Update 194


Alcohol–Friend or Foe?

On Saturday, May 21, 2005, Norbert Link will give the sermon, titled, “Alcohol–Friend or Foe?”

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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Are We True Christians?

by Norbert Link

Surely, the definitions of true Christianity are many and diverse. For some, all they think they need to do is to say that they believe in Christ. Others understand more correctly that being a true Christian means to follow Christ’s example — to live as He lived (1 Peter 2:21). In order to be able to do this, Christ must live IN us — and we must LET Him live in us (Galatians 2:20).

But why would a true Christian WANT Christ to live in him, and to rule in his life? Is his only motivation the inheritance of eternal life for himself?

Christ tells us that we must become perfect as God the Father is perfect (Matthew 5:48). God’s perfection is reflected by how He deals with people (notice Matthew 5:43-47). God is perfect because He IS LOVE (1 John 4:16) — which is a way of giving and sharing, motivated by an outgoing concern for the benefit and welfare of others. Rather than focusing on OUR future, just for the sake of what is in store for US, we are to focus on others (compare Philippians 2:4-5; Romans 15:2).

Christ GAVE His life for us, so that we could be saved (John 6:51). God the Father LOVED the world so much that HE GAVE His only-begotten son to die FOR US (John 3:16; Romans 5:8; 1 John 4:9). Christ did what He did, because the love of God was shed or had been poured out in His heart. Likewise, God’s love has been poured out in our hearts, by the Holy Spirit, IF Christ lives in us (Romans 5:5).

A true Christian, then, is someone who LIVES God’s love in his life. There are many definitions of the love of God. Apart from the magnificent description of God’s love in 1 Corinthians 13:1-13, we are reminded of the fact that it is the love of God which keeps God’s commandments (1 John 5:3).

A true Christian is not someone who just confesses a belief in Christ — the demons believe, too, that God exists (James 2:19), and that Christ is the Son of God (Matthew 8:29). Rather, a true Christian is one in whom Christ lives — in whom God’s Spirit dwells — and who follows Christ’s lead, by LIVING GOD’S LOVE in his life. If we are true Christians, Christ will direct our hearts into the love of God (2 Thessalonians 3:5), which is in Jesus Christ (Romans 8:39). The love of God, abiding in us, will make us more and more perfect to the extent that we love one another (1 John 4:12).

How many true Christians do you know, who meet that definition?

And more importantly, are YOU a true Christian? Does Christ live in YOU, through the power of God’s Holy Spirit? Do you “know” the love of Christ (Ephesians 3:19)? Do you “keep yourself” in the love of God (Jude 21)? Does the love of God live in you, or are you only thinking that it does (compare John 5:42; 1 John 2:15; 3:17)? Do you show the love of God in your daily life, by walking in it (Ephesians 5:2)?

Remember, if Christ and His love do not live in us through the Holy Spirit, we are NOT true Christians (Romans 8:9).

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Pope Benedict XVI

Bild Online reported last week about the new pope’s first Pentecost mass in Rome. According to the newspaper, the pope stated in his sermon that the “Ten Commandments” do not constitute a diminishment or abrogation of freedom, but that they are the very foundation of freedom.

This is very true. We might ask, however, how the pope can explain the fact that the Catholic Church HAS abrogated two of the Ten Commandments (the second commandment against idols and the fourth commandment, enjoining the keeping of the Seventh-Day-Sabbath)?

Archbishop William Levada the New “Enforcer”

As the Associated Press reported on May 14, 2005, Archbishop William Levada, the “68-year-old leader of the San Francisco Archdiocese was named by longtime friend Pope Benedict XVI as his own replacement leading the powerful Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.” The article pointed out that Levada “has a track record of upholding Roman Catholic policies while deftly handling controversy. But his appointment as the chief enforcer of church doctrine was sharply criticized by clerical sex abuse victims, who say he’s done a poor job of dealing with the crisis. Levada countered that his experience with the issue is an advantage for the church.”

News on the European Constitution

On Friday, May 13, 2005, the British Daily Mail wrote:

“German MPs [Members of Parliament] overwhelmingly backed the controversial EU Constitution yesterday after Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder told them: ‘Don’t bother with the details.’ The German people were denied a referendum… despite mounting pressure in recent months for such a vote to take place… Supporters of the treaty hope that yesterday’s Yes vote in the German lower house and a subsequent vote in the upper house on May 27 will overcome waverers in France, where a tightly-contested referendum takes place on May 29.”

As news.telegraph.co.uk reported on May 12, 2005, “The campaign for a Yes vote in the French referendum on the European Union constitution suffered a setback yesterday when it emerged that the widow of the country’s last socialist president, François Mitterrand, had withdrawn her support.” According to the article, Mrs. Mitterrand explained her change of mind as follows: “‘It is a system which treats man like an economic object and forgets that he can think, and which generates the worst human misery – unemployment and pollution.”’

