God’s New Beginning — Phase I and Phase II

Last month I wrote about “A New Beginning” that God will bring about when Christ returns to claim control and rulership over the kingdoms and nations of this world.  This “New Beginning,” that will have no ending, however, will undergo two “phases.”

In this present article I will discuss the first phase [“Phase I”] of that new beginning. It is what we may call a temporary or preliminary phase, which will prepare the way for the next phase [“Phase II”] which will complete and consummate God’s “New Beginning” that will have no ending for God’s children from among mankind who will inherit everlasting life or immortality in God’s eternal kingdom.

This temporary or preliminary phase of God’s plan is appropriately pictured by the sixth of God’s seven holy days or festivals – the Feast of Tabernacles, also called the Feast of Booths [temporary dwellings]. [For more details of this festival, see: God’s Feasts and the Jews – Part 3.]

Phase I-A

The first leg of Phase I is the destruction of this present world as misgoverned by imperfect human beings under Satan’s sway (Revelation 12:9; 1 John 5:19). As Revelation 11:16-18 quotes the twenty-four elders [spirit beings who apparently serve as counselors in Christ’s heavenly court] as saying:

We give You thanks, O Lord God Almighty,
The One who is and who was and who is to come,
Because You have taken Your great power and reigned.
The nations were angry, and Your wrath has come,
And the time of the dead, that they should be judged,
And that You should reward Your servants the prophets and the saints,
And those who fear Your name, small and great,
And should destroy those who destroy the earth.

The succeeding chapters of Revelation detail the plagues that will destroy all the wicked from off the earth. Isaiah 2354:1-8 had foretold about this dire event and its consequence:

Behold, the LORD makes the earth empty and makes it a waste,
Distorts and scatters about its inhabitants.
And it shall be:
As with the people, so with the priest;
As with the servant, so with the master;
Asw with a maid, so with the mistress;
As with the buyer, so with the seller;
As with the lender, so with the borrower;
As with the creditor, so with the debtor.
The land shall be entirely emptied and utterly plundered,
For the LORD has spoken this word.
The earth mourns and fades away;
The haughty people of the earth languish.
The earth is also defiled under its inhabitants,
Because they have transgressed the laws,
Changed the ordinance,
Broken the everlasting covenant,
Therefore the curse has devoured the earth.
And those who dwell in it are desolate.
Therefore the inhabitants of the earth are burned.
And a few men are left.

As Isaiah 6:11-13 indicates, only a tenth [10%] of all Israel and all mankind will survive as mortal subjects of Christ’s rule.

Before Christ destroys sinful humanity, He will have put away Satan the devil and his demon cohorts (Revelation 20:1-3) who have misled mankind into sin and death. [See: Two Goats Together, especially the sections “Satan’s fate” and “When will Satan be bound?”]

Phase I – B

After this putting away of Satan and the destruction of wicked mankind, the next step Christ will take will be to clean up all the mess that the destruction will have left behind.

• The carcasses of dead men which are not completely burned will need to be disposed of. As Ezekiel 39:11-12 exemplifies, there will be a lot of burying to do!

• Revelation 19:17-18 shows that carrion-eating birds [vultures, etc.] will help in disposing of the flesh of dead people and horses used in battle. [See also Ezekiel 39:17-20.]

• Revelation 14:17-20 shows that Christ’s wrath will result in such shedding of human and animal blood that it will reach “up to the horses’ bridle” in depth. This layer of blood will need to be plowed into the soil to cleanse it and make it fertile for crops to grow well.

Phase I – C

Then will come the clearing away of all the damage and debris of “the battle of the great day of the Almighty” (Revelation 16:14). All the military hardware left behind will need to be melted down and used for agricultural, industrial and other peaceful purposes (Micah 4:3; Isaiah 2:4). The rubble of destroyed buildings and other structures will need to be cleared away and dumped into low places.

• The earth’s terrain, which will have been vastly transformed by tumultuous earthquakes (Revelation 6:12-14; 16:17-20), will need to be re-landscaped to make it suitable for agriculture, human habitation, and economic endeavors.

• The surviving human beings will need to be comforted and healed as necessary (Isaiah 40:1-3, 11) by Christ and His team of glorified saints who will rule with Him on earth for the next 1,000 years (Revelation 5:8-10; 20:6).

Phase I -D

The next step is to undertake a great work of building infrastructures to make life comfortable and pleasant.

• Sensible houses will be need to be built for the surviving people to dwell in.

• Safe public utilities will need to be put in place: power, water, waste management, roads and highways, mass transport and communication facilities, commercial spaces, etc.

• Agricultural activities will be undertaken to provide healthy and nutritious food that is free from all the pollutants and harmful additives of today’s self-serving farming practices. [See: When One Who  Preaches Christ Plants Corn.] God will make former deserts productive (Isaiah 35:1-2, 6-7). Having enjoyed some Sabbath or rest, lands will become more productive (2 Chronicles 36:21).

• At this time a new temple in Jerusalem will be built to house Christ’s throne as King of kings and His team of glorified saints who rule with Him. [See: The Temple in Ezekiel 40-48.] From this temple a stream of living water will flow out to cleanse and purify the seas and oceans and marshlands of pollution (Ezekiel 47:1-12). This will result in healthier fish and beaches for all to enjoy.

• School buildings will need to be provided for the formal education [or re-education] of the human survivors who will become subjects of Christ’s kingdom. So thorough will this re-education become that God’s knowledge and truth will fill the whole earth “as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:9). Worship centers [churches rid of idolatries] will also be set up all over the earth to hasten the learning process.

• All this transformation of the earth’s and mankind’s spiritual landscape will result in a world filled with such abundant peace and prosperity as mankind has never experienced before! [See: World Peace – At Last!]

Phase I – E

At or toward the end of Christ’s 1000-year reign with His saints, Satan and /his demons will be released for a short season in order to deceive the horde of human beings who will think to rebel against Christ’s government. But they will not go far, for Christ’s superior power will overcome and destroy them swiftly (Revelation 20:1-9).

Hopefully these rebels will be given a chance to repent and be saved, along with all other human beings who had not known and accepted Christ in their lifetime.

Phase I – F

After this great destruction and eventual cleansing of the earth, a massive resurrection to physical life of all human beings who had never received the saving knowledge of God and Christ will take place (Revelation 20:5, 11-12). This will be their time of judgment and their chance to be saved, if they would. [See: This Is Not the Only Day of Salvation.]

At the end of that judgment period, all the dead who had willfully rejected God in their lifetime will be resurrected to be destroyed in the lake of fire [the “second death”], along with those judged unworthy during the judgment period after the 1,000-year [ or millennial] reign of Christ (Revelation 20:13-15; 21:8). Those who prove righteous to the end will be resurrected or changed to immortality, just as Christ’s saints will have been changed at His return (1 Corinthians 15:50-55; 1 Thessalonians 4:15-16).

Phase I – G

The intense fire that will destroy all the wicked of the earth will also destroy or melt and dissolve the elements of the present earth and heaven. 2 Peter 3:7, 10 describes this awesome event. It will immediately precede the beginning of “Phase II” of God’s new beginning. Unlike Phase I, Phase II will last forever and ever.

Phase II

Only the faithful and righteous among men will take part in that bright new world – the true eternal “city of God,” the “New Jerusalem” (Revelation 21-22). This is that city or country which father Abraham and other righteous people have sought for or looked forward to, one not made by human hands [such as today’s world], but made by God alone (Hebrews 9:11; 11:10; 12:20; 13:14). No wicked or evil person will be included or allowed in that city (Revelation 21:8; 22:14-15).

• Even the seas will be gone (Revelation 21:1)! The sea is symbolic of sinful humanity (Revelation 13:1). All unrepentant wicked, ungodly people will have been destroyed in the “lake of fire” (Revelation 21:8). Only righteous human beings, given immortal or everlasting life as Jesus judges, will survive the great fire of destruction and live on into eternity – forever and ever. The resulting expansion of the earth’s surface will enable the billions of the saved to have ample living space. [See:  Enough Room on Earth for the Saved?]

• God will serve as the Sun and Christ as the Moon to light the new heaven and new earth (Revelation 21:23-24). There will be no night or darkness at all in the New Jerusalem (Verse 25).

