Update 233


Why Not Heaven?

On March 4, 2006, Norbert Link will give the sermon, titled, “Why Not Heaven?”

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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by Dave Harris

There are times when we really need help!

That need may arise
because we find ourselves caught up in disaster–such as the terrible
plight we have witnessed in the devastating tidal waves of Asia; or the
hurricanes in the southeastern United States; or the heart-rending
starvation in parts of Africa; or the countless other traumas that
continue to scar this earth with unrelenting persistence.

governments, as well as individuals, have generously responded with
help for those who could not help themselves, but the need is simply
greater than either the willingness or the ability of those who can

In that massive landscape of trouble, we might feel helpless–but that is not the case at all! Not for those who serve God!

what God says–a statement that we need to be reminded of, especially
when we need help: “‘Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh. Is
there anything too hard for Me?'” (Jeremiah 32:27).

Among many
Psalms that reveal God as our Helper, one by the sons of Korah is
particularly reassuring: “God is our refuge and strength, A very
present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, Even though the
earth be removed, And though the mountains be carried into the midst of
the sea; Though its waters roar and be troubled, Though the mountains
shake with its swelling” (Psalm 46:1-3).

Add to this the
confirmation that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, now stands as our High
Priest: “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we
may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).

this world and its inhabitants in this age of Satan’s rule do not have
this help (Compare Ephesians 2:11-13; 1 John 5:19; John 18:36). But it
is different for those whom God has called out of this world.
Considering this contrast of Satan’s rule to our unparalleled promises,
we have reason for hope in times of need. However, along with this
comes responsibility to fulfill our own calling by being willing to
help–to do as Jesus did by doing our part in proclaiming the good news
of God’s Kingdom to this world–and to continue teaching those who

Speaking of the time that immediately precedes God’s
intervention in order that He might help and save this world, this is
stated: “He saw that there was no man, And wondered that there was no
intercessor…” (Isaiah 59:16); Also: “‘I looked, but there was no one
to help, And I wondered That there was no one to uphold…'” (Isaiah

That indictment testifies to the utter helplessness of a
world that will soon face its own destruction, should God not intervene
to save it! The way we can help (and find help for ourselves) is to
continue to proclaim the wonderful truth and the certain hope that God,
with whom all things are possible, ultimately will give this world the
greatest possible help–He “will wipe away every tear from their eyes;
there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no
more pain…” (Revelation 21:4).

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US Port Takeovers No Security Risks?

Many reports and news analysts have taken the position that the contemplated takeover of US ports by an Arab company, which is controlled by the government of the United Arab Emirates, does not pose a security risk. However, others are convinced that it does. We are quoting from a commentary by Karl Day, which was published on February 24, 2006, by WorldNetDaily.  Karl Day is a former senior editor for Family Research Council, a West Point graduate, a former Ranger and Green Beret (trained in guerilla warfare and counter-guerilla efforts) and a Vietnam veteran of the Tet Offensive. Here is Day’s analysis:

“South Carolina’s legislators have it right. To hand over the operation of six of our most important ports to an Arab company is questionable at best, and potentially suicidal at worst… Saudi Arabia is considered an ally, yet 17 of the 19 terrorists who perpetrated the events of 9-11 were Saudis. Osama bin Laden, the most wanted terrorist in the world is a Saudi. Nineteen Americans were killed in the bombing of the Kobar Towers in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, in 1996… Did not the U.S. Navy consider Yemen friendly when they chose to refuel ships there? Seventeen Americans died when the USS Cole was attacked on Oct. 12, 2000. Has Lebanon ever been declared our enemy? Yet 241 American servicemen died when their barracks were bombed there in 1983. Was not the first bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993 perpetrated by Arabs? U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were bombed in 1998–again by Muslims, if not by Saudis…

“In addition to the tens of thousands of illegals who walk or swim across our borders, over a million trucks enter the country every year and our Customs officials cannot monitor them effectively with their limited resources… Budget-driven downsizing and a mandated reduction from 72 hours to 24 hours for advanced notification of the planned arrival of foreign vessels have already crippled the U.S. Coast Guard, responsible for port security and inspection of incoming vessels. Port operations involve the handling of bills of lading and ship manifests–any or all of which can be altered if those persons involved in the process have evil intent. To add fuel to the fire, hundreds of times a year, container ships operated by COSCO (China Overseas Shipping Company) enter our major ports. Is there anyone on the planet who would declare that Communist China is our ally? Some of these ships carry over 5,000 containers. Containers can be shipped, transshipped, and routed around the globe and at each point, the manifest and/or bill of lading can be altered by anyone who wishes to conceal either their origin or their contents and there is no trustworthy way of tracking or detecting such alterations.

