Friday, September 25, 2015

The Feast of Tabernacles, the Last Great Day, and the Kingdom of God

God commands that we celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles for seven days, a time in which we rejoice in God's blessings and in what the Feast represents (Leviticus 23:33-36, Deuteronomy 16:13-15). The Feast of Tabernacles represents the coming Kingdom of God. It also represents the millennium (Revelation 20:4-6). The Kingdom of God is the divine, ruling family of God into which we can be born at the first resurrection, represented by the Feast of Trumpets which we have observed (1 Corinthians 15:50-54, 1 Thessalonians 4:15-18).

It also represents the one thousand year reign of the Kingdom of God over the nations of this earth. The Kingdom of God, consisting of Christ and the resurrected and made immortal saints, will rule over the nations. The physical nations will be under the rule of the Kingdom of God, but will not be part of the Kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 15:50, John 3:3-8). But the nations will have the opportunity to repent and eventually enter the Kingdom of God, God's family (Daniel 2:27-45).

This will be a time when Satan and his demons will be banished and will not be allowed to deceive the nations into rebelling against God. It is a time when, for the first time in man's history since the sin of Adam and Eve, God will call the whole human race to salvation. Christ will set out to save the world, and the world will see His success. With Christ and the saints ruling the nations and teaching the truth to all mankind, and with Satan put away, nothing will hinder the gospel from going out, and nothing will hinder the people from hearing, understanding, and repenting.

"They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain, for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea" (Isaiah 11:9).

"No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,' for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more" (Jeremiah 31:34).

Think of the great power of the gospel at that time compared with today.

Today, we have great technology and the means and opportunities of communication that technology brings. We have the printing press and daily newspapers. We have weekly and monthly magazines in stores and delivered to our homes by mail. We can go to the theater to watch movies. We have had those forms of communication for decades. And we have electronic communications: radio, TV, the telephone and cell phones, and the Internet.

But most of this has been put to a wrong or trivial use by mankind. Most of TV and movies has been used to spread Satan's false message and values that teach a wrong way of life. Even the vast majority of religious programming is false or a mixture of truth and error, with error predominating. This is Satan's world, and Satan uses every tool to deceive mankind, especially mass media and mass communication.

But when God's kingdom rules the earth, all means of mass communication and teaching will only be used for good.

I don't know how much technology will survive the great tribulation and the Day of the Lord and how much technology will be used during the millennium. Perhaps we will have even more advanced technology. But I am sure family life will be dominant, and people will spend more time enjoying their families and less time sitting alone passively watching TV and surfing the Internet.

Yet, whatever mass communication exists will be used for good. There will be no more music with words that teach wrong values. But there will be plenty of music, I am sure, that will be uplifting and will teach right values and will praise God. There will be no more movies that teach wrong values and no more movies with illicit sex, violence, foul language, taking God's name in vain, and the occult. But movies, if they exist, will teach right values.

The gospel will be freely available and will be taught powerfully to everyone, and it will not have to compete with false religion or with anything else to get the people's attention. That is why the whole earth will be filled with the knowledge of God.

We will have a deeper and more detailed knowledge of the Bible than ever before. As resurrected and immortal and glorified saints, full sons and daughters of God, we will have minds that will be far more powerful than our human minds today. Christ will be able to instruct us in every detail and the full meaning of every passage in the Bible. And we will be able to teach that knowledge to the world, and no one will hinder us.

People who live in that time will not have to drive in automobiles for a long time to go to Sabbath services, but with almost the whole world "in the Church" there can be services and assemblies within a short traveling distance of most people's homes.

No more will Church members in the millennium have to ask their bosses for time off to keep the Sabbath and the Feast of Tabernacles, for the whole world will keep those days.

What an amazing time it will be.

There will be happiness all over the earth. There will be health and prosperity. There will be joy that few on this earth have known under the past 6,000 years of Satan's rule.

Everyone on earth will be taught God's way of love, and most no doubt will practice it. Everyone will be taught the way of life of loving God with all our being and loving our neighbors as ourselves.

The Feast of Tabernacles, in the narrow sense, represents that one thousand year period of peace, joy, prosperity, happiness, and justice. In a larger sense, it represents the eternal Kingdom of God and the happiness that will exist in that Kingdom for eternity, the happiness we will enjoy with God and Christ forever.

It also represents something for our time now. It represents the fact that we are pilgrims and sojourners on this earth now. That is one of the things that is represented by our staying in temporary dwellings (hotels and motels) at the Feast. It reminds us that this world, this society and system led by Satan, is not permanent for us, but we are like strangers in it. Our permanent home will be in the Kingdom of God (Leviticus 23:39-43, Hebrews 11:13-16).

In order to picture the happiness of the Kingdom of God and the happiness of the whole earth in the millennium being ruled by the Kingdom of God, God wants us to rejoice during the Feast. For that reason, He teaches us to save our second tithe during the year to spend at the Feast, to help us rejoice. And we hear God's instructions every day at the Feast, and this can picture for us how the whole earth will be filled with God's instruction during the millennium.

The whole earth will be happy at that time, in contrast to today.

Why does God allow Satan to deceive and rule mankind for 6,000 years, bringing death, destruction, and misery to so many people on the earth for so long?

God is teaching mankind a lesson. He wants the whole human race to understand that God's way of life is better than Satan's way of life.

Before Lucifer sinned, all of God's angels lived righteously, and were happy. They lived the way of life that produced peace and happiness. They lived the way of life that God Himself lives. No doubt God taught and instructed them in that way of life. That way of life is the way of outgoing concern for others, the way of telling the truth, the way of trust in and obedience towards God.

For a time, Lucifer obeyed God and lived a righteous way of life (Ezekiel 28:12-15). But at some point, he sinned. He went the way of vanity and selfishness. He loved himself more than others. Instead of loving God, he competed with God. He is the author of the way of hostile competition, of trying to get ahead of others (Ezekiel 28:16-17, Isaiah 14:12-15).