• Since only immortal, divine beings will live forever in that new earth, there will be no need of physical food for them to survive as we do in this present life. However, the original “tree of life” will be restored, after it had been taken away from Eden after Adam and Eve sinned (Revelation 22:2-3; Genesis 3:22-24). The immortal people of God will eat the fruit of that tree not for physical sustenance, but for enjoyment and pleasure, and to maintain spiritual health.

Phase II of God’s new beginning being what it is, it behooves those who desire to enjoy its glorious pleasures and delights to keep themselves “in holy conduct and godliness,” and “without spot and blameless” (I2 Peter 3:11, 14). We are commanded to “beware lest [we] fall from [our] own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked” (Verse 17).  Instead we are to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (Verses 17-18).

Jesus admonishes His people to overcome sin, this world and the evil one [Satan], to repent, “be faithful unto death,” and “hold fast” what Christ has given us lest we lose our “crown (Revelation 2-3).

To help in this overcoming and being faithful, see: The Higher Law of the Spirit, God’s Spirit and Obedience, Breaking Down our “Walls of Jericho,” and “I Never Knew You!”

 

Pedro R. Meléndez, Jr.
21-23012021

A New Beginning

 

As we approach a new year – such as 2021 – many of us have our resolutions to “turn over a new leaf” when the new year rolls around. [See: Happy New Year!]  It seems that God has built in us a deep sense that somehow, sometime, we can surpass our past and present troubles — our failed promises — and make a new, and better, beginning tomorrow.

And that is not far from what God’s word reveals to us!

The Alpha and the Omega

As our Creator, Jesus reveals Himself as “the Alpha and the Omega” [the first and the last letters of the Greek alphabet] — meaning, the “beginning and the ending” (Hebrews 1:3; Colossians 1:12-17; Revelation 1:8, 11; 21:6; 22:13).

An ancient “plain song” or chant captures this truth:

Of the Father’s love begotten, ere the worlds began to be,
He is Alpha and Omega; He the Source, the Ending He,
Of the things that, that have been, and that future years shall see,
Ever more and ever more. Amen.

God knows all too well that we human beings are made of dust (Psalm 103:14) – frail and prone to sin. As Paul put it: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God;” and this being so, we all are condemned to the penalty of death (Romans 3:23; 6:23). Jeremiah 17:9 puts it bluntly: “The heart [of man] is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” [See: Is There Ever Any Good in Man? and A Law-abiding Universe – But Man!]

Time and time again man’s wickedness has brought the whole of humanity and our planet earth to near-extinction, but for the grace of God (Genesis 6:1-8, etc.; Matthew 24:21-22). [See: “The Next Chapter of History.”]

The end of all things

As the perfect and righteous Judge (Psalm 7:8; John 5:30), Christ will destroy all wicked men who refuse to believe and repent – along with the present heaven and earth (2 Peter 3:7, 10-12; Revelation 21:8). As “the Alpha and the Omega” Christ will end all that He created that has grown sour and foul. But He also assures that, for all who remain faithful and righteous, they can look forward to His sure promise to make for them “new heavens and a new earth,” where only righteousness – no evil – dwells (2 Peter 3:13).

A magnificent new beginning

Revelation 21:1-5 describes that magnificent new beginning:

And I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. And there was no more sea [sea being symbolic of mortal mankind, Revelation 13:1-2, etc.]. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle [dwelling] of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death [that is, for these people], nor sorrow nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”

Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.”

Those who desire to enjoy such a new beginning Jesus bids:

“Come! And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely” (Revelation 22:17).

Jesus had explained that such water refers to the Holy Spirit that God gives to those who believe and come to Him (John 7:38-39).

This is the new beginning that has no ending for those who will receive everlasting life – immortality! They will no longer die, for they will be in the eternal Paradise of God, where they will partake of the original “tree of life” (Revelation 22:14) – and live forever (Genesis 3:22).

Peter urges: “Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless” (2 Peter 3:14).

By our own human efforts we cannot make ourselves “without spot and blameless.” We need a higher power to become such! [See: The Higher Law of the Spirit.]

Happy new beginning!

Pedro R. Meléndez, Jr.
19122020

A Big Lie That Refuses to Die

 

One of the deadliest lies perpetuated by Satan the Devil –the father of all lies (John 8:44) and who has the whole world deceived by his lies (Revelation 12:9) and held under his dread sway (1 John 5:19) – has come alive again at this time of year!

It is the lie about the God-man Jesus Christ having been born on December 25! If one were diligent enough to examine the Biblical evidence, one would be led to conclude that Jesus’ birth did not occur – and could not have occurred – in the dead cold of winter, but rather sometime in the fall season! [See: Feast of John the Baptist.]

So, how did Jesus’ birth come to be involved in the celebration of the gaudiest and “merriest” season of the year – Christmas?

The actual origin of Christmas

Honest researchers into the truth of this matter have traced the self-indulgent practices of this season to the old pagan tradition of the Saturnalia, which honored the pagan god Saturn. Saturn (meaning “the hidden one”) referred to the despot Nimrod who ruled over his kingdom in Babel (Genesis 10:8-10). He promoted a religion that opposed God’s true religion. For this reason God commanded the patriarch Shem to execute him. Nimrod thus fled and hid himself and became known to his followers as Saturn. He was eventually found and slain, but his devotees passed on the tradition that Nimrod was “reborn” as the sun-God Saturn. They thus celebrated this supposed “rebirth” as a festival of merry-making and gift-exchanging. [For more details, see: https://www.herbert-armstrong.org,click ENTER HERE, select“Books & Booklets,” and scroll down to the booklet titled “The Plain Truth About Christmas.”]

In the early centuries of the Christian church, many people were being converted to the Christian faith. But the Roman Catholic hierarchy decided to make it “easier” for many of these converts to transition to Christianity by dressing up their pagan traditions with quasi-Christian trappings. This is how Christmas has become a popular worldwide celebration, indulged in by “Christians” and non-Christians alike. Christmas has become a multi-million dollar business everywhere! For this reason businessmen want the old lie perpetuated!

Most proponents of Christmas would not want to part with it for the supposed “love” and “joy” that it brings to people, especially the little ones. But, as I will explain, there is far greater and more lasting joy in obeying God!

Admit it or not, Christmas is at heart a form of worship of a supposed baby Christ. Many don’t realize, however, that to God this is a most serious matter! In His law God commands:

When the LORD your God cuts off before you the nations which you go to possess, and you displace them and dwell in their land, take heed to yourself that you are not ensnared to follow them, after they are destroyed from before you, and that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, “How did these nations serve their gods? I also will do likewise.” You shall not worship the LORD your God in the same way; for every abomination to the LORD which He hates they have done to their gods; for they burn their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods (Deuteronomy 12:29-31).

We cannot worship the true God rightly, using pagan traditions and practices, for these are abominable to Him.

God has prescribed, in His law, how we are to worship Him. True worship that is acceptable to God is to love Him and our neighbor, as He commands in His Ten Commandments. [See: The Law of Christ.]

In Leviticus 23 and Deuteronomy 16 God lists His holy days and festivals that we are to observe as a part of our worship toward Him. These – instead of this world’s holidays – are to be observed, with rejoicing (Deuteronomy 16:14).

There is joy in observing God’s commanded holy days and festivals that no holidays of this world can ever match! [See: https://www.herbert-armstyrong.org, click ENTER HERE, select “Books & Booklets,” and scroll down to the booklet titled “Pagan Holidays – Or God’s Holy Days – Which?” See also: God’s Feasts in the Book of Acts: Mere Time Markers – or to Be Observed?]

True love for God

Those who observe God’s commandments and laws are the ones who truly love God and Jesus Christ (John 14:21, 23). That also is how we can be sure that we also really love our brother or neighbor (1 John 5:2-3). And those who love God are truly known by Him (1 Corinthians 8:3). [See: “Whoever Loves God Is Known by Him.”] Only those who are truly known by Christ will be welcomed into His glorious kingdom at His return. [See: “I Never Knew You!”]

When Christ returns – soon! – to rule the world, He will have Satan bound in an abyss, thereby disabling him from deceiving mankind again for a thousand years (Revelation 20:1-3). Thus all the lies foisted by Satan and his instruments on all humanity will be banished and not allowed to spread, except for a short while in order to deceive a portion of human rebels toward the end of that millennium. Afterwards he will be imprisoned again, and all of mankind will be free from his influence during the Last Judgment. Only the knowledge of God – His truth [no lies!] – will fill the earth “as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 121:9).