“As a former officer in the U.S. Special Forces, I have trained with nuclear devices small enough to fit in the trunk of a sports car. Modern developments have certainly improved the lethality of such weapons, while diminishing their size and weight. Think of trying to find a nuclear device, not much larger than a suitcase, concealed in one of the thousands of containers arriving daily in our major ports and then being trucked–most likely by innocent drivers–to a destination somewhere in the country where it can be detonated on command by a local or long-distance operative. The Israeli Mossad (secret service) took out a Palestinian terrorist by planting explosives in his telephone. How hard would it be to actuate a cell phone driven trigger for a nuclear device by merely calling it from a continent way?

“This is a dangerous world and the United States is rapidly becoming a lonely, albeit powerful nation. We have very few true friends in what is evolving as a global economy. The coercive force of growing Muslim populations threatens a number of our former allies. Sadly, our leaders are unwilling to declare what is patently true: We are engaged in a global conflict and the enemy is not just a scattering of Islamic extremists. The enemy is fundamental Islam and its commitment to the eradication of Israel and the ultimate domination or elimination of the infidels–that’s us. In recent years, the United States has demonstrated a level of naivete or ineptitude in the practices of espionage, intelligence gathering and threat deterrence. Our lack of finesse in such activities reflects a national mindset which, to date, has been one of self-satisfied complacency. It is time to recognize that we are dealing not with a smattering of cowardly gangsters, but with sophisticated fanatics who are committed to our undoing.

“It may be beyond our comprehension that individuals willingly strap explosives to their bodies and walk into public places for the purpose of blowing themselves and dozens of innocents to smithereens for some jihadist cause. It may be beyond comprehension, but it is reality. To give the enemy any possible entree into the security of our major ports is foolhardy. Hurting the feelings of so-called allies pales in comparison to assuaging the grief borne by those who have lost loved ones thus far in this war on terror.”

The Vatican Speaks to Muslims

On February 23, 2006, Reuters reported about the following ironic twist of events, which may lead to the growth of the Catholic faith in the aftermath of the violent demonstrations in the Arab world:

“After backing calls by Muslims for respect for their religion in the Mohammad cartoons row, the Vatican is now urging Islamic countries to reciprocate by showing more tolerance toward their Christian minorities. Roman Catholic leaders at first said Muslims were right to be outraged when Western newspapers reprinted Danish caricatures of the Prophet, including one with a bomb in his turban. Most Muslims consider any images of Mohammad to be blasphemous. After criticizing both the cartoons and the violent protests in Muslim countries that followed, the Vatican this week linked the issue to its long-standing concern that the rights of other faiths are limited, sometimes severely, in Muslim countries. Vatican prelates have been concerned by recent killings of two Catholic priests in Turkey and Nigeria… At least 146 Christians and Muslims have died in five days of religious riots in Nigeria.”

We should realize, of course, that these violent demonstrations in the Arab world are being instigated by radical elements and governments. Nevertheless, the Vatican is trying to capitalize on these developments. The article continued:

“Reciprocity — allowing Christian minorities the same rights as Muslims generally have in Western countries, such as building houses of worship or practicing religion freely — is at the heart of Vatican diplomacy toward Muslim states… Saudi Arabia bans all public expression of any non-Muslim religion and sometimes arrests Christians even for worshipping privately. Pakistan allows churches to operate but its Islamic laws effectively deprive Christians of many rights…”

The article pointed out another disturbing, but well-documented development in Iraq:

“Iraqi Christians say they were well treated under Saddam Hussein’s secular policies, but believers have been killed, churches burned and women forced to wear Muslim garb since Islamic groups gained sway after the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.”

U.S.-Arab Split Deepens

Reuters reported on February 24:

“Saudi Arabia deepened a U.S.-Arab split over Hamas on Wednesday, joining Egypt’s rejection of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s appeal for neighbors to deny aid to a Palestinian government led by the militant group. Saudi Arabia, one of the biggest donors to the Palestinians, warned against the U.S. position of stopping aid before seeing what policies the anti-Israel group adopts in government.”

The article continued:

“The Palestinian government needs about $1.8 billion in aid each year and officials in the interim government say it is heading for a financial crisis. Hamas has so far been unswayed by pressure to change its anti-Israel stance and says threats to stop aid are blackmail… despite hours-long meetings with regional leaders, Rice’s Middle East tour has underscored the distance between the United States and its allies on how hard to press Hamas. Senior U.S. officials traveling with Rice to lobby against Hamas were at a loss to cite any country that has pledged to the United States it will immediately end aid when the group takes over the government in the next few weeks. Rice also acknowledged allies diverged from the United States hard line.”