But why did he sin? Did not God teach him the right way of life? Did he not live that right way of life for a time?

Assuming that Lucifer was the first angel to sin, and since the Bible describes him as the father of lies, and by implication the father of sin, I think this is likely (John 8:44), there would have been no one to tempt him. There was no evil in the universe. There was no wicked influence. God did not create an evil nature in Lucifer that would tempt him to sin. God himself did not tempt him to sin. And no other angel would have tempted him to sin. So he must have chosen to sin, freely, willfully, even in the absence of any outside temptation or evil nature created within him. By why?

God probably warned Lucifer, and all the angels, of the consequences of sin. God is a God of love, and the Bible shows that it is God's nature to warn and to teach. So if Satan was warned that if he went the way of vanity and sin he would suffer, why did he do it?

The only thing I can think of is that he simply didn't believe God's warnings. He didn't trust God. He wasn't sure God was telling him the truth. He wanted to find out for himself. He had no experience with vanity and sin. He wanted to experiment. He wanted to try it and see for himself if it was a happier way of life. So he sinned.

He became the author of scientific experimentation, the "scientific method" of experimenting, observing results, and drawing conclusions. He chose to believe what he could see and experience for himself, not what God told him. He didn't trust revelation from God. He trusted his experiments. And what he experimented with was his own mind. He chose to practice vanity, selfishness, self-exaltation, loving himself and serving his own interests more than God and more than other angels. He wanted to try a different way of life than the way of life God taught him. He wanted to see for himself what the result would be. Perhaps he thought, if this way of vanity makes me more happy, I will continue in it, but if it causes me problems, I will quit doing it and live God's way again.

He rejected faith and trust in God's word and chose rather to experiment for himself.

Perhaps that is why it is so important to God that His children have faith in Him and His word. A major emphasis in the gospel and the whole Bible is trusting God and believing what He says. He doesn't want us to doubt His word a million years from now and experiment for ourselves to learn right and wrong, as Lucifer may have done.

So Lucifer decided to practice the way of vanity. He wanted to find out for himself if that was a better way of life. He may have thought, if this turns out bad, I can always go back to God's way of righteousness.

But one of the penalties of the sins of the angels is perversion of mind. Once they sinned, their minds became twisted. They could no longer think clearly. Their nature became evil, and that leads to more sin, which leads to more corruption of mind, which leads to more sin, and so on. And this was evidently what happened to Lucifer. His mind became twisted after he sinned. And he did it to himself. By exalting himself, against God's warning, he ruined his own mind, permanently. "You corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor" (Ezekiel 28:17). His name was changed to Satan, the enemy, for that is what he became.

Now, he can never straighten out his own mind. He can't go back to the way he was before he sinned. To do that, he would have to think clearly, and his mind is no longer in a condition to do that. He is not able to think clearly to see that he should live God's way of life. Instead, his mind and thoughts are filled with vanity, hatred towards God and mankind, and every evil way. The more sin he practiced, the more evil he became, and the more evil he became, the more he sinned. No doubt He blames God for everything bad that happens to him.

Today, Satan is the ruler and deceiver of mankind. He is the author of secularism, atheism, and agnosticism. He teaches mankind the way of distrusting and disbelieving God's revelation. He teaches mankind the way of scientific experimentation, the scientific method of observation and drawing conclusions, as the best way of knowing all truth, even when conclusions drawn are contrary to God's revelation.

But God is preparing to teach mankind a great lesson. He preparing the human race to be his children for eternity, to practice the perfect righteousness of God forever. He doesn't want any of His children to do what Lucifer did.

So God is teaching mankind the lesson by experience. And by doing this, he is also giving a lesson to all of his holy angels, a demonstration and a warning never to sin as Lucifer did. In other words, God is giving a demonstration to all creation, the whole universe, mankind and the angels, that Satan's way of life is wrong, that it leads to destruction and suffering, but that God's way of life leads to life, justice, peace, and joy.

Actually, God's holy angels may not need that lesson, for they were there and experienced the happiness that existed with all angels before Lucifer sinned, and they saw the result of Lucifer's rebellion later. Nevertheless, the experiences of mankind can be a reinforcement of the lesson even for God's angels.

So God has designed His plan to give Satan 6,000 years to rule mankind his way, teaching mankind the way of get, the way of hostile competition, the way of pride and vanity, the way of selfishness, the way of hatred and revenge, and the way of lying and believing lies.

Then Satan will be banished and Christ will establish the Kingdom of God ruling over the earth. He and the saints will teach mankind the right way of life, the way of love, the way of humility, the way of trusting, believing, and obeying God and His laws. And that way of life will produce a marvelous result. It will produce a joy and happiness all over the earth such as mankind has never experienced before.

And the whole human race will be able to see and compare the results of God's way of life for 1,000 years with Satan's way of life for 6,000 years. Everyone will be able to see and know that God's way of life is best. No more will anyone doubt God and say, "Maybe God is not telling me the truth, maybe pride, vanity, and selfishness will make me happier".

This is all pictured by the weekly Sabbath day, a day of rest and spiritual peace following the burden of six days of the regular work week and its trials, each day of the week representing a thousand years in God's plan.

Of course, some people may still doubt. God does not force anyone to believe and obey Him. Probably, some will not believe and submit to God and will lose out on salvation.

But the majority will be able to see by the results that God's way works best.

And not just the people in the millennium. The people who come up in the white throne judgment, pictured by the Last Great Day, will be able to see the results too. They will remember their lives during this 6,000 year reign of Satan, and they will be able to compare the sufferings of this life with the happiness that will exist on the earth during the white throne judgment period (Ezekiel 37:1-14, Revelation 20:11-13).

