The Rainbow Connection

The LGBT [“Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender”] community has chosen the rainbow colors for their banner.  In my elementary school days, we remembered those colors through the acronym  “VIBGYOR” – violet, indigo, blue, green, yellow, orange, red.

Why, of all things, has the community chosen the rainbow colors to represent their cause?

LGBT websites generally take the rainbow as a symbol for pride, and peace. See. for example, this link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rainbow_flag_(LGBT_movement).

In at least two Bible passages, we see reference to the rainbow in connection with God’s perpetual covenant with mankind and all of creation, and God’s heavenly dwelling place.

Genesis 9:8-17 shows how God created the rainbow as a sign of His irreversible, unconditional promise never to send again a worldwide flood as He did in Noah’s day.  God had used the flood to destroy mankind for its rank evil or wickedness, corruption and violence.  By using the rainbow connection, the LGBT community would seem to believe that, in His mercy and what they perceive to be His “unconditional love,” God will not punish them for their sexual orientation or preference and conduct.  That God has, supposedly, declared peace with them despite everything.

Revelation 4:3 shows God’s heavenly throne to have a rainbow around it.  The LGBT community thus connects their cause with the rainbow to clothe it with glory, beauty, acceptance, and empowerment.

Selective perception

The LGBT community’s perception of God’s attitude toward their sexual choices and actions, however, turns a blind eye and a deaf ear on God’s clear commands regarding these acts.

•    “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination [a hateful thing]” (Leviticus 18:22).

•    “If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination.  They shall surely be put to death” (Leviticus 20:13)

•    “A woman shall not wear anything that pertains to a man, nor shall a man put on a woman’s garment, for all who do so are an abomination to the LORD your God” (Deuteronomy 22:8).

Because God considers homosexual acts and cross-dressing [and the ultimate abomination of “sex change” or “transgender” alterations] as all abominable and worthy of capital punishment [death], people who engage in them will be excluded from God’s kingdom.

Were David and Jonathan Practicing Homosexuals?
Some LGBTs justify their sexual lifestyle by citing the Biblical example of the close relationship between Israel’s King David and Jonathan, the son of Israel’s previous king, Saul.  The story is found in 1 Samuel 17-21.

After David killed the Philistine giant Goliath through God’s intervention, and was praised for it by King Saul, 1 Samuel 18:1 says that “The soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.” Verses 3-4 continue:  “Then Jonathan and David made a covenant because he loved him as his own soul. And Jonathan took off the robe that was on him and gave it to David, with his armor, even to his sword and his bow and his belt.”

1 Samuel 20:1-17 describes how David and Jonathan made a covenant before God, that David would show kindness to Jonathan’s family or descendants when David would have ascended to the throne.

Then, after king Saul learned how Jonathan  covered up for David’s absence at the king’s table, Saul angrily told his son: “You son of a perverse, rebellious woman!  Did I not know that you have chosen the son of Jesse [David] to your own shame and to the shame of your mother’s nakedness?  For as long as the son of Jesse lives on the earth, you [as Saul’s heir to the throne] shall not be established, nor your kingdom. Now therefore, send and bring him to me, for he shall surely die (Verses 30-31).

As they agreed on the sign to let David know that it was unsafe for him to come near Saul, David knew how much Jonathan cared for him. Verse 41 says,” And they kissed one another, and they wept together, but David more so.”

After Saul and Jonathan were killed in battle with the Philistines, David made a lamentation, where he mentioned about Jonathan:  “I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan.  You have been very pleasant to me.  Your love to me was wonderful, surpassing the love of women.”

There, say LGBTs, is proof that God approves of homosexual relations!  But, from a Biblical perspective, how do we understand this seeming discrepancy with God’s law against same-sex relationships?

As David himself described it, he looked at Jonathan as a dear and beloved brother.  In this day and age where a close relationship between two men is called “bromance,” many people do not appreciate the close emotional bond that can appropriately exist between two men.  There is nothing sexual about it!

This was the kind of love which Joseph had for his brothers. In their highly emotional reunion in Egypt, Joseph revealed who he really was to them [their long-lost brother, as they thought, after which he] “…kissed all his brothers and wept over them [for joy, gratitude, and relief]” (Genesis 45:14-15).

David’s friendship with Jonathan arose from Jonathan’s humility and respect for David and God’s decision to choose him as Israel’s king in place of his father, Saul. Saul himself admitted this. He told David: “And now I know indeed that you shall surely be king, and that the kingdom of Israel shall be established in your hand. Therefore swear now to me by the LORD that you will not cut off my descendants after me, and that you will not destroy my name from my father’s house” (1 Samuel 24:29-21).  And David did swear to that.

Jonathan knew that God was with David in helping him to slay Goliath, reason why Jonathan loved David as his own soul.  They were truly “soul-brothers.”   Jonathan knew that David would be king of Israel in place of his father. He knew that he would therefore not accede to the throne himself. This deep and selfless admiration and respect Jonathan had for him was, to David, a love that surpassed the love of women (2 Samuel 1:27) – a rare and higher level of love that is not sexual but friendly, and noble.  As Proverbs 18:24 says, “…there is a friend that sticks closer than a brother. Jonathan stuck with David, and trusted that David would not destroy his family, thus he entered into a covenant with him.

True to his promise, David later sought Jonathan’s descendants to whom he could show kindness (2 Samuel 9:1-13).

God said that He found David a “man after My own heart, who will do all My will” (Acts 13:22; 1 Samuel 13:14).  As such, David could not have engaged in homosexual acts with Jonathan, as LGBTs make the two to appear as doing. That would have been contrary to God’s will.  True, in a moment of weakness David committed adultery with Uriah’s wife Bathsheba – and also had her husband killed in battle (2 Samuel 11).  But David deeply repented of his double sin after God confronted him with it (2 Samuel 12:1-15).  Psalm 51 expresses David’s heartfelt repentance over this sin.

LGBTs should, rather, follow David’s example of true repentance for their sin towards God our Creator, and against fellowman.  As Jesus warned twice, “I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3, 5).

The apostle Paul warns: ‘Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?  Do not be deceived.  Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor [extortionists] will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6:7-10).

Paul also wrote that rejecting God’s divine authority leads to idolatry. Result?  “Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever.  Amen.  For this reason God gave them up to vile passions.  For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature.  [This shows that Lesbian or woman-to-woman sex relationship is also condemned by God!] Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful [homosexual acts], and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due [perhaps the penalty of imprisonment, or worse – death —  by capital punishment, or as a result of fatal “sexually transmitted diseases” (STDs) such as HIV/AIDS, and, ultimately, destruction in the “lake of fire” (Revelation 21:8).

Hope for LGBTs

Many in the LGBT community find it hard to get out of the trap of their sexual condition.  The sense of condemnation [by self or by society], and often experience of discrimination, bullying, physical and psychological violence, are challenges many in that community face.  Some who sincerely desire to change their sexual orientation and addictive lifestyle often find the uphill climb formidable and frustrating.  An increasing number – unable to overcome the challenge with success — have resorted to suicide.

Indeed, without Christ to help, failure is sure. He said: “…without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:7) – nothing good, that is;  for without Christ anyone can do quite well enough all manner of evil!  Jesus said:  “For from within, out of the heart of man, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries; fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness.  All these evil things come from within and defile a man” (Mark 7:21-23).

Christ can help not just LGBTs but all sinners of every shape or form. Firstly, He grants a person repentance (Acts 11 :18) – a  thorough understanding and acceptance that  LGBT acts, and whatever other sinful acts, are totally against the will and law of God – and, feeling convicted, the person has a deep-down desire to turn from sin and to obey God.  This He does by making the sinner realize the goodness of God – His mercy and love – thereby leading him to repentance (Romans 2:4).  Then, Christ cleanses the sinner of his sins, and gives him His Spirit to empower him to obey.  [See:  The Higher Law of the Spirit , God’s Spirit and Obedience , Transgressions Under the First CovenantBreaking Down our “Walls of Jericho”  and “My Brain Made Me Do It!” ]

Paul testifies that some Christians in Corinth with LGBT backgrounds will, in fact, make it to God’s kingdom:  “And such were some of you. But you were cleansed, but you were sanctified [made holy], but you were justified [forgiven and made righteous] in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of God” (1 Corinthians 6:11).

Jesus encourages people with LGBT backgrounds, like those in Sodom and Gomorrah, that — in the final Day of Judgment —  it would be easier for them to repent of their sin than many religious people (Matthew 11:23-24; Genesis 19:1-25).  People who are sick and acknowledge it and their need for healing by a physician, are more likely to receive healing and wellness (Luke 5:31) than those who think they are well  and don’t need to change or be forgiven and healed or made whole. Concerning that Judgment Day, see: This Is not the Only Day of Salvation.

Support of society

LGBTs who sincerely desire to change their lifestyle need the support of the general community – especially the Church of God.  Those who are otherwise “normal” in their sexual orientation need to be aware of the sensitivities and vulnerabilities of those striving to come out of their dilemma.  [That is to say that the homosexual orientation and act are “abnormal”—not as a statistical fact, for many LGBTs would like more people to line up with their cause so it can become the “new normal.” “Normal” is to be taken in the same sense as “natural” –  lining up with God’s purpose in creating mankind male and female, as Romans 1:26-27 declares.]

