Update 809


Delusions of Grandeur; How (Not) to Be a Pharisee!

On December 9, 2017, Kalon Mitchell will present the sermonette, titled, “Delusions of Grandeur,” and Norbert Link will present the sermon, titled, “How (Not) to Be a Pharisee!”

The live services are available, over video and audio, at http://eternalgod.org/live-services/ (12:30 pm Pacific Time; 1:30 pm Mountain Time; 2:30 pm Central Time; 3:30 pm Eastern Time; 8:30 pm Greenwich Mean Time; 9:30 pm Central European Time). Just click on Connect to Live Stream.

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Upholding the Banner of God

by Robb Harris

When Israel went before Samuel to demand a king, it was in response to egregious sins from his sons, the ruling priesthood.  We read that they, “turned aside after dishonest gain, took bribes, and perverted justice” (1 Samuel 8:3). In this climate of outward sinning, the elders of Israel, correctly, sought to remove those priests from ruling positions.  But they couldn’t have chosen a worse method to eradicate corruption from their presence.  To Samuel they pleaded, “Look, you are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways.  Now make us a king to judge us like all the nations” (1 Samuel 8:5).

God understood what this plea really signified and who it was that Israel wanted distance from, “And the LORD said to Samuel, ‘Heed the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them’” (1 Samuel 8:7).

Samuel was quite clear in describing the characteristics of how a king would rule (see Samuel 8:11-18). But even with the warnings about human leadership, Israel stayed the course to reject God and seek rulership and justice via carnal man.  Israel had had enough of godly rule and in their heart wanted to assimilate into the world around them, “Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, ‘No, but we will have a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles’” (1 Samuel 8:19-20).

The desire to “be like other nations” is a key attitude that has plagued Israel from its inception.  It is a disease to all descendants of Israel and the promises given to us through Abraham. So much more is expected of our conduct! It was God’s desire that we be “a holy people to the LORD your God, and the LORD has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples who are on the face of the earth” (Deuteronomy 14:2).

It was God’s wish that Israel carry the banner of His priesthood, an example to the nations that God was in charge.  But Israel chose instead to seek power from within human leaders.  They were warned what would accompany this reliance on man instead of God and for several millennia have suffered because of that choice.  Although Israelite nations still actively reject God, He has not rejected His promise or the love He has for His special people.

It is in that environment that you and I are tasked to pick up that banner, to exclaim that Godly rule does prosper. We must not be blinded like ancient Israel and think God doesn’t fight for us. The only battle that truly matters—overcoming sin—can only be won when we allow God to lead.

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by Norbert Link

We begin with developments pertaining to Israel and the Middle East, including President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and his intention to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem; and continue with American and European reactions to the ongoing threat from North Korea.

We discuss the deteriorating relationship between Germany and the USA; resurfacing thoughts of entering into a grand coalition in Germany under Merkel and Schulz; the desired, but non-existent expansion of the US military; and the highly controversial U.S. tax bill which the Senate adopted secretly in the dead of night.

We speak on the troublesome future of the US economy; address frightening murderous weapons; focus on America’s continuing withdrawal from many international agreements; report on the US Supreme Court’s decision upholding the Muslim travel ban; and discuss Germany’s fight with immigration.

We continue with Austria’s Supreme Court’s decision to recognize gay marriages; speak on a Court decision in France against a Muslim supermarket, which sets a dangerous precedence; give an update on the developments pertaining to Catalonia’s fight for independence from Spain; and conclude with an interesting article about popular Christmas songs which were all written by Jewish immigrants.

Throughout this section, we have underlined pertinent statements in the quoted articles, for the convenience and quick overview of the reader.

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Recognizing Jerusalem as Capital of Israel and Moving US Embassy to Jerusalem

The New York Times wrote on December 6:

“President Trump on Wednesday officially recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, reversing decades of American foreign policy. Mr. Trump made the formal announcement during a speech in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House, with Vice President Mike Pence standing behind him.

“The following is a transcript of his remarks…

“‘In 1995, Congress adopted the Jerusalem Embassy Act urging the federal government to relocate the American Embassy to Jerusalem and to recognize that that city, and so importantly, is Israel’s capital. This act passed congress by an overwhelming bipartisan majority. And was reaffirmed by unanimous vote of the Senate only six months ago. Yet, for over 20 years, every previous American president has exercised the law’s waiver, refusing to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem or to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital city. Presidents issued these waivers under the belief that delaying the recognition of Jerusalem would advance the cause of peace. Some say they lacked courage but they made their best judgments based on facts as they understood them at the time. Nevertheless, the record is in.

“‘After more than two decades of waivers, we are no closer to a lasting peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. It would be folly to assume that repeating the exact same formula would now produce a different or better result. Therefore, I have determined that it is time to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel…

“‘It was 70 years ago that the United States under President Truman recognized the state of Israel. Ever since then, Israel has made its capital in the city of Jerusalem, the capital the Jewish people established in ancient times. Today, Jerusalem is the seat of the modern Israeli government. It is the home of the Israeli Parliament, the Knesset, as well as the Israeli Supreme Court. It is the location of the official residence of the prime minister and the president. It is the headquarters of many government ministries…

“‘Jerusalem is today and must remain a place where Jews pray at the Western Wall, where Christians walk the stations of the cross, and where Muslims worship at Al Aqsa Mosque.

“‘… consistent with the Jerusalem embassy act, I am also directing the State Department to begin preparation to move the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. This will immediately begin the process of hiring architects, engineers and planners so that a new embassy, when completed, will be a magnificent tribute to peace…

“‘The United States would support a two-state solution if agreed to by both sides. In the meantime, I call on all parties to maintain the status quo at Jerusalem’s holy sites including the Temple Mount, also known as Haram al-Sharif…

It is interesting that President Trump did not say that Jerusalem was the exclusive capital of Israel; that he declared support for a two-state solution if both sides agree (which will never happen; see next articles); that the status quo at the Temple Mount is not to be changed; and that Muslims are to be able to worship at the Al Aqsa Mosque. Finally, even though he recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital (not excluding the possibility that the eastern part of Jerusalem might ALSO become the capital of a Palestinian state), he signed a waiver delaying the move of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem for at least six months, and it is expected that he will continue signing waivers for the next 3 to 4 years, according to ABC News of December 5.

All in all, it seems his big announcement was “much ado about nothing,” except that it upset the rest of the world.

Trying to Please the Evangelicals?

Fox News wrote on December 5:

“There are millions of evangelical eyes on Trump, waiting to see if he will keep his campaign promise to move the embassy, longtime Pastor John Hagee told Fox News. ‘I can assure you that 60 million evangelicals are watching this promise closely because if President Trump moves the embassy into Jerusalem, he will historically step into immortality,’ Hagee said.

“‘He will be remembered for thousands of years for his act of courage to treat Israel like we already treat other nations. If he does not, he will be remembered as just another president who made a promise he failed to keep which would generate massive disappointment in that strong evangelical base that went to vote for him against Hillary Clinton,’ he added…

“A March 2016 Gallup poll found that the majority of Americans didn’t express an opinion when asked if the U.S. embassy should move from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. But of those who did have an opinion, Americans were split with 24 percent supporting a move and 20 percent disagreeing with relocation.”

