Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Will There Be Money in the Kingdom of God?

Will there be money and the exchange of money buying and selling in the Kingdom of God?

I am not talking about the people in the millennium and the white throne judgment periods. I am sure there will be money used in buying and selling among the people. Many of the statutes and judgments of God have to do with money, with buying and selling, and God's statutes and judgments will be part of the law of the land.

But in God's family, among His Spirit-born sons and daughters, the resurrected saints made God, will there be money and the exchange of money?

I don't think so. I don't think there will be any need. We will be living the give way of life for eternity under God's rule. Each of us will be given a job to do in the family of God, and we will do our job the best we can motivated by outgoing concern for those we serve. Money will simply be unnecessary.

But in Satan's system, money is needed. Why? Satan's way of life is based on selfishness, love for self greater than love for others. Money, buying, selling, and trading, become necessary because you can only get the cooperation of others by offering them something in return. So if you want someone to do something, you have to bargain. You have to trade. "If you do this for me, I'll do something for you." You can't rely on the other person to help you based on love.

Satan is probably the originator of trading. "By the abundance of your trading you became filled with violence within, and you sinned; Therefore I cast you as a profane thing out of the mountain of God: and I destroyed you, O covering cherub, from the midst of the fiery stones" (Ezekiel 28:16).

In the millennium and white throne judgment, during periods when human beings will be in the process of making their choices and decisions between God's way and Satan's way, money and trading will be used, because money can be used based on either love or greed.

But when everyone has made his choice, in the kingdom and family of God for all eternity, in the new heavens and new earth, when everyone is living the way of love, money and trading will not be necessary.

Here is a list of links to previous posts in past years in this blog relating to the meaning of the fall holy days and the Feast of Tabernacles:

A Stumbling Block - The Fate of the Billions Who Never Heard of Christ

Why God Is Not Trying to Save Everyone Now

God Is Not Trying to Save Everyone in this Age

Is Elijah in Heaven?

Day of Trumpets

Day of Atonement

The Work of the Millennium Has Started!

The World's Loved Ones Are Not Lost

The Meaning of the Day of Trumpets

Atonement and Fasting

The Difference Between the Kingdom of God and the Millennium

The Millennium Will Be a Time of Joy for God Too

Unity in the Bride of Christ

The Millennium Prepares for the White Throne Judgment

The Last Great Day Shows God's Mercy and Justice

The First 500 Trillion Years

God Expresses His Love Towards Us by the Secrets He Reveals to Us

Learning Love by Doing in the Millennium - Preparing for the White Throne

The White Throne Judgement Is a Blessing for the Church of God

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Bible's Main Readership

Mr. Armstrong used to say that he thought the Bible was primarily written for the Philadelphia era of the Church of God. He based that on his understanding that until modern times the Bible was not both complete and widely available, and in Mr. Armstrong's day only the Philadelphia era of the Church of God had a deep and extensive understanding of the Bible.

The Philadelphia era of God's Church may be one of the most important audiences of the Bible but the widest audience will be people in the millennium and white throne judgment periods. The Bible will no doubt be the most read book by billions of people, and they will be able to understand it.

The nations will observe God's annual feasts and holy days during the millennium and white throne judgment periods. They will understand the meaning of those days, not only from our instruction, but from the Bible itself, just as we do.

The Feast of Trumpets, which we recently observed, is called a memorial of the blowing of trumpets (Leviticus 23:23-25). It is to be observed in memory of an event. But what event? We in the Church have no memory of a past event involving trumpets. Ancient Israel could perhaps remember their wanderings in the wilderness and various occasions when trumpets were blown.

When God says it is a memorial for the people, I think He primarily has something else in mind.

For literally billions of people who experience the seven last trumpet plagues, both those who die in those plagues and come up in the white throne judgment and those who survive into the millennium, the Day of Trumpets will be a memorial of something that happened in their lifetimes. They will remember it. It will be something very personal for them.

No doubt each of the seven trumpet blasts will be prolonged and extremely loud for maximum impact. All earth's atmosphere will probably resonate like a bell with the trumpet sound. Perhaps the sound wave will be what audio engineers call a "standing wave". There will be no escape from the sound. It will be terrifying.

All the first generation that lives into the millennium will remember hearing those trumpet blasts, as well as billions in the white throne judgment who died in the disasters those trumpet blasts signaled.

For them, the Day of Trumpets will be a memorial, a remembrance, of one of the most awesome events they ever experienced.