Hamas Won’t Recognize Israel

As MSNBC reported on February 26, “Hamas’s prime minister-designate Ismail Haniyeh on Sunday denied he had suggested the Palestinian Islamist group might one day recognize Israel… Reiterating a long-standing position by Hamas, Haniyeh said the group would never recognize Israel but could agree to a long-term truce if Israel withdrew from lands captured in the 1967 war, freed prisoners and allowed the return of refugees… ‘Hamas will never recognize the legitimacy of the Zionist entity on any part of our land of Palestine,’ senior Hamas leader Khalil Abu Laila said, enunciating Hamas policy.”

Iran Prepared to Attack Israel

On February 25, www.haaretz.com published the following article: “Dr. Abasi, an advisor to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, said Tehran would respond to an American attack with strikes on the Dimona nuclear reactor and other strategic Israeli sites such as the port city of Haifa and the Zakhariya area. Haifa is also home to a large concentration of chemical factories and oil refineries. Zakhariya, located in the Jerusalem hills is… home to Israel’s Jericho missile base.”

Al Qaida At It Again!

The Associated Press reported on February 25: “Al-Qaida suicide bombers will attack more Saudi oil facilities, the terror group purportedly threatened Saturday in an Internet statement that claimed responsibility for the foiled attack on the Abiqaiq plant in eastern Saudi Arabia. Two suicide bombers tried to drive cars packed with explosives into Abiqaiq, the world’s largest oil processing facility, on Friday afternoon, but security guards opened fire and the vehicles exploded outside the gates, killing the bombers and fatally wounding two guards. The guards died in the hospital.”

The article continued:

“Al-Qaida had long threatened to attack Saudi Arabia’s oil plants, but Friday was the first time it actually attempted to do so. Previously militants linked to al-Qaida had killed foreigners working in the industry, but not at oil facilities. Friday’s assault suggested the militants were adopting the tactics of insurgents in neighboring Iraq, who have repeatedly targeted the oil industry.”

“Don’t Attack Iran,” Mubarak Says.

On March 1, 2006, The Associated Press reported the following:

“Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak strongly advised the United States not to attack Iran, warning that military action would create more terrorists in neighboring Iraq… Mubarak also told Egyptian newspaper editors he warned Vice President Dick Cheney that ground troops ‘will have a hard time’ in such a conflict… He said Shiite Muslims in the Gulf region also could turn against the United States because ‘Iran generously provides for Shiites in every country and these people are ready to do anything if Iran is attacked.’ ‘Listen to my advice for once,’ he recalled telling Cheney in English. ‘You have vital interests in the Gulf region, especially oil.’… When asked, he said it was unlikely Israel would launch a nuclear attack against Iran ‘because Iran owns ballistic missiles that it will launch against Israel and there will be huge destruction.’ Mubarak added that such an attack also would spark revenge from Iraqi groups, extremists religious parties and organizations such as the Iranian-backed Hezbollah in Lebanon.”

The Da Vinci Code’s Blasphemies!

On February 23, Zenit published the following interesting article about the blasphemous fictitious novel, “The Da Vinci Code”:

“Millions have read ‘The Da Vinci Code’ and many are expected to see the movie version when it is released May 19. That is why Mark Shea and Ted Sri — an apologist and theology professor, respectively — have co-authored ‘The Da Vinci Deception’… In an interview with Zenit, co-author Shea explained:

“… tens of millions of people have read ‘The Da Vinci Code’ and many have had their faith in Christ… shaken. This blasphemous book has become a major cultural phenomenon, largely by attacking the very person and mission of Jesus Christ… [Author Dan] Brown is attempting to establish a neo-pagan feminist creation myth. The basic myth is: Jesus was actually a feminist, [teaching] neo-paganism. The Church supposedly covered up all this with lies about his divinity. Brown’s point here is: Let’s get back to goddess worship as Jesus intended… it’s written with the express intention of destroying faith in Jesus Christ and replacing it with neo-pagan goddess worship.”

Among many other fallacies, Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code” claims that Jesus Christ did not die and was not resurrected, but that He, instead, married Mary Magdalene. It is easy to see how readers, who begin to believe such nonsense, are being led away from the truth, as revealed in Scripture. Surely, Satan, the “god of this world,” attempts everything imaginable to discredit the inspired record of God’s Word, the Bible.