Does this mean, then, that for an LGBT – particularly a homosexual male [“gay”] or female [“lesbian”] –  to do what is “natural,” as God defines it, he or she has to become a “heterosexual” person – capable of having a relationship with one of the opposite sex?  For many homosexuals, this may be a possible ultimate goal that some, with God’s help, have achieved. But for others, the homosexual or same-sex attraction may be so ingrained – like some kind of addiction – that, as Paul put it, it has become a kind of “law” in one’s mental and emotional makeup. In this case, God may simply require the person to keep himself or herself from actualizing their sexual desires — or to suppress such desires (see the principle in Matthew 56:27-30). That, in itself, would be a giant step to change, and all that may be expected of the person. [See:  Switching Positive and Negative.]

These LGBTs who want to turn away from their “unnatural” way may be compared to little toddlers taking “baby steps” on the road to righteous living.   Jesus particularly singled out such ones for others to be careful not to cause them to stumble.   “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea.  Woe to the world because of offenses! For offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes” (Matthew 18:6-7)!

We could offend or cause to stumble or to sin an LGBT person who’s struggling to live a righteous, holy life.  We could do this by seducing the person to go back to his former problem, and by making discouraging comments and gestures to suggest that the person cannot come out of his dilemma.  Instead, we should show the same grace and kindness that God has for the person in loving and forgiving him, and giving him the strength and power to change through His Spirit.

A positive, encouraging atmosphere would go a long way to help LGBTs “in recovery.”  Setting a good example of Godly manhood or womanhood, and a healthy, happy marriage and family life is something that can support LGBTs in their quest for righteousness and perfection.  [See: https://www.herbert-armstrong.org, click ENTER HERE, select “Books & Booklets” and scroll down to the booklet titled “True Womanhood.”]

At the same time the LGBT person should strive to keep himself or herself away from company of people, material and places that could influence him or her to revert to his or her former sinful acts.  Paul instructs: “Flee sexual immorality [KJV, “fornication,” from the Greek porneia, the same root of the word “pornography”].  Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body” (1 Corinthians 6:18).  Paul also tells us:  “Flee also youthful lusts; but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart” (2 Timothy 2:22). Israel’s King David, a “man after God’s own heart,” resolved:  “I will set nothing wicked [KJV, “vile”] before my eyes;  I hate the work of those who fall away;  it shall not cling to me.  A perverse heart shall depart from me:  I will not know wickedness” (Psalm 101:3; Acts 13:22).  Paul also counsels us “…not to company with fornicators” (1 Corinthians 5:9).  “Be not deceived: evil communications [KJV, “company”) corrupt good manners” (1 Corinthians 15:33).

Instead, an LGBT  person should seek the company of people who are seeking to live righteously, to obey God’s commandments and laws, such as the Church of God [see:  Where is God’s Church Today?]

No looking back

Once an LGBT person has decided to change to a lifestyle that is in accord with God’s will and purpose for creating mankind male and female  (Genesis 1:27-28; 2:24), he or she should resolve not to look back longingly to his or her past life in sin.  Jesus warns: “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62).

The LORD  had warned Lot and his family—as they  were fleeing from Sodom and Gomorrah, on which God would shortly pour out fire and brimstone because of their wickedness and sexual perversions – not to look back to those cities (Genesis 19:1-25).  However, Lot’s wife looked back behind them, “…and she became a pillar of salt” (verse 26) – a grim warning for us not to do the same with our sinful past.  Jesus used the example of Lot’s wife when we are to flee from dangerous situations (Luke 7:32).

The apostle Peter gave graphic examples of what looking back to our sinful past is like. He wrote:  “For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and are overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning.  For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them. But it has happened to them according to the true proverb: “A dog returns to his own vomit, and a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire” (2 Peter 2:21-22).  Willful sinning could lead to the unpardonable sin (Hebrews 6:4-8).  [See:  Why Is the “Unpardonable Sin” Unpardonable?]

Born this way?

Some LGBTs claim that they cannot possibly change themselves because they were “born this way.” While we cannot fully understand how or why some children turn out to be an LGBT, we need to understand one thing well:  God did not make a mistake in creating mankind “male and female” (Genesis 1:27).  God did not create an “in-between” sex.

Because mankind has sinned over the last millennia of our existence on this planet, many aberrations in the human body and psyche have occurred.  It could be mixture of wrong diet [hormones in food could change a person’s hormonal balance resulting in sexual aberrations], environmental degradation, unhealthy socialization process in the family [such as failure of a father to exert the proper masculine influence on the son, and vice-versa with the mother lacking the feminine influence on the daughter, or a too close bond between mother and son or father and daughter], early experience with homosexual acts, etc.

Whatever the situation may be, we can be sure that it is not God’s express will that anyone should become an LGBT.  God’s will clearly is that none should have an LGBT attitude or engage in LGBT acts. God certainly did not intend that anyone should be born an LGBT!

God’s judgment on sin unchanging

God’s everlasting mercy does not mean that God will condone sinful acts. His mercy goes to a sinner who truly wants to repent and obey God’s law.  In such a case, God will not punish the sinner with the ultimate punishment of death.  Mercy is to not give us the penalty we deserve when we truly repent.  Grace, on the other hand, is God granting us something we don’t deserve – forgiveness of sin and everlasting life in His kingdom.  Revelation 21:8 shows that God will punish with destruction in a “lake of fire” those unrepentant sinners, including the “sexually immoral” and “idolaters” and “Whoever loves and Practices a Lie” – certainly including LGBTs, who don’t believe in God’s law, which is truth and righteousness (Psalm 119:142, 172).

God pronounces “Woe” to LGBTs who shamelessly flaunt their condition [euphemistically called “outing” – an ordinary term that used to mean merely going out on a picnic or tour]:  “The [defiant] look on their countenance witnesses against them.  And they declare their sin as Sodom.  They do not hide it [they have “come out of the closet”]. LGBTs have declared the month of June “Gay Pride” month.  All over the world LGBTs hold parades then, bannering the rainbow colors to express pride in, instead of shame for, their sexual choice.  God declares to them: “Woe to their soul! They have brought evil upon themselves” (Isaiah 3:9).  The harmless word “gay” [to merely mean happy and bright] is now so colored that one can’t anymore sing the old Spanish song “The Gay Ranchero” without drawing snickers from the hearers.  [See: Switching Positive and Negative ] and What Does God Mean– “I Do Not Change?”]

Same-sex marriage — Okay in God’s eyes?

It seems like countries all over the world are in a race to pass legislation that would legalize same-sex marriages.  This is an agenda LGBTs are pushing hard on legislators to approve.  Reject God’s verdict on the matter as they might, LGBTs need to understand God’s plain and clear design for the sexes.

From the beginning God says that He created mankind after His own image or likeness, as “male and female” –not “male and male,” nor “female and female” (Genesis 1:27).  And He charged Adam and Eve:  “Be fruitful and multiply [reproduce through their God-given sexual capacity to beget and bear children – something not possible in same-sex unions, short of adoption or surrogate pregnancy or artificial insemination], fill the earth…” (Verse 28).

After He had created and given the woman to Adam, she became his wife (Genesis 2:18-24). When Adam and Eve engaged in marital sex, she conceived and bore their first son, Cain (Genesis 4:1) and eventually many sons and daughters (Genesis 5:1-8).

Some have used the argument that heterosexual marriages that are not blessed with children are like same-sex marriages that cannot naturally produce children.  The sexual bond between a man and woman is what holds the marriage together.  In the same manner, the argument goes, the sexual bond between two same-sex couples is supposed to bind their relationship.  But that ignores the premise that same-sex marriages are not acceptable in God’s eyes and law, to begin with.

Clearly, God intended marriage to be between an Adam and Eve – not between an “Adam and Steve,” as someone has humorously put it, nor between a “Madam and Eve.”  People who promote same-sex marriage do so in rank defiance of our Creator’s purpose and design. This is rebellion and blatant idolatry – making an “idol” of one’s idea of marriage as against God’s idea.  [See:  The Sin of Rebellion.]

LGBTs justify their lifestyle as valid or acceptable as long as there is “love” and caring between consenting same-sex couples and whatever family they may have.  But here is God’s standard or “touchstone” to test genuine love for family:  “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments.  For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments.  And His commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:2-3).

Those who do not obey God’s commandments don’t really love their family and others, in God’s eyes.  To one who hates God’s command regarding prohibited sexual acts, God’s commandments are burdensome or restrictive.  Not so to one who delights in and loves God’s law (Psalm 119:47-48, 97-104, 140-144).

LGBTs and their supporters also claim that they are Okay as long as they are not doing others harm.  Yes, many of the LGBT community may actually be contributing to society and culture through their creativity and charity.  But their advocacy for the LGBT lifestyle is actually harmful to society, because people will earn God’s wrath if they are influenced to follow or even condone their ways (Romans 1:31).

Solution to overpopulation?