And the children of the first generation in the millennium will learn about those trumpet blasts, not only from the Bible and our teaching, but from their parents and grandparents. The knowledge of that experience will be passed on from generation to generation. They will observe Trumpets as we observe Passover and Pentecost, in remembrance of something that has happened in the past.

When they read these words in their Bibles, "In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall have a sabbath-rest, a memorial of blowing of trumpets" (Leviticus 23:24), they will have something greater to remember than Israel being called to marching order in the wilderness to set out on their journeys.

Here are links to related chapters or sections in Preaching the Gospel:

The Day of Trumpets - the Second Coming of Christ, Chapter 2

The Feast of Tabernacles - the Millennial Rule of Christ, Chapter 2

The Last Great Day - the White Throne Judgment, Chapter 2

Friday, September 20, 2013

The First Generation in the Millennium

We know that the problems of this world cannot be solved by man. We know that human nature has to be overcome before universal peace and prosperity will prevail all over the earth. This can only happen when the human race is converted.

We also know that now is not the time when God is trying to convert the world. God has allotted six thousand years for mankind to write the lesson in human suffering that man's ways apart from God do not bring peace and happiness. The time for the world to be converted will begin AFTER Christ returns. Then as spirit beings ruling with Christ we can at last begin to really convert the world and solve the problems that plague the human race.

Until then we must wait for this age to end before we can begin the process that will lead to the conversion of the whole world.


There is something special about the time near the end of the six thousand years that has not been true before. There is something special about this generation we are living in, something that was not true in the first century or in any previous century.

We are living in the last generation of Israel in this age.

What is the relationship between the last generation of this age and the first generation of the millennium? THEY ARE THE SAME GENERATION. The last generation of this age, those who survive the great tribulation and the Day of the Lord, will be the first generation in the millennium. Those who will begin the millennium are alive today, most of them.

And the Church of God through the preaching of the gospel is already teaching and warning that generation. We are preparing them. And the lessons they will learn, beginning with our warning now and ending with the suffering of the tribulation, will carry over into the millennium. They will remember that God was fair to give them a warning. They will remember during the tribulation that the Church of God warned them. They will remember that they did not believe our message. They will remember that they scoffed, became angry or laughed at the message, and then went back to their TV, movies, video games, sports, music, vacations, and all the pleasures and diversions this world offers, but never took the time to check up on what God says in the Bible. And they will abhor themselves for not taking our message seriously, and for their sins.

Then will this prophecy begin to be fulfilled: "Then those of you who escape will remember Me among the nations where they are carried captive, because I was crushed by their adulterous heart which has departed from Me, and by their eyes which play the harlot after their idols; they will loathe themselves for the evils which they committed in all their abominations. And they shall know that I am the Lord; I have not said in vain that I would bring this calamity upon them" (Ezekiel 6:9-10).

When the people of the United States, Britain, Canada, and many other nations of the tribes of Israel begin to go through the tribulation, they will remember our warning message which they disregarded. Then they will know that they should have listened and changed their ways. That realization will help them accept responsibility for what they have done, and that will be the first step towards their repentance.

God will use Israel as a model nation to set an example for the rest of the world in the beginning of the millennium, but to do that requires that the first generation of the millennium be repentant. God cannot use an unrepentant people to set an example for the rest of the world.

But the suffering of the tribulation alone will not, by itself, bring repentance. The punishment has to be preceded by teaching so the nations know what they are being punished for!

Do you imagine that the people of Israel will accept responsibility for their sins in the tribulation if they do not hear a warning from the Church of God BEFORE they go through it?

There may be some who would do that, those who know they are sinners. Atheists, murderers, burglars and drug dealers, etc. may know they are at fault for living unrighteously and excluding God from their lives. But they are not necessarily the majority in this country. What about religious people? What about church-going people who go to church every Sunday, repeat their memorized prayers every morning and evening, keep Christmas and Easter as religious observances, perhaps pray before images to help them visualize what they think God looks like, but who think that the Sabbath was done away or changed to Sunday, who think the holy days were done away, and who believe the traditions of their church rather than the Bible and "interpret" the Bible to mean what their traditions say it means? What about the millions of those kinds of people? THEY DO NOT KNOW THEY ARE DOING WRONG!

How hard it will be for them to accept responsibility if they do not hear a warning while there is time for them to escape! How HARD it will be for them to repent! They will say, "It's not my fault! NO ONE TOLD ME I was doing anything wrong! I never had a chance! Why should I be punished?"

Now imagine the millennium has started, you are a king or a priest in the Kingdom of God, and you are preaching a sermon to these people on the Sabbath a few weeks or months after Christ returned. The millennium has just started. You preach a sermon on why God allowed them to go through so much suffering as punishment for their sins. And after the sermon, they go to you and say, "But I didn't know. Why didn't God warn me? Why did God punish me so severely for doing something wrong and I thought I was doing the right thing? If only God sent someone to warn me, I never would have done those things. Why didn't God give me a chance to repent before it was too late? I would have listened!"

What would you say to those people?

Would you say, "No you would not have repented even if you heard a warning"? Would that be convincing?

Or would you say, "Well, when I was in the Church of God at that time, I thought the preaching of gospel was over, so I didn't really sacrifice much to get the warning message out. Sorry about that."

One of the chapters in my book Preaching the Gospel is devoted to proving from the history of the Holocaust that suffering without a warning or instruction in the truth does NOT by itself bring repentance or acceptance of responsibility for sins. The Jews who went through the Holocaust, in many cases, lost what faith they had in God and were farther from God when they came out of the concentration camps than when they went in! The state of Israel today in Palestine has been described as one of the most secular, irreligious societies of the nations on earth today. Those who are religious in that country can be very zealous, but they are a minority. And much of the population that first settled in Israel came out of the concentration camps. For them, that was their "tribulation" at the time, but it didn't bring them closer to God.

The two witnesses begin their special work at the beginning of the tribulation, but we in the Church of God need to get a warning out to everyone in Israel BEFORE the tribulation begins so those who hear our message, though they reject it now, will remember that they heard the warning and had a chance to take it seriously before it was too late, but threw that chance away. They will not be able to kid themselves by saying, it wasn't my fault, I would have changed if I heard a warning. Instead, they will say, "I should have listened, but I was stupid", and that realization will be an important first step towards acceptance of responsibility and personal repentance, which is so necessary for the setting up of Israel as an example for other nations to follow in the millennium.

Most of the first generation in the millennium is alive now, and when the Church of God gives the warning message over TV or radio, over the Internet, and in magazines and booklets, we are helping to prepare that generation for what is to come whether they heed the warning now or not. Our message NOW is a vital step in the conversion of the world that will occur in a few years.

That is one reason why our holy day offerings are important. What we contribute now to the work of preaching the gospel and the Ezekiel warning will make a difference in the beginning of the millennium. The more we warn the people now, the more they will understand God's fairness, the easier it will be for them to repent, and the more teachable they will be when we work with them in the millennium. That first generation is the starting point for everything that follows.

Here are links to related sections in Preaching the Gospel:



The Feast of Tabernacles - the Millennial Rule of Christ, Chapter 2

Monday, September 16, 2013

Things We Don't Know about the Millennium

God in the Bible reveals many things about the future 1,000 year reign of Christ and the saints on earth, the millennium. It will be a time of peace, prosperity, and happiness all over the world. People will be taught God's way of life. They will be taught to obey God's commandments, and this will bring blessings. Satan will be put away and people will be able to understand the truth. The blinders will be taken away. They can be converted. God will set his hand to bring salvation to all mankind. Christ will rule the earth, with the saints, and He will rule with great power and authority. He will put an end to all war. He will administer justice.

The earth will be full of the knowledge of God as the seas are full of water (Isaiah 11:9).

The Feast of Tabernacles pictures the joy, peace, and prosperity of that millennium.

But God doesn't reveal every detail of what the millennium will be like. God does show many details. The nature of animals will be changed, for example.

Yet there can still be questions, questions that will not be fully answered until Christ returns, and it can be interesting to think about these questions and meditate about them. Some of them may make good topics of conversation during the Feast, to help focus our minds on the meaning of the Feast.

I will list some questions I have, and you may have more. As far as I know, the Church of God has not taken any definite position on these things, though I could be wrong, and readers can inform me. As far as I know, these things are fair game for speculation, as long as we do not take our speculations too seriously. We will find out for sure what the answers are after Christ returns.

How soon will God's truth and peace spread throughout all the earth? Will it start with Israel, then gradually spread over the entire globe? How long will it take? A few weeks? A year? Ten years? Nations that do not come up for the Feast of Tabernacles will have no rain (Zechariah 14:16-19), and it is hard to imagine how any nation can survive for very many years without rain.

What will be the average human lifespan in the millennium? Will most people born in the millennium live a full thousand years? With everyone taught God's way of life including the laws of health, with clean food and clean air, and with God's healing available, probably average lifetimes will be much greater than today. Adam lived almost 1,000 years.

How great will the population become by the end of the millennium? How many people will the earth be able to support during that time?

With probably the majority of people being converted, when will they be changed into spirit beings?

How much will modern technology play a role in the world economy and the lives of people in the millennium? Will most people be farmers and ranchers? Will there be internal combustion engines, oil refineries, and airplanes? Will there be electricity? Will there be computers, television, radio, and the telephone?

Will there be advances in scientific knowledge? There is much that science today does not know, things about space and time, things about fundamental particles that make up the atom, etc. Will Christ simply reveal these things, or will Christ have scientists continue experiments to learn because it is good for them to discover physical things by working?

If someone wants to sin, how far will he be allowed to go before he is stopped? Will people be allowed to harm others? Certainly there will be justice, but at what point and for what things will a person be stopped before he does the deed and what things will a wrongdoer be allowed to do and then punished for it to teach a lesson? For example, if a man wants to steal a possession of his neighbor, perhaps some money from his house, and plans to sneak in when he is not at home and at night when no one sees, will we allow him to do it, then punish him afterwards? Or will we stop him before he does it? And what if a man wants to attack a young woman? Will we only punish him after he has done the deed or will we stop him to protect the woman from harm?

If someone sins a sin for which the Bible prescribes the death penalty by stoning, will he be stoned to death? Will he be allowed to repent and be forgiven? If he is stoned to death, will he be cast into the lake of fire when he comes up in the white throne judgment? Or will he be cast into the lake of fire during the millennium?

What will the economy be like? Will there be business corporations? Will there be a stock market? Will there be banks? Will there be insurance companies?

These are some of the questions I wonder about, and I look forward to learning the answers after Christ returns. Perhaps you have wondered about some of these things. Perhaps you have different questions. You might have answers I do not have yet.

These are interesting things to think about, and thinking about them and talking about them during the Feast of Tabernacles may help us to keep our minds focused on the meaning of the Feast.

Here are links to related chapters or sections in Preaching the Gospel: 
The Feast of Tabernacles - the Millennial Rule of Christ, Chapter 2

Sunday, September 15, 2013

God Gave Balak a Way Out

God gave Balak a way out of his dilemma, but he didn't take it. Instead, he showed that he lacked wisdom and sense and he chose the wrong way. And Balaam did not give him wise advice, but gave him foolish advice.

There is an object lesson in this that shows how Satan influences the "wise" of this world, the leaders, to make stupid decisions. Such leaders often choose the way of conflict and destruction when the way of peace and cooperation would bring better results not only for others but for themselves also.

When Israel was journeying out of the wilderness to the promised land, Balak, king of Moab, was afraid of them because they were so many and because they had come near to his land. So he hired Balaam, a kind of prophet, but not a righteous prophet (2 Peter 2:15-16), to curse Israel. But God had Balaam bless Israel, not curse Israel. You can read the whole story in Numbers chapters 22 through 24.

Balak became angry with Balaam for blessing Israel (Numbers 24:10-11). And though it isn't stated directly in the main account, Balaam apparently advised Balak to use Moabite women to seduce the men of Israel into worshipping Moab's false gods in an effort to make God angry with Israel, and Balak followed Balaam's advice (Numbers 31:15-16, Revelation 2:14, Numbers 25:1-3).

How stupid could they be? Did it never occur to Balak and Balaam that if their scheme succeeded and God became angry with Israel, would not God be ten times more angry with Balak and Balaam for causing this to happen in the first place, for leading Israel into sin?

Balak had a dilemma. He was afraid of Israel. But there was a better solution, one that God offered him, through Balaam, but Balak didn't understand it, or rejected it if he did understand it. Probably it went right over his head. He was so obsessed, under Satan's influence, with a spirit of harm and war and hatred that he couldn't see a simple, peaceful solution when it was put right in front of him.

