Friday, November 21, 2014

"No one may buy or sell except one who has the mark..."

The quote that is the title of this post is from Revelation 13:17. Here is a full quote and some of the context: "Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth, and he had two horns like a lamb and spoke like a dragon. And he exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence, and causes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed. He performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men....He causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads, and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name" (Revelation 13:11-17).

What will be the mark of the beast? Some have suggested it will be Sunday because the Sabbath is a true sign between God and His people and they feel the mark of the beast will be a counterfeit of that sign. That is certainly possible, yet the Bible does not say definitely that Sunday will be the mark of the beast.

Whatever that mark is, without that mark or the name of the beast or the number of his name, men will not be able to buy or sell (Revelation 13:16-17). But what is the connection between the mark of the beast and being able to buy and sell? Or to put it another way, how will those refusing the mark of the beast be prevented from buying and selling?

Some of those who teach that Sunday will be the mark of the beast have reasoned that unless you rest on Sunday and work on the Sabbath you will not be able to hold a job and will have no money to buy and sell. But there must be more to it than that. Just keeping the Sabbath will not make it impossible, by itself, to buy or sell. There would have to be some enforcement mechanism.

You don't have to work on the Sabbath to make money, to have money to buy things, even if most employers require their full-time workers to work on the Sabbath. There has always been the need for part-time workers in different parts of the economy who will work only a few days a week. Those who have businesses or are self-employed can often choose their own hours. All work is not done on Saturday. If you are a roofer and a windstorm blows the shingles off of someone's roof, and he calls the number on your business card, you will schedule a time to repair his roof on a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday, and your customer won't even know you keep the Sabbath.

And Sabbath keeping certainly will not prevent you from selling. In fact, you may be more likely to sell things you own if you are unemployed or underemployed because you keep the Sabbath. You will sell the things you need less to raise money to buy the things you need more.

I have been unemployed several times in my life, and those were the times I would sell things, not when I had money coming in. When I had a steady income, I accumulated stuff. When I did not have money coming in and I needed money for rent, food, and utilities, I sold less important things like video tapes, computers, TVs, cameras, etc. I sold in person or on eBay.

People in financial stress sell what they have to buy what they need. They sell their second car to buy food. They sell their house and rent a small apartment to have money for utilities.

Sabbath keeping will not stop you from taking your car to a used car dealer on Tuesday, selling it, and then taking a bus or walking to the grocery store to buy milk and bread with the money you got for your car. The used car dealer won't know you keep the Sabbath, or necessarily care, when he buys your car on a Tuesday, and the clerk at the grocery store who sells you food won't know or care either.

Besides all that, many people have money saved up or sources of income that do not require working on the Sabbath or any day for that matter. People who have saved up money in the bank, maybe tens of thousands of dollars or more, perhaps for their retirement, would be able to keep the Sabbath and still live off their savings, spending interest or principle to buy what they need. Many retired people live off their savings and do not work at all. Some people have regular retirement incomes from government programs or private pension funds that do not require them to work.

If Sunday will be the mark of the beast, there will have to be some enforcement mechanism not automatically built in to Sunday keeping, something more than inability to hold most full-time jobs because you keep the Sabbath.

But money itself could be an enforcement mechanism, not just for Sunday keeping, but for any number of violations of God's law that the beast power could impose.

There is a trend in the world to get away from paper currency and coins as a medium of exchange, to go "cashless", to use only checks and bank cards and other electronic processes as money. In the United States, the IRS would like to see that happen because it is easier to track income when all money transfers are through the banking system either by check or by credit or debit card. Transactions through the banking system, checks or bank card transactions, leave a trail of income and spending which physical cash does not.

If governments eliminate paper currency and coins as forms of cash and require all money transfers to be in the form of checks or bank debit or credit card transactions, you will not be able to buy or sell, without a bank account.

It is almost that way today, in some respects. Although paper currency and coins are still used, especially for small transactions, large transactions are usually made by bank check or by electronic transfers. Employers pay their employees by check.

If you work for an employer, you can still cash your paycheck without a bank account today in the United States. You can cash it at a currency exchange, for a fee, and sometimes you can cash it at the bank that issues the check even if you do not have an account with that bank, if you have enough identification.