Those who practice and love a lie – such as Christmas – and won’t repent of it, will be banished in the “lake of fire” at the Last Judgment (Revelation 21:8; 22:15). [See: “Whoever Loves and Practices a Lie.”]

While there is time, my sincere desire is that you, dear reader, will decide to obey the truth and forsake the lie, and thus enjoy eternity with Jesus Christ and His saints. [See: True Worship.]

Your decision may cost your breaking ties with family and friends, but in the end, Jesus promises eternal blessings to those who choose to obey Him despite persecution (Matthew 5:10-12).

 

Pedro R. Meléndez, Jr.
05122020

Why Fix Somethin’ “That Ain’t Broke?”

 

Years ago someone gave me a poster about “Twelve Rules for Living.” Perhaps many of you, my readers, may have also heard about this same set of rules. I believe this list could have been partly based on, or condensed from, the bestselling book by Canadian clinical psychologist and psychology professor Jordan B. Peterson, titled Twelve Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos. [See: http://en.wikipedia.org>12_Rules_for_Life].

One of the rules on the list, expressed humorously, is: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” It is but plain common sense that if something is working perfectly and is not “out of order,” there’s no need to “fix” it. Otherwise, the attempt and effort at “fixing” it might actually “break” or damage it instead!

When it comes to God’s word – the Holy Bible – however, it seems that many have tried to “fix” it when, in fact, Jesus said that “the Scripture cannot be broken”(John 10:35)! God’s word is perfect and whole; it is not broken, nor can it ever be broken at all, even though some have tried to “fix” it, as I will explain further.

However, one can “break” God’s word by disobeying it, just like one “breaks” a law by violating it – and that not without a consequence or penalty, as the same law provides! Much more so, God’s word or law is inexorable, and the consequence of disobeying it – which we call “sin” – is death (Romans 6:23), the ultimate being the “second death” in the “lake of fire” in the last Day of Judgment” (Revelation 21:8; ,20:12-13).

God’s word came to mankind through Jesus Christ, who is called “the Word” (John 1:1), from the Greek Logos, sometimes rendered as “Spokesman.” Jesus came to the world to give us the message of God, our Father in heaven. [See: The Comings of Christ, The True Christ, and Peter Knew “The Holy One.”]

God’s purpose for His word

The apostle Paul, one of Christ’s faithful servants, wrote: “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

All scripture” [meaning, the “written word” of God] has been preserved for us in the book we call “the Holy Bible.” In it we find a collection of writings concerning the origin of mankind, the history of the first generations of men, God’s acts in dealing with man’s sinfulness, and calling out a nation to become His people who would demonstrate to all mankind how men ought to live in a way that would bring true happiness and, eventually, life everlasting, through His own Son whom He sent.

As such, the Bible contains laws – commandments, statutes, judgments, ordinances – that define what is right or acceptable conduct in God’s eyes, and what is not. Paul said: “I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known what covetousness unless the law had said, ‘You shall not covet’” (Romans 7:7). Psalm 119:172 declares: “For all your commandments are righteousness.” Thus God’s word is our guide to – our instruction about – righteousness and “good works.”

Being of divine origin, the Bible reflects God’s perfect character. In its pages we find instruction on how to become perfect as God is perfect (Matthew 5:48).

As the word of an immortal, ever-living God, the Bible will endure or remain forever [“abide” or “stand forever,” Isaiah 40:6-8, quoted in 1 Peter 1:24-25].

Every single human being will be judged, in God’s own time, by God’s word. Jesus said: “He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him – the word I have spoken will judge him in the last day” (John 12:48).

God has appointed Jesus to be Judge of the living and the dead (John 5:22; 2 Timothy 4:1). Revelation 20:11-122 describes a great time of the resurrection of all those who have died without the saving knowledge of Christ. In that “last day” God will open “books” [from the Greek biblia] – including the Holy Bible and The Book of Life —  and all these dead will be judged by Christ according to these books and the people’s works. [See:  This Is Not the Only Day of Salvation.]

Ultimately every person will be judged according to their works – whether good or evil – and will be rewarded accordingly: everlasting life for those who have done good, and everlasting condemnation or death in the “lake of fire” [the “second death”] for those who have done evil (Matthew 16:27; 1 Peter 1:17; Revelation 22:12; 21:8).

This being the case, all of us should fear tampering with God’s perfect word. As Isaiah 66:2 says, “But on this one will I look: on him who is poor [humble] and of a contrite [repentant] spirit, and who trembles at My word .”

Let’s beware of trying to “fix” God’s word by tweaking it to say what it really doesn’t mean to. Christ is compared to a “stone cut out of the mountain without hands,” which will “break in pieces” all the kingdoms of this world (Daniel 2:45). Matthew 21:44 speaks of that same “stone” thus: “And whoever falls on this stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder.”

The articles which I have published on this website have sought to set straight God’s word which others have tried to “fix” even though it has never been broken. In trust that these will help you avoid the way of death and instead walk in the way that leads to everlasting life!

 

Pedro R. Meléndez, Jr.
21112020

The Hope of the “Unsaved” Dead

 

In a few days from this writing, September 10 this year will be celebrated by some remnants and former members of the Worldwide Church of God (WCG) as their seventh annual festival called the “Last Great Day” (LGD). This day – which this year also happens to be both a weekly and an annual Sabbath – is equivalent, in the Hebrew calendar, to the 23rd day of their seventh month, Tishri. Jews call this day their Shemini Atzeret, meaning “Eighth-day assembly.” [See: God’s Feasts and the Jews – Part 3, especially the section titled “The Last Great Day and the Jews.”]

The former WCG had believed that, at Christ’s return, only the “elect” of God – the “saints” [those “sanctified” by God’s Holy Spirit] or those who are “in Christ” will be saved while all others will perish when He comes to “destroy those who destroy the earth” (Revelation 11:18) – which will include most of the earth’s population (Isaiah 24:6). Those who have died “in Christ” will rise [be resurrected] to receive immortality ahead of those still alive “in Christ” (1 Thessalonians 4:15-17; 1 Corinthians 15:50-55). [See: God’s Feasts and the Jews — Part 2, and turn to the section on “The Feast of Trumpets and the Jews.”]

The key Scripture passage that supports the belief that there is yet hope for all those who have died without the saving knowledge of Christ is Revelation 20:5, 6, 11-12 –

“But the rest of the dead [who are not blessed to be among the “elect” who have part in the “first resurrection”] did not live again until the thousand years [of Christ’s reign on earth with His saints] are finished….Then I saw a great white throne and Him [Christ] who sat in it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books [from the Greek biblia] were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books.”

 That vast number includes all  who are yet “unsaved”of mankind since Adam and Eve, and perhaps even those after Christ sets up God’s kingdom here. [See: This Is not the Only Day of Salvation, The Book of Life, God’s “Book of Remembrance,”  and  Two Goats Together, the section on “A possible scenario.”]

So that I won’t be repeating myself here, I would like to share with my dear readers some words of hope for the dead – words which I have shared with bereaved folks during funeral services at chapels or gravesides. The following, then, are excerpts from such messages or “homilies,” with insertions of relevant website links, for the benefit of my present readers. I trust that this message brings comfort and consolation to you as it did to several who came to me after the service to express their appreciation for such an effect on them.

Why flowers at funerals?

It has been the custom or practice in the Philippines, as it is in other countries, to bring flowers to the casket of a dead family member or friend at funeral chapels and gravesides. Flowers express our love and tender feelings to those dear to us, as a young man offers flowers to a maiden he fancies. With their colors, shapes and fragrance, flowers somehow help blunt the pain, sorrow, and ugliness of the death of a loved one.

But perhaps one benefit to our souls that such flowers bring, which we should ponder with sobriety and hope, is that flowers should remind us of our fleeting status as mortals in God’s eyes. Quoting Isaiah 40:6-8, the apostle Peter declared in his epistle (1 Peter1:24) —

“All flesh is as grass,
And all the glory of man as the flower of the grass.
The grass withers,
And its flower falls away,
But the word of the LORD endures forever.”