Warnings and Reactions

The Daily Mail wrote on December 6:

“In Gaza, U.S. and Israeli flags were burned and in the West Bank Hamas declared Friday a ‘day of rage,’ raising the specter of mass violence in the occupied territories… Two leading Lebanese newspapers published front-page rebukes of Trump…”

AFP wrote on December 5:

“Warnings multiplied on Tuesday, with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warning Trump in a speech that the status of Jerusalem is a ‘red line’ for Muslims and could even prompt Turkey to cut ties with Israel.”

Newsmax wrote on December 6:

“Pope Francis… called on Wednesday for the city’s ‘status quo’ to be respected… The Vatican backs a two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, with both sides agreeing on the status of Jerusalem as part of the peace process. Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of their future independent state, whereas Israel has declared the whole city to be its ‘united and eternal’ capital

“The Vatican and Israel established full diplomatic relations in 1994… The Vatican signed its first treaty with the ‘State of Palestine’ in 2015.”

The EUObserver wrote on December 6:

“Trump’s decision comes despite warnings by Germany, France, EU officials, and Arab and Muslim leaders that the Jerusalem move would make the conflict worse. Recognising Jerusalem ‘as the capital of Israel does not calm a conflict, rather it fuels it even more,’ German foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel said… He called Trump’s plan ‘a very dangerous development’…

“Gabriel echoed French president Emmanuel Macron… [who] restated the EU and UN position that Israel and Palestine must share ‘Jerusalem as their capital’ in future.”

Deutsche Welle reported on December 6:

“Former German Ambassador to Israel Rudolf Dreßler told DW that the United States would seriously harm the Middle East peace process with an embassy move… Now Russia, China and the EU will take over this role [of negotiating with Israel and the Palestinians].

“… if renewed violence should become a reality — for instance, with a third intifada — then Germany and all of its EU partners will have a lot to deal with. We will have to determine how to reformulate the EU’s role against the backdrop of Trump and Netanyahu’s policies in Israel…”

Saudi Arabia Might Strike a Deal with Israel against Iran

Israel National News reported on December 3:

“A bombshell report suggests that Saudi Arabia [is] ready to sign a deal with the Jewish state… Prime Minister Netanyahu’s former national security advisor Yaakov Nagel told the Telegraph that Saudi Arabia is so desperate to ink an agreement with Israel that it is prepared to move forward despite lack of a Palestinian state. Saudi Arabia’s traditional position forbids negotiations with Israel until a two-state solution is implemented…

“Israel has long been rumored to be holding covert ties with Saudi Arabia and Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon said last week that Israel enjoys warm relations with many Arab countries despite the fact that these countries officially refuse to recognize Israel’s existence… ‘We are talking about a dozen Islamic countries, including the Arab countries that understand the potential of relations with Israel…’”

In the end, many Arab nations will join forces to fight Israel, and according to Psalm 83, Ishmael or Saudi Arabia will be one of them.

“UK Woos Israel as Relationship with EU Breaks Down”

The Times of Israel wrote on November 27:

“As Britain proceeds with the dissolution of its marriage to its long-term partner, the European Union, it has started to court new companions, among them Israel.

“Brexit — the process the UK has initiated for withdrawing from the EU, which is estimated to impact economic growth, create financial instability and cut jobs — is a challenge, but it also presents ‘huge’ opportunities for Israel, said Hugo Bieber, chief executive of the chamber of commerce UK Israel Business (UKIB), who led the chamber’s largest business delegation to Israel last week with a similar message to Israeli firms.”

The ongoing friendly relationship between the USA, the UK and Israel—many times in opposition to Europe’s viewpoint—will not continue.

Dealing with North Korea

The New York Times wrote on December 3:

“The news last week from the Korean Peninsula about yet another ballistic missile launch was déjà vu all over again. This one had an estimated range of 8,100 miles — long enough to hit Washington, D.C., or anywhere else in the continental United States. President Trump responded with angry tweets…

“… a military response is highly unlikely… All sides realize that the human and economic costs of another Korean war are simply unfathomable. Several American presidents have tried to persuade the Kim dynasty to abandon its nuclear ambitions, through a combination of sanctions and negotiations. But these efforts have been unsuccessful.

“… the United States and its allies ought to… wage financial warfare against Mr. Kim and his cabal. The United States must take the lead by ramping up a covert campaign against the regime’s criminal enterprises. This effort ought to include a full-court press of dirty tricks, coercion, heavy-handed threats and even direct action, all covert and deniable, against Kim’s financial wizards…

“Such tradecraft must also be applied outside North Korea and Asia against the businesses and banks in Europe, South America and elsewhere that enable Kim’s criminal empire to flourish… And as North Korea is recognized as a state sponsor of terror, helping groups like Hezbollah with arms and expertise, a numbing slew of lawsuits should be filed seeking damages; those damages will result in the forfeiture of North Korean assets — open and hidden — around the world…”

This may sound good, but it is nothing more than a balloon of hot air and wishful thinking. The idea that all countries would participate in such an endeavor is naïve and illusionary. Furthermore, the assertion that war is highly unlikely is very optimistic, to say the least. The sad truth is that nuclear war between the USA and North Korea is a distinct possibility, and the reaction of many countries, including of European nations, might be hostile towards the USA. Note the next articles.

Threat of Nuclear World War III

The Week wrote on December 4:

“My mind is consumed with thoughts of what could happen if my greatest fear comes true: that North Korea makes the tragic mistake of conducting the first atmospheric nuclear weapons test since 1980, spreading radioactive fallout throughout the Pacific Ocean and eventually around the world… Such a test would likely garner a military response from the Trump administration, a response that could very well take us down a path to war. And I have no illusions of what such a war would look like: nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons used; millions of people dead; trillions of dollars in damage… A Third World War is not even out of the question

“North Korea… could very well consider the Trump administration’s response a full-throated first step towards the destruction of its nuclear program or perhaps the realization of Kim’s worst fear: a move towards regime change. If that is the case, Pyongyang would feel it had nothing to lose, and would likely fire whatever nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons it has at any target in its sites. If America did not destroy all of Kim’s nuclear tipped missiles, and North Korea has indeed perfected all of the technological milestones needed to attack a U.S. city, which is possible, Pyongyang would certainly fire any and all remaining missiles towards America. Even just one nuclear detonation on a major U.S. city like Los Angeles could result in over a million casualties. You could easily assume there would be millions more casualties if North Korea successfully launched nuclear attacks on Seoul or Tokyo, with metro populations totaling 60 million…

“I have been in Washington for too long and know how this could all very well play out – indeed, how it most likely would play out. The optics of an above-ground test, a mushroom cloud spreading radioactivity all over the globe being amplified over and over by social media, would very likely be the straw that broke the nuclear camel’s back. A second Korean War would be almost unavoidable… It seems the choice for war or peace in Northeast Asia is in North Korea’s hands. I just hope they realize it.”

There will be wars and rumors of wars, for nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. All these are the beginning of sorrows.