The EUobserver reported on May 12, 2005 about Germany’s ratification:

“The EU biggest member state and founding member of the bloc has easily passed the European Constitution through its lower parliament… Germany’s Bundestag voted 569 in favour with 23 against and two abstentions… Most of those voting No came from the ranks of the Christian Democrat opposition parties. They are against the Constitution because they believe it will take too much power away from their own national parliament in favour of the EU.”

The article also pointed out: “If approved by all member states the Constitution will introduce an EU foreign minister… It also gives far greater powers to the European Parliament [and] has a mutual defence clause.”

Bild Online stated on May 12, 2005, that the EU Constitution contains “weaknesses” — because it does not refer to God. The newspaper wrote: “It does not have a reference to God, since mainly Great Britain and France opposed it.” Still, it published the following commentary:

“Even though almost nobody noticed it, this was a great day for Germany. With its Yes for the Constitution, the German Parliament has rendered one of its most important decisions since the existence of the Federal Republic of Germany — and one of its most correct ones… It is a gift for all the peoples of Europe… We are allowed to dream today of a peaceful, friendly continent, which might one of these days create something new: The United States of Europe.”

Der Spiegel Online reported on May 12, 2005, that eight countries ratified the EU Constitution, including, among others, Austria, Greece, Italy, Spain, and Hungary. Those which will still have to ratify, via referendum, include, among others, Denmark, France, Great Britain, Ireland, Luxembourg, Netherlands and Portugal.

On May 12, 2005, the EUobserver reported that “The Catholic Church has officially endorsed the EU Constitution but concerns among some groups remain about its possible implications for future decisions on issues such as abortion, euthanasia or women priests… [Pro-life activists complain:] ‘What we’re seeing on the part of religious leaders is not a courageous enough stance, and a sort of terror to say anything which could sound like anti-Europe.'”

The article also pointed out an apparent inconsistency between the Catholic Church’s current endorsement of the EU Constitution and the pope’s earlier position: “The current Pope, Benedict XVI [said] in April… ‘the fact that the Church is convinced of not having the right to confer priestly ordination of women, is now considered by some as irreconcilable with the European Constitution.'”

A wave of a desire for unity is sweeping through much of the European continent. This is clearly directed by a higher power, so that prophecy can be fulfilled. We can expect a strong political and even military United States of Europe, under Catholic influence, to emerge in a few years from now. But it won’t all be good news for Europe and the world. As so often, the people’s desire for peace will be terribly disappointed.

For more information, read our free booklets, “Europe in Prophecy” and “The Great Tribulation and the Day of the Lord.”

Monster Earthquake in Southern California

According to Der Spiegel Online, of May 13, 2005, “geologists warn,” with a 70 percent certainty, that a “terrible earthquake” will strike in Southern California within the next 50 years. According to the article, the earthquake will strike in regions around Los Angeles and San Diego. The magazine stated that that region has not been struck by a major earthquake for 148 years, which is great cause for alarm, as historical and archeological records show that monster quakes occurred in the area every 200 years since the 1600s.

Strong Hurricanes in 2005?

On May 16, 2005, Reuters reported about predictions of U.S. forecasters “that up to 15 tropical storms and hurricanes would form in the Atlantic and Caribbean this year… If the forecasters are right, the 2005 hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to Nov. 30, would continue a string of mostly above-average stormy seasons that began a decade ago… The same climate conditions that fed last year’s busy season… are in place this year… Although the 2004 season did not produce a record number of storms, it marked the first time since 1886 that a single state — Florida — was hit by four hurricanes in one season. Nine of the 15 storms reached hurricane strength.”

World War II For Nothing?

Well-known political commentator Pat Buchanan stirred up some furor last week, when he stated, according to www.newsday.com of May 12, 2005, that World War II “was actually not worth the effort.” The article stated: “On the radio and Internet, Buchanan framed his positions as amplification of remarks made over the weekend by President George W. Bush that the pact ending the war brought on a Stalinist domination that was ‘one of the greatest wrongs of history.’… [Buchanan] suggested that because Germans voted Hitler in, they did not need to be liberated, and that Britain and France drew Germany into the wider conflict. He did not mention Jews or the Holocaust… Abraham Foxman, president of the anti-Defamation League, called Buchanan’s comments ‘immoral’ and ‘bordering on Holocaust denial.’… Veterans were also insulted. ‘That is more or less saying they fought for the wrong reasons and the sacrifice was futile,’ said Veterans of Foreign Wars spokesman Jerry Newberry.”