Notice this part of the account: "Now when Balaam saw that it pleased the Lord to bless Israel, he did not go as at other times, to seek to use sorcery, but he set his face toward the wilderness. And Balaam raised his eyes, and saw Israel encamped according to their tribes; and the Spirit of God came upon him. Then he took up his oracle and said: 'The utterance of Balaam the son of Beor, the utterance of the man whose eyes are opened, the utterance of him who hears the words of God, who sees the vision of the Almighty, who falls down, with eyes wide open: How lovely are your tents, O Jacob! Your dwellings, O Israel! Like valleys that stretch out, like gardens by the riverside, like aloes planted by the Lord, like cedars beside the waters. He shall pour water from his buckets, and his seed shall be in many waters. His king shall be higher than Agag, and his kingdom shall be exalted. God brings him out of Egypt; He has strength like a wild ox; He shall consume the nations, his enemies: He shall break their bones and pierce them with his arrows. He bows down, he lies down as a lion; and as a lion, who shall rouse him? Blessed is he who blesses you, and cursed is he who curses you" (Numbers 24:1-9).

Did you catch that last part? That was the solution to Balak's problem. Balaam, under inspiration of God, speaking God's words in this case, said of Israel, "Blessed is he who blesses you." Balak could have obtained a blessing from God if he took these words to heart.

God's word cannot be broken. God, through Balaam, promised a blessing to Balak if he blessed Israel. If he blessed Israel, he would have nothing to fear - God would have blessed Balak and Moab too. God promised that he who blesses Israel would be blessed. That promise was not made before in the Bible in exactly those terms, not to Abraham, not to Isaac, not to Jacob. This was something a little bit new, and Balak had an opportunity to take advantage of God's promise.

He could have said to Balaam, "Great. I will bless Israel so God will bless me. You have blessed Israel, and I will pay you your fee. Moreover, I will send ambassadors of peace to Israel. I will give them water and food and let them travel through my land on the way to their land." But he didn't do that. It was an obvious thing, but he didn't do it.

He already knew the promise was good. Why? Even though he didn't know God, he knew Balaam. He knew Balaam's word was good, and when Balaam pronounced a blessing, he could rely on it. He had previously sent messengers to Balaam saying, "Therefore please come at once, curse this people for me, for they are too mighty for me. Perhaps I shall be able to defeat them and drive them out of the land, for I know that he whom you bless is blessed, and he whom you curse is cursed" (Numbers 22:6). Balak knew that whoever Balaam blessed would be blessed. And Balaam just told him that he who blesses Israel would be blessed.

But Balak did not see it. Instead, "Then Balak’s anger was aroused against Balaam, and he struck his hands together; and Balak said to Balaam, 'I called you to curse my enemies, and look, you have bountifully blessed them these three times! Now therefore, flee to your place. I said I would greatly honor you, but in fact, the Lord has kept you back from honor' " (Numbers 24:10-11). Apparently Balaam didn't see the opportunity for Balak either and did not give him good advise about it.

This is an example of Satan's evil influence over Balak, over Balaam, and over the world. Balak and Balaam chose conflict and enmity instead of peace, even when peace would have been to their advantage.

They just didn't see it.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Lucifer Syndrome - False Leaders Display Lack of Wisdom

One of the penalties of sin, of Satan's way of life, is perversion of mind. A sinning mind does not think clearly and accurately. But a righteous mind does.

"For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind" (2 Timothy 1:7).

Lucifer, before he sinned, was wise. "You were the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty" (Ezekiel 28:12). But when he sinned, his mind became corrupted. He could no longer think rightly and clearly and accurately. By sinning, by choosing the way of pride and vanity and self-exaltation, he corrupted his wisdom. "Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty; You corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor" (Ezekiel 28:17).

Thus it is with those who follow Satan's way of life. "For My people are foolish, they have not known Me. They are silly children, and they have no understanding. They are wise to do evil, but to do good they have no knowledge" (Jeremiah 4:22).

This world is full of stupid experts. Some of the most esteemed experts have six or eight year college degrees, have great IQs, have great memory (even Hitler was said to have a remarkable memory for military detail), have great knowledge of facts of all kinds. But they do not have the wisdom to put the facts together to draw correct conclusions about the most basic things, the most important things in life. And many of these men and women are leaders in government, in news media, in entertainment, in education, and in business.

Many of this world's most brilliant scientists are atheists. They have a lot of scientific knowledge, knowledge of details. They can tell you the chemical elements that make up DNA that controls our genetics. They can you, from memory, how many electrons and protons atoms of each of those elements have. But they don't know that God exists. They willfully choose not to believe He exists because they do not want to believe He exists, so they ignore the evidence, the most obvious evidence of the universe itself, and conclude, "There is no God". God calls them what they are, fools (Psalm 14:1).

