Update 187


Woe to Them!

On Saturday, April 2, 2005, Dave Harris will give the sermon, titled, “Woe to Them!”

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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Marriage Is Holy

by Brian Gale (United Kingdom)

Over the last several decades, the institution of marriage has come under intense pressure as more and more people, both young and old alike, have opted for co-habiting. My wife and I have just celebrated our ruby (40th) wedding anniversary. Over the years of our marriage we have seen the unfortunate changes in society where a more selfish and ungodly approach has become the norm. Unfortunately, many who do get married don’t remain in that God-ordained union.

At present, most of Britain’s 42 million adults are married, but the Government Actuary’s Department predicts that the British society will change significantly over the next two decades. By 2011, just 46% of women and 48% of men will be married in Britain.

Divorce statistics are very revealing. In the UK in 1961, there were 27,000 divorces and yet, 41 years later, in 2002, the figure has risen to 160,000. In the United States, in 1999 there were 8.4 marriages and 4.2 divorces per 1,000 total population, and in the year 2000, there were 21 million divorces. And now, according to one web site, divorce statistics are no longer collated in America. The rest of the world tends to follow, to one degree or another, these unfortunate trends. These statistics cannot possibly relate the sum total of human suffering that is generated by divorce. Perhaps that is a significant factor, but certainly not the only one, for those opting for co-habitation. A senior counselor at Relate, a UK relationship charity, said that many people cannot see the point of marriage since the loss of tax breaks and better rights for unmarried fathers make co-habitation “more appealing.” And, of course, the religious aspect of marriage no longer seems relevant in an increasingly secular society.

Right at the dawn of civilization, God instructed that “a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife” (Genesis 2:24). There was no instruction for, or acceptance of, co-habitation, which is a state where there is no real evidence of marital commitment and where therefore fornication takes place. We are told to flee fornication (1 Corinthians 6:18).

When my wife and I were married in 1965, we expected our marriage to last until “death do us part” and we still do believe in this. Unfortunately today, it seems that marriage only lasts until the first sign of trouble. Divorce has been made relatively easy and so many don’t seem to want to work through their problems, instead taking what they think is the easier option.

The spiritual application of marriage is totally lost on an ungodly society which simply has little or no interest in the Creator. In Ephesians 5:22-33 we see that the Christian marriage of a husband and wife has a spiritual application to Christ and the Church. This is further confirmed in Revelation 19:7 where we are told that the marriage of the Lamb (Christ) has come and His wife (the Church) has made herself ready.

How sad that humans (seemingly) think that they know better than the One Who created them. As a consequence, they have to endure all of the misery and suffering that is the legacy of ignoring the wise advice freely available in the Bible. Irrespective of changes in society and the development of new cultural norms and attitudes, the institution of marriage between a man and a woman is holy and was created by God.

Everything else is just an ungodly counterfeit.

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Australia vs. USA

As www.smh.com.au reported on March 29, 2005, “Australians are just as concerned about United States foreign policy as Islamic extremism and regard the US as more dangerous than a rising China, according to a new poll.” According to the poll, “57 per cent of Australians were ‘very worried’ or ‘fairly worried’ about the external threat posed by both US foreign policy and Islamic extremism… More than two-thirds–68 per cent–said Australia took too much notice of the US in its foreign policy deliberations.”

Germany — Still Divided?

As Reuters reported on March 27, 2005, “Nearly a quarter of western Germans and 12 percent of easterners want the Berlin Wall back–more than 15 years after the fall of the barrier that split Germany during the Cold War, according to a new survey. The results of the poll, published Saturday, reflected die-hard animosities over high reunification costs lowering western standards of living and economic turmoil in the east… The Berlin Wall was breached on November 9, 1989, paving the way for the unification of Communist East Germany with the West on October 3, 1990. But billions of euros (dollars) spent rebuilding the east have failed to prop up the depressed region, which is plagued by high unemployment and a shrinking population. The poll also found that 47 percent of the easterners agree with the statement that the West ‘acquired the east like a colony,’ while 58 percent of the westerners back the statement that ‘easterners tend to wallow in self-pity.'”

Make War, Not Peace?