Brussels Pressures the USA

The EUObserver reported on February 24 about another, potentially hot dispute between the EU and the USA:

“The EU is mounting pressure on the US to introduce a visa free regime towards the bloc’s ‘new’ member states. While American citizens can travel throughout the EU with no visa, the countries that joined the EU in May 2004–minus Slovenia–have still not been accepted to the US visa-free regime for tourists staying in the country for up to 90 days. Of the 15 ‘old’ member states, Greece is also not a part of that regime… EU interior ministers suggested after their meeting on Tuesday (21 February), that the commission should include in its report ‘possible measures to be taken in relation to third countries with which full visa reciprocity has not been achieved.’ Sanctions like visa obligations for the countries’ diplomats have been mentioned in the past as a possible retaliatory move… Washington argues that it is holding bilateral talks with individual countries on the matter, not with the EU as a whole.”

As the Bible predicts, the USA will soon find itself in the undesirable position that it will HAVE to deal with the EU “as a whole.” The EU will unite, and it will speak with one voice–as unimaginable as this may seem at the moment. For more information, please read our free booklet, “Europe in Prophecy.”

Civil War in Iraq–Inevitable?

TimesOnLine reported on February 26 about the real fear of a civil war in Iraq, and what the potential disastrous consequences would be:

“It was not only the golden-domed mosque in Samarra that lay in ruins. [The] strategy of building a broad-based government of national unity in Iraq was suddenly threatened by the prospect of civil war. Since the bombing last Wednesday up to 200 Iraqis have lost their lives in an outpouring of sectarian revenge… Influential figures close to the US administration have long been emphasising the dire consequences should sectarian divisions escalate into all-out conflict. Andrew Krepinevich, a Pentagon adviser who heads the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, a military think tank, warns that if civil war breaks out ‘the outcome may be that we help the rise of another Saddam Hussein who is ruthless enough to deal with the problem.'”

The article continued to point out that “… a vicious sectarian conflict could spread to other parts of the Arab world. In a report… the International Crisis Group, a Brussels-based security think tank, warns that nations should begin planning for the ‘next Iraq war’ — the one after the country falls apart… The violence has brought home how little power Iraq’s politicians have compared with the clerics. Many Iraqis refused to heed prime minister Jaafari’s appeal for calm, while Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani appeared to call on sectarian militias to protect religious sites. Previous pleas for restraint by Sistani have been heeded, but his ability to control Shi’ite radicals appears to be waning and the country has faced a dangerous power vacuum since elections last December.”

Der Spiegel Online added on February 24:

“At least 200 people, mostly Sunnis, have now been killed amid violence sparked by the bombing of Samarra’s Shiite al-Askari shrine on Wednesday. In an attempt to prevent further deaths, Iraq’s government on Friday placed a curfew on Baghdad and three provinces. Despite the curfew, a large crowd attended Friday prayers at Baghdad’s Abu Hanifa mosque, the city’s most important Sunni site. The imam there denounced the [attack] against the Shiite mosque, but Sunni politicians, in protest against the reprisals, have pulled out of negotiations to set up a coalition government of national unity. As emotions continue to run high, many observers are becoming worried the latest sectarian strife will spark a civil war. Some German commentators on Friday fear the violence has only just begun.

“For the conservative Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) the destruction of the Golden Mosque in Samarra and the ensuing outbreak of violence have destroyed the hopes created by the Iraqi elections in December. ‘Just how out of control the situation is, has been shown by the interventions of the occupation forces. The British foreign secretary, Jack Straw, has called the Iraqi parties to urgently form a government. The US ambassador in Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, even threatened with cutting off American financial support.’ Like many observers, the FAZ suspects that foreign terrorists, under the leadership of Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi, are behind the bombings. ‘It is not surprising that in a perverse grouping of interests, the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is also fanning the flames of the Iraqi fire.'”

On March 1, 2006, The Associated Press added:

“Bombings in Baghdad killed 26 people and four others died when mortar rounds slammed into their homes in a nearby town Wednesday, the second day of surging violence after authorities lifted a curfew that briefly calmed sectarian attacks… A spokesman for the powerful Association of Muslim Scholars blasted the government for failing to stanch sectarian attacks that have pushed the country closer to civil war.”

Most Feel Iraq War Was Wrong

AFP reported on February 28:

“Most people in 33 out of 35 countries worldwide believe that the US-led war in Iraq has increased the threat of terrorism, a survey for BBC World Service radio suggested… The survey of 41,856 people by Canadian pollsters GlobeScan and the US Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) also claimed there was overall support in 20 countries for US forces to withdraw in the next few months… Other responses suggested that 21 countries thought the removal of former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein was a mistake; overall, 45 percent were against removing him from power… Greatest criticism of the move came from Argentina (74 percent), with strong opposition from Spain (65 percent) and Germany (61 percent). In Britain, whose government backed the US-led campaign and still has about 8,000 troops in southern Iraq, 40 percent thought removing Saddam was a mistake; in the United States, the figure was 32 percent and in Iraq, 23 percent… In Britain, 77 percent of those questioned thought the terrorist threat had risen since the war, with 55 percent in the United States saying likewise and 75 percent in Iraq.”

German Government Not THAT Peace-Loving?

Der Spiegel Online reported on February 24:

“One can’t blame Germans these days if they no longer know what to believe. First, the news was that German secret service agents had helped US forces identify bombing targets during the Iraq war. Then, the German intelligence agency BND convincingly denied it. On Wednesday, though, following a closer look taken by the congressional committee charged with overseeing the BND, the Green Party politician Hans-Christian Ströbele gave an impromptu press conference… He revealed that German agents did, in fact, pass on information regarding bombing targets to US forces…

“That the BND may have been fibbing is of secondary concern for most Germans. The previous government under Chancellor Gerhard Schröder was unbending in its rejection of the Iraq war. BND target hunting would seem, however, to indicate that German politicians, both then and now, weren’t telling the whole truth. Needless to say, German commentators are not impressed… According to the center-left Süddeutsche Zeitung the controversy surrounding the deployment of German intelligence services in Iraq was so great, that for once it has been important to make the activities of the secret agents public. ‘That there even was such a cooperation (between German and American intelligence) is quite staggering, considering the dogmatic rejection by the Schröder/Fischer (SPD/Green Party) government of the Iraq war… the question of how delivering information to American intelligent services could be aligned with the official government anti-war policy, remains unanswered.”

On February 26, Der Spiegel Online filed this report:

“Rarely has a denial been as categorical as the one delivered by official Berlin. The Monday article by the New York Times, reporting that German intelligence officials stationed in Baghdad during the US invasion of Iraq had provided the Americans with a diagram of Iraqi defense plans for the city, is simply untrue, government spokesman Ulrich Wilhelm says… The New York Times… stands by its story. On Monday evening, the paper published an editor’s response to the German government’s denials. The story, written by Michael Gordon, is based on a classified study undertaken by the Joint Forces Command in 2005. The editor’s response quoted the study in more detail and made it clear that at least three German agents were implicated… German media on Tuesday seem skeptical of the government denials in Berlin. Indeed a number of commentators proved susceptible to conspiracy theories making the rounds…  The theory seems to be that the United States is getting back at Germany for its opposition to the Iraq invasion — and that this most recent leak could be in response to German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s demand that the Guantanamo prison be closed.”

The magazine pointed out the crux of the matter, when continuing:

“But conspiracies aside, the Times report, if true, could present major credibility difficulties for both the former government under Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and the current government under Merkel. Schröder was one of the most outspoken critics of the war on Iraq. Many are of the opinion that, if German intelligence agents provided the American military with strategic information, it would indicate a high degree of hypocrisy. Germany did allow US troops overfly rights and access to their German bases during the Iraq invasion, but consistently refused any active support. Even the new government under Merkel, which took office in November 2005, would be vulnerable if the Times revelations are proven. The government is a coalition formed by Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) and Schröder’s Social Democrats, and Merkel’s foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, was Schröder’s chief of staff. He was also responsible for coordinating with Germany’s intelligence services. Should the Times report prove correct, Steinmeier could become the first political victim.”

In addition to the usual German suspicion of United States’ activities, at stake is nothing less than the new-found trust of the German people in their current government. If that trust is shaken, the consequences might be severe.

IRS vs. “Political” Churches

The Washington Times reported on February 27:

“The Internal Revenue Service said yesterday it found a ‘disturbing’ amount of illegal politicking in churches and charities after investigating complaints coming out of the 2004 election. To prevent a repeat in the upcoming congressional elections, the agency said it is gearing up to quickly investigate and quash any violations that arise this year… More than 100 complaints were filed with the tax agency after the closely contested 2004 presidential election charging that some evangelical and black churches and various nonprofit groups violated their tax-exempt status by overtly campaigning for the candidates. The agency completed investigations of 82 cases, and found that nearly three out of four of the groups violated the tax law at least once. It did not release any of the groups’ names but said they represented ‘the full spectrum of political viewpoints.’…

“The IRS has fined one group, moved to revoke the tax-exempt status of another three, and sent 55 organizations, including 39 churches, letters of warning not to violate the law again. Investigations are ongoing in another 28 cases… Common violations in the 2004 elections included distributing campaign literature and lists recommending candidates, endorsing or opposing candidates from the pulpit, and inviting candidates to appear at church meetings or other social functions… Some groups blatantly violated the law by making cash campaign contributions, while the political activities of others were more vague and harder to discern..”