It is a law therefore that sin destroys wisdom, it impedes clear thinking. But obedience to God and His way of life produces wisdom. "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; A good understanding have all those who do His commandments" (Psalm 111:10).

False leaders and false teachers in the Church of God often make themselves known by their lack of wisdom. It is a progressive thing. As time goes on, their thinking, their teaching, and their actions become more and more muddled, off-center, and extreme. But if you look at their history, you can usually see where they left the track of sound thinking a long time ago.

I have read some things written by teachers and leaders in the Church of God environment, in blogs and websites that claim to be Church of God, that are so ridiculous, they should be embarrassed to say such things, yet they don't have the sense to be embarrassed. I could feel embarrassed for them, except I know it is good in a sense that they go to such extremes and make such outlandish mistakes because it helps others to know that they are not teaching the truth and that they are not leaders the brethren should look to for leadership and training in God's way of life. I don't necessarily mention these teachers and leaders by name, because in some cases they may be making outlandish statements for the very purpose of attracting attention and traffic to their websites so they can try to convince Church of God members to join them or send them money or be persuaded of their false claims. So I don't mention them lest I send some traffic their way.

I let a false leader speak for himself and show by the fruits he is false. Discerning brethren will see that for themselves.

God exposes such a man for what he is by his own foolishness.

"Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them" (Matthew 7:15-20).

Our words, what we teach others, are an important part of the fruit we bear, good or bad.

"Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or else make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for a tree is known by its fruit. Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things. But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned" (Matthew 12:33-37).

And as that happens in a progressive sense, the followers of such a man must continuously choose, as he seems to go more and more off the "deep end", to keep on following the person or to recognize him for what he is and to admit they made a mistake to follow that man in the first place. Admitting you made a mistake, that you followed the wrong man for a long time, is painful, but the sooner you admit it, the less painful it will be in the long run. And if you stay "on board" with such a man, it will be far more painful in the end.

In a sense, as such a man shows more and more clearly that he lacks the wisdom a godly leader would have, it becomes easier for his followers to recognize that fact. It becomes more and more obvious. Yet, as it becomes easier intellectually and logically, it becomes harder emotionally, because the longer they are with that man, the deeper their emotional commitment is, not just to that man and to the fellowship of the brethren in the organization the man leads, but to their own sense of being right to choose to support that man in the first place. It is probably harder for someone to say, I made a mistake following this man for 15 years, than it is to say, I made a mistake following this man for 2 years.

Yet the consequences are more painful in the end the longer you hold on.

An analogy is holding on to a rope of a run-away hot air balloon. You hold on to the rope, hoping to hold down the balloon, but it begins to carry you off your feet. You haven't the strength to climb the rope into the basket. You have seconds to decide. If you let go right away, no harm. Wait a few more seconds, and you are faced with broken ankles. The longer you hold on, the worse the result. Broken ankles are better than broken legs, and broken legs are better than death. But if you hold on too long, you are doomed. You will fall to your death. You pass a point of no return, and at some time you know your mistake and you know you are going to die for it as you feel the rope slipping out of your hands at 400 feet above ground level.

This does not mean that godly leaders and teachers never make mistakes. But, as Commander DeVriess said to Ensign Willie Keith in The Caine Mutiny, when Keith justified his wrong behavior saying that anybody can make a mistake, "There are mistakes and there are mistakes."

When we see Church of God leaders make ridiculous statements, statements that are clearly false or biblically unjustified, or go to unjustified extremes, they set a bad example, but there is a lesson in that example (which is why God lets it happen and lets us see it), and there is a warning in the lesson. First, of course, there is a warning not to follow such a leader or teacher. That is probably the first thing we think of. But there is a more important warning or lesson. Could the bad example we see in such a leader be us five or ten years from now?

Many of these people did not start out that way. They may have had more sense in the beginning. Lucifer did not start out wrong, twisted, corrupt. But it can be a progressive thing. Anyone in the Church can lose his wisdom and become foolish if he or she drifts away from God. So the warning is, stay close to God if you want to be wise and avoid foolish mistakes. Because if you don't, you could lose the knowledge and wisdom God has given you. You could end up like the bad example you see in foolish teachers and leaders.

This whole world is in the grip of Satan's deception. The world practices Satan's way of life, and the world is deceived by it. People lose their wisdom, their ability to think clearly, just as Lucifer lost his ability to think clearly and accurately when he sinned.

Atonement looks forward to the putting away of Satan, and once that happens, Christ can re-educate the world in God's way of life. People will begin to think clearly again, those who choose to obey.

If we want wisdom, if we want to be able to think clearly to make right decisions, wise decisions, we must choose to believe and obey God. We need godly wisdom to make the choices that will bring us success in life and in doing God's work. We in the Church have the opportunity to be pioneers in clear thinking. God has given us His Spirit, the Spirit of a sound mind, to the degree we seek God, believe God, and strive to obey God.

We need that wisdom, that clear thinking, to avoid mistakes that bring pain. If we think we can make good decisions in Satan's world apart from God, we kid ourselves.

Here are links to related chapters or sections in Preaching the Gospel:

The Day of Atonement - the Putting Away of Satan, Chapter 2

Faith, Chapter 6

Passover -- the Sacrifice of Christ, Chapter 2

Why Is Faith Important to God?, Chapter 9

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

To Be Effective in Giving a Warning, We Have to Overcome Even When It Is Hard

All of us in the Church of God have a responsibility to warn the English-speaking nations about the tribulation to come. But to be effective in giving that warning, we need God's help and blessing. And to be sure we have that help, we have to please God and show Him we are willing to do what we ask others to do.

In other words, we have to practice what we preach.

When we warn the nations about their sins and the punishment that is coming if they don't repent, what are we really asking the people to do?

We are asking people to change.

We are asking people to repent of their sins and change their actions and thoughts in order to obey the God of the Bible.

We are asking people to begin keeping the weekly Sabbath and annual holy days even if that separates them from their family, friends, and employers. We are asking them to stop keeping Christmas and Easter, to stop eating pork, and to start tithing even if they think they cannot afford to tithe. We are asking them to resist and overcome their wrong habits.

They will have to do these things to be spared the punishment of the tribulation. They won't escape otherwise.

Yet, how hard is it for most of those who hear our warning to do this?

Most people are not called to salvation in this age. Only a few are called, drawn to Christ, and given the opportunity to receive God's Holy Spirit (John 6:44).

So the majority of those who hear our message, or will hear it in the future, are not called. Without the help of the Holy Spirit, how hard will it be for them to change and stop sinning? How hard will it be for them to stop using images and idols in worship, to stop breaking the weekly Sabbath, to stop committing adultery, to stop stealing and lying, to stop getting drunk, to stop watching pornography, to stop gambling, etc.?

In short, how hard will it be for the majority of Americans, Britons, Canadians, and Australians who hear our warning message to respond to the message and stop doing the wrong things God is going to punish them for in the tribulation so they can escape and be spared?

You might say, impossible. Maybe so, yet the Ninevites set the example of repenting though God did not call them to salvation. A few among the millions in our time may make respond and make the effort to heed our message even though God has not called them to salvation in this age.

Jonah warned Nineveh that they would be punished. They believed God's warning, humbled themselves, and repented. They changed their behavior. The result? God spared them. More than 120,000 people turned from their sins and God spared them (Jonah 3:1-10, 4:11).

Were they called to salvation? There is no indication of that. Did they have the depth of repentance one must have to be ready for baptism and the gift of the Holy Spirit? Probably not. Probably, they were only afraid of the punishment. They believed the warning and they wanted to escape.

Yet, even if their motive was only fear of punishment, they did have some kind of repentance, and God spared them. They made the changes they needed to make to escape the punishment.

Sometimes, even unconverted people can heed God's warnings.

Yet how difficult it must be for people in our modern nation to change and turn from their sins, even without being called and having the help of the Holy Spirit. Nevertheless, for the majority, that is exactly what we are asking them to do.

And some of us in the Church, who have been called and have the Holy Spirit, may think, "It is too hard for me to overcome my bad habits - I can't change."

When I write these posts, I try to post on topics that relate to the holy day season we are in. This is the fall holy day season, and it is appropriate to be thinking about end time events because the tribulation, the Day of the Lord, and the return of Christ all relate to the Day of Trumpets. So preparing ourselves to be able to deliver the Ezekiel warning message by overcoming our own sins is a fit topic for this season.

Yet this post can equally relate to the meaning of the Days of Unleavened Bread, because it is about overcoming and putting sin out of our lives.