For the Kingdom of God will rule the earth not only during the 1,000 years of the millennium, but in the white throne judgment period when the billions who have lived and died will come up in a general resurrection and be able to live in the flesh again and see what God's way of life is like. Satan will be gone, their minds will be opened, they will hear the true gospel, and they will have the opportunity to believe the gospel, to repent, to accept Jesus Christ as savior, to be forgiven, to receive God's Holy Spirit, and to be saved. And they will be encouraged to do so by the things they have seen and heard, the life they have experienced. For they will remember their suffering and the suffering of the world in their first life and will be able to compare it with the happiness of living God's way of life after their resurrection. They will see that God's way is best.

The Last Great Day is a separate festival from the Feast of Tabernacles, but it is also a continuation of the Feast of Tabernacles. There is no break between them, but the Feast leads right into the Last Great Day. They have separate meanings, but they have this in common - both represent the Kingdom of God ruling on the earth. God keeps them connected in scripture by calling the Last Great Day, the "eighth day" of the Feast (Leviticus 23:36), and that "great day" and the "last day" of the Feast (John 7:37-38). Yet there is a distinction because God says we are to observe the Feast of Tabernacles seven days (Leviticus 23:34).

God is teaching mankind with an experiment. It is not an experiment for God to learn what He already knows. It is a demonstration experiment, the kind a teacher might perform in a science classroom or lab to teach the class.

In high school I took classes in chemistry and physics. Besides the classroom instruction, we had lab exercises. In the lab exercises, we performed "experiments", but these were not experiments for us to discover new knowledge that had never been discovered before, as scientists do in their work, but merely to demonstrate by experience what the science teachers already know and the textbooks already teach. The idea was, what we learn from the teacher and the textbooks will be reinforced if we do experiments that teach us the same things by observation and experience.

That is similar to what God is doing with mankind. He teaches mankind by His word the Bible. He will teach mankind directly through Christ and the saints in the millennium and white throne judgment period. But he is also teaching mankind by a demonstration experiment. In the millennium and white throne judgment period, God will PROVE to mankind that His way is best.

If you are looking for something to talk about at the Feast of Tabernacles, something to focus on the meaning of the Feast, here is a question you can ask other Church members: How will the people in the millennium be able to compare God's way of life with Satan's way of life to know that God's way is best if they have not lived during the 6,000 years of Satan's rule on this earth?

Here are links to other posts in this blog related to the Feast of Tabernacles, the Last Great Day, and the eternal Kingdom of God:

"Why God Is Not Trying to Save Everyone Now", dated October 26, 2008, link:

"God Is Not Trying to Save Everyone in this Age", dated November 8, 2008, link:

"The Work of the Millennium Has Started!", dated September 20, 2010, link:

"The World's Loved Ones Are Not Lost", dated September 29, 2010, link:

"The Difference Between the Kingdom of God and the Millennium", dated October 12, 2011, link:

"The Millennium Will Be a Time of Joy for God Too", dated October 14, 2011, link:

"The Millennium Prepares for the White Throne Judgment", dated October 17, 2011, link:

"The Last Great Day Shows God's Mercy and Justice", dated October 18, 2011, link:

"The First 500 Trillion Years", dated October 21, 2011, link:

"Learning Love by Doing in the Millennium - Preparing for the White Throne Judgement", dated October 5, 2012, link:

"The White Throne Judgement Is a Blessing for the Church of God", dated October 8, 2012, link:

"Things We Don't Know about the Millennium", dated September 16, 2013, link:

"The First Generation in the Millennium", dated September 20, 2013, link:

"The Bible's Main Readership", dated September 22, 2013, link:

"Will There Be Money in the Kingdom of God?", dated September 24, 2013, link:

"Israel Will Be the Model Nation in the Millennium", dated October 10, 2014, link:

"A Pure Language", dated October 13, 2014, link:

"We Are Being Prepared for God's Kingdom", dated October 15, 2014, link:

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

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

The Last Great Day - the White Throne Judgment, Chapter 2 
The Gospel of the Kingdom of God, Chapter 2

Faith, Chapter 6

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Atonement and the World

The holy days and festivals of God have great meaning, meaning that is well known in God's Church but is hidden from the world. These days help to illustrate and reveal God's plan for the salvation of mankind. Their meaning and God's plan are hidden from the world because the world does not believe what God says. The world does not believe God's commands to observe His weekly Sabbath day and His annual festivals and holy days. And because they do not believe, they do not understand. They are blinded.

But we in the Church of God understand, and those God is calling, whose minds are being opened to the truth, are able to believe and understand.

Tonight the Day of Atonement begins. Atonement is commanded in the Old Testament, and there are certain rituals given with this day that help illustrate its meaning, yet the keys to understand those rituals are given in the New Testament. The Day of Atonement is an annual holy day and annual sabbath. No work is to be done on Atonement. We observe it from sunset tonight to sunset tomorrow night. It is a day of assembly for the Church of God (Leviticus 23:26-32).

God gives instructions for animal sacrifices for Atonement in the Old Testament. We do not sacrifice animals today, yet the study of ceremonies and sacrifices of Atonement can help us understand the meaning of this day, particularly the instructions concerning the two goats. One goat is to be slain. The other goat is released in the wilderness (Leviticus 16:1-34). The Church can understand the meaning of these two goats when we put this ceremony together with the teaching of the New Testament and with other parts of the Old Testament. We understand that the goat that is slain represents Christ and His sacrifice to pay the penalty for our sins (Isaiah 53:1-12, John 1:29, Hebrews 9:11-15, 10:4-14). We also understand that the live goat represents Satan, who will be put away in a condition of restraint after the return of Christ to rule the earth (Revelation 20:1-3).