The Bird Flu’s Deadly Outreach

The Associated Press reported on February 28:

“The deadly strain of bird flu has been found in a cat in Germany, officials said Tuesday, the first time the virus has been identified in an animal other than a bird in central Europe. Health officials urged cat owners to keep pets indoors after the dead cat was discovered over the weekend on the Baltic Sea island of Ruegen, where most of the more than 100 wild birds infected by the H5N1 strain have been found. The cat is believed to have eaten an infected bird, said Thomas Mettenleiter, head of Germany’s Friedrich Loeffler Institute. That is in keeping with a pattern of disease transmission seen in wild cats in Asia… Maria Cheng of the World Health Organization in Geneva said there was not enough information on how the disease is transmitted to be sure. She noted that tigers and snow leopards in a zoo in Thailand became infected after being fed chicken carcasses, dying from H5N1 in 2003 and 2004… Scientists are particularly concerned about bird flu infecting pigs, because swine can also become infected with the human flu virus. The fear is the two viruses could swap genetic material and create a new virus that could set off a human flu pandemic.”

The article continued:

“Forty-three countries–including the United States–have partially or totally banned French poultry products after H5N1 was confirmed in commercial birds over the weekend. A group of veterinary chiefs meeting in Paris said Tuesday no country should consider itself safe from the deadly strain and that it is ‘highly likely’ the disease will continue its spread in poultry stocks in Europe and beyond.”

Der Spiegel Online reported on March 1:

“Now that the virus has killed a housecat, worries are increasing that it could become easier for humans to get infected. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), most of the people who were infected with the virus had direct contact with infected live or dead poultry. Of the 173 cases of avian flu in humans, 93 were fatal. Vietnam has seen the most cases thus far — 93 in total with 42 fatal infections. Closer to Europe, in Turkey, 12 cases have been detected in humans, with four fatalities. Currently, the disease can’t be transmitted from human to human, but scientists fear that if it does, it could cause a pandemic of a magnitude not seen since the Spanish flu H1N1, which killed as many as 50 million people between 1918 and 1920.”

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Please explain Christ’s saying, "Wherever the body is, there the eagles will be gathered together."

Actually, Christ spoke at least twice about the body attracting eagles. His words are recorded in Matthew 24:28 and in Luke 17:37. In both cases, He spoke about His return to this earth. However, we might note a few distinctions, as we look at His statements more carefully.

Let us review His sayings one at a time.

In Matthew 24:26-28, Christ says: “‘Therefore if they say to you, “Look, He is in the desert!” do not go out; or “Look, He is in the inner rooms!” do not believe it. For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. For wherever the carcass is, there the eagles will be gathered together.'”

The Greek word for “carcass” is, “ptoma,” which “denotes, lit. a fall (akin to pipto, to fall); hence, that which is fallen, a corpse” (W. E. Vine, Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words).

The Nelson Study Bible comments to Matthew 24:28: “This sweeping statement conveys an image of the horrible carnage that will take place in the judgment at the coming of the Son of Man.”

The Broadman Bible Commentary offers a similar explanation for Matthew 24:28. It says: “When the Son of Man comes at the end of the age there will be no secrecy about it. His coming will be as apparent as the lightning that flashes across the sky. Further, his coming in judgment is as inevitable as is the gathering of the vultures where there is a carcass. Eagles is the literal Greek word, and there may be, but probably is not, a veiled reference to the coming of the Roman ‘eagles’ upon Jerusalem. The Greek word ptoma normally designates a corpse or carcass, not a living body. The word for the coming of the Son of Man is Parousia, an apparent reference to his coming at the end of the age.”

These explanations as to Christ’s sayings in Matthew 24:28 seem to be correct. Christ is indeed speaking about the MANNER of His return at a time of GREAT DESTRUCTION on this earth. As eagles descend on a carcass, so the destruction of this world and the manner of Christ’s return will be VISIBLE to everyone. Christ is not coming in secret–nor is He coming at a time of peace. Christ said that “there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved [alive]; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened” (Matthew 24:21-24). God the Father will shorten these days of utter destruction by sending His Son Jesus Christ to this earth. And Christ will be “coming with clouds, and EVERY EYE WILL SEE HIM” (Revelation 1:7).