Europe Under Threat of North Korea

The Washington Post wrote on November 29:

“North Korea’s recent tests have also put a range of European capitals on the map of Pyongyang’s possible targets… Cities like Paris, London or Berlin are all located much closer to North Korea than Washington D.C…

“So far, North Korea has focused on its archenemy, the United States, even though European politicians have acknowledged that an escalation of the conflict could easily draw Europe into the dispute

“Yet… Europe’s role in pressuring it into halting its program remained mostly unchanged — and largely rhetorical. As well as condemning the missile tests, European top officials have also lashed out at Trump for threatening Pyongyang… Europe’s reluctance to fully support the U.S. stance toward handling the North Korea dilemma is likely being welcomed by Russia, which similarly condemned the test on Wednesday and indirectly appeared to warn the United States of overreacting…

“The measured response by the Kremlin, which is ironically known in Europe for its often aggressive military operations, and its striking similarity to Western Europe’s approach, likely has a lot to do with the fact that none of their capitals are currently in the sights of North Korea’s missiles. Yet, at the same time, the diplomatic solution they all favor has made little head way so far…”

Due to its policy of duplicity, Europe might very well find itself sitting between two chairs, not knowing where to turn. When the awakening comes, Europe might react with desperation and furor. In this context, the following article by Reuters, dated December 4, is interesting: “Last week, Norbert Roettgen, a member of Merkel’s conservative party and head of the foreign affairs committee in the Bundestag, decried a ‘deplorable’ lack of leadership in educating Germans about the need to invest more in their own defense and security.”

A Decisive Role for  Germany?

Bloomberg wrote on December 3:

“The [German] government believes that it can use its experience of reunification after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 to give peace [with North Korea] a chance. The reasoning is both humanitarian, to avert the risk of nuclear brinkmanship, and economic self-preservation, to protect regional trade routes that are vital to its continued status as the world’s third-biggest exporter. An armed conflict ‘would be close to a catastrophe for us economically,’ Volker Stanzel, a former German ambassador to China, said in an interview…

“Relations were not always on ice. Back in 1984, when the Berlin Wall still stood as a bulwark between east and west, North Korea’s Kim Il Sung — the grandfather of Kim Jong Un — visited East Germany, touring a collective farm and reportedly receiving treatment at an East Berlin hospital. East German leader Erich Honecker reciprocated two years later with a trip to North Korea, where Kim Il Sung requested East German help in building a synthetic-fiber plant.

“Then in the spring of 2000, as Berlin was still getting to grips with its rediscovered role as the seat of government for a reunified Germany, a delegation from North Korea came knocking at the door of then-Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder’s administration… Almost two decades on, the conflict has sharpened exponentially, though Merkel is taking a similar tack. In September, she suggested that the six-power talks that led to a deal with Iran to limit its nuclear activity could be a model for dealing with the U.S.-North Korean conflict. ‘Europe, and Germany in particular, should be ready to take a very active part’ in any such initiative, Merkel told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper…

“North Korea offers another chance for German leaders to show they’re serious about a more active global role, said Wolfgang Ischinger, a former German ambassador to the U.S. who heads the annual Munich Security Conference… Diplomacy may have its limits, however. Sweden and Norway also have established ties to Pyongyang without any noticeable outcome. While Germany’s goodwill is appreciated, any attempts at dialogue with Pyongyang are unlikely to be feasible, since North Korea doesn’t want a mediator or broker to talk to the U.S…

“Volmer, the former deputy foreign minister… says, Merkel is right to suggest stronger engagement on the issue. She shouldn’t ‘just leave it to an unpredictable duel between Trump and Kim Jong Un.’”

Even though any attempts by Germany to bring peace with North Korea through talks would be unsuccessful, it is still interesting that Germany sees itself more and more as a powerful influence on the world scene and the leader of Europe.

Germany vs. USA—“Relations Will Never Be the Same”

Deutsche Welle wrote on December 5:

“German Foreign Minister [and vice chancellor] Sigmar Gabriel… spoke about strained relations with the United States under the administration of President Donald Trump. ‘The US no longer sees the world as a global community, but as a fighting arena where everyone has to seek their own advantage,’ Gabriel said. The Social Democrat argued that German foreign policy must be more daring, and not simply follow the line from Washington. ‘Germany can no longer simply react to US policy but must establish its own position…even after Trump leaves the White House, relations with the US will never be the same’… Gabriel brushed off criticism that after 72 days without a new government, Berlin could hardly be called upon to take a prominent role in shaping global policy.”

The Hill added on December 6:

“German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said… that the Trump administration looks more and more at Europe as a ‘competitor or economic rival’ instead of as an ally… he also said that Germany needs to be able to ‘define our own position and, if necessary, draw red lines, in partnership, but oriented around our own interests.’”

Germany first?

A Radically Different Europe under a German Grand Coalition?

The Washington Post wrote on December 7:

“The Social Democrats (SPD) had repeatedly insisted they would not join Merkel’s conservatives in another grand coalition… but on Thursday… SPD delegates cleared the way for party leader Martin Schulz to begin negotiationswith Merkel as soon as next week…

“… the talks are not expected to yield agreement any time soon… And the negotiations could still fail… Schulz on Thursday appeared to widen the gap between himself and Merkel in one critical area, Europe, by proposing a far more integrated club that mirrors another union across the Atlantic. ‘I want a new constitutional treaty to establish the United States of Europe,’ Schulz said. The treaty, he said, would go into effect by 2025. European Union members that don’t accept the new agreement would be forced to leave the bloc

“French President Emmanuel Macron… has detailed a far-reaching plan to more tightly bind users of the euro currency through a common finance minister and budget…

“Schulz was reelected as SPD leader on Thursday with 82 percent of the vote…”

Deutsche Welle added on December 7:

“The SPD motion said the ‘open-ended’ talks could start as early as next week and would lead to three options: a new grand coalition; the acceptance of a Merkel minority government or, if negotiations fail, new elections.”

President Trump’s Military Expansion Only a Mirage?

Politico wrote on December 3:

“President Donald Trump came into office pledging the largest defense spending spree since the administration of Ronald Reagan — assuring the troops that they would see ‘beautiful new planes and beautiful new equipment.’ But that vision remains little more than a mirage, top Pentagon officials, lawmakers and defense industry executives lamented during a gathering this weekend at Reagan’s presidential library…

“During his insurgent presidential campaign, Trump promised to expand the Army from 476,000 active-duty to troops to 540,000. He [stated] that the Navy needs to be much larger, pledging to boost the number of warships from 275 to 350. More missile defense systems, an upgraded nuclear arsenal and hundreds of additional fighter aircraft were also on his wish list…

“But lawmakers and the administration have taken few concrete steps to lock in any sustained increase in defense spending close to the 3 percent to 5 percent a year that Defense Secretary James Mattis says is needed to make the vision a reality…

“Even as the Trump administration requested more military spending for this year, Pentagon officials were managing expectations — telling Congress that the buildup would not kick in until the administration’s upcoming budget for the 2019 fiscal year, which starts next October. Navy Secretary Richard Spencer said he hopes Congress will still reach an agreement that lets the administration put at least some of Trump’s pledges into motion… But he acknowledged doubts that Congress can do that, even if it lifts the budget caps.”

This does not look good for the effectiveness of the US military.

The Unpopular Senate Tax Bill

The Associated Press wrote on December 2:

“Republicans muscled the largest tax overhaul in 30 years through the Senate early Saturday, taking a big step toward giving President Donald Trump his first major legislative triumph after months of false starts and frustration on other fronts… Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell… shrugged off polls finding scant public enthusiasm for the measure, saying the legislation would prove its worth…

“The measure focuses its tax reductions on businesses and higher-earning individuals [and] gives more modest breaks to others…  Even an official projection of a $1 trillion, 10-year flood of deeper budget deficits couldn’t dissuade GOP senators from rallying behind the bill… Democrats derided the hastily written, scribbles-in-the-margin crafting of the bill in the final hours Friday night…”

The hastily revised 479-page bill was disseminated shortly before the final vote, without giving the senators a real chance to read, let alone absorb the bill. The Republicans are guilty of the same deplorable maneuvering which the Democrats engaged in when adopting Obamacare. Note the next article.