Like grass or a flower, all of us human beings die sooner or later – we “dry up” and our “glory fades away.” Whatever glory or beauty, strength, position, place or possession – all these we will leave behind; we cannot carry them to our grave. Like dried grass or flowers, we end up as ashes burned in the fire, or soil (“humus,” from which we derive the word “human”) in a compost pile. The wise King Solomon observed: “For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing. And they have no more reward, for the memory of them is forgotten. Also their love, their hatred, and their envy have now perished; nevermore will they have a share in anything done under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 9:5-6). [See: What Happens to Man After Death?]

In stark contrast to grass and flowers, the passage from Peter’s letter (latter part) declares: But “the word of the LORD endures forever.” Of that word, Jesus said: “The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life” (John 6:63).

Speaking of life, we all understand that we mortal creatures remain alive as long is as we have proper food to eat. But what most of us don’t realize is that there is food (“bread”) more important for our permanent survival. Quoting Deuteronomy 8:3, Jesus said: “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God’” (Matthew 4:4). Many fail to partake of that “bread” (Word), and so find themselves spiritually “malnourished,” dying, if not already dead!

That is why God invites everyone: “Ho! Everyone who thirsts, Come to the waters; and you who have no money, Come, buy and eat. Yes, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, and let your heart delight itself in abundance. Incline your ear, and come to Me. Hear, and your soul shall live” (Isaiah 55:1-3).

The “waters” that God speaks of represent His Holy Spirit (John 7:37-39), which He will give to all who will repent of their sin, believe in Christ as their Savior, and are baptized in His name (Acts 2:39). These believers also constitute God’s and Christ’s spiritual “flock of sheep,” whom He, as their “Good Shepherd,” will feed with spiritual food from God’s word to sustain them to everlasting life (John 10:11; Isaiah 40:11). Jesus established His church and His ministry to help Him in this feeding (1 Peter 5:1-4).

The sad reality, however, is that today there are many churches and many preachers that claim to be Christ’s own, but are actually fakes (Matthew 24:23-24)! [See: Beware of False Prophets and Fake News.] It behooves every serious seeker to find the Biblical answer to the question Where Is God’s Church Today?– and be properly spiritually fed there with God’s enduring word through Christ’s faithful ministers. As 1 John 5:12 promises: “He who has the Son [Christ] has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.”

As we have Christ in us through His Spirit, we are assured that at His return we will receive everlasting life. [See: “I Never Knew You!” and God’s Spirit and Obedience.] We will no longer be like grass and flowers, which are here today and gone tomorrow.

We will become true children of God, and brothers and sisters of His Son Jesus, enjoying everlasting life and joy as He does, in the coming “new heavens and new earth,” where “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away … Behold, I make all things new” (Revelation 21:4-5). [See: Are we All God’s Children?]

 

Pedro R. Meléndez, Jr.
07102020

When He Rules the World

 

As I recall, it was in the 1980s when I first knew about the song “If I Ruled the World,” composed by Larry Secombe and sung by Tony Bennett [see: https://www.google.com/search?q=if+i+ruled+the+world+lyrics+tony+bennett]. The rather lilting and sweet melody melded well with the sunny lyrics, which went:

If I ruled the world
Every day would be the first day of spring.
Every heart would have a new song to sing,
And we’d sing of the joy every morning would bring.

If I ruled the world
Every man would be as free as a bird,
Every voice would be a voice to be heard,
Take my word, we would treasure each day that occurred.

My world would be a beautiful place,
Where we would weave such wonderful dreams;
My world would wear a smile on its face,
Like the man on the moon has when the moon beams.

If I ruled the world
Every man would say the world was his friend,
There’d be happiness that no man could end,
No, my friend, not if I ruled the world.
Every head would be held up high,
There’d be sunshine in everyone’s sky,
If the day ever dawned when I ruled the world.

The lyrics ooze with high optimism, if with a tinge of braggadocio. Knowing mankind’s failed attempts to bring about a bright, new world which the song eloquently waxes about, we may look at it as an expression of the deep longing and wishes of men – the kind of stuff that many a Miss Universe contestant offer as the hope they want to pursue if given the chance to wear the crown.

Actually, I got to know about the song in a rather round-about way.

In the 1980s, as in previous and later times, the Worldwide Church of God (WCG) headquarters at Pasadena, Calif., U.S.A. would help the choirs of WCG local churches acquire appropriate choral music material to provide special music during their weekly Sabbath worship services and, especially, during the “festivals” or “holydays” which the churches observed locally or as combined congregations.

The highlight of these festivals has been the sixth and the seventh – the seven-day Feast of Tabernacles [often shortened as FOT] and the “Last Great Day” [LGD] — the very season we are in right now. [See: God’s Feasts in the Book of Acts: Mere Time Markers – or to Be Observed?]

These festivals particularly look forward to the establishing of God’s kingdom here on earth after Jesus Christ returns in glory to take over the reins of government of the earth’s nations. Powerful and positive sermons usually detail the “Wonderful World Tomorrow” when Christ transforms the world – as only He can – into a utopia that has eluded humanity these past millennia.

Along this vein, the WCG headquarters’ music department provided music scores of a choral arrangement of Secombe’s song, but with modified lyrics [to fit the church’s theology], in order to enhance festival worship. That’s how, as choirmaster of the WCG’s Manila congregation for several years, I got acquainted with the song. This is how the WCG revised the song and re-titled it “When He Rules the World” –

When He rules the world
Every day will be the first day of Spring,
Every heart will have a new song to sing,
And we’ll sing of the joy every morning will bring.

When He rules the world
Every man will be as free as a bird,
Every voice will be a voice to be heard,
Take my word, we will treasure each day that occurs.

His world will be a beautiful place
Where we will weave such wonderful dreams;
His world will wear a smile on its face,
Like the man on the moon when the moon beams.

When He rules the world
Every man will say the world is his friend,
There’ll be happiness that no man can end,
No, my friend, not when He rules the world.
Every head will be held up high.
There’ll be sunshine in everyone’s sky,
As the day surely dawns when He rules the world.

There are no “ifs” and “woulds” in the WCG version of the song, befitting Christ’s title as the “Amen” [“So be it”] (Revelation 3:14). Christ will surely right every wrong there is in the world today when He rules the world for an initial one thousand years – referred to by Bible students as “the Millennium” [Latin for 1,000 years] (Revelation 20:4) — and beyond (Isaiah 9:7; Revelation 11:15).

Non-transformed mankind not able to rule

On our own accounts and resources, we human beings are incapable of truly ruling ourselves, let alone the world! Jeremiah 10:23, under God’s divine inspiration, affirms: “O LORD, I know that the way of man is not in himself; it is not in man who walks to direct his own steps!” Even more seriously, Jeremiah 17:9 declares: “The heart [of man] is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” Isaiah 59:8 adds: “The way of peace they have not known, and there is no judgment in their ways; they have made themselves crooked paths.”

Only as each person submits himself or herself to the transforming power of Christ will they be able to really rule themselves and, others as well.  [See: Is There Ever Any Good in Man?  A Law-abiding Universe – But Man! “The Next Chapter of  History,” God’s Spirit and Obedience, and “When He Cometh to Make up His Jewels.”]

When, finally, Christ makes mankind fit to rule with Him in His kingdom, then will Secombe’s boast – and more – come true! [See: World Peace – At Last! and https://www.herbert-armstrong.org, click ENTER HERE, select “Books & Booklets,” and scroll down to the booklet titled “The Wonderful World Tomorrow –What it Will Be Like” or the book titled Tomorrow, What it Will Be Like.]

May God hasten that wonderful day!

 

Pedro R. Meléndez, Jr.
03102020

 

“That They May Be One”

 

 

These words of Jesus Christ (taken from John 17:22) have served as a supreme goal of many an individual or group to see all Christians, and all human beings as well, come to perfect unity. For the patent state of affairs of humanity today has been one of division, conflict, violence, and war!

Never has the world been disunited and divided since the founding of the United Nations on October 24, 1945 [see: https://www.un.org/un70/en/content/history/index.html]. According to UN statistics [see: https://www.britannica/topics/list-of-wars-2031197] over 200 major and minor wars have been recorded since October 1945 till year 2000! As the world’s resources become increasingly scarce or depleted, nations have engaged in “trade wars” that inevitably lead to military warfare! [See: “The Next Chapter of History.”]

Some have pinned their hopes on religion or moral philosophy to somehow help mankind to avoid conflicts among men and nations. But in more cases than not, religion is the very thing that has divided mankind! Extremists and radicals among religious groups rarely think twice to go to war for their religion. Notable is the I.S.I.S. (Islamic State), which could likely draw a backlash among radical and extremist “Christians” that could well bring us back to the murderous age of the Crusaders and the Saracens! [See: The Children of Abraham.]