Some have suggested that same-sex marriages could help solve the present world’s “population explosion.”  God, in fact, has a sure-fire “plan” to address that population crisis.  Isaiah 66:14-16 reveals about the Lord Jesus’ return to judge His enemies – those who oppose His holy and righteous way:   “The hand of the LORD shall be made known to His servants, and His indignation to His enemies.  For behold, the LORD will come with fire and with his chariots like a whirlwind, to render His anger with fury, and His rebuke with flames of fire.  For by fire and by His sword the LORD will judge all flesh. [And] the slain of the LORD shall be many.”

Revelation 9:13-18 shows that, after the “sixth trumpet” is sounded, a third of mankind will be killed.  When the seventh and last trumpet is sounded, the “seven last plagues” that will be unleashed will kill millions more of God’s enemies (Revelation 11:15-18, 16:1-19:21).  Those who, in this age, have not been given their fair chance to be saved will have their chance at a future time.  [See:  This Is Not the Only Day of Salvation and Predestination.]

This being the case, it behooves those who want to escape the dire plagues of God to repent, fear God and worship only Him.  This is the “everlasting gospel” that an angel of God will proclaim to all of mankind at the end of this present age (Revelation 14:6-7).  [See: True Worship.]

LGBTs – as well as all other sinners – are called to repent or else perish (Luke 13:3, 5).  Only as we do can we have a connection to God’s heavenly throne, around which is a rainbow (Revelation 4:3).  It is to that rainbow, and what it represents [God’s rule] – not the LGBT rainbow– that we all should be connected, and that only by obeying God’s commandments.   [See:  “I Never Knew You!”]

 

Pedro R. Meléndez, Jr.
080118/280618

 

The Battles of the Almighty

 

Take a look at a typical history book of any nation. In most cases you will find that the nation’s history is often defined by wars which a nation’s military forces fought in order to “liberate” the nation from the rule of an adversary power.

Such is the history of this world’s empires. First, King Nebuchadnezzar went conquering nations to establish what historians recognize as the Babylonian Empire. After this, the Medes and Persians subdued the nations under the Babylonian rule, to establish the Medo-Persian Empire. Before long, Alexander the Great went conquering, and defeated the Medes and Persians, to establish the Greek Empire. In time, a more powerful force arose that took over the Greek or Macedonian Empire to form the Roman Empire.

This succession of power is described in the prophetic book of Daniel, chapters 7 through 12. Secular history corroborates this sequence of events.

In recent times, our world’s history has been defined by World Wars I and II, and the ensuing “Cold War” between the communist world and the democratic nations. Many other wars have been fought in various corners of the world – and will continue to be fought until the end of this present age.

God’s battles

In a similar manner, we may also look at the history of our universe and the heavenly realm, in terms of the battles which the Almighty God has waged with His adversaries or enemies. Revelation 12, which we could well take as a “look-back” at events that took place way, way back in the past but are couched in prophetic language – as though they are yet to happen at some future time.

Verses 1 through 6 of this chapter describe the birth of the Christ-child—a past, historic fact recorded in the “gospel” accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, and corroborated by honest secular history. Historians place this event at 4 B.C.

Verses 7 through 9 of this same chapter describe a “war” that “broke out in heaven, between the angels of God,” led by the archangel Michael, and Satan’s angels, comprising a third of all angels. Many Bible students connect this war with the “coup” that the angel Lucifer staged to try to unseat God from His heavenly throne, as recorded in Isaiah 14, eons ago. [See: Where Did the Devil Come From? The Sin of Rebellion and The Comings of Christ.]

We might consider this war as the first which God fought against any power that opposes His rule or government. God has since fought many wars to subdue His adversaries. And God has used various “weapons” in His “arsenal!”

Water, and some, for war

Because of mankind’s gross evil and corruption, God sent a worldwide flood that destroyed all creatures that drew breath, except for Noah and his family and the animals protected in the ark. The story is recorded in Genesis 6 through 10. We may consider  this as God’s first “war” against evil mankind.

What we might consider God’s next war versus rebellious mankind, took place soon after that flood, when men built the “Tower of Babel” in defiance of God’s command for them to “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth” (Genesis 9:1). They decided to remain together in one place (Babel) so they would not “be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth” (Genesis 11:4).

In those days humankind spoke one language, so that it was easy for them to work together to achieve their aim or purpose, contrary to God’s will (Verse 1). In order to frustrate their plans, God caused their language to be “confused” [or “confounded,” KJV], so that they could no longer understand each other and were thus forced to separate and be scattered all over the earth (Verses 8-9). That’s how today’s many different languages originated. We speak about different languages as a “Babel” of tongues.

The next “war” God waged with defiant mankind was against the wicked people of Sodom and Gomorrah, whose sin was “very grave” (Genesis 18:20). The “depravity” of the people of Sodom is described in Genesis 19. Here we find that just about all the men of Sodom wanted to commit perverse sexual acts with the angels, in the guise of men, who were guests of the righteous man Lot. This is where the word “sodomy” is derived from. 2 Peter 2:8 tells about how the “filthy conduct of the wicked [people of Sodom] tormented [Lot’s] soul from day to day by seeing and hearing their lawless deeds.” For their wickedness, which God considers an “abomination” [a detestable or hateful thing to God (Leviticus 18:22; 20:13-14); and see: The Rainbow Connection], God rained down fire and brimstone, which completely destroyed their cities (Verse 6; Genesis 12:24-25, 27-29), to serve as a warning and example for others not to commit the same error and ungodly conduct (2 Peter 2:6).

The next battle God waged was that against the power of Egypt, which placed God’s people Israel, in cruel bondage for some 400 years (Exodus 1). To free them from that bondage, God sent His servant Moses, who was His instrument to cause ten plagues to fall upon Egypt (Exodus 2-11). After the last of these plagues, Egypt’s king Pharoah finally let the children of Israel go to serve their God in the place He had promised to bring them to.

Interestingly, although God has promised never to send again a worldwide flood as in Noah’s day, He has hail and snow – forms of water – as a part of His arsenal (Job 38:22-23). In fact, one of the plagues which God poured out on Egypt in His act to free His people Israel from Pharoah’s cruel oppression, was hail from heaven (Exodus 9:13-33).  After Pharoah had let the Israelites go, he wanted to bring them back to Egypt. Thus he sent all his armies to run after the Israelites, who merely traveled on foot.

Exodus 13-14 describes how God saved His people by letting them cross dry-shod over the Red Sea. While Pharoah’s armies chased the people, who had just safely crossed to the other shore, God caused the parted waters of the sea to clap back and drown all of Egypt’s armies. Exodus 15, as well as Psalm 106 and 136, celebrates this miraculous event as an act of God as “a man of war” (Exodus 15:3).

God’s wars to prepare Israel’s way to the Promised Land

Despite the Israelites’ rebellious, complaining ways which God dealt with by a show of His power, in His mercy God enabled them to vanquish the nations (whose lands God promised to give to the Israelites as His divine prerogative). Numbers 10 through 14, 16-17, 21, 31 detail God’s interventions.

God used Israel’s men of war to conquer nations along their way. God had promised that, if the Israelites obeyed God, He would cause their enemies to be defeated, to fall by the sword before them; five of them would chase a hundred of their enemies, and a hundred of them would put ten thousand of their enemies to flight (Leviticus 26:7-8; Deuteronomy 28:7).

In some instances, God used hornets to drive away the heathen in order to give place to the Israelites in the former’s lands (Exodus 23:28; Deuteronomy 7:20; Joshua 34:12).

Joshua 6 describes God’s miraculous act to destroy the formidable walled city of Jericho. Joshua 8 is about the conquest of Ai by the armies of Israel. Joshua 10 describes how God used large hailstones to conquer Jerusalem for His people. Joshua 11 through 19 lists the other conquests of heathen lands by Israel’s sword.

The book of Judges describes the continuing conquest of the rest of Canaan by the armies of Israel led by deliverers or judges whom God raised up. Judges 7-8 describes the spectacular defeat of the Midianites by God’s intervention through Gideon.

God’s battles against Israel’s enemies

After the tribes of Israel had settled in their respective designated places, and the original confederacy had split into the southern kingdom of Judah and the northern kingdom of Israel, God allowed them to be besieged now and again by surrounding hostile nations. Every time this happened, and the people cried out to their God for help, God intervened in various ways to save them.

The lad David at first singly defeated the Philistine giant and champion Goliath through his faith in God to guide him as he used a sling to slay the giant. The famous story is recorded in 1 Samuel 17.

When he eventually became Israel’s king, David fought many victorious wars against his and the nation’s enemies, with God’s divine help. [See 1 Samuel 30; 2 Samuel 5, 8, 10, 12-18, 20-22; 1 Chronicles 18-21.] God helped kings who succeeded David in their turn, as they sought God and trusted in Him for deliverance.

One notable example was that in the case of Judah’s King Jehoshaphat. He didn’t have to fight his enemies – the armies of Ammon, Moab and Mt. Seir. God Himself fought the war for Judah. God discomfited the enemies while the temple choir sang praises to the LORD. The story is told in 2 Chronicles 20.