The New Senate Tax Bill—Blessing or Curse?

The Week wrote on December 2:

“In the dead of night, the Republican tax bill passed the Senate on a party-line 51-49 vote, with Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) the lone dissenting Republican. It will now either have to be reconciled with the already passed House bill, and passed again by both chambers, or simply passed by the House as is and sent on to President Trump. But regardless of the coming parliamentary procedural hurdles, the lessons of Friday’s vote are clear: Some version of this tax bill is going to become law. And that is very bad for America.

“It’s almost wrong to call this legislative monstrosity a tax bill at all. It is more a top-to-bottom restructuring of American society – one which is a sharp attack on several bedrock American values: education, homeownership, and entrepreneurship

“The biggest single goal of this bill is a huge tax cut for the top 1 percent. The bill slashes taxes on corporations, increases tax benefits for foreign dividends, and cuts taxes for ‘pass-through’ corporations (which will immediately become the new hotness in tax shelter legal chicanery)…

“At every point Republicans relied on lies… They held no hearings… they did not even release the final text until the last possible moment. House Speaker Paul Ryan lied constantly about its contents. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin repeatedly promised an analysis ‘showing’ that the bill would not increase the deficit by turbo-charging growth. This was such a preposterous lie that he didn’t even bother faking the numbers. The secrecy prevented people from examining how it is stuffed full of quiet corporate handouts, only some of which have been discovered – like a big one to General Electric.

“This bill will explode the deficit. And make no mistake, when it does, Republicans… are going to immediately start demanding cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid – indeed, under congressional rules Medicare is due for a $25 billion cut in 2018 alone…”

If this is true, then Republicans have a lot to answer for, when judged by God.

Ending the Obamacare Mandate—Blessing or Curse?

The Hill wrote on December 2:

“Senate Republicans have approved the repeal of ObamaCare’s individual mandate as part of their tax-cut bill, a major step toward ending an unpopular part of the health-care law… The Senate tax bill must still be reconciled with House legislation that does not include the mandate’s repeal. But that is unlikely to be a major issue, given support in the GOP conference for repealing the mandate.

“It’s unclear what repeal of the mandate will mean for ObamaCare. Many experts and health-care groups warn that repeal will destabilize ObamaCare markets, leading to premium increases or insurers simply dropping out of certain areas…

“Moderate Republicans are now pushing for bipartisan ObamaCare fixes to help stabilize insurance markets, setting up a showdown with conservatives… Repealing the mandate also saves $300 billion over ten years in subsidies that otherwise would have been spent on consumers, according to the Congressional Budget Office, providing savings for the tax cuts. The CBO estimates that 13 million fewer people will have health insurance over the next decade without the mandate, and it projects that premiums will rise 10 percent. But it also projects markets will remain stable in ‘almost all areas of the country.’’

It would be devastating for many if premiums would indeed be raised again… given the abominable increase of premiums by greedy insurance companies, which ALREADY have taken place for 2018.

“Slightly Nervous” Outlook for 2018 Economy

Bloomberg wrote on December 4, 2017:

“As 2017 enters its final month… let’s just say what we see makes us slightly nervous about 2018… Pockets of the bond market… look troublesomely bubble-like… the flattening of the yield curve is worrying some bond investors… With government paper offering… meager returns, money has been flowing into corporate bonds…

“Sales of new corporate debt denominated in euros are also setting records this year…”

What this may mean is that the US economy is a bubble which may burst in 2018, and that the dollar is losing its economic strength, which may all be bad news for the US economy.

Most Destructive Wildfire Season in California’s History

The Huffington Post wrote on December 6:

“It’s been the most destructive wildfire season in California history, and it’s getting worse. Conditions in California are especially ripe for devastating fires at the moment, with tinder-dry undergrowth; strong, volatile winds; and terrain that’s difficult for firefighters to traverse. Those natural catalysts are compounded by the proximity of several current fires to large population centers.

“In just the past three days, multiple fires have started in the hills of Los Angeles and surrounding cities, burning more than 83,400 acres. As of Wednesday morning, most of them were barely contained, if at all.”

By Thursday evening, more than 100,000 acres had been burned in the Los Angeles area. In addition, as fire in San Diego broke out (the “Lilac” fire) which had burned more than 2,500 acres by 4:00pm.

AI’s Murderous Weapons

The Daily Star wrote on December 3:

“Chinese and Russian Artificial Intelligence (AI) are set (to) leave US systems in their dust… an earth shattering report… claimed the US has rapidly fallen behind its rivals… Former deputy SDI, Robert Work, said the Pentagon needed to pour billions into researching advanced computing and robotics, or risk Russia developing murderous AI machines. Moscow hardman Vladimir Putin believes the country will develop the best AI and become ‘the ruler of the world’. [The] Russian military [is] building drones, robots and cruise missiles that could make deadly decisions without the need of humans.

“The advancement has panicked US billionaire Eric Schmidt who said China was also gaining on the US and could overtake Washington in five years. [He said:] ‘Let’s talk about immigration. Shockingly, some of the very best people in AI are in countries that we won’t let into America… Iran produces some of the top computer scientists in the world. I want [them] here. I want them working for Alphabet and Google. It’s crazy not to let these people in.’”

These events are indeed ironic and at the same time devastating for the USA. We should also take note of the development of robots, drones and missiles, which could make DECISIONS without human input.

USA Withdraws from UN Global Compact on Immigration

Deutsche Welle wrote on December 3:

“The United States has announced it is withdrawing from the Global Compact on Migration. The non-binding UN migration pact was meant to boost international cooperation on migration issues… In September 2016, all 193 UN member states of the General Assembly adopted the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants. The non-binding declaration includes a set of pledges to protect migrants, foster migrant integration, develop guidelines on the treatment of vulnerable migrants and strengthen global governance of migration, among other issues.

“‘The New York Declaration contains numerous provisions that are inconsistent with US immigration and refugee policies and the Trump Administration’s immigration principles. As a result, President Trump determined that the United States would end its participation in the Compact process that aims to reach international consensus at the UN in 2018,’ the US statement said…

“The Trump administration has withdrawn from several international commitments made under the Obama administration, including the Paris climate accord and Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal. In October, the United States said it will withdraw from UNESCO, citing what it called the UN culture and education body’s ‘anti-Israel bias.’”

The USA is becoming an exclusive country, and its voice is becoming irrelevant and undesired on the world scene.

US Supreme Court Upholds Muslim Travel Ban

The Washington Post wrote on December 5:

“The Supreme Court on Monday granted President Trump’s request to fully enforce his revised order banning travel to the United States by residents of six mostly Muslim countries while legal challenges to it proceed in lower courts. It was a victory for the White House, which has seen the courts trim back various iterations of the travel ban, and it bodes well for the administration if the Supreme Court is called upon to finally decide the merits of the president’s actions.

“Two lower courts had imposed restrictions on Trump’s new order, exempting travelers from the six countries who had ‘bona fide’ connections with relatives — such as grandparents, aunts or uncles — or institutions in the United States. Those exemptions to the president’s order, issued in the fall, were along the lines of those imposed by the Supreme Court last summer on a previous version of the travel ban.