But it would not take much for that to change. Even today, it is getting harder and harder to function financially, to buy and sell, without some kind of bank account. Even certain kinds of money cards you can buy in a department or grocery store, which you can load up with money at the cash register, are really bank accounts, though they do not seem to be.

If the government eliminated cash, meaning paper currency and coin, as legal tender and required all transactions to be made with bank credit or debit cards or checks, you will not be able to buy or sell without a bank account.

What is the problem with that?

The banking industry is already regulated by the government. To open a bank account, you must sign papers agreeing to the rules of the bank plus anything else the government requires banks to put into their contracts with their customers.

That is where the beast power can require that people commit themselves to a violation of God's law, in letter or in spirit, in order to have a bank account. And without a bank account, if cash is eliminated, you would not be able to buy or sell. Without a bank account, you would not be able to cash or deposit or use your paycheck - it would just be paper - even if you have a job. The beast power can require you to sign something, something in the bank agreement, something you cannot sign as a Christian, in order to have a bank account.

What might be in the agreement you would have to sign to have a bank account? It could be many things.

If Sunday is the mark of the beast, bank agreements may include a clause that you agree to recognize Sunday as God's day of rest and worship and promise not to work on that day.

But it could be other things. It could be recognition and allegiance to the beast and false prophet as God's representatives. It could be recognition of the trinity doctrine. It could be a promise to respect and uphold the worship of Mary. And it certainly could include the words, "I swear", with no provision allowed for those who want to use the words, "I affirm".

Anything false, anything that compromises with God's truth, can be included in a bank agreement required to hold an account, and it would make it impossible for faithful Christians to sign without compromising. And without a bank account, you would not be able to buy and sell, because there would be no more physical cash.

Bank accounts could be the mechanism for enforcement of the mark of the beast that would make it impossible for those who remain faithful to God to buy or sell. For without physical cash, without paper currency and coin, there will simply be no money apart from bank account funds. No bank account, no money. No bank account, no way to receive money even if you work and no way to pay money to others. No way to receive or pay money, no way to buy or sell.

Note that the mark is on the right hand or the forehead (Revelation 13:16). Men work with both hands, but most people are right handed and sign contracts with their right hand. With the mind (represented by the forehead) one chooses to compromise, and with the right hand one chooses to sign a document agreeing to compromise with God's truth.

One characteristic of Satan that can serve as a mark or sign is simply the way of life of deception - of saying something you don't mean, of signing something you know is false and you don't really believe, or signing something false even if you do believe it.

Without money, how would faithful Christians live and eat?

Such people must trust God to provide. God may provide ways for Christians to obtain enough to survive through barter. You mow your neighbor's lawn, or babysit for his children, or repair his car, in return for food, not money. That is a precarious way to live, but it will force faithful Christians to depend on God to give them favor in the eyes of their neighbors, friends, and relatives.

The key, I think, to being prepared for this, to have the courage to refuse the mark of the beast, would be to develop the habit of not lying or deceiving others or compromising with the truth in what we say we agree with, either verbally or in writing.

Let's make sure we never compromise with the truth.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Changing "Times and Law" - Calendar "Reform"

"He shall speak pompous words against the Most High, shall persecute the saints of the Most High, and shall intend to change times and law. Then the saints shall be given into his hand for a time and times and half a time" (Daniel 7:25).

This post is not about the Hebrew calendar and the issues some who claim to be part of the Church of God make about the calendar. It is about the fulfillment of prophecy about changes that may come about, made by the beast power and false prophet, to this world's calendar.

There may come a time, at the end of this age before the return of Christ, when this world's calendar will be changed in a way that will make it more difficult for God's people to keep the weekly Sabbath.

Many years ago, more than forty I think, I read an article from a group advocating reform of this world's calendar (this group had nothing to do with the Church of God or any religion as far as I know).

They proposed a scheme that would simplify the way weeks would fall in the months and in the quarters.

As I remember it, with their calendar, every month would have exactly four or five weeks, and every quarter of the year would have exactly 13 weeks. Two of the months of each quarter would be exactly four weeks and one month of each quarter would be exactly five weeks. So, for example, the first quarter of the year could have January with exactly four weeks (giving January 28 days), February with exactly four weeks (giving February 28 days), and March with exactly 5 weeks (giving March 35 days), total = 13 weeks for the first quarter of the year, and so on for the other quarters.