God’s battle against sin and death

No less dramatic and spectacular is God’s continuing war against sin and death. This began to take place when God sent the second Person in the Godhead, Whom John 1:1 calls “the Word,” to be born of a virgin as the God-man Jesus Christ. God prepared Him as the “Lamb of God” who would take away the sin of all humanity and give everlasting life to those who would believe in Him (John 3:16; 1:29, 14), in His own time. Through His sacrifice of Himself upon the cross at Calvary, Jesus has ransomed all who believe in Him from sin and its penalty, death (Romans 6:23). [See: The Ransomed of the LORD, Mary Worship, The True Christ, Freed From Bondage, and This Is Not the Only Day of Salvation.]

God’s last “Great Battle”

Revelation 16:14 speaks about “the battle of that great day of God Almighty,” to which He will gather the kings of the whole world and their armies. Verses 7-21 tell about how God will pour out the seventh and last plague of His wrath – an ultimate earthquake and hail stones – on these armies. Revelation 17-19 describes how God will destroy Babylon, Satan’s instrument of deceit, and people swayed by him, and how Christ will take-over rule of all the earth.

Revelation 20 speaks about God imprisoning Satan and his demonic angels in an abyss, thereby disabling them from influencing mankind to sin, until he is released for a short time after Christ’s 1000-year rule. [See: Two Goats Together.]

Early in Christ’s reign and towards the end of that reign, rebellious nations led by Gog and Magog will be quickly destroyed by fire from God (Ezekiel 38-39; Revelation 20:7-10).

The last enemy destroyed

After God will have eliminated Satan and all of rebellious, unrepentant, incorrigibly wicked men – all of whom will have been given their fair chance to believe and obey the gospel (Revelation 21-22), there is yet one last enemy to be dealt with by God [see: Why Is the “Unpardonable Sin” Unpardonable? and Predestination]. The apostle Paul names that “last enemy” — death (1 Corinthians 15:26). God will give His saints or elect everlasting life at Christ’s return (Verses 50-57). They will then no longer be subject to death.

To them, and not to unrepentant sinners, pertains God’s promise and reward: “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying, for the former things are passed away (Revelation 21:4).

And final of all finality, God will destroy even the “second death” in the lake of fire (Revelation 20:14). That means that, after all unrepentant sinners will have been destroyed in the lake of fire, God will do away with that lake of fire, and no one will ever be subject to the “second death” anymore – for all who are saved will have everlasting life for all eternity.

Then, and only then will God have no more enemies to fight. Thus all wars will cease. God, who alone is worthy to command total obedience of His creation, will reign supreme and victorious for all eternity. As Isaiah 45:2 quotes God as saying, “…There is no other God besides Me, a just God and Savior;There is  none besides Me.” He will not tolerate any one who would claim to be another “god” — who would thus be His enemy.

May we be counted worthy to see that victorious day!

 

Pedro R. Meléndez, Jr.
021018/271018

The Sin of Rebellion

Hogging the Philippine scenery in September up till early October this year, 2018, had been news about the act of President Rodrigo Roa-Duterte to revoke, invalidate, or nullify the amnesty granted by Duterte’s predecessor, former President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino, to Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, a former officer in the Philippine Navy who had led a coup attempt against then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Trillanes took it upon himself to judge Arroyo as having committed gross corruption enough to warrant her being deposed from her office, and a new revolutionary leadership set up —with him and his military sympathizers at the helm — that would right this wrong.

Trillanes, apparently, found a good number of Filipinos sympathizing with his cause, and he received no weightier judgment than imprisonment. Other regimes would have called for stiffer penalties – even execution. But, no, Trillanes got away with his attempt to overthrow President Arroyo. When Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III won the presidency, he granted Trillanes amnesty from his rebellion attempt.

Now comes President Duterte seeking to revoke Trillanes’ amnesty and ordering his arrest and retrial for his past coup plotting. Senators and other legal luminaries have entered into the legal fray to defend either Duterte or Trillanes. Both sides are confident that the law of the land is on their side. Many citizens are confused over the issue; some couldn’t care less. Clearly, the nation is in a dilemma!

Revolution in history

The soft stance in some toward coups and coup attempts may be a natural result of the awareness that many nations today – the Philippines included — have arisen from past revolutions. France, the U.S.A., Russia, China and nations in South and Central America, Africa, Asia, Europe and the Middle East developed through some revolution against previous rule. To Americans, July 4 is their “Independence Day, but to their former British masters, this day is considered to be America’s “Rebellion Day!”

Besides ideologies, religions have also played an important part in revolutions. The Protestant Reformation movement rocked the Roman Catholic world. Even within religious blocs, attempts to return to or revive conservative views, have resulted in radical factions. The ISIS [“Islamic State”] has attempted to take over cities to try to claim them for the“caliphate”of their Messiah-like “Mahdi.”

Prehistoric rebellion

The original, first-ever revolution or rebellion occurred multiple millennia ago in the heavenly realms. This was the first-ever known coup attempt against the sovereign rule of God. This was mounted by the archangel Lucifer, who with his angels [comprising 1/3 of all God’s angels, Revelation 12:4 ], to try to unseat God from His throne, and to take over the reins of the universe in place of God as the “Most High” (Isaiah 14:12-15). But God’s almighty power was too much of a match to that of Lucifer, and he and his angels were cast down to earth. Because of his sin, Lucifer has since become Satan the Devil, and his angels now demons. [See: Where Did the Devil Come From? and http://www.herbert-armstrong.org, click ENTER HERE, SELECT “Books & Booklets” and scroll down to the booklet titled “Did God Create A Devil?”]

Satan the instigator of rebellion

True to his nature, Satan seduced our first parents, Adam and Eve, into rebelling against God by disobeying His command to not eat the fruit of the tree He forbade, the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil’ [story in Genesis 3, see: “Your Eyes Will Be Opened!”].  Humankind has since followed Adam’s sinful, rebellious ways.

Even the people God had especially chosen for His divine purpose, the nation of Israel, fell into rebellion.  This happened when the children of Israel clamored to have a human king like the nations around them.  The story is found in 1 Samuel 8:1-10:27.  In so clamoring, the Israelites rejected God as their king.  And they suffered the dire consequences He had warned them about (8:9-19). God considered their clamor for a human king and thus rejecting God as their King a great wickedness (1 Samuel 12:17-20).

A celebrated case of rebellion was that ascribed to Israel’s first king, Saul. Saul disobeyed God on two counts: 1) He offered an animal sacrifice which was unlawful for him to do but for the ordained priests (1 Samuel 13:1-14); and 2) He disobeyed God’s command to destroy the Amalekites utterly—both men, women and children and beasts. For his first sin Saul was judged by God to “have done foolishly” (13:13). For his second sin, Saul was judged by God as having committed “rebellion” – which God considers to be “as the sin of witchcraft” (15:23)!

In God’s eyes, witchcraft is so wicked and evil that it deserves capital punishment, death (Exodus 22:18; Deuteronomy 18:9-14; 2 Chronicles 33:1-6; Revelation22:8)!

Rebellion against all authority an offense before God

One of the most powerful kings in all human history was Babylon’s King Nebuchadnezzar.  He was called a “king of kings” (Daniel 2:37).  He had to learn a difficult lesson so he would realize that “the Most High [God] rules in the kingdom of men, [and] gives it to whomever He will, and sets over it the lowest of men” (Daniel 4-17, 32; 5:21).

The apostle Paul resonated this in his instruction about being subject to human authority: “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities.  For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.  Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.  For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil.  Do you want to be unafraid of the authority?  Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same.  For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain, for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake.  For because of this you also pay taxes; for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing.  Render therefore to all [authorities] their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor” (Romans 13:1-7).

The apostle Peter also instructs: “Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors, as to those who are sent by Him [God], for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men – as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants to God.  Honor all people.  Love the brotherhood.  Fear God. Honor the king” (1 Peter 2:13-17).”

Even in the micro-kingdom of the household, Peter instructs: “Servants, be submissive to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the harsh.  For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully.  For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently?  But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: ‘Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth’ [Isaiah 53:9], who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return, when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him [God the Father] who judges righteously, who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sin, might live for righteousness – by whose stripes you were healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls” (1 Peter 2:18-25).

In the mini-kingdom of the family, a rebellious son was to be dealt with drastically: “If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey the voice of his father or the voice of his mother, and who, when they have chastened him, will not heed them, then his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of the city, to the gates of the city.  And they shall say to the elders of the city, ‘This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton and a drunkard.’ Then all the men of his city shall stone him to death with stones, so you shall put away the evil from among you, and all Israel will hear and fear” (Deuteronomy 21:18-21).

No human government perfect

We know all too well that no human government is perfect.  As God revealed it to Nebuchadnezzar, God can, and often does, allow the lowest of men – or women – to occupy seats of authority.

This being the case, what is a man or woman of God to do?

By wisdom, a person can strive to reason with the authorities, but with a humble, respectful attitude.  Such was the way Joseph and Daniel managed to get along with harsh authority.  See Genesis 39-41 and Daniel 2-4.

But resorting to rebellion and forming an independent group or society often results in all sorts of problems, complications, and dilemmas.

For example, the first rebellion in the history of the nation of Israel occurred when Jeroboam, a high military officer of King Solomon, led the majority of the people – ten of the twelve tribes of Israel– into breaking away from the original monarchy.  The malcontents complained about the heavy taxes and other burdens which Solomon’s successor, his son Rehoboam, imposed on the people (1 Kings 11:26-12:21).

Instead of resulting in good, Jeroboam’s rule led the northern kingdom [“house of Israel”] into gross idolatry, until, eventually, the continuing sins of the people caused them to be conquered and taken away captive by the Assyrians. [See:   God’s Kingdom and Israel.]

Is it any wonder that most of today’s nations which were born out of rebellion are dogged with multiple challenges?

“Bewitched” into sin

True to God’s assessment of rebellion as a sin tantamount to witchcraft, God allowed the Israelites to be vanquished and taken away captive by the Assyrians (2 Kings 17). [ Witchcraft: a person or group of persons can be “bewitched” into believing a lie, as Adam and Eve were at Eden by Satan the Devil. For turning to a “different gospel” – one not according to God’s word, therefore a lie — the brethren at Galatia were reproved by Paul: “O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you, that you should not obey the truth?” (Galatians 3:1). [See: “Your Eyes Will Be Opened!” Freed From Bondage Beware of False Prophets , and Fake News.]

The streak in man to disregard God’s command or law has a bewitching effect, thereby rewiring man’s perception of what is right and what is wrong.  This pernicious effect makes it doubly or multiple times difficult to erase it from one’s mind and heart.  [See: Switching Positive and Negative, The Deceitfulness of Sin, A Law-abiding Universe – But Man! and  The Rainbow Connection.]

In this life, it is impossible – without God’s help—for a person to overcome a rebellious streak.  That is why, under the Old Covenant [Moses’ “ministry of condemnation”] the only recourse to remove the spirit of rebellion, and witchcraft or sorcery from society was through capital punishment – death.  [See: Moses and Jesus – Are They Contraries?

In this present dispensation, a rebellion left unpunished according to God’s law, will cause unrest in society.  As Proverbs 24:9 says, “The scoffer [KJV, “scorner”—as rebels may also be called for their scorn and disrespect toward authority] is an abomination to men.”  And “Cast out the scoffer, and contention will leave” (Proverbs 22:10).  Instead, peace and calm will result when rebels are put away.  Also, the punishment will instruct common men to be wise and not to rebel against or be scornful toward authority (Proverbs 21:11) in the same way.

Rebels to repent — or perish!

Jesus’ repeated word to all sinners is “Unless you repent you will all likewise perish “(Luke 13:3, 5).  But how is one to repent of a sin as pernicious and bewitching as rebellion?

Repentance is something that God grants (Acts 11:18). God’s Spirit works in a person’s heart and mind, to help one realize the goodness of God and thus come to repentance (Romans 2:4).  God’s Spirit then empowers the person to obey God’s law.  [See: God’s Spirit and Obedience, The Higher Law of the Spirit, and Breaking Down Our “Walls of Jericho.”]

As people come to The True Christ, He will give them His Spirit of meekness and gentleness (Matthew 11:28-30). And, as people behave meekly and gently toward each other, they will inherit the earth and enjoy an abundance of peace (Psalm 37:11).  [See: World Peace – At Last!]

Attitude toward all authority

Since all authority ultimately traces back to God (Romans 13:1), disrespect toward all authority – high or low, public or in the home – is disrespect toward God!

The archangel Michael showed the example of leaving the judgment of an authority figure – as Satan is, until now – up to God, even as Jesus did to His persecutors (1 Peter 2:21-23).  “Yet Michael the archangel, in contending with the devil, when he disputed about the body of Moses, dared not bring a reviling accusation, but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you!’ (Jude 9).  [It seems that Satan wanted to take hold of Moses’ body, which God had hidden from human view (Deuteronomy 34:6), for whatever evil purpose Satan had in mind.]  Jude warns about those who deceive themselves and defile themselves by rejecting authority and speaking evil of dignitaries (Verse 8).

In the Church of God even some leaders, being imperfect men “with feet of clay,” are to be treated with due respect. “Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of a double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine…. Do not receive an accusation against an elder except from two or three witnesses [what we would call “due process,” based on true, factual evidence, not mere hearsay].  Those who are sinning rebuke in the presence of all, that the rest also may fear” (1 Timothy 5:17-20).

Only those who learn to look up to and submit to all authority are fit to enter the kingdom of God.  Christ as the perfect “King of kings” and “Lord of lords” (Revelation 19:16) will not tolerate rebellion of any kind in God’s kingdom, which Jesus will establish after His return to earth. He will, in fact, destroy all defiant, rebellious mankind with the fire of His coming (Isaiah 66:15-16, 24; Revelation 11:15-18).  [See: The Battles of the Almighty.]

In a prophecy about the early days of God’s kingdom, which Jesus will establish at His return to earth, a horde of rebellious nations will attempt to attack that kingdom to try to take over the unwalled villages of Israel.  The horde will be dealt with swiftly and forcefully by God. The prophecy is found in Ezekiel 38:1-39:16.  No enemies of God will be tolerated, and people will “know that I am the LORD, the Holy One of Israel” (39:7).  [See: Martial Law.]

A similar attempt will be staged by the same type of rebellious nations stirred up by Satan, who will be released from his prison for a short time at the end of Christ’s 1000-year rule, but fire from God will devour them (Revelation 20:1-4, 7-10).

The unrepentant destroyed forever

Our merciful God will not pardon or forgive a sinner – more so, a rebel – who does not truly repent, and bears fruit worthy of repentance, which is obedience to God’s law (Luke 3:8). [See: Why Is the “Unpardonable Sin” Unpardonable?]

A human authority that exonerates or pardons an extreme criminal like a rebel is not following God’s way. And, as such rebels go unpunished, the hearts of men will be emboldened to commit similar crimes (Ecclesiastes 8:11).

Duterte’s desire to reopen Trillanes’ rebellion charge would seem to be in line with this Biblical principle. Many may not see it that way, but God’s word is clear about this.

Because many people do not agree with God’s testimony, there is great conflict and controversy, as is the case with Trillanes. In the final Day of Judgment, everyone will be judged as to whether they have obeyed God’s word or not. Jesus said: “He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him – the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day” (John 12:48). The entire Bible contains the word of Jesus. He – and His Spirit – has inspired the writing of all the Holy Scriptures (2 Timothy 3:6; 2 Corinthians 3:17; 2 Peter 1:21).  Jesus is the “Word” [Greek Logos]—Spokesman for God the Father (John 1:1; 49).

Israel’s King Solomon summarized the whole duty, or the whole man: “Fear God and keep His commandments.  For this is man’s all.  For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14)!  [See: Saved For Good Works.]

Pedro R. Meléndez, Jr.
110918

The “Stupidity” of God

Philippine President Rodrigo Roa-Duterte, recently kicked up a lot of rhetorical dust when he declared that the God of most people who profess to be Christians is a “stupid God.” Pres. Duterte has refused to apologize for his now infamous statement.

How do we make sense of all the flak that has followed in the wake of the hard-talking president’s pronouncement?

The “foolishness” of God

His assessment of God, Pres. Duterte explains, comes from his perception that it is stupid of God to allow His good creation, man, to be destroyed by sin. The president is not alone in questioning why God didn’t make man perfect and incapable of sinning in the first place, [thus “the original sin” would not have occurred], thereby preventing or making unnecessary man’s death or destruction. Some ask, “Why did God place the forbidden tree – the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil”—in the Garden of Eden? And “Why did God allow the Devil to tempt the first woman, Eve, into eating the fruit of the forbidden tree?” “Why didn’t God stop man from eating the toxic fruit, so that man would continue to live and perhaps eat the fruit, instead, of the “tree of life,” which would have given man everlasting life? [See: Is There Ever any Good in Man?  and A Law-abiding Universe — But Man!]

We can imagine all sorts of “what if” scenarios, and fail to understand God’s perfect design and “strategy,” if you will. If we examine closely His divine scheme of things we will come to understand that God has made everything in His often inscrutable wisdom. The psalmist wrote of God: “O LORD, How manifold are Your works! In wisdom You have made them all” (Psalm 104:24).

Honest eyes looking at plant or animal tissues and cells through a microscope will admit that some ingenious and clever structures and mechanisms have been put in place by some intelligent Maker to make them cohesive and life-sustaining. The same goes with the precision of the movement of the planets and the heavenly bodies.

God’s “wisdom” is often too profound for mere men to grasp. The apostle Paul wrote that the “wisdom” of God is often mistaken for foolishness or, if you will, “stupidity.” “For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Greeks foolishness. But to those who are called [of God], both of Jews and Greeks, Christ [is] the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness [what some would consider the ‘stupidity’] of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Corinthians 1:22-25). Paul also wrote: “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out” (Romans 11:33)).

Despite this, however, God promises to His people and those who have reverent fear of Him: “The secret of the LORD is with those who fear Him, and He will show them His covenant” (Psalm 25:14). God will give understanding to them as to why He does the things He does.

Why a “hell-fire?”

Among the things which Pres. Duterte criticized as the “stupidity” of the God whom most “Christians” profess to believe in is the teaching about “hell-fire” or the “lake of fire” reserved for all unrepentant wicked people (Luke 13:3, 5; Revelation 21:8).

Mr. Duterte posed a question about how God could still throw him into hell-fire if he had been cremated after his death, as is his wish. Unknown to the president, and to many other people, is the true Bible teaching about God’s judgment.

The Bible reveals that God has set apart three judgment periods: our present age [from the creation of Adam and Eve up to the return of Christ from heaven to earth, the first 1,000-year reign of Christ, and after that reign. [See:   Predestination and This Is not the Only Day of Salvation.]

All who have died not having received salvation in Christ, since Adam up to Jesus’ return, will be resurrected or brought back to a physical life at or toward the end of the 1,000 years [also called “millennium”] of Christ’s rule on earth (Revelation 20:5).

God has power then to resurrect these dead people who have become dust or ashes — yes, if ever, including Pres. Duterte! They will have their time to understand God’s plan for creation, especially human life, to truly accept Jesus as their Savior and Lord, and finally receive everlasting life (Revelation 20:11-12).

After that judgment period [however long God will extend it], those who will prove to be still wicked and unrepentant and therefore whose names are not found written in The Book of Life, will be  cast into the “lake of fire” or the “second death” (Revelation 20:13-15; 21:8).

That God would forever destroy the wicked and give everlasting life to the righteous is based on His perfect and unfathomable wisdom — not stupidity or foolishness! [See: The Universalism (“All Saved”) Issue.]

Back to Eden

Let’s take, for example, why God placed the forbidden tree [which was really the “tree of death”] at Eden, and why God allowed Satan, in the guise of a serpent, to deceive Eve into eating the forbidden fruit, and convincing her husband Adam to do the same (story found in Genesis 3).  [See: “Your Eyes Will be Opened!” and The Flaming Sword East of Eden.]

To begin with, why did God “make” a Devil? Many Bible students understand that Satan the Devil was originally a cherub, a powerful angelic being who once covered God’s heavenly throne. He is described in Ezekiel 28. He was “the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty…Perfect in [his] ways from the day [he was] created, till iniquity was found in [him]. (Verses 12, 15). [See: Where Did the Devil Come From?] God created a perfect angel, not a Devil. [See this link: http://www.herbert-armstrong.org, click ENTER HERE, select “Books & Booklets” and scroll down to the booklet titled “Did God create the Devil?]

Isaiah 14:12-15 takes up the story of this cherub, apparently named “Lucifer [meaning “bringer of light”], whose sin or iniquity was exalting his throne above all the angels and attempting to overthrow God from His throne so he could take over as “God” or “the Most High.” But the Almighty God threw Lucifer and his angels down to earth, which was the domain God gave them (Jude 6). Revelation 12:3-9 shows that Satan and his angels [he was an “archangel” leading fully one-third of all God’s angels, as Michael was or is (Jude 9)] are cast down to earth. At Christ’s return Satan, with his demons, will be bound in some dark prison, thus making them unable to deceive mankind as they do today (Revelation 20:1-3). [About Satan’s fate, see: Two Goats Together.]

That God found iniquity in a perfect angel shows that Lucifer had a choice to obey God or not. Lucifer chose to rebel and disobey. God also gave Adam and Eve the choice between obeying Him or not. The Genesis story shows that our first parents chose to disobey God and listened to the Devil instead. If God had not given man freedom of choice or free will, man would merely become an automaton or robot, unable to do nothing but what his Maker tells him to as an automatic thing and not through the exercise of the will or volition. This is the wisdom of God that may appear foolish or stupid to some people. [See: “My Brain Made Me Do it!” and  What Is This Thing Called Will?]

As Paul said, God’s wisdom is to give sinful mankind a Savior in Jesus Christ, who died on the cross. This was intimated by God, when He told Satan (in the guise of a serpent): “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel” (Genesis 3:15). Paul wrote about this, in Romans 16:20: “And the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly. Revelation 12:7-10; 20:1-3 elaborates on how Christ will do this.

God’s wisdom and knowledge to fill the earth

When Christ returns to earth to claim all rule and authority over all of mankind, only the truth and knowledge of God will be taught. Nations will come to Christ’s throne in Jerusalem to learn about God’s law (Isaiah 2:2-3). “They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain [symbolic of God’s kingdom, which will occupy the whole earth (see Daniel 2:44-45; Revelation 11:13)], for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:9). [See: “The Next Chapter of History” and World Peace – at Last!]

Finally people all over the earth will appreciate God’s wisdom and knowledge. They will acknowledge that God’s thoughts and ways are different from and are higher than man’s thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9). God tells unrighteous man to forsake his thoughts and ways and return to God (Verses 6-7). [See: Switching Positive and Negative and Spiritual Dyslexia.]

Someday men will understand the depth and breadth of God’s love and wisdom [See: The Four Dimensions of Christ’s Love]. No one will think or declare God to be “stupid” or “foolish.” As Paul wrote: “Be not deceived, God is not [– and cannot be –] mocked [without some dire consequence]; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap” (Galatians 6:7). Defiant mankind cannot, and will not, prevail against God (Psalm 9:19).

Men will, instead, fear and worship God as All-wise and perfect in His thoughts and ways (Revelation14:7). We are commanded to become perfect as He is perfect (Matthew 5:48). [See: True Worship.]

Pedro R. Meléndez, Jr.
020718

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“My Brain Made me Do it!”

Recently I viewed with interest a CNN story with that intriguing title.  The program tried to explain bad (anti-social) behavior in some people mainly from a physiological-neurological standpoint. An example cited on the TV program was that of a married man who turned out to be a pedophile and thinking to rape his mother-in-law.  Because of this he was imprisoned.

In line with research being done on anti-social behavior, a scan of the man’s brain was taken. The scan revealed a tumor in the cortex of the man’s brain. A surgeon removed most of the tumor and, after his recovery the man kept from his sexual aberrations for a while, and he was returned to his wife and family.  However, later it was found that the tumor had grown back, and the man went back to his former anti-social behavior.

The brain surgeon featured on the program questioned the time-honored belief in man’s free will. It seemed, from the example of the man with the brain tumor, that his anti-social behavior stemmed not from the exercise of his will, but from the state of his brain, over which he had no control. Correcting the brain abnormality through surgery, the surgeon suggested, could well fix the bad behavior.

The TV program went on to tell that the man underwent a second surgery to remove the vestige of the tumor, and again the man kept away from his anti-social behavior. However, the program ended there, and did not reveal whether the man’s improved behavior was sustained over an appreciable period.

A plea for leniency

Based on his findings with the man with the brain tumor, the surgeon urged that other people (especially the courts) exercise more leniency and understanding toward criminals, who may merely be victims of some cerebral malady which the persons are unable to control.

Treatment, not imprisonment, is therefore recommended as a better recourse.

A new alibi?

The TV program’s title, obviously, is a take from the age-old excuse men and women have used to explain their misconduct (or sin): “The devil made me do it!” Our Mother Eve had used the same alibi at the Garden of Eden.  [See: “Your Eyes Will Be Opened!”]

Many humanistic and non-religious people no longer believe in the existence of a devil, much less the devil’s power to influence human thoughts, decisions, and actions. [Most don’t believe in the existence of God, either! See: Where Did the Devil Come From?  and Is There Ever Any Good in Man?  and this link: http://www.herbert-armstrong.org, click ENTER HERE, select “Books & Booklets” and scroll down to the booklets titled, “Seven Proofs God Exists” and “Did God Create a Devil?”]

Thus it is understandable that many scientists and human behaviorists would look to some physical cause of sexual aberrations that men and women exhibit. And where better to pin the cause than on man’s “command center” — man’s brain!

Questions begged

While this mainly “mechanistic” or rather deterministic view of man seems to offer some hope for criminals, it begs a number of questions, however.

1.    Who, really, controls a man’s brain?  If, as the TV program’s surgeon suggests, man has no free will and is merely at the mercy of his brain, who is responsible if something goes haywire in his brain? Should the man’s parents be blamed if perchance they passed on some defective genes that manifested themselves in the man’s damaged brain, resulting in criminal behavior? Or should the parents’ parents and grandparents, and so on, be blamed for the bad genes? Or perhaps should the parents be blamed for not seeking early remedy for their son’s malady, thereby mitigating, if not obviating the criminal bent in the man?

What if the parents do not have the wherewithal for the needed treatment of their son? Should “society” or the government be blamed for making the parents so poor as to be unable to afford the treatment?

What if the man sustained damage to his brain through some unhealthy practice, such as eating the wrong or unhealthy food, not eating enough of the brain-healthy foods; sustaining some brain damage through an accident or carelessness or exposure to contaminants in the environment? Who is to blame for the man’s lack of knowledge of the principles of healthy living? Should the man, or his family and society be blamed for all this? Does not the man have a choice as to what to do with his own life – such as seeking the right health information and applying it?

2.    Does it always follow that a healthy brain equals good behavior?  Are all criminals thus “brain-damaged?” And do all “good” people have “good” brains?  Is there ever a chance that people with perfectly healthy brains can turn criminal?  And can some people with brain damage live a non-criminal or moral life?  Have sound statistical studies been made on this? Unless proven by facts, this supposition remains a theory.

What is man?

Many scientists believe that man is merely the end-product of eons of evolution. That man is  a mere biological or physical “being” (or “animal”) that happens to have “minds” that are able to conceive of ideas and produce things that the rest of the natural order are not able to, or do differently.

People steeped in the theory of evolution (for that is what it is – a supposition yet to be proven by the facts) do not believe that mankind is a “creature.” For “creation” presupposes a Creator – a “Mastermind” or “Designer”– who has made all things for some purpose that He reveals progressively (not all at once) to mankind. [For further discussions on the evolution versus creation issue, see this link: http://www.herbert-armstrong.org, click ENTER HERE, Select “Books & Booklets” and scroll down to the booklets titled “A Theory for the Birds,” and “A Whale of a Tale” and the book The Human Potential.]

The Creator claims to have “authored” a Book (some call it a “Manual for Living”) showing what man really is, what man’s potential really is, and how man can reach that potential.  That Book is the Holy Bible. While many scientists and philosophers and similar-minded people disbelieve the authority and power of the Bible, there are quite a number of scientists and other learned people who believe in the revelation of the Bible and in the creation by a divine Creator.

The Bible unequivocally declares that man was purposely made by God in His own image or likeness (Genesis 1:26-27; 1 Corinthians 1:7). As the creation story goes (Genesis 2), God made a clay model of Himself, breathed life into it, and it became a living being – man.  Later God made woman out of the man’s rib, and caused the man and woman to reproduce and fill the earth with their offspring.

While man was made in the physical image of God, man is not yet in the perfect spiritual image of God, who is Spirit, and has no beginning nor end of life [John 4:24; Hebrews 7:3; see: The Mystery of Melchizedek Unlocked].  In contrast, man is made of matter and is mortal – subject to death and decay. [See: What Happens to Man After Death?] All men will eventually be given a chance to be saved from death, through faith in Christ (Romans7:23; 6:23) [See: Predestination.]

Man made with freedom of choice

At the Garden of Eden God gave our first parents (Adam and Eve) the choice basically between two trees – the “tree of life” and the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil,” which was actually a “tree of death.” The well-known story is found in Genesis 3.

If God had intended for man to have no free will or freedom of choice, why would He even offer man a choice? But God did offer man a choice! In Genesis 3:16-17 God commanded Adam:  “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat [including “the tree of life, Verse 7], but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

As most everybody knows the story, Adam (at his wife Eve’s suggestion and urging after the Devil had convinced her) chose to eat of the forbidden tree, the tree of death. [See: “Your Eyes Will Be Opened!”] God had to drive man away from the Garden of Eden lest he put his hand and take also of the tree of life, and live forever (Genesis 3:22) – in sin, and thus become like Satan and his demons, who have everlasting life. God placed powerful angels (cherubim) to guard the way to the Garden and thus keep man from illegal reentry to it.  [See:  The Flaming Sword East of Eden.]

Our fate sealed by the choices we make

A bouncy song popular in the 1990s went, “Our fate is sealed by the choices we make.” Adam and Eve chose to obey Satan (in the guise of a serpent) and to eat the forbidden fruit. Eventually, they did die, as God had warned them. After some 6,000 years since that fateful incident at Eden, mankind has followed in Adam’s footsteps, choosing the same path of disobedience to God’s commandments. Result?  All have had the same sentence of death (Romans 5:12; 3:23; 6:23).

Only those to whom God has chosen to show His mercy in this age will be saved from death (Romans 9). [See: Predestination, This Is Not the Only Day of Salvation and The Ransomed of the LORD.]

Although each person has freedom of choice, often our condition may be affected by the choices or decisions others make. We no longer live in isolation; now we are in a “global” community. Many barriers of the past no longer exist. What some people in one part of the globe do can and does affect the lives of others in another part of the world. [See: Climate Change.] Well, who’s to blame for all this?

The ultimate blame

All the mess that our world has been in can be blamed, ultimately, on the original sinner – Satan and his angels (now demons) who followed him in his sinful, God-defying ways. An immortal spirit being, Satan was around at the Garden of Eden when God created mankind. Without missing a beat, Satan went to seduce Adam, through Eve, into defying God’s command not to eat the forbidden fruit of the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” [See: “Your Eyes Will Be Opened!”]

Because Satan has induced all human beings into committing lies, murders and other sins (Romans 3:23), Jesus called Satan their “father” (John 8:44).  The apostle Paul called Satan “the prince of the power of the air [where Satan “broadcasts” his evil thoughts] the spirit which now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of the flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath [judged with God’s indignation], just as the others (Ephesians 2:23).

While God will judge Satan and his demons for their own sin – that of seducing mankind into sinning, and their rebellion against God– the Bible clearly shows that God will not dump on Satan the direct blame for the sins of Satan’s “children.” ‘See: Are We All God’s Children?]

This is established by two Old Testament passages. Deuteronomy 24:16 says, “Fathers shall not be put to death for their children, nor shall children be put to death for their fathers; a person shall be put to death for his own sin.” Ezekiel 18:20 resonates:  “The soul that sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.”  Could anything be fairer than that? [See: Two Goats Together.]

We don’t “pass this way but once”

One of my spiritual mentors said to me that it was a “short-sighted” person who made popular the saying “I shall pass this way but once.” Or, “I shall not pass this way again.” Most people think that the life we live in this present world is all there is. That what we do, or fail to do, in this life will be judged finally or once and for all. Many believe that righteous people immediately go to heaven at death, while wicked people go to some fiery hell at death.  [See: What Happens to Man After Death?]

The apostle Peter, however, assures us, “For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God [the Church of God], and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God” (1Peter 4:11)? Only those who are now called to be members of the Church of God – God’s “elect” now – are being judged for salvation or damnation.  The rest of mankind – the vast majority – will have their time of judgment later, at a time God chooses. [See:  The Divine PrerogativesPredestination, This Is Not the Only Day of Salvation, Where Is God’s Church Today? and The Value of the “Firstborn.”]

God is in control!

The Bible clearly says that God is interested in saving all of mankind, and many people believe this.  The apostle Paul wrote that God our Savior “…. desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4).

Likewise, the apostle Peter wrote that the Lord “…is longsuffering toward us not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). However, a cursory look at our communities and nations around the world will show that most people have believed Satan’s lies and have refused God’s truth. Most have continued in their sin and have refused to repent of it.

As Jesus prophesied about our times today, lawlessness has abounded, and the love of many has grown cold (Matthew 24:12).  Paul also said that in our day “…perilous times will come” (1 Timothy 3:1-9).  He cited a near-catalogue of evil that men would do – and indeed are doing – today. [See: “The Next Chapter of History.”]

Although it seems like Satan has the upper hand in claiming rule over most of humankind, God is in full control. Satan can only do as God permits him to for a time. Revelation 12:9, 12 shows that Satan only has a short time left to do his dirty work of deceiving all of mankind. In His own time God will send His Son Jesus Christ to bind Satan and his demons in some dark prison, thereby making them unable to deceive mankind as before (Revelation 20:1-3).

Repentance a personal choice

To sin or not to sin is a personal choice every person has to make every moment of his or her life. So is repentance a choice each person has to make, as God makes possible. How?   Repentance is something that God grants (Acts 11:18). He does this by graciously opening a person’s eyes to see God’s goodness and thus he is led to repentance (Romans 2:4). Paul tells us that “…now God commands all men everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30).

Jesus had warned twice, “I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish” (Luke13:3, 5). A command requires a person’s voluntary act to turn from one’s sinful ways and do what God commands in His word, the Bible. True and genuine repentance is as act of the human will [or “free moral agency”].

Every single human being has a human “spirit” given by God for all to have full control of (1 Corinthians 2:11; 14:32). The human spirit works with the mind, which is an output of the human brain. The human brain is not on “auto pilot.” The brain needs a human “pilot” – the person himself!  –  to control which way one’s thoughts and actions should go, whether good or bad, legal or illegal (criminal, unlawful).  “The buck stops” with the person – not Satan or some entity called “my brain!”

Some have twisted the writings of the apostles Paul and Peter cited earlier (1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9) to mean that God would need to remove human will in order that His supreme will would be fulfilled – that He will have mercy on all  (Romans 9:18; 11:32). [See: What Is This Thing Called “Will?]

However, we find (in James 2:13) a condition God has set for showing His mercy to people: “For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy.” This echoes Jesus’ words, “For if you do not forgive men their trespasses [thereby showing mercy to them], neither will your Father [in heaven] forgive your trespasses [or thus show mercy to you]” (Matthew 6:15). Whether one forgives or shows mercy to others, or not, is an exercise of a person’s will or volition – his or her choice.  And if one fails to show mercy and is not shown mercy by God, one’s sin remains unpardoned, and one will perish [See: Why Is the “Unpardonable Sin” Unpardonable?].