We bear guilt for our sins until we repent and are converted and the sacrifice of Christ is applied to pay the penalty for our guilt. But Satan bears guilt for our sins for tempting us to sin, and he bears his own guilt. The share of the guilt for our sins that belongs to us is placed on the head of the goat that is slain, and this represents Christ bearing our guilt and paying the penalty for our sins so we can be forgiven. The share of the guilt for our sins that belongs to Satan for deceiving us and the whole world and tempting us and leading us into sin is placed on Satan's head, and he bears that guilt and pays his own penalty, which is not death but removal from office and banishment. This is represented by the live goat sent into the wilderness.

How strange and how cryptic this must have seemed to Old Testament Israel. They were not given an explanation for the meaning of this ceremony. Why two goats? Why is one killed and the other sent away? It must have seemed a puzzle to them.

But I said in my last post on Trumpets that one of the proofs of God's inspiration of the Bible is the consistency between all parts of the Bible, though those parts were written by different men separated by centuries. The Atonement ritual exactly fits the teaching of the New Testament. Jesus Christ paid the penalty for the sins of the world. But Satan shares responsibility for deceiving and tempting mankind, and he will be put away from mankind, not killed, but banished, as if to a "wilderness".

And the whole plan of God, as illustrated by the festivals and holy days and by the teachings of both old and new testaments, is the most logical, sensible plan there can be. It shows the wisdom, power, and mercy of the great Creator God. It is the only explanation for the world as it is that makes sense.

God is letting mankind learn a painful lesson that Satan's way does not work. Then Satan will be put away and everyone will have a chance to accept and learn that lesson. All who have ever lived will have a chance to repent and believe in the true gospel, to accept the sacrifice of Christ, and to be saved. Those who permanently refuse God's way will be put out of existence, destroyed, so they cannot make themselves and others miserable any longer. Those who are saved will have learned the right way to live, the way that brings happiness, and they will be given eternal life to be happy forever in God's kingdom.

What an awesome plan God has made!

God's plan is the very best plan for bringing the greatest degree of happiness to the greatest number of people possible. God's plan is perfect. There is no way to improve it.

"But as it is written: 'Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him' " (1 Corinthians 2:9). "Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!" (Romans 11:33).

Yet, none of that awesome meaning was available to the nation of Israel, apart from God's revelation to the prophets, when they kept the Atonement ceremony. Its meaning was hidden until revealed later. Yet, once revealed, that ceremony shows a clear and beautiful meaning. This is one of the proofs of God's inspiration of the Bible. For if the ceremony of the two goats of Atonement was merely the invention of uninspired men, how could they have designed such a ritual that EXACTLY fits the only explanation for the plan of God to save mankind that makes sense, and not even know or record what that plan is?

Atonement then has a two-fold meaning. It represents the judgment of Satan and the putting away of Satan at the end of this age. It also represents the sacrifice of Jesus Christ to pay the penalty for the sins of mankind. Passover also represents the sacrifice of Christ.

But Atonement has a special meaning for the world. It is associated with the events at the end of this age when God sets His hand, for the first time in human history, to save the whole world. Up to that time, God has only been saving the few, the first fruits, the few who are called to salvation in this age, that is, the Church.

When I study the Passover and its symbols and meaning, I get a deep sense of how the sacrifice of Christ applies to me personally as a Church member during this age of man, and how it applies to all Church members who are the few who are called in this age. Israel was in Egypt, and Egypt was a type or metaphor for Satan's world in this age. And God "passed over" the houses of the Israelites, but He did not pass over the houses of the Egyptians (Exodus 12:11-13). He made a difference between Israel and Egypt just as He makes a difference between us in the Church and those in the world who are not converted. We are forgiven, they are not. We are promised eternal life, they are under a death sentence.

But when I study Atonement and its symbols and meaning, I get a sense of a focus on the world as a whole, the whole human race, the vast majority of mankind that is not the first fruits, not called in this age. The sacrifice of Christ applies to them as much as to us, when they repent and are converted, and that happens after the return of Christ, at the end of this age, but not yet, not now.

I am not saying that the symbols of Passover only apply to the Church and not to mankind during the millennium and white throne judgment, and I am not saying that the goat that is slain on Atonement does not represent Christ paying the penalty for our sins for us in the Church. Both the Passover lamb and the Atonement goat that is slain represent the same thing: Christ's sacrifice to pay the penalty for man's sins, both us in the Church today and all mankind in the millennium and white throne judgment. I am only saying that I get a sense of a different emphasis. With Passover, the emphasis seems to be on us in the Church, whereas with Atonement, the emphasis seems to me to be on the world. Perhaps I feel this way because I know that the events pictured by Atonement will have such a dramatic effect on the world as a whole. In any case, that is my personal impression.

When Satan is put away, for the first time since the sin of Adam, mankind will be free of Satan's deception, temptations, and influence.

Ever wonder what human beings would be like without the influence of Satan and his demons? We will see, and the whole world and all of God's angels will see what that is like.

Also, for the first time, God's Holy Spirit will be made available to all who repent, and repentance will be offered to all. No one will be forced to repent and be converted, but everyone will be able to, and I am sure most will.

What a different world that will be.

Atonement represents a completion of the getting rid of the guilt of mankind and enabling mankind to be fully united with God, "at one" with God. It represents getting rid of ALL the guilt for man's sins, both our share and Satan's share. The share of the guilt for human sin that belongs to Satan will be placed on Satan's head where it belongs. And the share of the guilt for human sin that belongs to humans will be paid for by Christ, who suffered and died to pay the penalty for our sins. Then all humanity can be freed from guilt in God's eyes and can become at one with God and Christ.