“But in an unsigned opinion Monday that did not disclose the court’s reasoning, the justices lifted the injunctions, which had been issued by federal judges in Hawaii and Maryland… The latest iteration of the travel ban, the third Trump has issued, bars various people from eight countries: Syria, Libya, Iran, Yemen, Chad, Somalia, North Korea and Venezuela. Six of the countries have Muslim-majority populations.”

This means, the Supreme Court “overruled” without any explanation its prior ruling and struck exemptions for travelers from the six countries who have “bona fide” connections with relatives — such as grandparents, aunts or uncles — or institutions in the United States.

German Pilots Refuse to Carry Out Deportations; Appeals against Deportations Are Skyrocketing

Deutsche Welle reported on December 4:

“… the [German] government said that 222 planned flights were stopped by pilots who wanted no part in the controversial return of refugees to Afghanistan, which has been deemed a ‘safe country of origin’ in some cases, despite ongoing violence and repression in parts of the country.

“Some 85 of the refusals between January and September 2017 came from Germany’s main airline Lufthansa and its subsidiary Eurowings. About 40 took place at Dusseldorf airport… The majority of the canceled flights, around 140, took place at Frankfurt Airport, Germany’s largest and most important hub…

“Germany remains the main destination for refugees and migrants to the European Union — so much so that in 2017, Germany processed more asylum applications than all 27 other EU countries combined… the number of asylum seekers appealing their decisions has increased significantly… Nearly every second ruling made by the BAMF (the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees) in the first half of the year was brought before a judge… the courts side with about one in every four asylum seekers who appeal their status. According to public broadcaster NDR, these suits have cost Berlin about €19 million ($22.5 million) from January to November 2017, an increase of €7.8 million from the previous year.

“In order to reduce the number of appeals and speed up deportations, the government has proposed a program to begin in February 2018 that would see rejected asylum seekers given 3,000 euros as an incentive to accept deportation.”

These highly unpopular developments are bound to give support to right-wing anti-immigration movements and parties in Germany, such as the AfD.

“Gay Marriage in Austria Approved by Constitutional Court”

Deutsche Welle wrote on December 5:

“Austria’s top court has ruled that current laws are discriminatory and must be lifted by 2019. Same-sex couples have so far only been afforded ‘registered partnerships’… the court ruled that ‘the distinction between marriage and registered partnership … cannot be upheld at this day and age without discriminating against same-sex couples. The resulting discriminatory effect is seen in the fact that through the different title of the family status, people living in same-sex partnerships have to disclose their sexual orientation even in situations in which it is not, and must not be, relevant and … are highly likely to be discriminated against,’ the court said in its ruling…

“The ruling will remove the words ‘two people of different sex’ from the law on marriage… Austria has lagged behind several of its Western European neighbors in approving same-sex marriage. Even Germany surprisingly took the step in the run-up to last year’s general election, although critics said Chancellor Angela Merkel was primarily looking to neutralize a probable opposition talking point.”

Outrageous Decision in France

The Independent wrote on December 5:

“France has ordered a halal supermarket in Paris to close because it does not sell pork or wine. The Good Price mini-market in Colombes did not comply with the conditions of its lease, which stated the shop must act as a ‘general food store,’ the Court of Nanterre ruled.

“The local authority argued members of the local community were not being served properly because the shop did not sell pork or alcohol products. A bailiff’s report said the store almost exclusively stocked halal products.”

Spain vs. Catalonia

Deutsche Welle wrote on December 5:

“A Spanish judge withdrew a European arrest warrant for Catalonia’s exiled pro-independence leader Carles Puigdemont and four of his former ministers on Tuesday. Supreme Court magistrate Pablo Llarena said that the individual warrants were no longer valid as the alleged crimes were committed as a group and that the politicians under investigation had illustrated their ‘intention to return to Spain’ in order to run for upcoming elections in Catalonia. The judge kept a Spanish arrest warrant in place however, which means the Catalan leader would be detained immediately upon arrival in Spain…

“Puigdemont fled to Belgium after declaring his region independent from Spain in a referendum that saw voters in Catalonia vote overwhelmingly to secede from Madrid’s control – although the ballot was not sanctioned by Madrid and less than half of the electorate turned out to vote. The court’s decision came as campaigning began for Catalonia’s regional elections on December 21, called by Madrid after it dissolved Barcelona’s parliament over the ‘rebellion’ of its leaders… Along with Puigdemont and his ministers in Brussels, all eight are under investigation for rebellion, which can carry a prison sentence of up to 20 years.”

Jews Wrote Some of the Most Popular Christmas Songs

The Star, republished by JTA, wrote on November 30:

It’s hard to think of words or music that conjure up the Christmas season more quickly than the opening of ‘The Christmas Song.’ The images evoke a classic, timeless Christmas… And though the song has become a worldwide symbol of Christmas, like nearly all the modern songs that now define this fundamentally Christian holiday it was written by Jews… Those songs include: ‘Do You Hear What I Hear,’ ‘Silver Bells,’ ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,’ ‘Holly Jolly Christmas,’ ‘Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree,’ ‘Winter Wonderland,’ ‘It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,’ ‘White Christmas’ and ‘Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow!’…

“… Between 1881 and 1914 more than two million Jews left Russia, with America the prime destination. No single city was affected more by the influx of Jews than New York, where the Jewish population grew from approximately 80,000 in 1870 to 1.4 million in 1915, or almost 28 per cent of the city’s population… Forbidden from nearly all professions and restricted from pursuing higher education, a surprisingly large number found their way into the world of popular music…

“The overwhelming impulse among the children of Jewish immigrants was to assimilate, and the first step in becoming ‘American’ nearly always involved changing their names… Most not only left their names behind, but all traces of their Jewishness as well.

“… as the holiday season approaches, it is important to remember that they came from the children of Jewish immigrants, desperate to leave their pasts behind and join mainstream America. And today, at this polarizing moment in our history, when the place of immigrants in our society is under intense scrutiny, it might be valuable to remember that these songs of immigrants, songs that came out of America’s melting pot, have become the voice of the world’s Christmas.”

It is indeed paradoxical that President Trump’s fight against immigrants is accompanied with his desire to wish everyone a “Merry Christmas.” What is also remarkable is the tendency of many Jewish immigrants (who fled Russian persecution) to ignore their unpleasant past and leave their roots behind; only to have to deal with American persecution, while still being able to assimilate with mainstream views. Sadly, the embrace of the pagan Christmas season was the wrong kind of reaction.

Acknowledgement and Disclaimer

These Current Events are compiled and commented on by Norbert Link. We gratefully acknowledge the many contributions of news articles from our readership. The publication of articles in this section is not to be viewed as an endorsement or approval as to contents or accuracy of the selected articles, but they are published for the purpose of pointing at worldwide developments in the light of biblical end-time prophecy and godly instruction. Our own comments are provided in italics.

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Who or What Restrains or Holds Back the Manifestation of the Man of Sin?

The question deals with a statement in the second letter to the Thessalonians. Let us review the particular passage in context:

2 Thessalonians 2:3-4, 6-7 reads in the New King James Bible:

“Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day [of Christ’s return] will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshipped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God…

“And now you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He [margin: Or he] who now restrains will do so until He [Margin: Or he] is taken out of the way.”