Every month would start with the beginning of a week so the first day of a month or of a quarter or of a year will always be the first day of a week.

Any particular yearly date, such as July 4, would always fall on the same day of the week every year.

The way they presented it, their calendar would vastly simplify business and accounting practices just by making the weeks fit evenly into the months.

From the world's point of view, this might be very logical.

There is one problem with what I have described so far, and they propose one more change that would solve that problem.

The number of days in the year is usually 365. Divide that number of days by seven to get the number of weeks in a year, and you get 52 weeks plus one day left over. 52 times 7 equals 364. You need one more day to make 365. If you went with a 364 day year, the seasons would change so that in about 180 years the seasons would be reversed - you would have snow in July and heat in January. So you need an extra day to keep the years accurate.

So what will they do with that extra day? They want to call it a "World Day", which would not be counted as a day in the week.

Once a year, twice during leap years, there would be a "World Day", a holiday, not counted by the world as a day of the week.

For perhaps the first time, the weekly cycle the world observes would be broken.

The World Day would come after the last day of a week and before the first day of the next week.

So the week begins with Sunday and ends with Saturday. Let's say the time comes in the year for a "World Day", probably at the end of the year. You have Saturday. Then you have "World Day". Then, under this new calendar idea you would have Sunday as the next day after "World Day."

But then, as God counts the days from creation, that Sunday would no longer be the first day of God's week. It would be the second day.

World Day would be the first day of the week that year as God counts time because it would follow the seventh day, Saturday, of the previous week. Sunday would become the second day of the week, as God counts time, that week and every week till the next World Day. In other words, the world would call the real second day of the week "Sunday", not Monday. The world would think of Sunday as being the first day of the week, but God would count it as the second day in the weekly cycle from creation. And since Sunday would be the second day of the week as God counts days from creation, Saturday would be the first day of the week, as God counts the days from creation. But this world will still call Sunday the first day of the week and Saturday the seventh day of the week. Which day would be the real seventh day, God's Sabbath day? FRIDAY!

So for the following year, what this world would call "Friday" would be the real seventh day of the week, God's Sabbath from sunset Thursday to sunset Friday.

So if you are working for a year, you will have to tell your boss, "I can't work Friday". Then, at the end of the year, another World Day would come, not counted by mankind as a day of the week (but counted by God as a day of the week), and the days would get shifted again, so you would have to tell your boss, "This year I can't work on Thursdays". Then the next year, "This year I can't work on Wednesdays".

In leap years, there would be two World Days, probably six months apart.

Would that not make Sabbath keeping more difficult?

I do not know if this is what Bible prophecy is referring to when it speaks of a horn intending to change times and law (Daniel 7:24-25). But I think it is a possibility.

Probably there are many ideas for calendar change floating around. What I have described may be just one example.

But from the world's point of view, any major calendar reform makes no sense if it leaves each month with an uneven number of weeks and if the first day of a month (or accounting quarter or year) is not also the first day of a week - otherwise, why change what we have? But any change to even out the number of weeks in each month would have to involve breaking the weekly cycle which has been unbroken since creation.

It would amount to the same thing even if the details of a future calendar are different from what I have described. To even out the weeks with the months, quarters, and years, you have to break the weekly cycle. And the day of the week, as mankind names the days of the week, that is truly the Sabbath in God's eyes would vary from year to year.

The movement of the earth around the sun and the rotation of the earth on its axis make it impossible to keep the weekly cycle unbroken yet make each year an exact number of weeks.

And the beast and false prophet can say to the Church of God, "Sure, you can have your Saturday Sabbath. But you have to accept this new calendar. We define when the week begins and ends."

This may be one way that the powers and authorities of this world, led by Satan, will make Sabbath keeping more difficult for God's people in the future when the beast power dominates the world.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Should We Attend Thanksgiving Dinner with our Unconverted Families?

Should we attend Thanksgiving dinner with our unconverted families and friends?

This is a question I have meditated on recently.

In the past, I have always been willing to attend Thanksgiving dinner with my unconverted family. But this year I probably will not. And for those who face similar choices, I will share my thoughts on the subject, for what they are worth.