We in the Church need to overcome our sins no matter how hard it seems, because it is just as hard if not harder for the people in the world to do the same, yet we are asking them to do that when we preach the warning. We are trying to show them a way of escape, but to take that way of escape, they have to do what is hard, seemingly impossible, and we must do the same and not say to ourselves, "I can't do it."

"Deliver those who are drawn toward death, and hold back those stumbling to the slaughter" (Proverbs 24:11).

We have to practice what we preach. If we give the warning to stop sinning, we have to heed our own warning.

"You, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who preach that a man should not steal, do you steal? You who say, 'Do not commit adultery,' do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who make your boast in the law, do you dishonor God through breaking the law? For 'the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you,' as it is written" (Romans 2:21-24).

If we do not do what we teach others to do, we become hypocrites, and God cannot bless us with the power to get the warning message to everyone before the tribulation begins and it is too late for the people to escape. And if that is the case, the fault for not warning is ours, not God's, and the blood of the people will be on our heads (Ezekiel 3:16-21).

God gives us the power to overcome (1 Corinthians 10:13). He doesn't promise enough help to make it easy. He promises enough help to make it possible.

Some baptized members in the Church may say, "But I've tried, over and over, and I can't do it. I've fasted and prayed for more help from God, and I still can't do it."

No doubt you've tried. But can you say you've tried as hard as you could, in every way, that you could not have tried harder?

Have you tried as hard as you could in every way, to draw close to God, to follow the examples of Christ? Have you immersed yourself in God's word? Have you separated yourself and protected your mind from the influence of this world's entertainment as much as possible? Have you forgiven others with all your heart? Have you followed the example of Christ in prayer, fasting, and seeking to do God's will and work (Luke 6:12, Matthew 17:21, John 4:34)? Have you gone all out to think the thoughts, speak the words, and do the deeds that please God twenty-four hours a day? Christ did.

Have you tried one hundred percent as hard as you could? Or have you only tried 99% as hard as you could? And if you only put out 99% effort, is it possible you would think you are trying as hard as you can? But you didn't, not really, and that missing 1% might be what God is waiting for.

If you think you've given 100% effort to overcome, how do you know? How do you know you could not have tried harder?

It may be that to qualify for God's help and power to get a strong warning out to our nations before the tribulation, we have to try as hard to overcome our sins as the people in the world would have to do to stop sinning and escape the tribulation. How hard is that?

There is some evidence that the effort people in our nations make to heed the warning can make the difference between those who survive into the millennium and those who don't.

"As I live,' says the Lord God, 'surely with a mighty hand, with an outstretched arm, and with fury poured out, I will rule over you. I will bring you out from the peoples and gather you out of the countries where you are scattered, with a mighty hand, with an outstretched arm, and with fury poured out. And I will bring you into the wilderness of the peoples, and there I will plead My case with you face to face. Just as I pleaded My case with your fathers in the wilderness of the land of Egypt, so I will plead My case with you,' says the Lord God. 'I will make you pass under the rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant; I will purge the rebels from among you, and those who transgress against Me; I will bring them out of the country where they dwell, but they shall not enter the land of Israel. Then you will know that I am the Lord" (Ezekiel 20:33-38).

Notice, God will purge the rebels among Israel before He brings Israel back to their land. There will be a difference between those who scorn God's truth and those who try to respond, even among those not in the Church. And our message may be part of the test God uses to see who is rebellious and who is not, who will be counted worthy to survive the tribulation and experience the joy of the millennium and who will not.

Not necessarily everyone who goes through the tribulation will suffer the worst of it. Some may suffer less than others. God can be merciful to those He sees are trying. Our message can make a difference.

But to receive from God the power to deliver that message to everyone in our English-speaking nations, we must first show God we are willing to really go all out to obey Him. Then He can magnify our power and our message so it reaches everyone while there is time for the people to respond, before the tribulation begins.

UPDATE:  In testing the links below, I found that my hosting service provider is having technical problems and my website may be down.  They are working to fix it, but in the meantime, if the links below to my online book, Preaching the Gospel, do not work, you may email me at author@ptgbook.org and request the book in pdf format and I will email it to you.

Here are links to related chapters or sections in Preaching the Gospel:

The Day of Trumpets - the Second Coming of Christ, Chapter 2

The Days of Unleavened Bread - Repentance, Chapter 2

How to Obtain More of God's Help in Breaking Bad Habits, Chapter 7