Jephthah killed his daughter. It appears that the medieval Jewish commentator David Kimchi was the first to suggest that rather than having sacrificed his daughter, Jephthah merely kept her a perpetual virgin. The New Bible Commentary: Revised explains:

“It has sometimes been inferred… that Jephthah commuted his daughter’s fate from burnt-offering to perpetual virginity, but this is hardly warranted by the narrative. The plain and restrained statement that he ‘did with her according to his vow’ (v. 39) is best taken as implying her actual sacrifice. Although human sacrifice was strictly forbidden to Israelites, we need not be surprised at a man of Jephthah’s half-Canaanite antecedents following Canaanite usage in this matter. The author of Judges does not approve of his action; he may well have regarded it as a symptom of the state of affairs at a time when ‘every man did what was right in his own eyes’ (cf. 17:6; 21:25). The closest biblical parallel is Mesha’s sacrifice of his eldest son (2 Ki 3:27).”

The commentary of Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, Commentary on the Whole Bible, agrees with this conclusion. So do Matthew Henry’s Commentary; The Broadman’s Bible Commentary; Unger’s Bible Handbook; Eerdman’s Handbook to the Bible; and, apparently, Halley’s Bible Handbook.

It has also been the long-held understanding of the Church of God that Jephthah did in fact sacrifice his only daughter. It is stated in “The Bible Story”: “Though some commentators have thought Jephthah kept his daughter a perpetual virgin, the Jews and most commentators have understood this tragic story as explained in the Authorized Version of the Bible. Jephthah learned a mighty lesson. He discovered, through this tragedy, the real lesson of faith — that one does not have to vow to God in order to have Him perform what He has promised. What God expects is that we learn to trust Him in everything. When Jephthah finally learned that lesson, he became an outstanding example of faith. Paul even referred to him in Hebrews 11:32 as one of the outstanding examples of faith in the Old Testament.”

An older letter from the Letter Answering Department of the Worldwide Church of God added: “Jephthah made a very rash and foolish vow. He further compounded his error by keeping his vow (Judg. 11:39). That, no doubt, was greatly displeasing to God. Nevertheless, Jephthah is mentioned among the faithful listed in Hebrew 11 (see verse 32). This leads us to conclude that — like other servants of God — he ultimately realized the error of his own ways, repented, and received God’s forgiveness.”

In conclusion, it appears that Jephthah, following faulty human reasoning, sacrificed his own daughter. Upon his repentance, God forgave him, and Jephthah will be resurrected to immortal life, when Jesus Christ returns. This fact should give us great comfort and hope. Whatever sins we might have committed in our lives, God will forgive, when we genuinely and sincerely repent of them.

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Preaching the Gospel & Feeding the Flock

We would like to thank all of you for your prayers for a successful Church Conference, which ended on Wednesday. We will announce soon exciting new projects to be implemented, to fulfill our God-given duties to preach the gospel and feed the flock.

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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

Our activities and literature, including booklets, weekly updates, sermons on CD, and video and audio broadcasts, are provided free of charge. They are made possible by the tithes, offerings and contributions of Church members and others who have elected to support this Work.

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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