Many are confused about this passage. Some believe that the man of sin is a reference to the end-time “beast”—a political military leader. This is not the case. We write in our free booklet, The Fall and Rise of the Jewish People”:

“This ‘man of sin,’ who is also called ‘the lawless one’ in verses 8 and 9, is identified in the Book of Revelation as ‘the false prophet’ (compare, for example, Revelation 16:13; 19:20; see also Revelation 13:13–14). This religious figure will deceive people through ‘great signs’ (Revelation 13:13; 19:20). We read in 2 Thessalonians 2:9 that the coming of the lawless one is ‘according to the working of Satan, with all power, SIGNS and lying wonders.’ This false prophet will receive his powers to perform great signs from Satan and his demons (compare Revelation 16:13–14).”

The key of proper understanding as to the identity of the man of sin is the prophecy that Satan will use him to perform great lying signs and deceptive wonders (compare 2 Thessalonians 2:9). The same is stated about the false prophet (compare Revelation 19:20)—a powerful and influential religious personality leading a religious power which deceives through her sorcery (compare Revelation 18:23). One passage might indicate that due to demonic influence, the beast will also perform lying signs of some sort (Revelation 16:13-14), but the emphasis regarding powerful signs and wonders (including the ability to make fire come down from heaven) is on the false prophet.

Many times, writers speak of “Antichrist,” when they address the man of sin. However, the Bible nowhere applies this term to a person (either the beast or the false prophet). Rather, the term “antichrist” speaks of the concept of anyone teaching against God’s Word (1 John 2:18; compare our Q&A, Who is the Antichrist prophesied to come? ). Originally the terminology of Antichrist was adopted from Judaism (which adopted it, in all likelihood, from the Babylonians and the Greek) and applied to a political power (mainly the Roman Empire), but gradually, it was applied more and more to a religious power collaborating with the political power.

James Hastings, Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, under “Antichrist”, says the following regarding 2 Thessalonians:

“Antichrist here is a false Messiah, a prophet… the opponent of the true Messiah… the separation of the idea of Antichrist from the political tendency… comes clearly to the front… The belief that the pope of Rome was Antichrist, or at least his forerunner, became of world-historical importance. This view was … cultivated by the Franciscans… [it] passed over to the pre-Reformation sects…Wyclif…as well as Huss… are firmly convinced of the anti-Christian nature of the Papacy… the idea gradually dawned on Luther’s mind, and became fixed, that the Pope of Rome was the incarnate Antichrist…

“In the centuries that followed the Reformation, the doctrine that the Pope was Antichrist gradually receded in the background. It was, of course, still resolutely held by Protestant scholars, particularly by commentators on the Apocalypse… it is now to be found only among the lower classes of the Christian community, among sects, eccentric individuals, and fanatics.

It is quite remarkable that those who teach the truth on the matter are called by the scholars of this world “eccentric individuals” or “fanatics.” But in light of the concept that the idea of “Antichrist” being the Papacy has fallen into oblivion, the following comments are interesting and shed also light on the fact that the world will be astonished when the beast and the false prophet appear. We will come back to this concept later in this Q&A.

For now, note what the Pulpit Commentary writes:

“The whole clause ought to be rendered, ‘The mystery of lawlessness is already working, only until he who restraineth is removed’; when that takes place, when the restraining influence is removed, the mystery of lawlessness will no longer work secretly, but will be openly manifested.”

The Benson Commentary agrees, stating:

“The mystery of iniquity already worketh, only until he who restrains it be taken out of the way; that is, it works in a concealed manner only until then…”

The Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary shares this viewpoint as well:

“… translate rather, ‘only (that is, the continuance of the MYSTERY of iniquity-working will be only) until he who now withholdeth… be taken out of the way.’… Then it will work no longer in mystery, but in open manifestation.”

Focusing on the “restraining power” which holds back the manifestation of the man of sin until a certain time, there have been numerous interpretations—too many to cover here. We will discuss some of the most common concepts.

Many, if not most interpreters believe that the Roman Empire is that restraining power.

William Barclay, The Letters to the Philippians, Colossians and Thessalonians, says this:

“What was the restraining force which was still keeping The Lawless One under control? No one can answer this question with certainty. Most likely Paul meant the Roman Empire… Rome was the restraining power which kept the world from insane anarchy. But the day would come when that power would be removed—and then would be chaos.”

The problem with this concept and similar ideas is that the passage in 2 Thessalonians is mainly a prophecy for the end time. Even though Paul says that the mystery of lawlessness was already at work at his time, the main focus is on the events preceding to and culminating in Christ’s Second Coming. The reference to the restraining power cannot be the ancient Roman Empire. However, the Bible teaches us that the ancient Roman Empire would be revived ten times. But even considering the last revival of the Roman Empire, the Bible does not support the idea that it could be the restraining power holding back the coming of the man of sin; in fact, the Bible tells us the exact opposite. It reveals that the beast and the false prophet will appear at the same time and collaborate with each other; and that the final revival of the ancient Roman Empire will be a combination of church and state (Revelation 17 tells us that the woman—the religious power—will ride the beast—the political power).

It is clear, then, that the “restraining power” cannot be the (revived) Roman Empire or, more generally, “the State,” which would hold back the religious power or its leader, the false prophet. But as we will see, it is a common (mis-)conception by misguided and misled worldly commentaries that the (revived) Roman Empire and/or the modern “constitutional” state allegedly restrained or restrains the coming of the man of sin.

For instance, Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible says this:

“… the Roman empire and Roman emperors… were by degrees entirely removed, and so made way for the revelation of this wicked one… [When the] western empire was overrun by the Goths, Vandals, and Huns, [it] became extinct about the year 476… and afterwards [it] was translated to Charles the great, king of the French; so that there was nothing more of the Roman empire remaining than the bare name, as at this day; and by this means the popes of Rome got to the height of their power and glory, which is meant by the revelation of the man of sin.”

This commentary overlooks the fact that the ancient Roman Empire would be revived ten times. Charles the Great constituted the fifth revival and under his rule, the name “Holy Roman Empire” was coined. Beginning with Justinian, it had become a collaboration between church and state—it is untrue that the popes came to power because the Roman Empire had ceased to exist. But Gill understands at least that the man of sin is not the beast—a political power—but a religious person.

Gill’s false concept regarding the restraining power is echoed by Matthew Henry’s Commentary:

“Something hindered or withheld the man of sin. It is supposed to be the power of the Roman empire… This passage exactly agrees with the system of popery, as it prevails in the Romish church, and under the Romish popes…”

The idea is again that the Popes usurped the political power of the Roman Empire. It is true that in history, there have been at times fights between church and state, when both powers tried to gain the preeminence over the other. However, as mentioned before, this is mainly a prophecy for the end time, when church and state will work together; when the woman will be riding the beast one last time, and when the beast and the false prophet will act in unison.

The Benson Commentary goes a step further and claims that the early church considered the restraining power as the Roman Empire. Even though this assertion is incorrect, it also neglects the fact of the end-time nature of the prophecy:

“This [“restraining power”]… was generally understood by the fathers to be the Roman emperors and empire, as it is plain from Tertullian, who says, (Apol., p. 31,) ‘We Christians are under a particular necessity of praying for the emperors, and for the continued state of the empire; because we know that dreadful power which hangs over the whole world, is retarded by the continuance of the time appointed for the Roman empire.’”