There is certainly nothing wrong with observing Thanksgiving dinner with members of the Church of God and families in the Church. Thanksgiving does not originate in paganism, but is a tradition started by early Americans to give thanks to their Creator for His blessings and protection. There are no pagan symbols or rituals involved, and the giving of thanks is based on godly principles. There is no prohibition in the Bible in principle or in the letter of the law against having a dinner to observe the giving of thanks to God for His blessings, gifts, and protection, nor is there any prohibition against making it a tradition of the nation.

I also believe there is nothing wrong with having Thanksgiving dinner with unconverted family or friends who do not know the truth, because God has not called them at this time, yet believe in a Creator God and desire to honor Him and give Him thanks on this day. They are not called in this age. They do not know the full truth of the gospel. God has not opened their minds to really understand the truth of God's nature. They may think of God as a trinity. They may keep Christmas, Easter, and Sunday. They may follow and believe and practice the traditions of their church more than God's word.

But they know that God exists. They feel gratitude to God who created them and this universe and desire to give thanks to Him.

And I think there is nothing wrong with joining such people in giving thanks to God at Thanksgiving dinner. When they sometime learn the truth about God in the millennium or white throne judgment, their thankfulness will transfer to their knowledge of the true God, and their heart-felt gratitude will increase. The habit of mind of being grateful to God - the attitude of thanksgiving and appreciation - the attitude they express in this age by observing Thanksgiving - is not something they will have to unlearn. Those who are sincerely thankful to God in this life will have a head start over those who are not thankful, when they live into the millennium or are raised in the white throne judgment, even if their knowledge of God is a mixture of truth and error today. That is because thankfulness is an attitude of mind, an approach, a way of thinking, and it is based on love. Being thankful is a part of character, not just knowledge.

The principle is the same with other points and principles of God's law. Catholics and Protestants are right when they are faithful to their spouses, when they are honest in their dealings with others, when they forgive others, when they do good for others and give to the poor. Those who are not called in this age do not have the full truth of God. But when they obey some of the points of God's law in this life, they will have a head start on learning God's way of life in the millennium or white throne judgment period.

I personally have no problem eating Thanksgiving dinner with people like that who are sincerely trying to give thanks to God the best they know how.

But what about those who have no real desire to thank God but only use the day of Thanksgiving to eat a big meal, socialize with friends and family, and have a good time playing games or watching TV? Should I eat Thanksgiving dinner with those people? I don't think I should. That is just my opinion. Each person must form his or her own judgment, based on the principles God teaches us in the Bible, applying those principles to the circumstances we find ourselves in.

Fundamentally, to celebrate and have a good time but without a desire to thank God, then call it "Thanksgiving" and make use of a tradition started by Americans who were sincerely grateful to God for preserving their lives and blessing them, is plain hypocrisy, and I want no fellowship with hypocrisy.

At one Thanksgiving dinner I observed, there was an atheist in the group. The hostess asked that we go around the table and each person state what he or she is thankful for, but to accommodate the atheist she said something like, "Say what you are thankful for, not necessarily to God, but just thankful for in general".

But what does that mean? How can you be thankful for something without an object for your thankfulness, someone you want to give thanks to? "I give thanks to the random universe for making me by evolution"? That makes no sense. And I do not want to be part of that kind of thing though I may have in the past. Not this year. I am trying to learn my lessons from my past mistakes. If I had already made a commitment to accept a Thanksgiving dinner invitation, I would keep my commitment, but in the future I do not intend to accept an invitation if I know those at the dinner will not be keeping the day in a right spirit.

Some of you may be faced with similar choices. I am not trying to tell you what you should do. I am simply sharing my opinion and thoughts about this in the spirit of "iron sharpens iron" and in the hope it may cause others to think and meditate on the principles of God's way of life on this point. Each person must make his own judgment based on the principles of the Bible.

And certainly there can be additional factors involved in accepting or declining an invitation to Thanksgiving dinner or in inviting individuals to your home for Thanksgiving if you are the host.

As always, we should pray about important or difficult decisions and ask God to guide us by His word, the Bible, and by His Holy Spirit.

Here is a link to a related post:

"Give God Thanks", dated November 27, 2013, link: