Sunday, September 30, 2018

The Last Great Day - God's Fairness and Wisdom

The eighth day after the seven-day Feast of Tabernacles is the Last Great Day, a feast of God separate from, but connected with, the Feast of Tabernacles.

This day pictures the general resurrection of the dead, also known as the White Throne Judgment. It pictures a time, after the millennium, when the vast majority of mankind that had died are resurrected back to physical life. This is pictured by the valley of dry bones passage in Ezekiel 37:1-14.

This event is described in Revelation 20:11-15.

The billions who have lived and died since the time of Adam will be brought back to life. The billions who never had a chance to hear, understand, and believe the true gospel and repent and be converted, the billions that much of traditional religion has assumed are lost, will be given a chance for salvation. No one ever born will miss out on salvation because of circumstances of birth.

They will live in two worlds. They will have lived in this present evil world ruled by Satan - a world that practices Satan's way of life. And they will live in the general resurrection period (perhaps 100 years - see Isaiah 65:20) when Satan is put away and the whole earth is ruled by Christ and the saints in justice, peace, prosperity, and happiness. And they will be able to compare.

They will be able to compare their experiences with Satan's way and God's way, and they will be able to see, if they are willing, that God's way is better. And they can make their choice to accept the truth of God, to accept Christ and the gospel message, to repent, be baptized, and be converted, and be saved.

No doubt the majority will choose to be saved, but each person will have to choose.

But people will also have to choose to forgive. When the billions who have lived and died over centuries are brought back to life at one time, murderers and their victims will be alive together. Hitler will be alive with the millions of Jews who died in Nazi concentration camps as a result of his murderous policies. Hitler will have to repent if he wants to be saved, but if he does, his victims will have to forgive him if they want to be saved. That will not necessarily be easy.

But that is the choice people will have to make.

This is all part of God's great plan for the salvation of mankind.

This shows the wisdom, love, and power of God that He will use this plan to teach mankind a lesson that will enable the greatest number to be saved. It also shows God's fairness and justice that no one will miss out on an opportunity to be saved.

How great God is!

Sunday, September 23, 2018

The Millennium Prepares for the General Resurrection

The Feast of Tabernacles 2018 will soon start. This is a seven day festival to teach us and remind us of the coming one thousand year reign of Christ and the saints over the earth, a period pictured in many psalms and scriptures as a period of great joy, peace, justice, and happiness over all the earth.

"And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years" (Revelation 20:4-6).

"For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of His government and peace
There will be no end,
Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom,
To order it and establish it with judgment and justice
From that time forward, even forever.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this"
(Isaiah 9:6-7).

"There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse,
And a Branch shall grow out of his roots.
The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him,
The Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
The Spirit of counsel and might,
The Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.
His delight is in the fear of the Lord,
And He shall not judge by the sight of His eyes,
Nor decide by the hearing of His ears;
But with righteousness He shall judge the poor,
And decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
He shall strike the earth with the rod of His mouth,
And with the breath of His lips He shall slay the wicked.
Righteousness shall be the belt of His loins,
And faithfulness the belt of His waist.
The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb,
The leopard shall lie down with the young goat,
The calf and the young lion and the fatling together;
And a little child shall lead them
The cow and the bear shall graze;
Their young ones shall lie down together;
And the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child shall play by the cobra’s hole,
And the weaned child shall put his hand in the viper’s den.
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 11:1-9).

"Now it shall come to pass in the latter days
That the mountain of the Lord’s house
Shall be established on the top of the mountains,
And shall be exalted above the hills;
And all nations shall flow to it.
Many people shall come and say,
'Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
To the house of the God of Jacob;
He will teach us His ways,
And we shall walk in His paths.'
For out of Zion shall go forth the law,
And the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
He shall judge between the nations,
And rebuke many people;
They shall beat their swords into plowshares,
And their spears into pruning hooks;
Nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
Neither shall they learn war anymore"
(Isaiah 2:2-4).

"And in this mountain
The Lord of hosts will make for all people
A feast of choice pieces,
A feast of wines on the lees,
Of fat things full of marrow,
Of well-refined wines on the lees.
And He will destroy on this mountain
The surface of the covering cast over all people,
And the veil that is spread over all nations.
He will swallow up death forever,
And the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces;
The rebuke of His people
He will take away from all the earth;
For the Lord has spoken"
(Isaiah 25:6-8).

"Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah—not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 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 31:31-34).

"Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth;
Break forth in song, rejoice, and sing praises.
Sing to the Lord with the harp,
With the harp and the sound of a psalm,
With trumpets and the sound of a horn;
Shout joyfully before the Lord, the King.
Let the sea roar, and all its fullness,
The world and those who dwell in it;
Let the rivers clap their hands;
Let the hills be joyful together before the Lord,
For He is coming to judge the earth.
With righteousness He shall judge the world,
And the peoples with equity"
(Psalm 98:4-9).

People will be taught the give way of life. They will learn to live that way of life, as we do, both by instruction and by practice. They will learn the way of love by living that way - they will learn by doing.

One way they will learn is by working and sacrificing to prepare for the general resurrection - the white throne judgment period - as pictured by the Last Great Day. This will be a time when billions of people will be brought back to life and given an opportunity to learn and believe the true gospel, repent of their sins, be converted, and be saved.

But those people will need to be housed, clothed, and fed. They will need to be provided for, and a great project will be needed during the millennium to prepare for them. This is a way the people living in the millennium can practice the give way of life by contributing to the preparation for the billions in the general resurrection to be provided for.

In like manner, we in the Church of God also learn the give way of life by doing. We love our neighbors as ourselves by putting our love into action, and one way we do this is by supporting the preaching of the gospel and warning of the coming tribulation to the general public which needs this message to prepare them for what is to come.

Just as the people in the millennium will prepare for the general resurrection, so we in the Church need to be preaching a message that will prepare the world for the events soon to occur. This will help the world to realize that God was fair to tell them, through us, ahead of time what is about to happen, and that will help their repentance and make it easier for them to trust God. This will also help prepare them to have a humble, trusting, and teachable attitude at the beginning of the millennium, which is so vital for their conversion and the happiness of that time.

Those in the first generation of the millennium will have lived in two worlds - this present evil world and the happy world tomorrow under the reign of Christ. But those who are born in the millennium will not know this present evil world, except as they are taught.

I imagine that they will find it amazing how evil this present world is. It may even be that some will find it difficult to believe. They may need to exercise faith to know they are being told the truth.

Some may be spiritually lazy. But they will need to develop zeal and take the truth of God seriously. Not all will necessarily be converted and saved in the end, for at the end of the millennium Satan will be released and some will be deceived.

"Now when the thousand years have expired, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle, whose number is as the sand of the sea. They went up on the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city. And fire came down from God out of heaven and devoured them" (Revelation 20:7-9).

Likewise, we in the Church must not become spiritually lazy, but we must be zealous and on fire for God's truth, for God's law, and for God's work.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Putting Satan Out of Our Lives

Atonement represents and reminds us that Satan will be put away - put into a condition of restraint so that he cannot deceive the nations - after the return of Christ and at the beginning of the millennium.

But we in the Church have an opportunity - and a responsibility - to put Satan out of our lives right now, in a limited sense.

We cannot put Satan and his influence out of our lives completely, as he will be put away during the millennium. Satan still broadcasts his wrong thoughts and attitudes through the air (Ephesians 2:1-3). He still tempts us. He still rules this society and world and creates circumstances that make it difficult for Christians, both because of persecution and because of the temptations created in society.

But we can put some of Satan's influences out of our lives by limiting or eliminating our exposure to many of the elements of this world that Satan uses to influence people, primarily, the entertainment and recreation of this world: television, movies, Internet videos, games, etc.

This world's entertainment is corrupt and ungodly in many ways. Violence is a common theme. So is sex. The occult is often portrayed. God's name is commonly taken in vain as an expression of surprise or emotion. Music is corrupt.

It is hard to find good programs to watch.

We can diminish Satan's influence over our minds by avoiding wrong entertainment and recreation, which, sad to say, includes most entertainment this world offers.

In this way, we can, to a degree, put Satan and his influence out of our lives. We can also limit Satan's influence by choosing, when possible, the friends and people we spend time with, and by putting wrong, Satan-inspired thoughts out of our minds.

Atonement can remind us of this, just as the days of unleavened bread teach us to put sin out of our lives.

"If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell" (Matthew 5:29). This is figurative - we are not to mutilate our bodies. But this shows the seriousness with which we should limit what we watch.

"Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever" (1 John 2:15-17).

The Feast of Tabernacles represents the millennium, one thousand years of happiness on the earth under the rule of Christ and the saints. The absence of Satan's influence will be one reason for that happiness which the Feast pictures. It is therefore especially important to be careful about the entertainment we enjoy during the Feast. This is an opportunity to get away from the ways of the world - let's make it as complete as possible by avoiding wrong entertainment during the Feast.

And all through the year, let's limit and carefully screen the entertainment that we expose ourselves to. That will make putting sin out of our lives easier.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Dual Meaning of Atonement

The next annual holy day after Trumpets is Atonement.

Atonement is listed with the other holy days in Leviticus 23:1-44. "Also the tenth day of this seventh month shall be the Day of Atonement. It shall be a holy convocation for you; you shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire to the Lord. And you shall do no work on that same day, for it is the Day of Atonement, to make atonement for you before the Lord your God. For any person who is not afflicted in soul on that same day shall be cut off from his people. And any person who does any work on that same day, that person I will destroy from among his people. You shall do no manner of work; it shall be a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings. It shall be to you a sabbath of solemn rest, and you shall afflict your souls; on the ninth day of the month at evening, from evening to evening, you shall celebrate your sabbath" (Leviticus 23:27-32).

The Day of Atonement is a holy day, an annual sabbath, and the Church of God rests on that day, assembles for services, and fasts on that day (no food or water for 24 hours, from sunset to sunset).

It is interesting that there are eight commanded annual days of observance listed in Leviticus 23 where the Church is to hold services of some kind: Passover, the first day of unleavened bread, the last day of unleavened bread, Pentecost, Trumpets, Atonement, the first day of the Feast of Tabernacles, and the Last Great Day. Yet there are seven feast days and seven holy days (a holy day is an annual sabbath, a day of commanded rest).

Passover is a feast day, but not a holy day. We can work on Passover day. Atonement is a holy day, but since we are to eat no food on Atonement, I don't think it is to be considered a feast day.

We know from the account of the two goats in Leviticus 16:7-31 and from Revelation 20:1-3 that one of the meanings of Atonement is the putting away of Satan after Christ returns. The goat that is killed represents Christ and the goat that is released in the wilderness represents Satan.

But Atonement has a dual meaning. It also, like Passover, represents the sacrifice of Christ for our sins and the forgiveness and reconciliation with God that that sacrifice makes possible.

It addresses the question, who is responsible for our sins, Satan or ourselves? Are we responsible for what Satan tempts and deceives us into doing?

The answer is, both. Satan has his share of responsibility, and he is banished as a punishment. But we also have a responsibility for yielding to Satan's temptations, and our penalty is death. But Christ paid the penalty for our sins so we can be forgiven.

The account of the two goats does not indicate that Christ pays the penalty for Satan's sin. Satan bears his own penalty.

After Christ returns, Satan will be put away in a condition of restraint and not allowed to deceive and tempt mankind anymore. For the first time in the history of mankind, the earth will be free from Satan's influence.

This is one reason why the millennium, represented by the Feast of Tabernacles, will be a time of peace and joy over all the earth.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

The Day of Trumpets Teaches Us Many Lessons

It's that time of year. The fall holy day season is upon us.

Unlike the traditional churches of this world, the Church of God observes the annual holy days and feasts that God has ordained in the Old Testament (Leviticus 23:1-44).

The first of the fall holy days is the Day of Trumpets. The command to observe this day is given in Leviticus 23:23-25: "Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 'Speak to the children of Israel, saying: "In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall have a sabbath-rest, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, a holy convocation. You shall do no customary work on it; and you shall offer an offering made by fire to the Lord" ' ".

Like all of the feasts and holy days of God, Trumpets has important meaning and helps us understand God's truth. This meaning and truth is lost on the traditional churches that do not keep these days as God has commanded, because God gives understanding to those who obey Him. "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; A good understanding have all those who do His commandments" (Psalm 111:10).

Though the command to keep the day is in the Old Testament, the meaning is made clear in the New Testament.

We learn from Revelation that a series of Trumpet blasts occur at the beginning and during the one-year period known as the Day of the Lord, a time when God punishes the world for its sins (Revelation chapters 8 through 11).

We also learn from the epistles of Paul that the saints will be resurrected and Christ will return at the last trumpet blast.

"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 if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. 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 4:14-17).

Like the other feasts and holy days, Trumpets helps us learn and understand a number of doctrines. Trumpets teaches us about the return of Christ to set up His kingdom on the earth, which is an important part of the seven-thousand year plan of God. It, along with Pentecost, helps us understand about the Church being the first fruits, because it is the first fruits that are resurrected at the last trumpet blast. It also helps us understand that man does not have an immortal soul, for it shows that a resurrection from the dead is needed for this mortality to put on immortality - we do not have immortality yet (1 Corinthians 15:53). It helps us understand the Day of the Lord, which starts with the first trumpet blast.

And when we consider the holy days, their meaning, and the whole plan of God that is made clear, and add to that the history of the Church, we can be reminded that we need always to be willing to learn new knowledge from the Bible as God reveals it, for it was the lack of such willingness to learn new knowledge that prevented the Church of God Seventh Day from learning about the need to keep the annual holy days and from learning the knowledge of the plan of God they help to reveal.

None of us knows when the Day of Trumpets will be fulfilled, although it seems it must be near. But on an individual, personal basis, the Day of Trumpets may be fulfilled for any of us at any time. We never know the day of our death, but if we are faithful, the next second of our consciousness after we die will be the resurrection to immortality - entrance into the kingdom of God - that takes place in fulfillment of this day.

Many of the holy days and feast days are related. Trumpets is related to Pentecost, with Pentecost marking the beginning of the first fruits and Trumpets the end when we receive our reward. Pentecost marks a major beginning of the Church preaching the gospel to the world (Acts 2:1-41), and Trumpets is a major fulfillment of that message.

The resurrection of the first fruits, a major meaning of the Day of Trumpets, will mark the first time in the history of the universe when God's family expands from two (God the Father and the Word, Jesus Christ) to many. Christ will marry His bride, and this will be a great time of joy for God as well as for us.