When turning to Christ’s sayings in Luke 17:37, He seems to be emphasizing here a SLIGHTLY DIFFERENT ASPECT regarding His coming. However, most commentaries fail to see the distinctions in Matthew 24:28 and Luke 17:37, and give the same identical explanation for both passages. Note, however, what Christ is saying in Luke 17: 24-37. Although He is addressing in this passage the general time of His return (verses 24, 30), He also introduces the thought that at that time, “‘…two men will be in the field: the one will be taken and the other left.’ And they answered and said to Him, ‘Where, Lord?’ So He said to them, ‘Wherever the body is, there the eagles will be gathered together'” (verses 36-37).

As mentioned, most commentaries state that the meaning of both sayings in Matthew and Luke is identical. The German commentary, Rienecker, Kommentar zur Bibel, refers to parallel expressions in Ezekiel 32:3-5 and Habakkuk 1:8, comparing God’s judgments with eagles descending on world powers to devour them. Regarding Matthew 24:28 and Luke 17:37, Rienecker concludes that Jesus used this picture for His return, which–like eagles descending on a carcass–will be sure, sudden and obvious.

Vine’s gives a similar explanation: “In Matt. 24:28 and Luke 17:37… the meaning seems to be that, as birds of prey gather where the carcase is, so the judgments of God will descend upon the corrupt state of humanity. The figure of the eagle is used in Ezek. 17 to represent the great powers of Egypt and Babylon, as being employed to punish corrupt and faithless Israel (Cp. Job 39:30 [In referring to eagles, see Job 39:27, the passage continues in Job 39:30: “Its young ones suck up blood; And where the slain are, there it is.”]; Prov. 30:17…).”

The Ryrie Study Bible comments that Luke 17:37 is a “reference to the carnage of Armageddon (Rev. 19:17-19).”

The Nelson Study Bible and the Broadman Bible Commentary agree with this interpretation of Luke 17:37, but they add some additional thoughts regarding Christ’s statements that some would be “taken,” while others would be “left” behind.

Commenting on Luke 17:34-37, the Nelson Study Bible states: “‘Taken’ here suggests judgment, such as when the soldiers took Jesus to crucify Him. Verse 37 makes it clear that those who are taken are taken to final judgment… On that day, the Son of Man will divide humankind into two groups: those who are taken to judgment and those who are left to live and reign with Christ. Other commentators suggest the opposite. The righteous will be taken into God’s kingdom. Either way, Jesus is clearly saying that a person’s eternal destiny is not determined by being close to those who are righteous. Each person stands before God alone… When the disciples asked where Jesus’ return would take place, Jesus did not answer directly… The term for eagles here refers to vultures that gather over dead animals. When the judgment comes, it will be final and terrible, with the stench of death and the presence of the vultures everywhere. No one will need to look for the place of judgment; the presence of the birds will reveal where the carcasses are.”

Regarding Luke 17:37, Broadman points out: “When the end comes, it will cut across the closest relationships of this world order. The coming is pictured as taking place toward the end of the last watch (cf. 12:38), that is, when the fainthearted have given up hope. The men are still in bed, but the women are already in the initial stages of the arduous task of preparing bread for the day. ‘Will be taken’ means to be taken into salvation by God, probably by His angels. The disciples are still asking where. The reply is another case of those difficult sayings to which no dogmatic interpretation can be given. [Some identify] eagles as Roman standards, whose emblem was the eagle. It is taken as a reference to the conquest of Jerusalem by the Roman army. But it seems better to relate the passage to the Parousia [Christ’s Second Coming]. The eagles (perhaps vultures) are symbols of judgment. There is no answer to the questions of time and place. Jesus simply affirms that judgment is inevitable and that it will take place when in God’s purpose the time has come.”

Many of those comments are worthwhile contemplating–ESPECIALLY IF APPLIED TO MATTHEW 24:28. Still, it must be noted that all these commentaries, as quoted above, fail to point out and consider an OBVIOUS DISTINCTION between Christ’s words in Matthew 24:28 and in Luke 17:37.

While the Greek word for “carcass” in Matthew 24:28 designates, in fact, a DEAD body, this is NOT the case in Luke 17:37, where the Greek word is “soma.” This word does not have to describe a dead body. In fact, in most cases, it refers to a LIVING body. Vine’s explains: “soma is the body as a whole, the instrument of life, whether of a man living, e.g. Matt. 6:22, or dead, Matt. 27:52; or in the resurrection, 1 Cor. 15:44…”

Matthew Henry’s Commentary seems to have seen this distinction. As a consequence, it gives a slightly different explanation for Luke 17:37, stating two possible ways of understanding this passage:

“(1) Wherever the wicked are, they shall be found out by the judgments of God; as wherever a dead carcase is, the birds make a prey of it. The judgments of God shall fasten upon them, as the eagles do upon the prey. (2) Wherever the godly are, who are marked for preservation, they shall be found happy in the enjoyment of Christ. Wherever Christ is, believers will flock to him, and meet in him, as eagles about the prey, by their instinct of the new nature. WHEREVER THE BODY IS, WHEREVER THE GOSPEL IS PREACHED, thither will pious souls resort, there they will find Christ. Wherever Christ records his name he will meet his people, and bless them.”