Ironically, Jesus declared the He had not come to bring peace and unity among men, but rather “a sword and division” (Matthew 10:34). And that is because those who do not believe in Jesus naturally oppose those who do.

But in His heart of hearts Jesus desires that all of mankind come to unity in and through Him. Referring to those whom His Father had given Him (John 17:11), Jesus prayed that “they may all be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory that You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one. I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me” (Verses 20-23).

How can Jesus be in us?

If the key to unity is Jesus being in us, how then can this happen? Another way in which Jesus put it is that He (and God the Father) can and will “abide” or make their “abode” – their home – in human beings who will love Him and whom the Father will love also. Jesus explained that “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will manifest Myself to him” (Verse 21). He said further: “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My words and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him” (Verse 23).

How love Jesus and the Father?

If the key to having Jesus and the Father make Their home in or with us by keeping their commandments and words, how can we do this, when the natural (“carnal”) bent of man is that of hostility to God’s law and commandments (Romans 8:7)? The apostle Paul explained that the way to “be subject to [or obey] the law of God” is to be “spiritually-minded” – to have the Spirit of Christ in us (Verses 9-10).

How receive Christ’s Spirit?

The apostle Peter showed the “steps”: “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus for the remission of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord God will call” (Acts 2:38-39). [See: God’s Spirit and Obedience and Predestination.]

What Christ’s Spirit does

In Romans 8:14 Paul declares that “…as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” James 1:18 says that “Of His own will” God the Father “brought us forth [KJV, “begat us”] by the word of truth that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.” To this the Peter adds that we are “born [or begotten] not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word, which lives and abides forever (1 Peter 1:23). In John 6:63 Jesus affirms that the words He spoke “are spirit, and they are life.”

God’s word and Spirit “sanctify” or set us apart as “holy”, as Jesus prayed (John 17:17-19; Romans 15:16). “Holy” means sinless, having been cleansed of sin through word and through Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary’s cross (Hebrews 10:10).

In this there is unity among the children of God: we all started as sinners condemned to the death penalty as God has declared (Romans 3:23; 6:23). But we have been cleansed of sin, not on our own merits but by Christ’s gracious sacrifice. Thus no one person can elevate himself over another, because we are all “in the same boat!”

And we have all – as many as have true faith in Jesus – been promised the same gift of everlasting life (John 3:16; Romans 6:23). [See: https://www.herbert-armstrong.org, click ENTER HERE, select “Books & Booklets”, and scroll down to the booklet titled “What Kind of Faith Is Required for Salvation?”]

God’s promise of salvation is now for those who are His “firstfruits” (James 1:18), and eventually for other human beings, in their own “season of grace.” [See:  PredestinationThe Divine Prerogatives, and This Is not the Only Day of Salvation.]

When Christ returns to earth to set up God’s kingdom here, there will be endless peace and goodwill among men. Isaiah 9:7 promises: “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, and even forever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.” Isaiah 11:9 adds: “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.”

Then will take place mankind’s greatest hope, even as the United Nations hopes: “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 2:4).

Then also will Christ purify mankind’s language in order to rid it of falsehoods, vileness, and idolatry. “For then I will restore to the peoples a pure language, [so] that they may call on the name of the LORD, to serve Him with one accord” (Zephaniah 3:9).

As Joel 2:28 promises:  “And it shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh…”  As such, God’s people will be able tokeep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3). As God pours out His Spirit on mankind, people will be able to understand God’s word and truth (1 Corinthians 2:11-12).  With the help of Christ’s appointed ministry to teach them God’s word, they will all eventually  “come to the  unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the son of God [Christ]” (Ephesians 4:11-13).

Even before Christ’s return, God’s “two witnesses” (Revelation 11:3-12), will preach the truth of God that will unite a sorely divided Church of God and those who will be called by God to this church.  [See:  Where Is God’s Church Today?  and Leanings.]

After Satan is put away by Christ at His return (Revelation 20:1-3), Satan and his demons will not be allowed to deceive mankind with their lies.  Only God’s truth will be taught and followed during Christ’s reign.  [See:  Two Goats Together.]

Finally, all liars among men will be removed from this earth along with Satan and his demons.  They will have their part in the “lake of fire,” which is “the second death” (Revelation 21:8).  All of surviving mankind will follow only God’s truth and thus come to full unity. [See: “Whoever Loves and Practices a Lie.”]

May God hasten that day of mankind’s total unity!

 

Pedro R. Meléndez, Jr.
18092020

“When He Cometh to Make up His Jewels”

I well remember having sung, in Sunday school, a song with that title: “When He cometh, when He cometh to make up His jewels – precious jewels, precious jewels…”

Our young minds may not have much comprehended what the song really meant.  But what we may have taken away from it, though, was that to God we were precious, “Like the stars in the sky that look down from the heavens,” as the song went on. And also that we were loved and appreciated, even as Christ said: “Unless you are converted and become as little children you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3).

Now that I’ve grown older – and hopefully wiser – I understand better the profound meaning of the Bible passage, Malachi 3:16-18, from which the song was taken:

“Then those who feared the LORD spoke to one another, and the LORD listened and heard them; so a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the LORD and who meditate on His name. ‘They shall be Mine,’ says the LORD of hosts, ‘On the day that I make My jewels, and I will spare them as a man spares his own son who serves him.’ Then you shall again discern between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve Him.”

As we approach the “Feast of Trumpets” [to be observed by God’s people on September 19, the equivalent in the Roman calendar of the Hebrew calendar’s Tishri 1, the first day of the seventh month], I want to share some thoughts about the return of Jesus Christ (often called His “second coming”), which this feast pictures or signifies. [See: The Comings of Christ and God’s Feasts and the Jews — Part 2.]

What are jewels for?

This may be a no-brainer, but there are obvious, and less obvious, purposes of jewels. First, of course, is for adornment. Just about all cultures and societies have one form or another of personal bodily adornment or ornamentation: rings, necklaces, bracelets, tiaras, diadems, crowns, etc. Jewels are especially valued to signify the person’s status in society. Because it takes some means to obtain jewels, they are associated with wealth, prestige or social rank.

Jesus Christ is coming again soon as “King of kings and Lord of lords” (Revelation 19:16). As such He will surely have not just one crown on His head, but several. Revelation 4:1-11 describes a vision which the apostle John saw of Christ on His heavenly throne, where He is surrounded by 24 spiritual elders [probably His angelic counselors] who are seated on 24 thrones and each having a crown on his head. Verse 10 describes how these elders fall down before Christ and cast their crowns before His throne – signifying their subservience to Him by submitting their crowns to Him.

Revelation 19:12 shows Christ judging and making war and having “many crowns” on His head. I think this shows that there is not a “department” in our individual and collective lives that can be exempt from Christ’s rule or “lordship.” Echoing Isaiah 45:23, the apostle Paul declared that “…at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth” (Philippians 2:10). In 2 Corinthians 10:15 Paul urges that we bring “every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.”

What it takes to become Christ’s jewel

Malachi 3:16 lists first “Those who fear the LORD,” and adds, “and who meditate on His name.”

The essence of the fear of the LORD is to depart from evil (Proverbs 16:16; 8:13). Jesus considers it precious that we fear Him by departing from evil. Why? Because He is holy and perfect – without sin or moral blemish whatsoever – and commands that we be holy and perfect like Him and His heavenly Father (Matthew 5:48). [See: “Be Holy for I Am Holy”.]

As the perfect Judge of all (Romans 2:16; John 5:22), Christ has the power and authority to destroy all the wicked in the fire of the “second death” (Revelation 21:8), and commands that we fear Him (Matthew 10:23). [See:  Can We Fear and Love God at the Same Time?]

Meditating on Christ’s name

This will take a whole separate article to explain or expound fully. But suffice it here to say that there’s more to Christ’s names than the mere sound of them. Every name has a meaning, and herein lies its power – especially God’s or Jesus’ name.

The apostle Peter declared to the Jews: “There is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” – no other than the name of Jesus of Nazareth (Acts 4:9-12).

The apostle Paul adds: “Therefore God has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9-11).