An appalling editorial was published in WorldNetDaily on March 22, 2005, in connection with the Church shooting by a parishioner in Wisconsin. Although this may be hard to believe, the editor actually recommended the following violent strategy to prevent further shootings in schools or churches:

“If just one other member of that congregation were carrying a gun, lives would have been saved. And that’s the real answer to this kind of murder and mayhem… I’m advocating that law-abiding people carry firearms wherever they go – especially in places where guns are thought to be unnecessary, especially in schools and other ‘gun-free zones,’ especially in the high-crime cities where guns have already been banned. It’s a matter of life and death… That way, when the next inevitable attack comes – whether it is at a movie theater, a school, a church, a shopping mall, and no matter who the perpetrator is – there will be return fire. That’s called deterrent. That’s called civil defense. That’s called common sense.”

Sadly, in our violent societies which place guns and weapons over trust in God’s protection, even this incredible recommendation might be welcome by some deceived supporters. What we would see then is that violence will lead to more violence, and if that kind of recommendation would be followed by everyone, we would pretty soon have an armed camp — with freedom and peace gone forever. We only pray that true Christians don’t fall for such God-defying and God-denying concepts. As Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 3:1-5: “But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come. For men will be… brutal, despisers of good, … headstrong… having a form of godliness BUT DENYING ITS POWER. AND FROM SUCH PEOPLE TURN AWAY!”

The Death of the Dollar?

www.silverstockreport.com wrote on March 18, 2005:

“Caesar was supposed to be a god. Julius Caesar was killed on the Ides of March. (March 15th). Today, we don’t make men gods. Instead society has made our financial system into a false god. On March 15th, 2005, (the Ides of March) we may have just witnessed the beginning of the death of our financial system as General Motors stock took a nosedive from $34/share down to $30…GM’s stock price decline is like a dagger right into the heart of the U.S. financial system, and the dollar itself!… Apparently, someone in power did the equivalent of shouting ‘the emperor has no clothes’ and people woke up, and are beginning to see more clearly! The media decided it was time to expose the truth that GM is nearly insolvent, and will expect to lose $1.50/share in the first quarter alone!
“But the story is worse than that! GM has $300 billion in debt… The implication is clear–that GM is headed towards bankruptcy, and will default on the bondholders, who will then own a company worth less than $16 billion dollars!… So, therefore, GM will soon be a $300 billion dollar blow-up! How big is that? It’s bigger than Enron, Global Crossing, LTCM, K-Mart, and the IRAQ war all put together! … $300 billion going belly up is a big enough event to topple the U.S. government! How so? It will shake the confidence in the entire financial system… Either way, the dollar is dead. Long live gold and silver!”

Never-Ending Problems in Iraq

As The Associated Press reported on March 29, 2005, “Iraq’s fledgling parliament failed Tuesday to agree on who would be its speaker, with the interim prime minister and president storming out of the chaotic session that exposed deep divides among the National Assembly’s Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish members. The short session – mostly held behind closed doors after leaders kicked out reporters and cut off a live television feed – adjourned until this weekend… The Shiite-led United Iraqi Alliance and the Kurdish coalition, which finished first and second in the landmark elections, have reached out to the Sunnis and to members of Allawi’s coalition, hoping to form an inclusive national unity government. But haggling over the level of participation of the Sunnis, as well as jockeying for Cabinet posts and efforts to resolve differences between the various groups, have left Iraq without a government almost two months after the 275-member National Assembly was elected. Lawmakers have until mid-August to draft a permanent constitution.”

Another Powerful Earthquake in Indonesia

As The Associated Press reported on March 29, 2005, “Indonesians searched through smoldering rubble for survivors on Nias island Tuesday and relatives wept over the bodies of the dead after an 8.7-magnitude earthquake hammered the region, triggering a tsunami scare and killing at least 330 people. Some officials said the death toll could rise as high as 2,000… The earthquake – which occurred along the same tectonic fault line as the massive 9.0-magnitude temblor that caused the Dec. 26 disaster – triggered panic in several Asian countries.”

The German press reported that scientists fear for additional powerful earthquakes in the region. It was pointed out that the December earthquake was three times stronger than the quake on Monday, but that Monday’s quake was not an aftershock of the December quake, but an entirely new one.

Jurors Without the Bible

As The Associated Press reported on March 29, 2005, “Ruling that juries cannot turn to the Bible for advice during deliberations, a divided Colorado Supreme Court threw out the death penalty for a convicted murderer because jurors discussed verses from Scripture.” This latest decision follows a long line of cases, ruling in effect that jurors have to ignore or violate their own conscience, when they become jurors, as they have to unconditionally and without reservation obey the judge’s instructions. This alone should be reason enough for any true Christian to be conscientiously opposed to participating in jury duty.