Here are links to other posts in this blog on the subject of Atonement:

"Day of Atonement", dated September 16, 2010, link:

"Atonement and Fasting", dated October 7, 2011, link:

"Atonement Represents Complete Reconciliation with God", dated October 2, 2014, link:

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

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

Sunday, September 13, 2015

What the Day of Trumpets Represents

Tomorrow is God's Day of Trumpets, one of seven annual holy days and feast days of God. By observing this day and resting on it, we show God that we choose to believe and obey His word more than the traditions of men. This is especially true for those who have had to come out of the traditions of this world to begin keeping this annual sabbath.

Each of God's holy days and feasts has great meaning for the Church. Satan hates these days and has tried to substitute man made and Satan inspired holidays like Christmas and Easter, which God hates. The worst thing about the false holidays that the world keeps, but God forbids, is not just that they come from paganism and contain some false concepts mixed with truth, but that they substitute for the God-ordained holy days and feasts that show the plan of God for mankind.

One of the proofs of the inspiration of the Bible is the remarkable consistency between the old and new testaments, which cannot be plausibly explained as the independent writings of uninspired men. Only the inspiration of God can explain this consistency.

Consider the day of Trumpets. No great meaning for the Church is attached to this day in the Old Testament instructions for it. It is only described as a memorial of the blowing of trumpets (Leviticus 23:24). Considered alone, this would be trivial. But the New Testament reveals a tremendous meaning for this day, meaning which is not even hinted at in the books of Moses.

This day is called a "memorial" (Leviticus 23:24). A memorial looks back at something that has occurred in the past. But what has occurred in the past that we should remember on the day of Trumpets?

For us in the Church of God during this age of man, the fulfillment of Trumpets will be future. But for mankind during the millennium, when more people will be reading the Bible and the books of Moses perhaps than at any previous time in earth's history, this will serve to help them truly remember the events pictured by the day of Trumpets, because for them these events will be in the past. The instructions in Leviticus to keep Trumpets as a "memorial" is an instruction for all mankind in the millennium to use this day to remember what will be in their past, events the first generation in the millennium will have lived through.

God has inspired and given His word, the Bible, not just for the Church today and in the last two thousand years, but for all mankind in the millennium and the white throne judgment period. Only a few tens of thousands of Church of God members understand the Bible now, but billions of people will read and understand the Bible after the return of Christ.

The Day of Trumpets represents the return of Jesus Christ to rule the earth. It also represents the first resurrection of the saints and the change from mortal to immortal of those saints alive at that time.

"Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed—in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality" (1 Corinthians 15:51-53). "For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord" (1 Thessalonians 4:15-17).

It also represents the entire Day of the Lord period, from the first trumpet blast to the seventh, a period of intense intervention from God to punish the world for its sins and to prepare the world for the coming of Christ.

"Blow the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in My holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble; For the day of the Lord is coming, for it is at hand" (Joel 2:1). "The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord" (Joel 2:31). "Wail, for the day of the Lord is at hand! It will come as destruction from the Almighty" (Isaiah 13:6).

"Behold, the day of the Lord comes, cruel, with both wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate; And He will destroy its sinners from it. For the stars of heaven and their constellations will not give their light; The sun will be darkened in its going forth, and the moon will not cause its light to shine. 'I will punish the world for its evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; I will halt the arrogance of the proud, and will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible' " (Isaiah 13:9-11).

"I looked when He opened the sixth seal, and behold, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became like blood....And the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains, and said to the mountains and rocks, 'Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?' " (Revelation 6:12-17). "So the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound" (Revelation 8:6).

The summer is past and the fall holy days are upon us. The summer months after Pentecost are a transition period between the spring and summer holy days and feasts (Passover, Unleavened Bread, and Pentecost), and the fall holy days and feasts (Trumpets, Atonement, Feast of Tabernacles, Last Great Day). While the earlier feasts represent for Church members events that are past, the fall feasts and holy days represent events that for us are future.

Trumpets represent a call to war, and there is an association between the end time events represented by Trumpets with warfare. "O my soul, my soul! I am pained in my very heart! My heart makes a noise in me; I cannot hold my peace, because you have heard, O my soul, the sound of the trumpet, the alarm of war" (Jeremiah 4:19). See also Ezekiel 33:2-6.

Christ will also wage war to subdue the nations when He returns. "Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war" (Revelation 19:11).

Pentecost represents the gift of the Holy Spirit to the Church, and for each of us, the receiving of the Holy Spirit marks the beginning of our life as "begotten" or "conceived" sons of God. As Mr. Armstrong described it, we like an embryo in its mother's womb. We are sons of God, but not yet fully born in power and glory. But the Day of Trumpets represents the completion of that process, our full birth and glorification as full sons of God, for on the last trumpet blast we will be resurrected and made immortal sons of God (1 Corinthians 15:51-53, 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17).

Trumpets therefore represents the completion of what God started with Pentecost.

Also, just as there is a connection between Pentecost and the preaching of the gospel, there is also a connection between the Day of Trumpets and the preaching of the gospel and the Ezekiel warning. It is amazing how the preaching of the gospel of the Kingdom of God and a warning message of God's judgment is a thread that runs throughout the Bible.

The gospel and the Ezekiel warning go together. As I explain in my book, Preaching the Gospel, in the section, "The Gospel of the Kingdom of God", the true gospel is the whole truth of God, the whole truth of the Bible, and that includes everything about the Kingdom of God. It includes the history of what God has done to bring about the Kingdom of God. It includes the prophecies of the steps God will take to establish the Kingdom of God on the earth, and that includes the tribulation and the Day of the Lord which prepare the way for the Kingdom of God. It includes the law of God which will be the way of life that will be lived in and under the Kingdom of God, and it includes the warnings of curses for those who reject that law and promises of blessings for those who obey. It includes everything about Jesus Christ, both as the coming King of the Kingdom of God and as our sacrifice and High Priest and Savior who makes it possible for us to enter the Kingdom of God.

So the true gospel of the Kingdom of God is a broad message, and preaching the gospel to Israel in these last days includes preaching the Ezekiel warning.

