|Babylon’s False Prophet
|“Bad Things Just Happen…”
|This Week in the News
|What is the disposition of the tares, mentioned in Matthew 13:24-30, 37-43?
|Preaching the Gospel and Feeding the Flock
|Attitude of Gratitude
Babylon’s False Prophet
“Bad Things Just Happen…”
by Norbert Link
Are you experiencing events in your life that you just don’t like? I’m sure you do. We all do. But rather than becoming discouraged, complaining about “life,” focusing on the seemingly “negative,” the apostle Paul is approaching this subject in quite a different way. He was most certainly familiar with suffering, trials, mischiefs, headache, set-backs and tremendous problems. He was beaten, stoned, shipwrecked, persecuted, maligned, arrested, tried, released and subsequently imprisoned again. If there was any man who could have given up in despair, it would have been him. But did he?
While imprisoned in Rome, Paul wrote his famous letter to the Philippians. Philippi had been the first European city visited by Paul. He arrived there on the Feast of Pentecost, following the direction of a vision, which he had received in Troas (Acts 16:9-13). Paul and Silas were beaten, arrested and imprisoned in Philippi, but then freed through an earthquake (Acts 16:16-40). The beginnings of that church were very small, but it seems that it grew and that the Philippian brethren were very kind to Paul. And Paul did not forget that.
In his letter to the church in Philippi, Paul thanked and encouraged them. He spoke about his imprisonment as an event which helped, not hindered, the preaching of the gospel. Even though some might have described his condition in a very negative way, Paul viewed it quite differently.
When reading Philippians 1:12, one is amazed to see how strongly Paul was willing to relate the positive aspects of his situation. However, in the New King James Bible, the rendering of his statement is awkward and, frankly, quite misleading. There, we read: “But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel…” This could give the impression that Paul believed that “the things” in his life just occurred because of “happenstance”—that they were the result of “blind fate” or time and chance.
This is, however, not the meaning of the verse. The words “which happened” are not in the original Greek. They were, unfortunately and incorrectly, added by the translator. Notice how other translations render this verse.
The New American Bible says: “I want you to know, brothers, that my situation has turned out rather to advance the gospel…”
The New Jerusalem Bible says: “Now I want you to realize, brothers, that the circumstances of my present life are helping rather than hindering the advance of the gospel…”
Paul knew that the “things” in his life did not just “happen” because of “time and chance.” Are you unsure about why you are going through certain events or discouraging problems in your life? Do you think they just might “occur” because you “happen” to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, and that God has nothing to do with them? If so, think again. And while you are at it, please read chapter 4 in our free booklet, “Are You Predestined to Be Saved?”
Paul did not believe that he was a helpless victim of blind fate, and if you are a converted Christian, you should not believe it either. Paul knew that God was always there to watch, guide and direct him; to encourage him; and yes, even to chastise and punish him, when necessary. Paul would later write in his letter to the Hebrews that God chastises every child whom He wants to receive into His Kingdom (Hebrews 12:5-11). Paul knew that he was no exception. He was convinced that his occasional chastisement, even though seemingly painful at the moment, was a positive, and not a negative event.
Paul was of the firm conviction that God was watching him at all times, and that nothing would just “happen” to him without or against God’s Will. He knew Christ’s words that no sparrow falls to the ground apart from the Father’s Will, and that the very hairs of our head are all numbered (Matthew 10:29-30).
I would like to quote from an older commentary—“Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible.” Admittedly, it is written in a language which might sound a little bit strange to our modern ears, but I believe that you will appreciate the gist of his comments:
“[Paul’s] sufferings on account of the Gospel, which though said to happen, were not things of chance but of appointment; for as all the sufferings of Christ the head, were by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, so are those of all the members of his [spiritual] body, and of his ministers who are appointed to these things, and they for them; of which Christ has given previous notice, so that they do not come unexpected, but are looked for by them; nor are they over distressed with them, being supported with the presence, Spirit, grace, and favour of God; hence they can rejoice in them, in hope of the glory of God…”
In addition, please also note these insightful statements in “Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary”:
“The apostle was a prisoner at Rome; and… he shows the wisdom and goodness of God in his sufferings. These things made him known, where he would never have otherwise been known; and led some to inquire after the gospel… Since our troubles may tend to the good of many, we ought to rejoice… Let us leave it to Christ, which way he will make us serviceable to his glory, whether by labour or suffering, by diligence or patience, by living to his honour in working for him, or dying to his honour in suffering for him.”
Paul saw God’s directing and sustaining hand in his life. Even though (or because) he was a prisoner, he was able to help in the furtherance of the truth of the gospel. His condition as a Roman captive enabled him to fulfill his commission, which Christ had given to him (Acts 20:24)–to open the eyes of the Gentiles and to turn them from darkness to light (Acts 26:12-18).
How about you? If God called you into His spiritual body, He has given you the same charge of living the truth of the gospel–of standing up for and, if appropriate, “defending” it (compare 2 Peter 3:15). When things go “wrong,” don’t blame time and chance or “life.” This would be a most serious mistake. Rather, consider whether the wrong things may be just right for you. Stay positive. Be thankful that God IS in charge—and that He has promised that He will be with you, always, even to the end of the age (Matthew 28:20).
We begin reporting on worldwide natural disasters and strange occurrences, including the mysterious death of birds and fish and flooding in Australia, and we are reflecting on earthquakes and other catastrophes in 2010. We continue relating the grim and hopeless conditions in California, emphasize reasons as to why the euro will not fail, and warn of rising oil prices and expensive times to come. We speak on Europe’s dismay and anger with Egypt, report on Europe’s helplessness or unwillingness to stand up to Russia’s totalitarian regime, and conclude with a strong article in a Jewish paper on the Coming of the Messiah.
This Week in the News
Mysterious Deaths of Thousands of Birds
Today’s THV wrote on January 2, 2011:
“Just before folks in Beebe (Arkansas) rang in the New Year, many witnessed an uncanny resemblance to the Hitchcock movie ‘The Birds.’ About 2,000 black birds [actually, up to 5,000, see article below] fell from the sky off Windwood Drive, leaving quite the mess to clean up. Folks Today’s THV spoke with initially thought the birds were poisoned because they are what they call a nuisance around this time every year, but they are surprised to hear it is more of a mystery…
“The mystery is unraveling like scenes from a movie, dozens of U.S. Environmental Services crews spent the day picking up the birds, walking between homes and climbing on roofs with protective hazmat suits and breathing masks.
“Charles Boldrey stands outside watching the crews, ‘Nobody knows, I asked these guys who are out here picking them up and they don’t seem to know anything. Nobody seems to know anything. It just kind of freaked everybody out.’… Game and Fish Commission’s Karen Rowe says poisoning doesn’t appear to be the case and strange events similar to this have occurred across the globe a number of times.”
MSNBC wrote the following on January 3, thereby only adding to the mystery:
“Preliminary autopsies on 17 of the up to 5,000 blackbirds that fell on this town indicate they died of blunt trauma to their organs, the state’s top veterinarian told NBC News on Monday. Their stomachs were empty, which rules out poison, Dr. George Badley said, and they died in midair, not on impact with the ground. That evidence… suggests they suffered some massive midair collision, he added. That lends weight to theories that they were startled by something…
“Violent weather rumbled over much of the state Friday, including a tornado that killed three people in Cincinnati, Ark. Lightning could have killed the birds directly or startled them to the point that they became confused. Hail also has been known to knock birds from the sky… Rough weather had hit the state earlier Friday, but the worst of it was already well east of Beebe by the time the birds started falling, said Chris Buonanno, a forecaster with the National Weather Service in North Little Rock.”
CNN added the following on January 4:
“Karen Rowe, an ornithologist for the game and fish commission, said the incident is not that unusual and is often caused by a lightning strike or high-altitude hail… Officials also speculated that fireworks shot by New Year’s revelers in the area might have caused severe stress in the birds… ‘Initial examinations of a few of the dead birds showed trauma. Whether or not this trauma was from the force of hitting the ground when they fell or from something that contacted them in the air, we don’t know,’ she said…
“In a seemingly separate incident, some 500 red-winged blackbirds, starlings and grackles were found dead in southern Louisiana in Labarre. The birds showed no evident trauma, according to Jim LaCour, a veterinarian with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.”
On January 5, USA Today reported about another theory explaining the deaths of thousands of birds in Arkansas: “It was someone shooting off professional grade fireworks in a residential district, scaring the night-blind birds out of their roost into a 25-mph flight that ran them into houses, signs and even the ground, says Karen Rowe, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission ornithologist.”
The Local reported on January 5 that “Shortly before midnight on Tuesday, residents found 50 to 100 jackdaws on a street in Falköping southeast of Skövde [Sweden]. The incident echoed a number of unexplained incidents earlier this week across the southern US.”
Ktre.com reported on January 5: “A large number of dead birds spotted on the Hwy 155 bridge near Ore City [Texas] is most likely a natural occurrence in the area and not related to the mysterious bird deaths in Arkansas and Louisiana.”
Deaths of Thousands of Fish
There have also been reports of many fish dying. Today’s THV reported on January 2: “Arkansas Game & Fish is trying to figure out why 100,000 fish in Northwest Arkansas turned up dead. They were found along a 20-mile stretch between the Ozark Dam and Highway 109 Bridge in Franklin County.”
The Guardian added on January 4:
“Birds dropping dead from the skies and rivers flowing with tens of thousands of dead fish sounds like a cheesy Hollywood movie about the Apocalypse. Or the ravings of a Revelation-obsessed street preacher. But residents of several US states are coping with the reality of mystery mass wildlife deaths, which have left officials scratching their heads and jumpy members of the public joking (nervously) about the end of the world…
“Today it emerged that about 500 red-winged blackbirds and starlings had been found dead in Louisiana… That would be spooky enough. But the Louisiana bird die-off came just a few days after up to 5,000 blackbirds fell to earth in neighbouring Arkansas in the small town of Beebe…
“In even more grim news, anglers and other members of the public reported that more than 80,000 drum fish had suddenly died in the state’s Arkansas river, about 100 miles west of Beebe. The silvery bodies of the fish floated in the river and washed up on its sides having died at roughly the same time. In another incident, hundreds of miles away on the Maryland coast of Chesapeake Bay, tens of thousands of dead fish also washed up on the shore…”
Wftv.com reported on January 5: “Thousands of dead fish were floating in Volusia County Tuesday (in Florida). The fish kill is unusual because it is warm, according to people who live along the creek.”
In addition, The Star reported on January 5 that “more than 40,000 Velvet swimming crabs have wound up dead on England beaches.”
Parana Online reported on January 3: “A survey… indicates that at least 100 tons of fish (sardine, croaker and catfish) have turned up dead since last Thursday off the coast of Parana (Brazil).”
“Birds and Fish Will Waste Away…”
These incidents remind us of a prophecy in Hosea 4:3 which awaits worldwide fulfillment in the future: “… the land will mourn; And everyone who dwells there will waste away with the beasts of the field And the birds of the air; Even the fish of the sea will be taken away.” In this context, the following article by The Examiner, dated January 4, is quite interesting:
“The incidents have prompted Christian sects to look to the Bible and, most importantly, to the sky, for more alleged signs of apocalyptic happenings… many believe this week’s dead birds and fish are a sign the Great Tribulation talked about in the book of Revelation and Daniel is fast approaching…
“According to the book of Revelation (depending on how one interprets prophetic code), there will be an increase in earthquakes, floods, war, and strange phenomena before God ushers mankind into the Great Tribulation, a three-and-half-year period of poverty, war, persecution, disease and mass death. Most Christians believe God will unleash the wrath while world powers move closer to one final battle between good and evil…
“According to Christians, Jesus Christ will return to Earth to save mankind from destroying the world… Whether these events will unfold lies with those who believe in Bible prophecy. However, according to prophecy, as many understand it, they will occur before Christ returns.
“According to studies, 41 percent of Americans believe Jesus Christ will return by 2050. The remaining 59 percent make up those who predict other dates and groups who don’t believe in the Second Coming.”
Flood of “Biblical Proportions”?—Hardly!
The Sydney Morning Herald wrote on January 1:
“Queensland was suffering a flood disaster of ‘biblical proportions’ that could cost the state’s economy more than $1 billion, its government declared yesterday. Authorities confirmed that 200,000 people had been affected and 22 cities and towns inundated by the worst floods in Queensland’s history. More than 1000 people were in 17 evacuation centres across the state yesterday. That figure was expected to reach 4000 in the next few days, police said.”
BBC News added on January 3:
“Devastating flood waters across the Australian state of Queensland may not recede for weeks, the state’s Premier Anna Bligh has warned… Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard [said:] ‘This is a major natural disaster and recovery will take a significant amount of time. The extent of flooding being experienced by Queensland is unprecedented and requires a national and united response.’ Approximately 850,000 sq km have been affected, an area equivalent in size to France and Germany…
“The Queensland premier said 75% of operations at the state’s coal fields had been halted, which supply half of the world’s coking coal needed in steel manufacturing. The state is also responsible for almost all the country’s sugar production, and with cane fields drenched, Australia, usually a net exporter, will be forced to import.”
Even though such devastating floods are extremely trying, a flood of biblical proportions would be worldwide–one which would destroy the entire earth. God promises us, however, that such a flood will not occur (compare Genesis 8:21-22). But Christ also said that floods—much bigger than the current one in Australia—will ravage parts of this planet. Compare Luke 21:25: “And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring…” At the same time, the Bible does say that certain English-speaking countries like Australia—one of the descendants of the ancient house of Israel—will experience tremendous hardship before certain other countries will, such as those in continental Europe.