Germany’s Strong Economy

Der Stern published a remarkable article on May 12, 2005, pointing out that the German economy is much stronger than commonly thought. The article explained: “Even optimists were surprised: The German economy… is stronger today than it has been for many years.” The article pointed out that the growth of the German economy is stronger than the growth of the US economy. It also referred to the fact, however, that risks remain, especially in light of at least 5.2 million people without work.

Reproducing Robots

On May 12, 2005, The Independent ran a frightening article about robots, which could have been the subject of a science fiction movie. The article stated:

“It has been the dream – and nightmare – of science fiction writers for decades. Now a team of engineers has conjured up a robot that can reproduce itself. The robot can self-replicate in much the same way that some living organisms are able to reproduce by cloning themselves. Although the machine in question serves no useful purpose other than to make copies of itself, scientists believe it has set a precedent for a future in which robots will proliferate on their own. In the long term, the scientists envisage a day when armies of self-replicating robots will be able [to] mend themselves when broken, expand their population, explore space and even establish self-sustaining colonies on other planets.”

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Do the wicked go to hell?

The concept that the wicked go to an ever-burning hell after their death is nowhere taught in Scripture. In fact, the Bible does not even teach the existence of an ever-burning hell, torturing wicked souls of departed ones for their evil deeds.

The concept of an ever-burning hellfire is derived from paganism. Richard Craze explains in his book, “Hell, An Illustrated History of the Netherworld,” copyrighted 1996:

“… the old horned gods of the Stone Age people became the new rulers of hell. There was a sort of logic in locating the place of the dead below ground — the underworld — because that was exactly where the dead were buried… The early [nominal] Christians borrowed Hel’s name [the goddess Hel ruled over the place of the “lost souls” in Viking mythology] for their own place of punishment… The early [nominal] Christians borrowed heavily from earlier mythologies, and the generally accepted appearance of Satan is an amalgamation of such things as the horns and shaggy hindquarters of the Greek god Pan, the wings of the Mesopotamian devil Pazuzu, and the scales and dragon skin of the Persian Azhidaahaka… The Greeks borrowed freely from the Babylonians… Pluto, Zeus’ brother, governed [hell] with a merciless severity and subjected his poor guests to the most ingenious tortures… [Others] were consigned to the deep bottomless pit… ruled by Kronos. Here they would suffer eternal torment… sinners were tortured for eternity… The Romans knew exactly where hell was located — underneath Italy. Everything else they borrowed from the Greeks.”

The author also points out:

“… it was the Synod of Bishops in Constantinople in 543 that… set the seal on hell, when they decreed that ‘if anyone shall say or even think that there is an end to the torment of… ungodly persons, or that there ever will be an end to it, then let them be excommunicated.’ And they promptly excommunicated Origen, an early Church father, for saying that he thought hell was finite.”

In addition, the Bible does not teach the concepts of “limbo” or “purgatory,” either. These concepts have their origin in pagan mythologies, as well.

Craze points out these most incredible facts:

“The early [nominal] Christians… introduce[d] the concept of a sort of waiting-room, where souls would stay for [a while]. They found a ready-made idea — limbo — that they freely borrowed from the Romans, who had borrowed it from the Greeks. Limbo became a place where anyone who did not quite fit could be put… Purgatory… was a cross between limbo and hell… Jesus’ mother, the Virgin Mary, was called back from heaven, where she had been asleep (the Dormition). She was given the keys of hell to look after, and the running of the purgatory. She does not administer any punishments — in fact, her main job seems to be protecting the souls of the sinners from the wrath of her son [Jesus Christ!!!]. Purgatory became a sort of temporary hell — but one from which sinners could be rescued.”

However, the Bible does not teach the concepts of limbo, purgatory or of an ever-burning hell.

It is true that the New Testament speaks about a fiery place, which is translated in some English Bibles as, “hell.” The Greek word for this place is “gehenna.” It does not, however, describe an ever-burning hell, as commonly understand by many. Craze explains:

“Gehenna — the place of fire. It is probable that it was named after the place just outside Jerusalem where the household rubbish, including the bodies of criminals and animals, was burnt.”

Please note the following excerpts from our free booklet, “Do You Have an Immortal Soul?”, addressing the concept of a fiery hell:

“The word ‘gehenna’ and the very concept of it are derived from the Valley of Hinnom outside Jerusalem in which the corpses of dead people, mainly criminals, would be burned up. It is another expression for the ‘lake of fire’ in Revelation 20:15, in which all who have acted wickedly, and who have refused to repent, will be thrown into, to be burned up or ‘devoured.’ (Remember that Hebrews 10:27… tells us that the wicked wait for God’s fiery indignation that will ‘devour’ them.). That is the ‘hell’ or the ‘gehenna’ fire that Christ is talking about…-‘the second death’ from which there will be no resurrection.