Here are some of the many names of Jesus that we should meditate on, for our salvation:

Son of God/ Son of Man (Matthew 4:3; 9:6; 12:8; Luke 1:38; etc.) – As the Son of God, Christ “made the worlds, upholding all things by the word of His power” (Hebrews 1:2-3). Paul told the people of Athens about God: “In Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). As the Son of Man, Jesus was made mortal so that He could die as a sacrifice for purging the sin of all mankind, and ransoming men from death. [See: The Ransomed of the LORD.]
Lamb of God (John 1:29) –“who takes away the sin of the world.” Paul explained that “…it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats [sacrificial animals offered by the children of Israel] could take away sins” (Hebrews 10:4). But we have, instead, “been sanctified [cleansed, purged, made holy] through the offering of the body of Christ once for all” (Verse 10). Peter adds: “…You were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from, your aimless conduct, received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Peter 1:18-19).
“King of kings and Lord of lords” (Revelation 19:16) – “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever” (Revelation 11:15)! He will rule all nations for an initial 1,000 years and then on to eternity (Isaiah 9:7).
Judge of the living and the dead (Acts 10:42) – Christ will judge those who will remain alive at His return: those who are His faithful followers will receive everlasting life, while those who are wicked will be destroyed and given their real chance to be saved, together with all those who have died without knowing Christ, after His 1000-year reign (Revelation 20:5). [See: This Is Not the Only Day of Salvation.]

Christ to rule with His saints

Revelation 5:10 says of the “saints” (Verse 8), that Christ has made them “kings and priests to God and [they] shall reign on the earth.” Revelation 20:6 adds that “they shall be priests of God and of Christ and shall reign [with Him] a thousand years.”

What God is looking for in those who will serve as priests to Him is that they should be able to teach God’s law to others? Malachi 2:7 describes the priest’s role: “For the lips of a priest should keep knowledge, and people should seek the law from his mouth; for he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts.”  [See: Moses and Jesus — Are They Contraries? and The Law of Christ.]

Hebrews 5:12-14 shows that those who are qualified to teach others should be so spiritually mature as to “have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil” – just as Malachi 3:18 says.

Malachi 3:16 also describes those whom Christ will make His jewels as those who “spoke to one another” – and a book was written to record this. [See: God’s “Book of Remembrance.”]

Healthy conversation among a group of people presupposes a healthy, loving relationship. For when two or more people are at loggerheads, they often stop talking – or talk nastily — to each other. We say, “They are not in speaking terms.”

A healthy, robust relationship is based on Godly love, which is gracious and merciful to others. 1 Corinthians 13 is Paul’s sublime description of Godly love. Notice also Colossians 3:12-15 — “Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.”  Furthermore: “Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one” (Colossians 4:6). To God this is most precious! [See: The Four Dimensions of Christ’s Love.]

“They shall be Mine”

Jesus claims as His own people — His precious possession (Malachi  4:17) — those who have His Spirit.  Romans 8:9 declares:  “Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.” It is through that Spirit that Christ would “know” us at His return.  [See: “I Never Knew You!”]

As Christ’s return hastens on, are you preparing yourself so you can become one of Christ’s own precious jewels? I hope and pray that you are!

 

Pedro R. Meléndez, Jr.
24082020/07092020

Can it Be Wrong When it Feels so Right?

 

In the 1980s a song titled “You Light up My Life” became popularized by Debbie Boone, daughter of the American actor-singer Pat Boone. Debbie having come from a religious family, the waltz-tempo song, as I recall, was originally meant to be in praise of God or Christ as the “Light of the World” (John 9:5) who lights up our lives, especially in the darkness of life’s sorrows and sore trials, such as we are experiencing now with the COVID-19 pandemic. [See: Pandemic Pandemonium!]

One of the strongest lines of the song proclaims: “It can’t be wrong when it feels so right.” Because music speaks directly to the human heart, this line can so influence our thinking and values without our really examining it in light of God’s word, the Holy Bible, as I will be doing in this present article.

Can a thing be wrong when it feels so right?

A basic knowledge of Scripture should arouse one to react on the basis of Proverbs 14:12 and 16:25 – repeated for emphasis and to show its importance to our proper judgment – “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.”

This tells us that we cannot judge the rightness of a thing simply on the basis of whether it “feels” or “seems” right. We might add the other human senses: “looks,” “appears,” “sounds,” “tastes,” or “smells” right.

Our mere human feelings and other sensations can easily deceive us unto thinking that what we do or are thinking to do must be right just because it feels so right. Here’s where the Bible talks about The Deceitfulness of Sin (Hebrews 3:13). And that is because sinful acts often bring immediate pleasure. Hebrews 11:25 testifies that the man of God Moses chose rather to suffer affliction than to “enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season” – for but a brief time.

For example, illicit sexual acts [adultery, fornication, homosexuality, masturbation, etc.] may bring immediate pleasure. But it is pleasure that, sooner or later, will exact a ‘kickback” or a dire consequence on one’s mind, body and emotions  and on personal relationships. [Concerning homosexuality, see: The Rainbow Connection. As for masturbation, 1 Corinthians 7:4 tells us that “the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.” God thus decrees that sex is to be engaged in only within the bounds of marriage between a man and his wife. ]

God’s laws the true basis for all morality

After all is said and done, the laws of God – as preserved for us in the Holy Scriptures or the Bible – are the absolute authority to tell us what is right [lawful, acceptable to God, moral], and what is wrong [sinful, unlawful, unacceptable, immoral]. Only God has the right to define or determine what is right and what is wrong. [See:  “Your Eyes Will Be Opened!” and The Divine Prerogatives.]

Because we human beings are “carnal” [made of flesh and blood], unlike God, who is Spirit and eternal (John 4:24), we are naturally hostile to God and cannot be subject to His law (Romans 8:7), all have thus sinned, and deserve the penalty of death (Romans 3:23; 6:23). [See:  Is There Ever Any God in Man? and A Law-abiding Universe – But Man!]

We need the Spirit of God given to us in order that we can understand and appreciate the things of God (1 Corinthians 3:11-14). Otherwise, we would confuse good for evil, and evil for good (Isaiah 5:20). We could just easily judge something as “right” simply because it seems or feels right although in God’s judgment it is wrong or evil. [See: Switching Positive and Negative and Devising Evil by Law.]

We also need the Spirit of God to empower us to obey His law (Romans 8:6-10). [See: The Higher Law of the Spirit.] In the Day of Judgment, God as our perfect and righteous Judge will judge us according to our works – whether good or evil (2 Corinthians 5:10; Revelation 22:12). [See:  Saved for Good Works and Being and Doing.]

Will doing what is right feel right?

Many have the mistaken notion that to obey God or to keep His laws is no fun but to simply become restricted and fettered. Some think of God as the supreme “Kill-joy!” [See: Freed From Bondage.] But not so to one imbued with His Spirit. Such a person will have the same attitude as that of the writer of Psalm 119, who delighted and had pleasure in God’s law. He will find great rewards in obeying that law (Psalm 19:7-11; 58:11). He will take God at His word that He has reserved for His faithful people “pleasures forevermore” at His right hand, and “fullness of joy” in His presence (Psalm 16:11).

The ultimate reward for righteousness is not merely the absence of pain and sorrow (Revelation 21:4), but the abundance of “everlasting joy” (Isaiah 35:10).

We are assured of that reward, when we fully understand, in light of God’s word, that a thing can be wrong even when it feels so right!

 

Pedro R. Meléndez, Jr.
25072020/20082020

 

Prophetic Timeline Mix-up!

[My sincere apologies to our readers for my failure to publish any article on this website in the past month of July. I had some problem of malfunction in both our laptop and desktop; because of the ongoing COVID 19 Quarantine restrictions on movement and services, I was unable to have my computers fixed in time. I will make it up to you, readers, by publishing an extra article this month of August. Thank you for your understanding and continued interest.]

When it comes to predicting the dates of the fulfillment of Bible prophecies, we can expect a whole gamut of opinions – and plenty of arguments! Especially controversial are the predictions as to the exact date of Christ’s return to earth, or what many have called Christ’s “second coming.” [See: The Comings of Christ.]

A good number of people or groups have put forward certain dates for such a climactic event as Christ’s bodily return to earth. As it turns out these predictions didn’t happen on the date predicted. Some have chronicled such failed predictions. [See, for example: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Predictions_and_claims_for_the_Second_Coming_of Christ.]