I have written before about the connection between Pentecost and preaching the gospel. On the very day of Pentecost when the disciples received the Holy Spirit, the first thing they did was preach the gospel to the crowds, and about three thousand people were baptized that very day (Acts 2:1-41).

There is likewise a connection between the Day of Trumpets and the Ezekiel warning. For the sound of trumpets is closely associated with war (Jeremiah 4:19, Ezekiel 33:2-6). And the coming tribulation will include warfare against Israel (Ezekiel 5:12).

And the coming of war is something a watchman is told to give warning about (Ezekiel 33:1-6).

In a narrow sense, the Day of Trumpets represents events from the beginning of the Day of the Lord to the return of Christ and the resurrection of the saints. But in a larger sense, the Day of Trumpets can also bring to our minds the coming great tribulation that falls upon Israel because there is a close time proximity between the great tribulation and the Day of the Lord.

It is a vital part of God's plan that Israel be warned about the coming tribulation (Ezekiel 3:17-21, 33:1-9).

Israel needs a warning. They need to be told what their sins are. "Cry aloud, spare not; Lift up your voice like a trumpet; Tell My people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins" (Isaiah 58:1).

Our nations need to be warned so they know that God was fair to give them a warning, through us His servants, while there was still time for them to repent and escape the punishment. Though the vast majority of the people will not repent, they can remember in the tribulation that they heard the warning and ignored it. They will not be able to blame God and say, "I never knew, I never heard a warning, I never had a chance to repent."

The Ezekiel warning that the Church is giving to the nations of Israel, and then the great tribulation and the Day of the Lord which follow the warning, are important steps in preparing Israel for repentance and conversion so Israel can be the model nation for other nations to follow in the beginning of the millennium.

At Church of God services on the Day of Trumpets, we hear sermons and sermottes expounding the meaning of this day. And in giving an offering on this day to help pay for the preaching of the gospel and the Ezekiel warning, we are participating in preparing Israel and the world for the events this day pictures.

As Pentecost and Trumpets mark the beginning and end of God building His nature in us and making us His children, it also marks the beginning and end of the principle work of the Church of God in this age of preaching the gospel and the Ezekiel warning as a witness to prepare Israel and the world for the return of Christ.

The spiritual growth of the Church and the preaching of the gospel to the world go together, for God has given us His truth for the very purpose of sharing it with others.

Here are links to other posts on the subject of the Day of Trumpets in this blog:

"Day of Trumpets", dated September 6, 2010, link:

"The Meaning of the Day of Trumpets ", dated September 26, 2011, link:

"Trumpets", dated September 24, 2014, link:

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

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

The Gospel of the Kingdom of God, Chapter 2


Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Points on How to Build Faith, from Sermon by Dr. Roderick Meredith

Recently, Dr. Roderick C. Meredith of Living Church of God (LCG) gave a sermon titled, "Increasing Faith". Here is a link to the LCG page that lists that sermon. Look for sermon 889 with an air date of August 28, 2015:

In that sermon, Dr. Meredith gave seven points or keys for increasing faith. I thought all seven were excellent points, and I want to review them and share my own experiences and some lessons I have learned to support those seven keys to faith.

Here are the seven points. The wording of these points is from my notes on the sermon and may not be the exact way Dr. Meredith worded them, but I think the basic meaning is the same.

1. Prove to yourself that God exists and the Bible is His word.

I agree with Dr. Meredith that this is vital to building faith. When I was first learning the truth of God, I read the Worldwide booklet or article on, "Does God Exist?". After studying that book, I meditated on what I had read, and I felt motivated to prove the issue to myself one way or another. I was able to prove to myself that God exists. For me the key things at that time to prove the existence of God and since then to remind myself of that proof are: a) the design choices evident in the universe, and b) the consciousness of the human mind.

Science has been a hobby of mind since my childhood, especially the study of physics, the fundamental laws of the physical universe. The laws of the universe show great design, and that design has made physical life possible, including human life. And the physical laws show that certain design choices have been made, and that means that there must be a great Designer who made those choices in the design of the laws of nature.

I can give examples. The physical universe consists of matter and energy in various forms within time and space. Space itself is three dimensional. But why? Mathematicians can imagine and work with space of two dimensions, or four dimensions, or any other number of dimensions. A universe with two dimensional space or four dimensional space can be just as logical as our existing universe. Yet, space is three dimensional, as far as ordinary dimensions are concerned. Someone must have designed space to be three dimensional, someone must have chosen three to be the number of ordinary dimensions of space, and that someone is God.

There are four known forces in the universe. The weakest is gravity, and gravity apparently comes from the bending of space-time, in ways that are hard to explain (and hard for me to understand). Nevertheless, the force of gravity causes all matter to attract all other matter. It is what holds the earth and every planet and every star and sun together. And it attracts only, it does not repel.

The strongest force is the "strong force" (good name), also known as the nuclear force. It holds quarks together to form protons and neutrons, and it holds protons and neutrons together to form the nucleus of an atom. Stronger than gravity but weaker than the strong force is the electromagnetic force. The electromagnetic force can be positive or negative, and like charges repel each other and unlike charges attract each other. So this force can either attract or repel. It is responsible for visible light, for electricity, for magnetism, for radio waves, and for all chemistry that holds atoms together to form molecules.

The electromagnetic and gravitational forces are long range. As you get farther away from the source, the force is weaker according to a certain formula. The strong force however is very short range.

Each force is different from the others and is perfectly tuned to create an environment in which man can live.

Someone had to design those forces. Someone had to make the choices about how strong each force would be, whether it would only attract (like gravity) or also repel (like the electromagnetic force), whether it would be long-range like gravity and electromagnetism or short range like the strong force.