2010—“Exceptional Year” for Worldwide Disasters
AFP wrote on January 3:
“The Haiti earthquake and floods in Pakistan and China helped make 2010 an exceptional year for natural disasters, killing 295,000 and costing $130 billion… The last time so many people died in natural disasters was in 1983, when 300,000 people died, mainly due to famine in Ethiopia… A total of 950 natural disasters were recorded last year, making 2010 the second worst year since 1980… And in terms of economic cost, insured losses amounted to approximately $37 billion, putting 2010 among the six most loss-intensive years for the insurance industry since 1980…
“The earthquake in Haiti in January was by far the worst disaster in terms of human cost, killing 222,570 people… Some 56,000 died in a combination of heatwaves and forest fires in Russia… The other most destructive events were an earthquake in China in April that killed 2,700, floods in Pakistan between July and September that cost 1,760 lives and August floods in China in which 1,470 perished… [the] earthquake in Chile… was the world’s most expensive natural disaster last year, with overall losses of 30 billion dollars and insured losses of eight billion dollars. The second most expensive disaster for the insurance industry was a series of earthquakes that rattled New Zealand, which cost an estimated 3.3 billion dollars…
“The American continent suffered the most disasters — 365 in total — with 310 in Asia. A total of 120 natural disasters were recorded in Europe, 90 in Africa and 65 in Australia and Oceania…”
New Laws in California
The Los Angeles Times reported on December 31:
“Californians will welcome 725 new laws on Jan. 1. Here’s a glance at some of the laws taking effect when you ring in the new year:
“AB 119 prevents insurance companies from charging different rates for men and women for identical coverage. SB 782 prevents landlords from evicting tenants who are victims of domestic or sexual abuse or stalking. AB 1844… will increase penalties, parole provisions and oversight of sex offenders, including a ‘one-strike, life-without-parole penalty’ for some. AB 1871 allows people to lease out their cars when they are not being used—alleviating the need to purchase additional insurance… SB 1411 makes it a misdemeanor to maliciously impersonate someone via a social media outlet or through e-mails… SB 1317 allows the state to slap parents with a $2,000 fine if their K-8 child misses more than 10 percent of the school year without a valid excuse. It also allows the state to punish parents with up to a year in prison for the misdemeanor… SB 1399 allows California to medically parole state prison inmates with physical incapacitating conditions…”
Some of these new laws are good (for instance, AB 119, AB 1844 and SB 1411), but some are very bad, as they open up possibilities of terrible abuse (such as SB 1317). As always, this proves that man—in spite of good intentions—is really incapable of ruling justly and fairly.
New Governor in California—Same Old Same Old
BBC News reported on January 3:
“Jerry Brown is set to be inaugurated as the new governor of the US state of California, taking over from outgoing Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Mr Brown, a Democrat who also served as California’s governor from 1975 to 1983, will be only the second person to lead the state for three terms. He has warned California residents to expect ‘shared sacrifice’ as the state struggles to overcome a fiscal crisis… The state faces a $28bn (£18bn) budget shortfall over the next 18 months. Voters may be asked to agree to the extension of temporary taxes that were brought in in 2009 and are due to expire in July. Mr Brown, 72, will need the backing of some Republicans in the state legislature if he is to put any tax measures to voters.”
The Telegraph added on January 3:
“Having taken the helm of the troubled state declaring ‘failure is not an option’, Mr Schwarzenegger, 63, leaves with an approval rating of just 22 per cent and a tripled $28 billion budget deficit. His decision to focus on tackling climate change was criticised by opponents and commentators who said he should have prioritised fixing the state’s economy, the eighth largest in the world. His departure, which comes amid fears California could become insolvent, has prompted headlines in the US media such as ‘Hasta La Vista, Failure’.”
We have seen a steady decline in California’s economy—notwithstanding all of the usual (but failed) promises from past and present politicians, regardless of whether they belong to one of the two major parties or whether they are independent. And so, it would be extremely naïve to expect that the new administration were to improve California’s status.
Why the Euro Will Not Fail
Bloomberg wrote on December 31:
“French President Nicolas Sarkozy said today that an end of the euro common currency would signal the end of Europe. ‘Europe held strong, Europe protected us’ in the economic crisis, Sarkozy said… ‘I will oppose this backlash with all my strength,’ he said… France will hold the rotating chairmanship both of the Group of 20 nations and of the Group of Eight in 2011…”
Reuters reported on December 30:
“’Europe stands, in these months, in the middle of a great test. We must strengthen the euro. It’s not just about our money. The euro is far more than a currency,’ [German Chancellor Angela] Merkel [told] the country… ‘The euro is the foundation of our prosperity. Germany needs Europe and our common currency. For our own well-being and in order to overcome great worldwide challenges. We Germans assume our responsibility, even when it is sometimes very hard.’”
President Sarkozy and Chancellor Merkel are absolutely right. The end of the euro would be the end of Europe, and since the Bible clearly says that Europe’s unification (the last revival of the ancient Roman Empire) will continue until shortly before Christ’s return, we know that the euro will also continue to be the common currency for the major EU countries—including the ten nations or groups of nations which will arise out of the current EU. Far from abandoning the euro, more and more European countries are adopting it, as the next article shows:
The Associated Press reported on December 31:
“Estonians are preparing for historic New Year’s celebrations as the tiny Baltic country begins phasing in the euro on Jan. 1. Estonia will become the 17th nation in the euro area and the first former Soviet republic to adopt the common currency.”
This is not to say that the world, including Europe, won’t face for a while dire or “expensive” times in the future, including financial hardship. Jesus speaks in His famous Olivet Prophecy of “expensive times,” in addition to wars and “earthquakes here and there” (Matthew 24:7, revised Luther translation from 1964). In this context, please see the next article:
Expect Sharply Rising Oil Prices
Deutsche Welle reported on January 3:
“Oil prices closed out 2010 at a 26-month high of $92 (69 euros) a barrel… there is widespread agreement that consumers and industry can expect sharply rising prices due to soaring demand… some experts are predicting… a surge to levels never seen before – possibly as high as $200 a barrel…
“Werner Zittel, an oil expert… told German public broadcaster ARD on Monday that ‘the hour of truth’ had arrived. ‘Can global oil production keep up with the growing demand or not? I tend to think: no, game over,’ he said. Zittel is convinced that 2011 will be a fateful year for worldwide oil supplies. He believes that the price shock of 2008 was just a harbinger of what’s to come…
“Economists are worried that rising energy prices could stifle the fledgling economic recovery. If manufacturers are forced to charge more for goods due to rising production costs for energy, consumers will cut back on purchases which, in turn, would put another dent in sales and profits.”
Russia-China Oil Pipeline Opens
BBC News reported on January 1:
“The first oil pipeline linking the world’s biggest oil producer, Russia, and the world’s biggest consumer of energy, China, has begun operating… Concentrated in western Siberia, Russia’s network of pipelines for oil exports has so far run towards Europe… Russia overtook Saudi Arabia as the world’s largest oil producer in 2009. China surpassed the US as the world’s largest consumer of energy last year.”
As prophesied, Russia and China are moving closer together, and farther away from Europe. What impact the new pipeline will have on overall oil prices for the rest of the world will have to be seen.
Europe Concerned Over Egypt
Deutsche Welle reported on January 3:
“Chancellor Merkel said in a message to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on Monday that she experienced ‘horror and revulsion’ when hearing the news of the New Year’s Day bombing in Alexandria, Egypt, in which 21 people died and dozens were injured. ‘The German government condemns this barbaric terrorist attack, in which Christians – but also Muslims – lost their lives, to the utmost,’ Merkel wrote. The deadly attack has prompted widespread condemnation across the political spectrum in Europe.
“In a letter to Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak, French President Nicolas Sarkozy wrote that ‘nobody should be worried or afraid for their life in exercising their fundamental right to freely practice their faith.’ Italy’s foreign minister Franco Frattini urged his European Union counterparts to respond forcefully to the attack and to discrimination of Christians throughout the world… ‘The moment for a powerful and clear political response by all governments that cherish human rights, of which religious freedom is a basic part, has come’…
“The parliamentary human rights spokesman of Germany’s Green party, Volker Beck, said ‘the condemnation of such attacks is not enough. Egypt and other states must effectively combat the demons of religious intolerance.’ Contemplating measures that could be taken, Stefan Mueller, the parliamentary leader of Germany’s Christian Social Union, said it was time to tie development aid to the question of whether or not Christians are persecuted by the state or groups in a particular country. ‘There can be no financial aid to countries in which Christians cannot practice their faith unhindered,’ Mueller said…
“The deputy party leader of Germany’s governing Christian Democrats, Annette Schavan, called on Islamic leaders around the world to take a clear stand against religious violence. ‘Muslim authorities in Cairo and elsewhere must clearly distance themselves from all forms of violence in the name of religion,’ she said…”
Die Tageszeitung wrote on January 3:
“So the new year has brought al-Qaida’s insanity, as we know it from Iraq, into Egypt… the Egyptian government needs to finally stand up against the creeping Islamization of the country…”
The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung wrote on January 3:
“… America’s war in Iraq has increased pressure on Christians in the region. But the errors and dubious nature of Western politics alone cannot ‘explain’ this new terror. The jihadists believe that they have to ‘cleanse’ Islam of Western influence…”
The Süddeutsche Zeitung wrote on January 3:
“Egypt was long seen as the anchor of stability in a region which, for decades, has been synonymous with political violence. But the human rights situation is a catastrophe, the regime is corrupt, the superficial democracy is a farce. That all fuels the popularity of… Islam. Given the fine line between militant and non-militant Islam, violent attacks could soon return to Egypt.”
The Bible predicts a confederacy against Israel (the state of Israel, as well as USA and Great Britain) between nations such as Germany (biblical Assyria) and Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Turkey, Syria, and Iraq (Psalm 83:5-8; note, however, that Egypt is not listed there; nor is Iran). Daniel 11:42-43 also shows that in these last days, Europe (the king of the North) will invade the Middle East and the Glorious Land, and “Egypt shall not escape.”
Core Europe in the Making…
The Guardian wrote on January 4:
“2011 could turn out to be the year that a multispeed Europe starts to look more like a two-speed Europe, with an inner core impelled towards closer political and economic union by the need to rescue the single currency.
“The UK risks becoming a marginal voice, as European decision making is increasingly centred around the euro area. The French and allies are pushing hard for summits restricted to euro area leaders, who would meet to discuss ‘European economic government’ within their inner core… Britain is the least powerful of the three most powerful countries that between them dominate the EU. On its own, it cannot make the EU bend to its will…
“The single market’s creation, nearly two decades ago, required an unholy alliance between European federalists and free market liberals… calling for a free-trade Europe without a supra-national regulator at the top is so much empty talk, you don’t get one without the other.
“As EU leaders struggle to save the euro in 2011, the danger is of a different bargain between federalists and corporatists. In concrete terms, rich paymaster countries like France and Germany may accept pleas to guarantee the debts of insolvent nations on Europe’s periphery only in exchange for economic harmonisation on their terms. The numbers would be on their side: assemble the countries that use the euro – with such free-market advocates as Britain, Sweden, Denmark or the Czech Republic absent from the room – and the balance of opinion swings towards interventionism.
“…any creation of a formal inner core around the single currency… could change the very nature of the European project, in ways that make it far less congenial to the free market… If 2011 does see a leap towards a two-speed Europe, securing a place in the slow lane will only mark the start of Britain’s worries.”
The Bible clearly prophesies the emergence of a core Europe, consisting of ten nations or groups of nations, and countries like Britain, Denmark and Sweden will—in all likelihood–not be part of core Europe.
Russia Laughs at Europe
The EUObserver wrote on December 30:
“Commentators have warned that polite diplomacy alone will have zero impact on an increasingly wayward Russia as EU leaders lined up to criticise the jailing of oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky on Thursday…
“’There’s nothing anyone can say outside of Russia that has any effect on the Russians. They just laugh as we condemn their actions,’ Bill Browder, the CEO of US venture capitalist firm Hermitage Capital, whose lawyer, Sergey Magnitsky, died in suspicious circumstances in a Russian prison last year, told this website shortly after the Khodorkovsky sentence.
“’The only action that has any effect on their behavior is targeted sanctions taken outside Russia against specific Russian officials. When they see that they could be personally punished for violating human rights or abusing their own people, they get scared,’ he added. ‘If they behave like cannibals at home, we shouldn’t invite them to our dinner tables in Europe.’
“Andrew Wilson, a UK-based Russia expert at the European Council for Foreign Relations (ECFR) think-tank, noted: ‘Definitely, there is no rule of law in Russia. There is the opposite: the trial shows that everyone is fundamentally prosecutable.’…
“…the EU is currently finalising its approval of Russia’s bid to join the World Trade Organisation. EU member France this week clinched a €1.4 billion arms deal with Moscow, while Germany is the lead EU investor in a new Russian gas pipeline. Beyond the Union, the International Olympic Committee aims to hold the 2014 winter games in Russia and the international football authority, Fifa, recently awarded it the 2018 world cup…
“Mr Browder added: ‘My advice to the big companies in the West is to avoid Russia entirely because investing there is like a game of Russian roulette and you should be prepared to literally have your head blown off if things go wrong… if you do have problems, as my company did, you don’t just risk losing money, people get killed.”
However, greed and the desire to make a profit will override Mr. Browder’s warnings. And sadly, political and economic interests seem to be much more important to the rulers and the mighty of this world than individual liberties and freedom.
“When the Messiah Comes…”
On January 6, 2011, Haaretz wrote the following:
“When the Messiah comes, rabbis will treat him like Jesus. They will brand him disloyal… In wall posters, Sabbath sermons, ritual decrees and signed petitions, careful not to use his title, chief rabbis of cities and towns will warn of an existential threat to the essential Jewish character of the state… The rabbis’ declarations will divide the Jewish people and bring wrath and dishonor upon Israel…
“When the Messiah comes, the Right will crucify him… ads and billboards [will show] him with a tail to go along with his horns…
“When the Messiah comes, an Israel political party… will propose legislation declaring him a delegitimizer of Israel and the army…, a blasphemer of Zionism… and rendering him ineligible for citizenship unless he signs a loyalty oath stating that even if Israel did practice crucifiction, it did so in a democratic and Jewish manner… [They] will take out a Facebook page headed ‘Mavet L’ Mashiach’ – Death to the Messiah.”
Sadly, when the Messiah comes, the nations of this world will not recognize Him and even try to fight Him in war.
What is the disposition of the tares, mentioned in Matthew 13:24-30, 37-43?
In order to offer an accurate analysis of the fate of the “tares,” we need to look at the entire parable in Matthew 13, in its context. Beginning with verse 24, Jesus states:
“Another parable He put forth to them, saying: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way. But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared. So the servants of the owner came and said to him, “Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?” He said to them, “An enemy has done this.” The servants said to him, “Do you want us then to go and gather them up?” But he said, “No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, ‘First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn.’”’”
After sending the multitudes away and going into the house, He explained the meaning of the parable to His disciples. We read, beginning with verse 37:
“He answered and said to them: ‘He who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, the good seeds are the sons of the kingdom, but the tares are the sons of the wicked one. The enemy who sowed them is the devil, the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are the angels. Therefore as the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of this age. The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!’”
We need to notice that the parable deals with the time of Christ’s return. We are told that the angels will gather the tares out of His kingdom (that is, the tares will not enter the Kingdom of God at that time), and they will cast them into the furnace of fire. The tares are described as those people who offend and who practice lawlessness. Sin is defined as lawlessness, or transgression of the law (1 John 3:4). The angels will then gather the wheat into the barns; that is, the righteous will become glorified beings in the Kingdom of God the Father, shining forth as the sun (compare Daniel 12:3). They were righteous because they allowed Christ to fulfill the righteous requirements of the law in them (Romans 8:4), and when, even after conversion, they sinned and committed unrighteousness, but then repented and claimed, in faith, Christ’s sacrifice for the forgiveness of their sins, they were being made righteous on an ongoing basis (1 John 1:7-10).
We also need to notice that the tares were sown by Satan, not by God. Satan brought tares into the Church, but Christ said that everyone who has not been sown by God will be uprooted (Matthew 15:13). The tares never received the Holy Spirit. They looked very similar to the wheat. Even though the angels (i.e., the servants, compare verses 27-30 with verses 41-42) could detect the difference, it is sometimes difficult for the human mind to recognize tares among the saints. Christ tells the angels not to remove the tares prematurely, as He does not want to jeopardize the salvation of the saints. This could happen, perhaps, if an unconverted Church member (who is not causing division) is being removed from Church attendance or participation in social Church functions, and the converted member might be negatively affected and become offended by such action.
The People’s New Testament states:
“The roots of the wheat and tares were often so intertwined that one could not be pulled up without the other.”
Barnes’ Notes on the Bible offers this further comment:
“They [the tares] so much resembled the true wheat that even then it would be difficult to separate them. By gathering them, they would tread down the wheat, loosen and disturb the earth, and greatly injure the crop. In the harvest it could be done without injury.”
Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible adds:
“… not that men of openly scandalous lives are to be tolerated in churches; they are to be withdrawn from, and put away; nor men of known, avowed, heretical principles; such, after the first and second admonition, are to be rejected: yet there may be such in churches, not altogether agreeable in principle and practice, whose character and situation may be such, that there is no removing them without offending some truly gracious, useful persons, in whose affections they stand, who may be tempted, by such a step, to leave their communion; and so cannot be done without a considerable prejudice to the church.”
We also note that the tares will be cast into the fiery furnace at the beginning of the Millennium. This is the same lake of fire into which the beast (a military leader) and the false prophet (a religious leader) will be thrown at the time of Christ’s return (Revelation 19:19-20). This does not necessarily mean that any of them (the beast, the false prophet, the tares) had committed the unpardonable sin, as the lake of fire, leading to the second and final death in the Third Resurrection (Revelation 20:14-15), is quite different from the one in existence at the beginning of the Millennium.
We note a similar passage of the events at the time of Christ’s return, in 2 Thessalonians 1:3-10 (American King James Bible):
“We are bound to thank God always for you, brothers, as it is meet, because that your faith grows exceedingly, and the charity of every one of you all toward each other abounds; So that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that you endure: Which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you also suffer: Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you; And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day.”
It appears that the tares will be raised either in the Second Resurrection (the Great White Throne Judgment period), to be given an opportunity to repent and accept Jesus Christ as their personal Savior, or, if they have committed the unpardonable sin, they will be raised in the Third Resurrection, to be cast into the final lake of fire to be burnt up and extinguished for all eternity.
Although the tares did not have God’s Spirit, there is still an accountability for the knowledge and understanding one has been given and the way one handles that knowledge in regard to what God expects of him. This determination will be done by God who knows the heart and intents of man. Normally, a person must have received the Holy Spirit before he can commit the unpardonable sin, by rebelling against God and losing again the Holy Spirit (Hebrews 6:4-8). However, it is possible to commit the unpardonable sin, even if one has never accepted the gift of the Holy Spirit into his life (Matthew 12:31-32). When God offers repentance to someone, but that person refuses to accept that gift and rebelliously and presumptuously rejects God and His way of life, God will not force repentance and eternal life upon such a person.
We can therefore reach the following conclusions:
Within the fellowship of the spiritual body of Christ–the Church of God–there are certain individuals who may appear to be true Christians, but they are not. However, unless they cause division and affect negatively true believers by their sinful lifestyle, God does not order His Church to remove such persons, prior to Christ’s return, lest His true followers become negatively affected and offended by such Church action.
At the time of the return of Christ, the “tares” will be removed and burned up, while the true saints will inherit the Kingdom of God and eternal life. The unconverted tares will either be raised in the Great White Throne Judgment period (if they did not commit the unpardonable sin prior to Christ’s return) or in the Third Resurrection to be cast into the final lake of fire (if they had committed the unpardonable sin).
True Christians are not to judge others and attempt to discern as to who is a tare and who is a true Christian (unless this becomes rather obvious, compare 2 Timothy 2:19-21; 1 John 5:16-17; 2 John 9-11). They are to concentrate and focus on their own salvation, not becoming negatively affected by the sins of others, while being aware that God’s Word warns all of us of the fact that there will be tares amongst the saints.
Lead Writers: Norbert Link and Rene Messier
Preaching the Gospel and Feeding the Flock
Our new booklet, “Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians—How to Understand It,” was posted on the Web. The files were sent to a printer in the USA.
A new member letter has been written and will be sent out early next week, together with new Holy Days pocket calendars. In the letter, Brian Gale addresses the affairs of this world, which is unwilling to obey God and His Word.
A new StandingWatch program was posted on the Web, titled, “Birds and Fish Will Waste Away.” What is the meaning of the worldwide deaths of thousands of birds and over 150,000 fish? What will happen next? Is the Great Tribulation about to begin? Will Christ the Messiah return soon? Will mankind rejoice when He appears?
Another StandingWatch program was posted on the Web, titled, “The Origin of New Year’s Traditions.” Why do we observe New Year’s Eve on December 31 and New Year’s Day on January 1? Why do we have fireworks, firecrackers, oracle traditions and party games? What is the origin of many of these and other customs? Should true Christians participate in such activities?
A new German sermon was posted on the Web, titled, “Die Welt der Daemonen, Teil 2” [“The World of Demons, Part 2]”
Attitude of Gratitude
by John Amorelli
Man’s holiday season of “getting” has just passed.
Recently, I have found myself asking questions on the subject of getting. “Why can’t we get a better home?” “Why can’t I get a better car?” “Why can’t I have more money?” “Why can’t I get a better job?” These were some of the questions that I was reflecting on. The spirit of selfishness and way of “get” had leached into my life!
This forum is a reminder for me to be very careful not to slip into the “old man’s” carnal way of thinking. It is also an unambiguous reminder that my attitude needs a re-assessment and a plan of action towards God’s Way of Life.
I need to learn, with God’s help, to acquire an attitude of gratitude; to be grateful for what I have!
Upon further reflection, the home I live in keeps my wife and me warm in the winter and cool in the summer; my car takes me to where I need to go; I am able to pay my bills; and I have work! No excuse for complaining.
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:
United States: Church of the Eternal God, P.O. Box 270519, San Diego, CA 92198
Canada: Church of God, ACF, Box 1480, Summerland, B.C. V0H 1Z0
United Kingdom: Global Church of God, PO Box 44, MABLETHORPE, LN12 9AN, United Kingdom