With these comments, Henry seems to be referring to CHRIST’S CHURCH AS THE BODY. In other words, it is Christ’s Church, the body, which will be preaching the gospel (compare Matthew 24:14; 28:19-20). This seems to be a correct way of understanding this passage. The Greek word “soma” refers in many cases to the living body of Christ–the Church (compare Colossians 1:18; Ephesians 1:22-23). While the statement in Matthew seems to be addressing the ACTUAL EVENT of Christ’s return, Christ might have had SOMETHING ELSE in mind in Luke. Although He is describing events leading up to His return, the fact that some will be taken, and some may be left behind, could be a reference to a short time span of 3 1/2 years JUST PRIOR to His Second Coming, when His Church will be taken to a place of safety here on earth, to be PROTECTED from the terrible things to come (Revelation 3:10). We note that God’s protection is many times associated with eagles, or eagle’s wings. God will give His Church, often pictured as a “woman” or “virgin,” “two wings of a GREAT EAGLE, that she might fly into the wilderness to her place, where she is nourished for a time and times and half a time [3 1/2 years], from the presence of the serpent [Satan the devil]” (Revelation 12:14).

In similar ways, God protected ancient Israel when they left Egypt. Please note Exodus 19:4: “You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on EAGLES’ WINGS and brought you to Myself.” Isaiah 63:9 identifies the “eagles’ wings,” as follows: “In all their affliction He was afflicted, And the ANGEL of His Presence saved them; In His love and in His pity He redeemed them; and He bore them and carried them All the days of old.”

We note that the Bible does at times refer to angels as “eagles,” or that certain angels are described as having characteristics of eagles (Ezekiel 1:10; 10:14; Revelation 4:7).

It is therefore possible that Christ was addressing, in Luke 17:37, a SUPERNATURAL PROTECTION of God’s Church, through ANGELIC involvement, at a specific place of safety here ON THIS EARTH, just PRIOR to His Second Coming. Those who qualify for such a protection will be “taken” to this place, while others, who are not considered worthy, will be left behind. Christ admonishes us in Luke 21:36: “Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass [by escaping to the place of safety on this earth], and to stand before the Son of Man [when He returns].”

We are NOT told HOW, exactly, God will bring those whom He considers worthy to the place of safety. We do know, however, that He will do so SUPERNATURALLY, WITH SUPERNATURAL PROTECTION (Revelation 12:15-16). Ancient Israel left Egypt BY FOOT. Similarly, we read that Christ asks us to pray that our FLIGHT would not happen in winter or on the Sabbath (Matthew 24:20). This seems to indicate that SOME will go to the place of safety “by foot” or by means of physical transportation. But even then, supernatural protection during this “flight” will be guaranteed, in the same way as God protected ancient Israel on their exodus out of Egypt.

At other times, God protected human beings by SUPERNATURALLY TRANSPORTING them–or “taking them”–to another place on this earth (as in the case of Enoch and Elijah, please read Updates #128 and 130. Compare, too, Acts 8:38-40 for another supernatural “transport” of one of God’s disciples). So, it appears that some might, in some way, “physically” flee to a place of safety, while others will be taken there supernaturally. In any event, they all will have angelic protection.

We therefore conclude that Christ described, in Matthew 24:28 and Luke 17:37, EVENTS LEADING to His coming (including the physical protection of His worthy disciples), as well as His ACTUAL coming and the terrible CONDITIONS of this world at, AND THE MANNER of, His coming:

Eagles or angels will be gathered together to protect Christ’s body–the Church, as implied in Luke 17:37. And as everyone can observe when eagles or vultures descend on a carcass, so Christ’s actual return to this earth, as implied in Matthew 24:28, will be obvious and visible to all. Since eagles can refer to angels, it is even possible that Christ’s picture of descending eagles in Matthew 24:28 (and not only in Luke 17:37) refers to angels, in the sense that God will send symbolic eagles or angels to descend on the dead body or the carcass of this spiritually dead world, to render punishment and judgment on those who do not know or obey God.

We read that God will “give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven WITH HIS MIGHTY ANGELS, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, when He comes, in that Day, to be glorified in His saints and to be admired among all those who believe, because our testimony among you was believed” (2 Thessalonians 1:7-10).

Lead Writer: Norbert Link

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Preaching the Gospel and Feeding the Flock

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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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