Then there are the particles of matter. Ordinary matter we are familiar with is made up of about a hundred different kinds of atoms, and the atoms combine to form millions of different kinds of molecules. Each atom consists of a nucleus surrounded by electrons (the hydrogen atom has only one electron). The nucleus contains one or more protons, and except for hydrogen always contains neutrons. Neutrons and protons are heavy, the difference being the proton has a positive electric charge and the neutron is "neutral" (again, good name). The electrons are light-weight and have a negative electric charge.

Who designed all this? Who decided how the universe would be, what the laws would be? It became obvious to me that a creator God must have designed and created the universe as it is.

Then there is the matter of human consciousness. This is something science is unable or unwilling to talk about intelligently, and they cannot explain it according to physical law. They are clueless. The best way I can explain what it is is to say it is the subjective "me" that lives inside my brain, the me that experiences happiness or suffering, the wakeful me that seems to shut down when I sleep and start up again when I wake. It is not the same as intelligence. How can it exist? Where did it come from, or to put it another way, where did I come from? Consciousness does not arise solely from the operation of atoms and molecules, for there is nothing about physical matter by itself that produces consciousness. The only explanation I know of that makes any sense at all is that human consciousness is a creation of and a gift from God.

These things were for me proof positive that God exists, and I was able to prove His existence even before I studied the Bible to see if it was inspired by God.

After that I set out to prove if the Bible was God's word or not, if it was merely the writings of men or if God inspired it and it was God speaking.

The Bible certainly claims to be God speaking, as is made evident by many scriptures. But is it?

I cover this in more detail in chapter one of my book, Preaching the Gospel, see links at the end of this post. But to make a long story short, I was able to prove, by fulfilled prophecy, that the Bible is God's word. Prophecies written in the Bible thousands of years ago have been fulfilled in the last two hundred years in a way that cannot be plausibly explained as coincidence to a reasonable mind. God must have inspired the Bible, for no man can know the future thousands of years in advance. Most important among these prophecies was the prophecy in Daniel that says that near the end of this age, knowledge and transportation would increase (Daniel 12:4, 2 Peter 3:8, Revelation 20:4, Exodus 20:8-11) and the prophecies that show the identity of the tribes of Israel. I was also able to prove the New Testament by the seventy week prophecy in Daniel that predicted when the Messiah would come (Daniel 9:24-27).

So I had proved that God exists. And I had proved that the Bible was inspired by God, that it is God speaking and that it was the word of God.

But before I could begin to live by faith, one more step was needed, for me anyway. I will explain what that additional step was when I cover a different point that Dr. Meredith gave.

2. Study the Bible.

Bible study is vitally important. I remember listening to and reading the writings of Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong. He taught that we become acquainted with someone in conversation, and Bible study is part of our conversation with God. He said that when he prayed he was talking to God and when he studied the Bible God was talking to him. God talks to us through the Bible and it is important that we hear what He tells us.

Even before I came into contact with the Church, I had read the Bible all the way through. I did not understand everything of course, but I kept reading till I finished it. But though I did not understand the doctrinal matters perfectly, like the Sabbath and holy days and the plan of God, I was able to learn and understand something about God's character. I was able to understand that God requires total commitment to Him. I was able to understand that God requires that we trust Him, and He rewards those who trust and rely on His help.

Christ said we are to live by every word of God (Matthew 4:1-4), and this means we must read every word of God and review God's word on a regular basis if we are to live by it. And hearing or reading the word of God strengthens faith, for faith comes by the word of God (Romans 10:17).

3. Meditate on the lessons of the Bible.

One way I found to meditate on the Bible is to combine Bible meditation with Bible study and reading. Meditation is basically thinking about the things of God, the lessons of His word, and the application of God's law and truth to the decisions we have to make. One way I do this is to read the Bible slowly, then pause and think about what I just read and how to apply it to my life. But also, when decisions come up during the day, if I am exercising spiritual alertness, I will try to think of scriptures I have read that will help me in my decision. But this only works because I have read the Bible many times. I cannot remember what I have not read or what I have only read once or twice a long time ago. I need to keep reading and studying the Bible on a regular basis.

The Sabbath helps me learn to meditate on the things of God, because I know I should not be involved in worldly things and I should not have my mind on the things of this world on the Sabbath. So every seventh day I have a whole day to practice meditating on the things of God. I can meditate on God's greatness, on the good works He has done, on His law and how to apply it, and on my own personal faults and sins that I need to overcome. Self-examination is a form of meditation.

And self-examination works well with Bible study, for I can read a passage, then stop reading and ask myself, how can I better apply what I have just read to my life, and meditate on the answer.

4. Pray and seek God fervently and constantly with zeal.

There are basic tools for seeking God, and they include prayer, Bible study, meditation and fasting. But the important point is to stir up zeal for seeking God, to cry out to Him, and to keep Him in mind at all times.

One way I have sought God that seems to help me is to think constantly, as I go about the things I am doing, about what choices God wants me to make, and ask myself frequently, is this what God wants me to be doing right now.

And as Mr. Armstrong taught us, we need to put our hearts in our prayers. Mr. Peter Nathan recently gave a sermon titled, "A Godly Fellowship at Work", that stresses the need to pray with intensity (see LCG sermon 887 with the air date of August 21, 2015).

5. Surround yourself with people of faith, and don't spend a lot of time with people who seem to have negative attitudes towards God, His truth, His doctrines, and His Church. Choose your friends carefully and avoid chronic complainers.

We are influenced by the people around us. Dr. Meredith gave the example of Jesus Christ being able to do no mighty work in His own country among those who knew Him because of the lack of faith of those around Him (Mark 6:1-6). We are specifically told to avoid those who cause division (Romans 16:17). Also, we should not spend much time in company with those given to anger. "Make no friendship with an angry man, and with a furious man do not go, lest you learn his ways and set a snare for your soul" (Proverbs 22:24-25). This point about anger may seem unrelated to faith. But it illustrates a principle, that we are influenced by those around us, and this can apply to faith or any other character attribute. Just as we can "pick up" the wrong character of an angry man by being around him, so we can pick up an attitude of faith or an attitude of skepticism from those around us.