Tertullian was by no means a converted religious leader within the body of Christ. His admonition to pray for the continued state of the Roman Empire was a horrible misconception. The whole concept does not fit, because Paul talked about our desire for Christ’s soon-coming return. Why then would Christians even think of praying to God to hold back the man of sin… knowing that this would delay the return of Christ?

The same wrong concept as to what constitutes the “restraining power” is conveyed, with a twist, by the The Broadman Bible Commentary:

“That which held back the lawless one at that time probably was the civil government of the Roman Empire (thing) personified in the emperor (person)… This restraining power may be seen through the ages as constituted government and those who administer it… The man of lawlessness will exercise such tyrannical power as to do away with governmental limitations… But in his own time (God) will permit this man of lawlessness to act without restraint… He is Satan’s messiah, an infernal caricature of the true Messiah… Bailey insists that Paul was talking not about a principle, but a person. Those who seek to identify the lawless one with some historical figure (Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, the papacy) ‘are deplorably astray’…”

It is true that the man of sin is a person who will appear in the end time, and he will be a religious figure… not a political one. But again, the concept that government restrains or holds back the man of sin does not agree with the concept that none of the human worldly governments are of God, but all are under Satan’s rule. The concept that the “constitutional state” restrains the man of sin is wrong. In fact, the man of sin (as well as the beast) will rise to power through and within constitutional states. For instance, President Hindenburg constitutionally appointed Hitler as chancellor, after he had received the majority of the votes in a constitutionally held election. The same will be true for the last revival of the Roman Empire, when ten nations or groups of nations will give their power and authority to the beast. Focusing on the false prophet, he will be appointed, as all recent popes have been before, by the cardinals assembled in the constitutional Vatican State.

Recognizing the difficulty with the concept that the “restrainer” is the Roman Empire; a Roman Emperor; or even a modern constitutional state (with the idea that “the principle of law and government is embodied in the state”); different interpretations have been proposed.

The Nelson Study Bible writes:

“The present restrainer, probably the spirit of God, had to be taken out of the world… Some have interpreted ‘taken out of the way’ in this verse as a reference to the Rapture… This the removal of the church through the Rapture will be in effect the removal of all restraint on the power of sin in this world.”

Similar the Ryrie Study Bible:

“Antichrist is now being held back by a restrainer. Some understand this to be God indwelling His church by the Holy Spirit… the removal will be at the rapture of the church…”

The New Unger’s Bible Handbook supports this viewpoint:

“The One who holds back the full development and manifestation of the demonic forces of evil in this era… is the Holy Spirit. He has been forming and indwelling the church ever since Pentecost… and will do so until He ‘is taken out of the way,’ literally comes out of the midst, when He leaves in the distinctive sense in which He came at Pentecost. … “

This idea that the Holy Spirit is the restrainer which will be taken away so that the man of sin can become manifest, is based on the false concept of the “rapture,” teaching that  true Christians are allegedly taken to heaven before the Great Tribulation starts. However, the Bible nowhere teaches the idea of a rapture. Please see our Q&A, “Does 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 teach a ‘secret rapture’?” 

Apart from the wrong concept of the rapture, it is difficult to see how God [or His Spirit] could be taken out of the world. This is not God’s world; He is not the Ruler of this world; it is Satan; and the Holy Spirit is not being taken out of the Church so as if no one will make it into the Kingdom of God.

While the concept must be dismissed that the (ancient or revived) Roman Empire; the modern “constitutionally organized state”; or the Holy Spirit could be the “restrainer,” the following idea is worth considering, as expressed by J.R. Dummelow, The One Volume Bible Commentary:

“And it is hard to see how the words, ‘until he be taken out of the way’ can apply to a Roman emperor or to the Roman Empire… It is possible that by the Restrainer St. Paul means the Christian church in Jerusalem, the Mother Church of which the Thessalonians became imitators. … We know that St. James, the head of that Church, had great influence over his unbelieving fellow–countrymen, and may well have exercised a restraining power over them. Some Jews even appear to have seen in the siege of Jerusalem the punishment of his murder by the high priest Ananus. It is to be noted that the Jerusalem church, obeying the Lord’s command… left the doomed city on the approach of the Roman army and fled to Pella. Thus she might be said to be ‘taken out of the way’ of the evil to come.”

Again, as we pointed out, the prophecy in 2 Thessalonians describes foremost end-time events. While there is no rapture, we know that God will bring part of His Church to a special place here on earth, to be protected during the Great Tribulation. Compare “What are the biblical proofs for your teaching that members of the Church of God will be protected at a particular ‘place of safety,’ here on earth, during the Great Tribulation?” . IF the Church’s flight to Pella could be viewed as a forerunner of the end-time flight of the Church to the Place of Safety, how would this apply to the restrainer being removed?

The Life Application Bible might add some light on this question. It states:

“Who holds back the lawless one? We do not know for certain. Three possibilities have been suggested: (1) government and law, which help to curb evil; (2) the ministry and activity of the church and the effects of the gospel; or (3) the Holy Spirit.”

While possibilities (1) and (3) must be dismissed, possibility (2) is interesting. As long as the Church has not fulfilled its commission of preaching the gospel, the lawless one cannot arrive, because only when the gospel has been preached in all the world as a witness, the end will come. So, one could argue that when the Church is taken to the Place of Safety, the Church’s commission of preaching the gospel has been fulfilled, so that now the man of sin can be revealed.

However, there might be several problems with that assumption. First, even when part of God’s Church is at the place of safety, the preaching of the gospel will still continue, for instance through the Two Witnesses and those who might support them; and apparently also through the 144,000 from the tribes of Israel and the great multitude from all nations who will be called or whole-heartedly return to God’s Way of Life during the Great Tribulation, to be protected during the Day of the Lord.

Even though an interesting thought, the Church’s flight to the Place of Safety does not seem to lead to the compelling conclusion that the Church is the restrainer which holds back the coming of the man of sin, but that the restraint will be removed when the Church flees.

In this light, some offer another interesting explanation. For example, the Website of bibletruth states this:

“… most English versions of the Bible translate 2 Thessalonians 2:7,8 alike. The NIV [New International Version] says that ‘the one who holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way.  And then the lawless one will be revealed…’ The mistranslation of the phrase ‘taken out of the way’ is a major reason for the confusion about the restrainer’s identity.

“First, the word translated, ‘taken,’ is not an accurate rendering of the Greek word in our text… The word ginomai, which is here translated ‘taken,’ is a very common word in the Greek language… its primary root meaning is ‘to become’… [This word implies] the arrival or appearance of the subject, rather than its removal as is implied in the term taken

“And second, most renderings of our text [mistranslate] the phrase ‘out of the way’… The full phrase, ekmesou, translated ‘out of the way’ in verse 7, is defined… as ‘from, from among, out of the midst’… If we take this dictionary definition of our phrase and use it in verse 7 in place of the mistranslated phrase, we get this rough rendering: ‘but the one who holds it back will do so till he appears from among. And then the lawless one will be revealed’ (2 Thessalonians 2:7,8)… To ‘appear’ or ‘come from among’ is an awkward way (in English) of saying that ‘he will stand out,’ ‘he will come out’ or ‘he will openly reveal himself.’…

“This interpretation of the passage is just the opposite as most English Bibles have it. Instead of the restrainer… being taken out of the way, the text is conveying the thought that the restrainer (the lawless one) will make his appearance by standing out ‘from among’ or ‘from the midst of’ his previous secrecy…”

It is interesting that the New Luther Bible 2009 renders the phrase in 2 Thessalonians 2:7, “he is taken out of the way,” as, “out of the midst.” This might very well be a correct rendering. The Greek for “way,” mesos, is only rendered twice in the Authorized Version as “out of the way,” while it is rendered 37 times as “midst” and 6 times as “among.” The word ek in ekmesou is translated 131 times as “out of”, but it is also translated 132 times as “from”. The most common rendering is “of,” which is used 402 times. So, the Greek phrase ekmesoucan legitimately be rendered as “from the midst” or “from among.”