Among such failed predictions is the supposed prediction by the late founder and pastor-general of the Worldwide Church of God [WCG], Herbert W. Armstrong [HWA]. HWA had written, in 1956, a booklet titled”1975 in Prophecy.” [You may access this booklet through this link: https://www.hwalibrary.com/cgi-bin/get/hwa.cgi?action=getbklet&InfoID=1375346358.] Those who read this booklet – many of them WCG members – believed that HWA thus predicted that Christ would return in the year 1975 – some 45 years ago!

I have also read the same booklet, but I had not come away with the same conclusion most had. Actually HWA did not set 1975 as a specific date or year of Christ’s return. It was, instead, a group of scientists and technologists that predicted that by year 1975 the world would see such advances in science and technology that mankind would achieve a kind of man-made utopia of gadgetry that would make life here on earth more comfortable, more pleasurable, and would improve human health and longevity by year 1975.

HWA took issue with this sunny prediction and countered by saying that, no, Bible prophecies, instead, predict a far different – a grim — scenario in the years then ahead. He based this on Christ’s prophecies in Matthew 24 (and related gospel accounts) and the Book of Revelation, plus Old Testament prophecies about “the Lord’s Day.”

When 1975 came and Christ had not returned, many WCG members became disillusioned and left the church. Some WCG ministers tried to justify the supposed failed 1975 prediction by saying that there would be some period of worldwide tribulation, and they reset the date of Christ’s return to 1982, and onward to 1992 or 1995.

Still others have since put forward other dates or years – all apparently failed predictions. Because of this, some religious commentators have dubbed WCG’s tendencies as “prediction addiction!”

Addiction still alive!

Like some addiction that is difficult to unload, some predictions have surfaced lately among “remnants” of the former WCG. [See: Where Is God’s Church Today?] One such group is the so-called “Church of God’s Faithful” [COGF]. This church has a website, where it has published its view on end-time prophecy: www.setapartbytruth.org.

I might summarize the COGF’s pronouncements about our “end times” and Christ’s return as follows:

1.) That the fulfillment of the opening of the “first seal” (Revelation 6:1-2) happened just in recent years when Joseph W. Tkach [JWT], whom HWA had appointed, before his death in early 1986, as his successor, rode the “white horse” of that “first seal,” and caused the WCG to go into apostasy and unscriptural beliefs. [See: Where Is God’s Church Today?]

2.) That JWT fulfilled the apostle Paul’s prophecy (in 2 Thessalonians 2:3-11) about a “man of sin” and “the lawless one” who would come into God’s temple [the WCG] and set himself up as “God” by reversing all that HWA had taught as God’s truths and replacing them with lies and falsehoods.

3.) That we are now in “the day of the Lord,” and that HWA had sounded the “midnight cry” (Matthew 25:6) before his death in 1986.

4.) That HWA had fully preached the true gospel to all the world in his lifetime, and anyone today who presumes to preach the gospel of Christ is engaging in a futile exercise.

Now, let me explain each of these points in light of God’s word, the Holy Bible.

The “White Horse” prophecy

It ironic that the COGF, which claims to teach as HWA had taught, has in effect disregarded what he had taught about the first horseman of Revelation 6 – the rider of the “white horse.”

In his booklet titled “The Book of Revelation – Unveiled at Last!” HWA taught that the rider of the “white horse” refers to the false teachers and false prophets that Jesus prophesied as first among the signs of the “end times” (Matthew 24:4-5, 11, 24). [See: https://www.herbert-armstrong.org, click  ENTER HERE, select “Books & Booklets,” and scroll down to the booklet with that title.]

HWA also taught that the four horsemen of Revelation were to come about in the same order as Jesus had prophesied about our end-time: the second horseman, riding the red horse, pictures the wars that came about especially as the chief among the false prophets went “conquering” and putting to death those who opposed him. In the wake of wars came famines [pictured by the rider on the black horse]. After these came death [pictured by the rider on the pale horse].

In effect HWA taught that the first five of the seven “seals” of Revelation 6 have already been opened since centuries ago, and with them have come the prophesied troubles. The fifth seal brought about the horrible persecution and death of God’s saints in the hands of the political-religious leader who continued to ride the first or white horse, during what is known as the “dark age.”

HWA also taught that those four horsemen would continue to ride and wreak havoc on the earth until they are checked by Christ. In fact, the ill-effects of these horsemen and the events of the “fifth seal” have increased or intensified over the past centuries, and will continue to do so in the coming years.

To teach, as the COGF does, that only with the emergence of JWT has the prophecy about the “white horse” and its rider been fulfilled is to “flip-flop” in the historical timeline. This is a case of forcing one’s idea or understanding upon the clearly established prophetic timeline!

What JWT has done is a fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy about end-time false prophets (Matthew 24 4-5, etc.). We might also add the apostle Paul’s warning, in Acts 20:29-30, that after his departure many false teachers would arise and mislead church members. The apostle Peter also warned about false teachers arising within God’s church (2 Peter 2:1-3). A similar thing has happened to the WCG after HWA’s death.

In addition, Ezekiel 34:1-21 prophesies about “irresponsible shepherds” [NKJV] who would oppress God’s flock in the latter days. Jeremiah 16:21 also talks about “dull-hearted” shepherds who would cause God’s flock to become scattered — just like what has happened to the former WCG! [See: Beware of False Prophets and Fake News.]

The “man of sin” or the “lawless one”

Paul wrote about a “man of sin” and the “lawless one” (2 Thessalonians 2:3, 8-9) who would sit in God’s temple and claim to be God Himself. The COGF claims that this has been fulfilled, in our time, by JWT. However, this claim fails to consider that in Paul’s time, the “mystery of lawlessness” which the “man of sin” would promote, was already at work (2 Thessalonians 2:7) – not many centuries later, with JWT’s takeover of the WCG!

HWA taught that the first 200 years of New Testament church history were shrouded in a “curtain” behind which Satan was working out his design of deception through false prophets in such a way that when that “curtain” was finally lifted, lo and behold, a totally different church appeared that claimed to be Christ’s church, but was actually the “synagogue of Satan” (Revelation 2:9). [See: https://www.herbert-armstrong.org, click ENTER HERE, select “Books & Booklets” and scroll down to the booklet titled “A True History of the True Church;” see also  Where Is God’s Church Today?]

JWT merely continued the work of that impostor church by aligning the former WCG with the “evangelicals” or Protestants – whom HWA labeled as the “wayward daughters” of the “great harlot” of Revelation 17:1 –- “Babylon the Great” (Verse 5), which HWA identified with the Roman Catholic Church. [See: https://www.herbert-armstrong.org (as above), and scroll down to the booklets title  “Who Is the Beast?” and “Mark of the Beast.”] The transformed WCG is now called GCI – Grace Communion International, and now a member of the WEF [World Evangelical Fellowship].

Is it any wonder that the GCI now follows the traditions and teachings of the evangelicals? Among these are worshipping on Sunday instead of God’s commanded seventh day Sabbath [see: What if the Sabbath Is Still Holy?], observing holidays like Christmas and Easter instead of God’s ordained festivals [see: God’s Feasts in the Book of Acts : Mere Time-markers – or to Be Observed? and True Worship], and non-observance of God’s food law of clean and unclean meats [see: Did Christ Cleanse All Meats?].

We might look at JWT’s proclaiming “liberty” from God’s food law as some kind of typical fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy about the “abomination of desolation”(Matthew 24:15). Daniel’s prophecy (Daniel 11:31; 12:11), referred to by Christ here, was first fulfilled when Antiochus Epiphanes IV set up an image of Jupiter or Zeus and offered swine in God’s temple in Jerusalem, thereby desecrating it and causing the temple sacrifices to cease. [See:  https://en.wikipedi.org/wiki/Abomination_of_desolation.] The priestly clan of the Maccabees revolted against the Roman authorities and restored temple worship in Jerusalem.

Later, in 70 A.D., the Roman general Titus invaded Jerusalem and sacked  the temple. This time the temple became desolate and has remained so to this day.

By JWT allowing church members to eat heretofore forbidden pork and other unclean meats, the WCG has been devastated. This is not to say that the church has been destroyed totally, for Jesus promised that the church He built would never die out but would prevail for all time (Matthew 16:18), although it might become spiritually “sickly” or weak.  {See: Where Is God’s Church Today?]