An atmosphere of faith is contagious. Dr. Meredith said that in the early years of Ambassador College, there was an atmosphere of faith, and Mr. Armstrong himself radiated faith. That helps and encourages everyone to have faith and to believe God's word and God's promises.

6. Try to get in the very center of God's work. Be involved and help the Church all you can.

There are many ways we can help God's work and the Church. We can actively serve the brethren. We can glorify God's name by doing His work, and by so doing we will be loving our neighbors as ourselves as we labor to get the true gospel and the Ezekiel warning out to a world that needs it, with our prayers, our contributions, and our service.

Mr. Armstrong used to tell us that those who grew spiritually were those who had their hearts in God's work.

From time to time someone emails me and asks which fellowship I recommend. I have always recommended Living Church of God as the best place for them to attend and support with their tithes and offerings. Why? Because they seem to be doing God's work most effectively compared with the other fellowships I am aware of. They preach the gospel effectively and they feed the flock in a balanced way. Supporting Living Church of God with prayers, tithes, offerings, and service is one way, in my opinion, to be involved in the center of God's work.

We can support the two-fold commission of preaching the gospel to the world and feeding the flock with our prayers, our tithes and offerings, and when possible, our service.

In Peter Nathan's sermon I mentioned above, he said that Dr. Meredith asked the brethren to pray for three things: more understanding and God's guidance, more ministers, and an increase in income. I for one am praying for these three things for Living Church of God and I encourage anyone who wants to support the preaching of the gospel to do the same.

7. Exercise faith. Walk and live by faith in every area of your life. Exercise faith and your faith will grow as you do that.

I mentioned earlier that there was one more step for me after proving God's existence and that the Bible is God's word before I could begin to live by faith. I had to make a commitment to myself and to God to believe God, to believe whatever He says.

Proving that God exists does not prove that the Bible is true. Proving that God inspired the Bible and that the Bible is God speaking does not prove that God is telling the truth. " is impossible for God to lie...", says Hebrews 6:18, but someone telling you they do not lie does not prove they are telling the truth.

Granted that God exists and the Bible is His word, how could I prove and know that God is telling the truth, that He cannot and will not lie, and that I could rely on every word of the Bible to be true?

Could I trust God to always tell me the truth and not lie to me, ever?

I knew of no way I could "prove" the trustworthiness of God the way I had proved His existence and His inspiration of the Bible, with research and logic.

I realized I had to make a choice. I knew God had made me. He made the universe out of nothing. There was no higher power than God.

I mulled it over in my mind for about an hour, and I simply made a choice. I made a choice to trust God all the way, to believe His word for the rest of my life, no matter what.

I knew I might have human feelings of doubt from time to time. I never expected that just making a decision for myself to always believe God and committing myself to God to always trust Him would automatically remove all feelings of doubt in my mind from that time on. But I knew I never had to give in to doubts. I knew I could strive to base my actions and my decisions on my choice to believe God. And though I have never done that perfectly or 100% consistently, faith in God's word the Bible has always set the direction of my life, from that point on. That was my decision, to strive to go by the Bible forever, and I never regretted or had second thoughts about that decision I made over 30 years ago.

In other words, I made a decision to strive to exercise faith, to put faith into action, and I have tried to do that all my life since that time. And every time I based my actions and decisions on belief that God is true and His word is trustworthy, I knew I was exercising the faith I had. And if you exercise faith, if you base your actions and decisions on God's word, your faith becomes stronger.

Faith, like repentance, is a gift from God, but also, like repentance, it is a free choice. God gives us the gifts of faith and repentance, and those gifts make it possible to believe God and possible to repent. Without the gift, we would not be able to believe God and repent. But we still have to do it. God grants us repentance, but He does not force us to repent - we still have to choose to repent. God grants us faith, but He does not force us to believe - we still have to choose to believe God.

But how can we handle doubts and still live by faith?

I have used this example before. Suppose I know God requires me to tithe, but I have doubts about whether God will provide for me if I do. Maybe I cannot feel sure God will help me as far as my feelings and emotions are concerned. Maybe I think I cannot control my feelings of doubt.

But I know I can control the muscles of my body. I can control my hands and my feet. I can write a check to pay God's tithe, put it in an envelope, walk to the mailbox and put it in. And as I put one foot in front of the other towards the mailbox, my faith can grow stronger, because I am putting it into action. Doubts tend to evaporate. And God can help me by giving me more faith by His Holy Spirit because He sees I am committed to living by faith. He sees I am making the effort. He sees I am trying. He sees that by my actions.

Every time I read something in the Bible, when I choose to believe God and strive to do what He says and believe what He says, I am exercising faith, and as I exercise faith, it grows stronger.

When everyone in the Church of God, or the majority of the members, does this, it builds an atmosphere of faith in the Church. And that helps not only ourselves but others. It helps the whole Church.

Dr. Meredith has called for a crusade in the Living Church of God to build an atmosphere of faith. I think his seven keys to building faith are an excellent starting point for building an atmosphere of faith in LCG, and I have made a decision to regularly pray for the success of that crusade as LCG builds faith according to these seven keys.

The whole Church of God needs more faith, and I am glad that Living Church of God, the fellowship I have always felt does the best job of doing God's work and teaching His truth in a balanced way, has embarked on a crusade to build a greater atmosphere of faith in LCG. I also pray that God will guide them with greater wisdom and understanding, will give them more ministers, and will give them the financial increases they have requested of God and hope for.

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

Chapter 1 - The United States and Britain in Prophecy