U.S. Sovereignty Tested?

As The Associated Press reported on March 29, 2005, “The Supreme Court, confronting a case that tests the effect of international law in domestic death penalty cases… [heard arguments regarding the] violation of a U.S. treaty that requires consular access for Americans detained abroad and foreigners arrested in the United States… Several justices seemed wary of deciding who has final say on interpretation of that treaty – state or federal courts, the U.S. president or an international tribunal – after President Bush last month ordered new state court hearings for [51] Mexicans on death row… The case, which has attracted worldwide attention, is seen as a test of how much weight the Supreme Court will give in domestic death penalty cases to the International Court of Justice, or ICJ, in The Hague, which ruled last year that the 51 convictions violated the Vienna Convention… The administration also announced it was withdrawing from a section of the Vienna Convention that gave the ICJ authority to hear U.S. disputes, to avoid future questions about the role of international tribunals in domestic death penalty cases.”

Terri Schiavo Died

As The Associated Press reported on March 31, 2005, “Terri Schiavo, the severely brain-damaged woman who spent 15 years connected to a feeding tube in an epic legal and medical battle that went all the way to the White House and Congress, died Thursday, 13 days after the tube was removed. She was 41… Schiavo suffered severe brain damage in 1990 after her heart stopped because of a chemical imbalance that was believed to have been brought on by an eating disorder. Court-appointed doctors ruled she was in a persistent vegetative state, with no real consciousness or chance of recovery. She left no written instructions…”

The article continued:

“Florida lawmakers, Congress and President Bush tried to intervene…, but state and federal courts at all levels repeatedly ruled in favor of her husband [to remove the tube]. The case focused national attention on living wills and stirred a furious debate over the proper role of government in end-of-life decisions. It also led to allegations that Republicans in Congress were pandering to the religious right and violating their own political principles of limited government and states’ rights. In Washington, the president said he was saddened by the death. ‘The essence of civilization is that the strong have a duty to protect the weak,’ Bush said. ‘In cases where there are serious doubts and questions, the presumption should be in favor of life.’ In Rome, Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, head of the Vatican’s office for sainthood, called the removal of the feeding tube ‘an attack against God.'”

The article concluded, as follows: “Schiavo’s feeding tube was briefly removed in 2001. It was reinserted after two days when a court intervened. In October 2003, the tube was removed again, but [Florida’s] Gov. Jeb Bush rushed ‘Terri’s Law’ through the Legislature, allowing the state to have the feeding tube reinserted after six days. The Florida Supreme Court later ruled that law was an unconstitutional interference in the judicial system. Nearly two weeks ago, the tube was removed for a third and final time.”

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Can you identify the seven Church eras, as described in the book of Revelation?

In the second and third chapters of the book of Revelation, John received a message for the “angels of the seven churches” (Revelation 1:20). As we have pointed out before [compare the Q&A in Update 157], these messages were to be meant for seven existing local Church congregations in seven distinct cities at John’s time, but they were also directed to all Christians at all times (compare Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, and 22), and they included messages for seven consecutive Church eras, beginning at the time of John, and ending at the time of Christ’s Second Coming (compare Revelation 1:19-20).

The seven Church eras can be briefly described as the eras of Ephesus (Revelation 2:1-7); Smyrna (Revelation 2:8-11); Pergamos (Revelation 2:12-17); Thyatira (Revelation 2:18-29); Sardis (Revelation 3:1-6); Philadelphia (Revelation 3:7-13); and Laodicea (Revelation 3:14-22).

The following sets forth our understanding of the identities of the seven Church eras, as taught by the Church of God for over the past 50 years:

The first era of Ephesus describes the Nazarenes. The Bible itself identifies the early Christians as the “sect of the Nazarenes” (Acts 24:5). Worldly records tell us that the Nazarenes kept the Sabbath and the annual Holy Days, abstained from eating unclean meats, and practiced the “ceremonies of Moses” — in other words, they adhered to both the Old and the New Testaments. Historians tell us that the Nazarenes and the Ebonites escaped the Roman destruction of Jerusalem by fleeing to the city of Pella in 69 A.D. The Ebonites were not part of the Church of God, however, but they clung to converted brethren. The Nazarenes are still mentioned in records of the 5th century. They preserved the book of Matthew. Paul spent much time in the city of Ephesus (1 Corinthians 16:8). According to tradition, John and Philip died in Ephesus. According to Revelation 2:2, the Church of that era was originally zealous, but by the time of the second or third generation, it began to lose “its first love” (verse 4). [This might perhaps constitute a parallel of God’s Church in this day and age.]