The word “taken” in “he is taken out of the way”, or better, “from the midst,” is genomai, which Young, Analytical Concordance of the Holy Bible, renders as “become.” Vine, Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, says that “become” is the literal meaning. In the Authorized Version, the word is rendered only twice as “taken” or “be taken”, but it is rendered 42 times  as “become” and 53 times as “come” (For the translation “come,” please see for example 1 Thessalonians 1:5 and Matthew 8:16). So, the rendering that the man of sin is to “come from the midst” or that he is to “come from among” is quite legitimate. This would mean that the man of sin will come, appear or manifest himself from among the midst of the apostasy.

The word “restraining” in verse 6 (“now you know what is restraining”) is katcheo in the Greek. It is rendered “withholden” in the Authorized Version and means, literally, to hold down or fast, and it is also translated as “stay”.

Based on the foregoing, the clause in 2 Thessalonians 2:3-8 could read as follows:

“… that Day [of Christ’s return] will not come unless… the man of sin is revealed… And now you know what is holding it [the Day] down [or back] that he [the man of sin, or He, Jesus Christ] may be revealed in his [or His, i.e. God’s] own time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains (holds it back) [will do so] until he comes from the midst [of the apostasy]. And then the lawless one will be revealed…”

That is, it is the man of sin who restrains until he is manifested. The Day of Christ’s return can only happen after God has allowed the man of sin to manifest himself as the human religious leader of the apostasy—working openly and no longer in secret.

But what exactly is held back?

The intended thought may not be conveyed correctly in the translation of the New King James Bible. It appears that it is the full mystery of lawlessness, which is restrained today. The German Elberfelder Bible says in parentheses that the full mystery of lawlessness, although already at work, does not manifest itself at this point, but it will when the lawless one (the man of sin) appears. The German Zuercher Bible gives the same meaning, and so do many English translations and the Jewish New Testament by David Stern (“For already this separating from Torah is at work secretly only until…”).

The coming of the lawless one and the concept of lawlessness will remain a mystery to the world. God’s people are warned not to be deceived when the lawless one appears. The best protection against deception is to stay close to God and His Word and while rejecting the pleasures of unrighteousness, to believe the Truth and receive and hold fast to the love of it (2 Thessalonians 2:10-12).

We know that the time is very near for the prophetic fulfillment of the events described in 2 Thessalonians 2:3-8.

Lead Writer: Norbert Link

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“Born at a Good Time”

by Delia Messier (Canada)

Before I was born, my mother lost a beautiful 5-day-old baby boy, Michael. Then a second son was born 1 ½ years after me, another beautiful perfect baby boy. The world revolved around him and special care was always given to him. Being too young to understand the pain of loss or the process of mourning, I thought that being a girl did not have very much value. So I decided that I wanted to be a boy. I would play real hard like a boy; I would climb the highest branches in the trees; I would lift the heaviest rocks; and I would win all of wrestling matches with the boys in the neighborhood.

I was very strong for a girl, and I really hoped that if I behaved in that way, maybe in time, I could become a boy, as I did not want to be a girl. Boys had more fun, so I felt. Climbing trees was way more fun than doing dishes. And most importantly, I thought that being a boy would make me special, so that I would be loved and appreciated more.

Being born in a similar situation today, what would I be doing or asking for? Would I fall victim to this horror that is happening to some confused children today? If I was a child today, knowing how I felt as a child then, would I be telling my parents that I am a boy; that I want to be a boy; that I want to “become” a boy? Would my parents cave in to my wants, being falsely influenced by this bizarre and deceived world today?

Being born at the right time gave me the chance to sort out who I was; to learn the reasons for my feelings then; and to understand the values and the significance and blessing of being a girl. I was born at a good time.

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Preaching the Gospel and Feeding the Flock

compiled by Dave Harris

“Trump’s Recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital… Now What?” is the title of a new StandingWatch program, presented by Evangelist Norbert Link. Also, this program is presented by Mr. Link in German: “Trumps Anerkennung von Jerusalem als Israels Hauptstadt… was nun?” Here is a summary:

Dangerous, risky and unnecessary… that was the almost unanimous reaction of the world’s politicians and leaders to Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and his intention to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. But what DID President Trump actually say in his speech… and what DIDN’T he say? What will the REAL consequences be… especially, when we consider biblical prophecy?

“Sie Sind Gewarnt Worden!” is the title of a recent German language AufPostenStehen program. Published on November 29, 2017, this program has received a large number of views on YouTube (12,800+) and continues to increase. This presentation by Norbert Link mirrors our recent StandingWatch English program: “You Have Been Warned!” Here is the summary in English:

World conditions become worse and worse, and the great tribulation cannot be far off. But what do YOU do with this knowledge? Do you belong to those who once had understanding of the Truth, but who have lost it? Are you compromising to appease your relatives and friends? Do you think that just a little bit of “giving in” does not matter?

“The Ten European Revivals of the Ancient Roman Empire,” is the title of a new Global Trailer, presented by Pastor Brian Gale. Here is a summary:

Dramatic events are occurring in Europe that will have tremendous consequences for the entire world! In spite of this, many are blind to the significance of what is happening before their very eyes! They fail to see how to connect the dots and make sense of it all.

“Wer hält den Antichristen auf?” is the title of this Sabbath’s German sermon, presented by Norbert Link. It is based on the Q&A of this week’s Update. Title in English: “Who Restrains the Coming of the Antichrist?”

“My Calling,” the sermonette presented last Sabbath by Eric Rank, is now posted. Here is a summary:

God’s calling is a very special thing, for it brings one to understand the Truth and learn how to fulfill God’s purpose. When God calls a person, He does so on an individual basis, each person having his or her own personal relationship with God. Everyone who is called becomes personally responsible for individual Christian growth and development. If we are fortunate enough to be called in this day and age, do we treat our calling with the highest esteem and honor that it requires?

“The Wrath of God,” the sermon presented last Sabbath by Dave Harris, is now posted. Here  is a summary:

The Wrath of God is not limited to accounts in Old Testament history or to the end-time judgment of the wicked—which is how most people view it. Rather, God’s wrath is His righteous anger directed against sin, and unless we truly believe in Jesus Christ, the wrath of God remains on us!

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How This Work is Financed

This Update is an official publication by the ministry of the Church of the Eternal God in the United States of America; the Church of God, a Christian Fellowship in Canada; and the Global Church of God in the United Kingdom.

Editorial Team: Norbert Link, Dave Harris, Rene Messier, Brian Gale, Margaret Adair, Johanna Link, Eric Rank, Michael Link, Anna Link, Kalon Mitchell, Manuela Mitchell, Dawn Thompson

Technical Team: Eric Rank, Shana Rank

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

While we do not solicit the general public for funds, contributions are gratefully welcomed and are tax-deductible in the U.S. and Canada.

Donations should be sent to the following addresses:

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

©2023 Church of the Eternal God