“Those who sin deliberately, willfully and maliciously, God will resurrect to physical life [please note that they were dead — not in heaven, hell, limbo or purgatory — and that they had to be brought back from death to physical life] to throw them-their physical body and their soul or their ‘life’-into ‘gehenna’ or the lake of fire (Revelation 20:13-15; 21:8). They won’t burn there forever-rather, they will be burned up. They are the ‘chaff,’ that will be ‘burned up’ with unquenchable fire (Matthew 3:12)-that is, no human can quench it. Notice that this fire will ultimately even burn up or bring to dissolution ‘heaven and earth,’ so that a ‘new heaven and a new earth’ can be created by God (2 Peter 3:10-13).

“The wicked, such as the rich man in Christ’s parable in Luke 16, will not burn forever and ever, for all eternity, in an everlasting hell fire, but they will be ‘burned up’ (cp. again Matthew 3:12). The Greek word for ‘burned up’ is ‘katakaio’-conveying the meaning that nothing of what is burned up will remain. We read in Revelation 18:8 that modern Babylon ‘shall be utterly burned with fire.’ The word for ‘utterly burned’ is, again, ‘katakaio’ in the Greek. And we are told that ‘that great city Babylon [will] be thrown down, and shall be found no more at all.’ (Revelation 18:21). In the same way, the wicked, such as the rich man in Luke 16, that are [brought back to life from the dead and then] thrown into ‘gehenna’ or the lake of fire [called the SECOND death!], will be ‘burnt up’-they ‘shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up… that it shall leave them neither root nor branch.’ (Malachi 4:1). They will become ashes under the feet of the righteous (Malachi 4:3); it will be as if they had never existed (Obadiah 16).”

The wicked will be burnt up in a temporary gehenna fire, to die the SECOND death, from which there will be no further resurrection to life (Revelation 20:14-15; 21:8) — they will not be tortured forever and ever in an eternal hell fire, without ever being destroyed. We need to understand, too, that those who will be burnt up will have committed the unpardonable sin. As it is true in regard to the concept of “hell,” very few understand properly, either, what the “unpardonable sin” really is.

To learn more about the future of those who will be burnt up in gehenna fire, because they have committed the unpardonable sin, as well as the fate of all of those who have died, please read our free booklet, “Do You Have an Immortal Soul?”

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Preaching the Gospel & Feeding the Flock

A new StandingWatch program was posted on the Web, titled, “Why You?”

Public Bible Lecture
On Sunday, May 22, 2005, Norbert Link will present a message, titled, “Europe Is Uniting–What Does This Mean to You?” This address will be free and open to the public, and it will be conducted at 6:30 pm at the Embassy Suites in Arcadia, California (211 East Huntington Drive). Our public lecture ads (see below), leading up to the event, will be appearing this Friday, Saturday and Sunday in the main section of the following newspapers: Pasadena Star News; San Gabriel Valley Tribune; and the Whittier Daily News.

You may request further information at: info@standingwatch.org

StandingWatch Public Bible Lecture

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Low Hanging Fruit

Low Hanging Fruit
by Eric Rank (28)

If you were wandering through a forest, hungry and searching for something to eat, and you stumbled across an apple tree full of ripe fruit, what would you do? The answer is pretty obvious. If you’re like most normal people, you’d reach up and grab the nearest, best-looking piece of fruit you could find, and eat it. If there were a number of ripe apples together within reach, you might even grab a few for the road. But you wouldn’t even consider climbing up the tree to get the fruit on the top branches when the bottom branches have what you want. That takes much more effort. It’s the low-hanging fruit you’d grab.

As Christians, it is our goal to produce fruits worthy of righteousness. To Satan, this is one of the most significant things that sets us apart from the rest of the world. As he wanders around, seeking whom he may devour, the more fruit we produce, the more attractive we look to him as his next victim of temptation. We read from the Bible that Christ was tempted in tremendous ways by Satan himself because He produced such fruits. Individually, you too are a threat to Satan because you have, and act upon, the knowledge about how to live righteously. This makes you look pretty tasty! Satan will not rest in his attempts to deceive you and take away the knowledge and inheritance you have.

If the fruit you produce makes you a target for temptation, what can you do? Fortunately, the answer is simple. Don’t put yourself within Satan’s grasp! If you’re producing fruit worthy of righteousness, make an extra effort to do so on the top branches of the tree. God tells us to draw near to Him, and that He will draw near to us. This places you far out of Satan’s reach because he knows that it would take too much effort to tempt you. No matter how much fruit you produce, if you open yourself up to temptation, the game is over. Vulnerability to temptation places you at the lowest branches of the tree, where Satan can pluck you off easily, and devour! As a Christian, it is your duty to produce righteous fruit, but it is also your responsibility to draw near to God. Doing so will keep you out of Satan’s reach as he hungrily wanders about.

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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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