It was the doctrinal “structure” of the WCG – much like the physical temple in Jerusalem – that became demolished. JWT and other GCI leaders had judged that the body of teachings which HWA left behind “cannot be fixed” and has to be “dismantled brick by brick” – “demolished.” The so-called “new covenant” teachings so disoriented the minds of the former WCG brethren, much like Adam and Eve took on a different attitude towards their Creator after they had eaten the forbidden fruit. [See: “Your Eyes Will Be Opened!”]  Suddenly many WCG members became hostile to God’s law. [See: Freed From Bondage and Barking up the Wrong Tree.]

We might also consider what JWT has done to the WCG as a type of what Babylon’s king Nebuchadnezzar did when he conquered the House of Judah, destroyed the temple in Jerusalem, and carried away the Jews captive to Babylon. While there, the Jews became subject to the Babylonian culture, although they remained a distinct people (Esther 3:8). Well might we say that the former WCG, now the GCI, is presently held captive in a spiritual “Babylon.” To them Christ gives this command: “Come out of her [Babylon], My people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues. For her sins have reached to heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities” (Revelation 18: 4-5). [See: Drunk With Strange Wine.]

The “antitype” or actual fulfillment of the “abomination of desolation” will yet occur in some “holy place” [not necessarily a full temple] in Jerusalem in the years or months ahead! A prominent religious leader will there set himself up as God Himself, and place an idolatrous image there, maybe even offering swine at the altar! [As to how this could happen, see: The Children of Abraham  (especially the sections on “Who are the children of Ismael today?” and “A future replay!”)  and The Temple of Ezekiel 40-48.]

The “Day of the Lord”

The apostle Paul especially warned: “Now brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering to Him, we ask you, not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word, or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come. Let no one deceive you…” (2 Thessalonians 2:1-3). Let us not be deceived into thinking that the “Day of the Lord” has already come, as the COGF claims – when, in truth, the events prophesied before Christ’s actual appearance or manifestation have not yet occurred! More about this later.

Jesus also said about some saying “‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There!’ do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you beforehand (Matthew 24:23-25).

Has the ‘Day of the Lord” indeed come upon us, as the COGF claims?

The main basis for their claim is John’s testimony in Revelation 1:10, “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, and heard behind me a voice, as a trumpet,” etc. COGF is right in saying that “the Lord’s Day” here does not refer to Sunday, which the Roman Catholic Church calls “the Lord’s Day.” Rather, this day refers to the “Day of the LORD” mentioned in several Old Testament prophecies. The COGF went awry when it thus claims that such“Lord’s Day” had already come, in the early days of the first century A.D., when John found himself carried away by God’s Spirit on or to that day.

Again, this is a twist on the prophetic timeline! What John saw was a vision of what “The Lord’s Day” would be like in its future fulfillment – NOT an actual reality then and there! We might compare this with the vision which three  leading apostles of Christ were privileged to see, concerning Christ as the Son of Man “coming in His kingdom” before they died (Matthew 16:28-17:9). Jesus’ kingdom had not then come to earth, but the apostles saw a vision of Christ “transfigured” – transformed in vision into what He would look like when He establishes God’s kingdom on earth – a yet future event!

A similar thing can be said about “The Lord’s Day,” in which John found himself. It is a yet future event – although it may be hastening on! Let us be careful in proclaiming what we believe to be a new “truth” from God, as COGF claims. We need to seek The Whole Counsel of God in order to establish the truth of any matter in God’s Word. Otherwise, we could easily fall prey to heresy, and be found liars!

Old Testament prophecies definitely describe that day as a “day of gloom” and “darkness” (Joel 2:30-31; Zephaniah 1:15). That day has not yet come upon us as of date! Let us not be deceived about this!

Revelation 6:12-17 describes the rumblings of the Day of the Lord, as the Old Testament prophets had declared. Have these taken place? If we are honest observers of our times, we know that the things or events mentioned in this apocalyptic prophecy have not yet occurred! But we are at the threshold of the opening of the “sixth seal.” Christ’s appearing is “at the doors” (Matthew 24:33), and they are about to open!

We have yet to see “every mountain and island, moved out of its place (Revelation 6:14). If this has happened, why haven’t we seen bold headlines trumpeting this extraordinary occurrence? So astounding would the removal, for example, of Mount Everest from Nepal or Tibet to the Pacific Ocean that the news headlines would surely shout out the event and all the world would know it– but we haven’t heard of such news yet! Neither have we heard any news about islands, like Taiwan or the Philippines for example, moving from where they are now to somewhere else in the Pacific Ocean! Earlier on, Verse 12 mentions a “great earthquake” and the sun “becoming black as sackcloth of hair,” and the moon becoming like blood. These extraordinary events have not yet taken place, although several small earthquakes have occurred in various places and times lately, and people are warned about a yet coming “big one.” Some have talked about Blood Moon, and solar eclipses have been observed.

It is when these extraordinary events take place that “the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man” will hide “themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains” and will say “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 [Jesus]! For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand’” (Verses 15-17)? Where are the news headlines that would surely detail this calamitous event? We haven’t seen or heard of any as yet!

As the “sixth seal” is opened, everyone will see the heavens rolled back (Verse 14), to reveal Christ on His glorious throne as His full appearance would shortly be revealed with the opening of the “seventh seal” (the last), which is comprised of the “seven trumpets” (Revelation 8-11). As the sign of Christ “coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory” appears, “all the tribes of the earth will mourn as they see Christ visibly (Matthew 24:30), to vent His wrath on all the wicked of the earth, and to gather His “elect” into His kingdom (Verse 31).

Clearly, the, the “Day of the Lord” has not come about yet, although we are getting closer and closer to it with each passing month and year. We just cannot be absolutely sure how close, exactly. All we can do is watch world news in light of Bible prophecy – and pray and be ready (Matthew 24:42, 44; Luke 21:36). [See:  “I Never Knew You!”]

Herbert Armstrong’s legacy

Many WCG members and leaders alike have looked at HWA as an end-time “Elijah” (Malachi 4:5) sent by God to” prepare the way” before Christ’s return or the “Day of the LORD” – much like the mission of John the Baptist [or the Baptizer] in announcing Christ’s earthly ministry (Matthew 3:3; John 1:22-23).

It is interesting that Jesus said of John: “But I say to you that Elijah has come already, and they did not know him but did to him whatever they wished” (Matthew 17:12). John was both received by many as a true prophet of God (Matthew 21:26) and despised by others, like the Jewish religious leaders, whom he described as “a brood of vipers” (Matthew 3:7-9). King Herod disliked John for rebuking him of his adultery and had him beheaded (Matthew 14:1-2).

In a similar manner, people have either placed HWA on some pedestal or condemned him as a “false prophet.” Contrary to his opinion of himself, some have placed all the writings and messages of HWA on the same level as Scripture and insist that they be taught as handed down and not modified or changed in any way. Others believe that HWA’s teachings are theologically flawed and must be junked totally.

The COGF believes and teaches that HWA had fully preached the gospel of Christ and of God’s kingdom to all the world, and that no other person could add anything to that work. Because of this, the COGF teaches that we must now be at the “end,” as Jesus said, “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness to all nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14).

Based on my personal experience with HWA, however, I can say that he was a humbler person than what most people believe about him – whether as a “faultless” preacher or an “autocratic,” authoritarian one. [See: Two Goats Together, especially the box titled “Reexamining the Roots of our Beliefs.”]

The belief that God has completed the worldwide preaching of the gospel of Christ through HWA, and him alone, flies against the plain testimony of Revelation 11 — regarding God’s “two witnesses, who will yet preach that gospel to all the world for some three and a half years, before they are killed and later resurrected at Christ’s visible return. For a time, some in the WCG believed that HWA and his son Garner Ted [GTA] would be the two witnesses. But both Armstrongs have died, and not in the way described in Revelation 11.

So, the Bible plainly teaches that the preaching of Christ’s gospel to all the world did not stop with the death of HWA, but will yet continue through the “two witnesses” until Christ’s actual appearance. [See: Looking to Men and Leanings.]

Let us bear in mind the apostle Peter’s teaching that “no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation” (2 Peter 1:20). We must seek The Whole Counsel of God, in order to understand properly the interpretation of Bible prophecy, and the true sequence of its fulfillment. Let’s not mix up the prophetic timeline!

 

Pedro R. Meléndez, Jr.
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