The second era of Smyrna began with Polycarp, a minister in Smyrna. After his release from the island of Patmos, John trained Polycarp to become his successor. Polycarp was killed by a mob for his belief in the Sabbath, Passover, and other laws of God. The Smyrna era was to be persecuted for 10 days (Revelation 2:10). A day in prophecy represents a year (compare Ezekiel 4:4-6; Numbers 14:34). This ten-year persecution occurred under Diocletian and Galerius, from 303 until 313 A.D. After that persecution, Constantine, in 325 A.D., expelled all “non-Christian churches,” that is, non-Catholic churches (including the true worshippers in the Church of God) from the Roman Empire. In 365 A.D. he prohibited the keeping of the Sabbath.

The third era of Pergamos began about 650 A.D. True Christians became known at that time as “Paulicians.” One important leader was Constantine of Mananali. Originally, the Paulicians believed what the Nazarenes and Polycarp had believed. Worldly records tell us that they kept the Sabbath, the Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread; that they preached the Kingdom of God; and that they baptized by immersion. Apparently, more than 100,000 Paulicians died as martyrs. Later, and perhaps because of persecution, many turned away from the true faith and resorted to violence. They became known as a warrior sect; their ministers were also generals.

The fourth era of Thyatira began at the time of the Reformation. The most important leader of the Church at that time was Peter Waldo, and the Church became known as Waldenses. They were active in the 12th century in the German and Swiss regions of Europe. In 1309, they preached the gospel in The Netherlands, and in 1315, in England. They kept the Sabbath and the annual Holy Days, and they rejected pagan customs which had been embraced by orthodox Christianity, such as Easter. Remnants will still exist when Christ returns (Revelation 2:25). However, when persecution began, many resorted to violence, as the Paulicians had done, and they began to forsake the truth and adopted wrong teachings to save their lives (Revelation 2:20-23).

The fifth era of Sardis began about 1585 in England. The practice of Sabbath-keeping became known again during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I (1558-1603). One important leader was Stephen Mumford who founded the Church of God in the United States in Newport, Rhode Island, in 1664. In the middle of the 19th century, true Christians became part of an Adventist movement, but separated in 1860 and began to publish numerous magazines and pamphlets, including, “The Remnant of Israel,” “The Sabbath Advocate,” and the “Bible Advocate.” Ministers were sent from Missouri, Oklahoma and Oregon to Mexico, Chile, Argentina, and the Philippines, and congregations in those countries began to keep the Sabbath and the Holy Days. Remnants of the Sardis era will exist when Christ returns (Revelation 3:3).

The sixth era of Philadelphia began under Herbert W. Armstrong, who had come into contact with the Sardis era in 1927, and was ordained as a minister in 1931. The Philadelphia era began in 1933. In 1934, the truth was preached from a radio station in Oregon, and in 1953, radio programs began to be broadcast in Europe. The Church of God became known as the Radio Church of God and later as the Worldwide Church of God, with its educational institutions of Ambassador College and Ambassador Foundation, headquartered in Pasadena, California. It is our understanding that the Laodicea era began, when Mr. Armstrong died in 1986. (Mr. Armstrong wondered in his prayer, when appointing Mr. Tkach as his successor just before his death, whether the Laodicea era was about to begin. We believe that subsequent events have shown that this was in fact the case.) Since Christ promises the Philadelphians protection from the Great Tribulation (Revelation 3:10), remnants of the Philadelphia era must still exist and be active (compare Revelation 3:8; Matthew 24:45-47) at the time of Christ’s return.

The last era, that of the Laodiceans (compare Revelation 3:14), will be predominantly in existence at the time of Christ’s return. But this does not mean that those who are called today could not become a part of the remnant of the Philadelphia era. Laodiceans are not limited to any one particular Church organization, but they can be found in every organization. Regardless of our “corporate” affiliation, and regardless of what Church era we actually belong to individually, all of us in God’s Church must remain to be or become zealous and repent (compare Revelation 3:19), and all of us must maintain or acquire the Philadelphia spirit (compare Revelation 3:11) to be accounted worthy to escape the terrible times ahead, and to stand before the Son of God, when He returns (Luke 21:36).

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