Willing obedience desired by God

By presenting every human being with a choice to obey Him or not, God has given each and every one of us freedom of will to choose which way we should go. However damaging Satan’s influence in our lives may be, God provides a way out.

Paul compares our life of sin to being held captive in Satan’s snare, making us unable to do anything but the Devil’s will (2 Timothy 2:6).  Paul elsewhere describes this kind of bondage as that to “the law of sin and death” in our human person and being (Romans 7:21-22; 8:1), making it impossible to obey God. We can only be freed from that law through The Higher Law of the Spirit [also see: God’s Spirit and Obedience The Flaming Sword East of EdenThe Deceitfulness of Sin, and Is There Ever Any Good in Man?]

It therefore behooves each person to make sure he has good or full control of his own spirit. One of the facets of the “Fruit of the Spirit” [of God] is self-control or self-discipline (Galatians 5: 22). The use of alcohol and regulated drugs can cause a person to lose some or much control over his thoughts and behavior. That is why being “drunk” [intoxicated with alcohol] is a sin in God’s eyes (1 Corinthians 6:10; Romans 13:13; Galatians 5:21). In most countries drunk driving [or “driving under the influence”] is a crime. So is the use of mind-altering drugs a crime. Hypnosis also causes a person to lose control of his will and consciousness. Degenerative diseases [such as Alzheimer’s or as a result of head trauma] can also affect brain function and behavior. In such cases, God may hopefully judge the person, in mercy, on the basis of his life before the degenerative affliction.  Or else God could heal the person by some miracle.  After all, nothing is impossible with God (Luke 1:37)!

Let’s get it straight!

God holds every person accountable for every thought, word and deed that proceeds from the person himself. Jesus said, “You have heard it said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:27). “But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the Day of Judgment.  For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matthew 13:36-37. “… the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His [Christ’s] voice and come forth [ be resurrected] – those who have done good, to the resurrection of [everlasting] life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation” (John 5:28-29).  “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad”(1 Corinthians 5:8).

God will not judge an entity called “my brain” in the Day of Judgment.  Instead God will judge a person—not his “brain” — according to his thought, word and deed.  God has given each person the responsibility to rule his own spirit.  “Whoever has no rule over his spirit is like a city broken down, without walls” (Proverbs 25:28). [See: “No Walls, No Ceiling?” and The Great Wall.]

The bottom line is this: let’s take good care of our brain so that we can use it to do what is good instead of evil.  It is our person or ourselves that God will judge, not our brain as such! Let’s not use the cop-out, “My brain made me do it.”  Let’s simply say, “I did it!” Then, repent of it – and be forgiven. There’s no other way to salvation.

 

Pedro R. Meléndez, Jr.
180118/150518

Where Is God’s Church Today?

[My sincere apologies for having failed to publish any articles for the past six months (February-July 2018). You see, I suffered a stroke in the second week of February and had to be under intensive care for about two weeks. Thanks to God’s mercies and the help and support of family, friends and health care givers, I am progressing well toward recovery. At least I am now able to write again for this website. I would appreciate your prayers for my complete recovery and wellness. Many thanks!]

Some weeks ago a concerned neighbor paid me a visit. While he came to wish me well, he also asked me what I thought about where the church which Jesus Christ founded almost two millennia ago is now. As Jesus promised, that church would not die but survive up to the end of this present age and beyond.

Well, then, where is that church?

My neighbor, as do a number of others, believes that the Worldwide Church of God (WCG), founded by Herbert W. Armstrong in the 1930s, had been the uninterrupted continuation of the church that Jesus built, in A.D.31. But now, since Mr. Armstrong’s death in 1986, the WCG has become split up into dozens of splinter groups and denominations. My neighbor, along with two friends who are leaders of former WCG congregations expressed concern about what could be done to bring back together again brethren who are now divided and scattered.

Before anything else, it would be good to review Christ’s promise to build His church, against which “the gates of Hades [the grave, or death] would not prevail.

The promise and founding of God’s Church

Jesus made this famous declaration to His disciple and later apostle Peter, who had given the right answer to the question He posed to His disciples, “But who do you think that I am?” Jesus told Peter: “And I also say to you that you are Peter [Greek petros, meaning “pebble”] and on this rock [Greek petra, meaning “rock,” referring to Christ Himself as the “Rock,” [same Greek derivation].  [See: 1 Corinthians 10:4 and The True Christ.] I will build My church, and the gates of Hades [the grave or death] shall not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatsoever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatsoever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

What Roman Catholics believe

Roman Catholics believe that the Roman Catholic Church is the church which Jesus Christ built, and that Peter was the “rock” on which Christ founded His Church. Catholics also claim Peter as the church’s first “Pope.” And that succeeding popes are heirs to Peter’s seat or throne [cathedra]; that the popes have been given the “keys” or correct knowledge about how one can enter God’s heavenly kingdom; that whatever rule or law they bind or loose on earth will be bound or loosed in heaven.

Thus, the Catholic Church believes that the popes, in conjunction with the “magisterium,” (a council of bishops, who decide church dogmas and practices, with the pope as supreme head) have Christ’s approval to change or reverse what God has commanded in His Word, the Bible. The Catholic interpretation of Matthew 16:19 makes the popes and the doctrines and practices (traditions) they proclaim to be – in effect — more powerful than the authority of Scripture. Catholics claim that whatever the pope declares ex cathedra [from his seat] is official and free from error.

A clear example of this claim is the altering of the Ten Commandments as written in Exodus 20:1-17. The second commandment against making carved images and bowing down to them (which Roman Catholics practice), has been deleted, and to make up for the deficit, the tenth commandment has been divided into two: the Catholic ninth commandment now is that against coveting your neighbor’s wife; and the tenth is that against coveting your neighbor’s house, his cattle and any other of his property. The Catholic Church has also changed the fourth commandment (now the Catholic “third”) by omitting the reference to God’s seventh-day Sabbath and substituting it with “The Lord’s Day” [Sunday]. [See: What if the Sabbath Is Still Holy?]

The Catholic Church has also junked God’s feasts and replaced them with festivals derived from pagan sources (Christmas, Easter, Valentine’s Day, the veneration of “saints,” etc.).[See: God’s Feasts in the Book of Acts: Mere Time Markers –or to Be Observed? Drunk With Strange Wine and “Your Eyes Will Be Opened!”]

Indeed, what has taken place in the Catholic sphere fulfills the ancient prophecy in Daniel 7:25-28, regarding a religious-political leader who will “speak pompous words against the Most High, shall persecute the saints of the Most High [the Church of God], and shall intend to change times and law.”

God’s word and law the basis for all rule

Jesus plainly said that He had not come to abolish God’s law, and that anyone who breaks one of the least of God’s commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:17-19 – not to say that such a one will make it to that kingdom!)

The Catholic Church that teaches men to break or disobey God’s law cannot be said to have Christ’s approval. Human beings cannot overturn God’s law by binding or loosening a rule contrary to that law. Isaiah 8:20(NIV) declares: “To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, they have no light of dawn [the truth].” [See: Freed From Bondage, Moses and Jesus – Are They Contraries?  and The Law of Christ .]

The apostle Paul wrote that in his time, already a “man of sin,” “the son of perdition” would be revealed who “opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped,” so that “he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God (2 Thessalonians 2:1-4). Paul said that “the mystery of lawlessness” – the insidious promotion of rebellion against God’s law – was already at work in his time (Verse 8). This “lawless one” would do things “according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason God will send them strong delusion that they should believe the lie, that they will be consumed who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness”(Verses 6-11). This lawless leader will instead oppose true righteousness, which is the keeping of God’s laws and commandments (Psalm 119:172).

It should not be surprising that many have believed the lies foisted by that church. Roman Catholicism boasts of being the “faith of millions.” Some 1/3 of the world’s population are Catholic. Many are convinced by the miracles and wonders attributed to the “saints.” But Jesus said that His followers in this age would be only few in comparison (Matthew 7:13-14; Luke 12:32).

Hallmark of God’s Church

In contrast to the Catholic Church that has rejected God’s laws and commandments, members of the Church of God [ called “saints” in the Bible] are defined as “those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus” (Revelation 14:12).

Jesus also said:”By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another (John 13:35). And to truly love the brethren is to love God by obeying His commandments (1 John 5:2-3).

These “saints” are not perfect, but upon repentance they have been cleansed and sanctified through Christ and God’s Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). With God’s power they are able to overcome the sinful pull of their flesh, the lure of sinful society and Satan the devil. [See: The Higher Law of the Spirit and God’s Spirit and Obedience.] They are promised to be given the “right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God” (Revelation 2:7). Revelation 22:14 affirms that only those who keep God’s commandments will be given that right to the tree of life and to enter into the Holy City, the New Jerusalem. Thus God will reverse for the righteous what happened to Adam and Eve at the Garden of Eden. [See: The Flaming Sword East of Eden.]

Unlike the “saints” of the Catholic Church, who are declared to be “saints” after their death, “saints” in the Bible refers to living members of the Church of God.

In his letter to the Corinthians, the apostle Paul addressed them thus: “To the church of God which is at Corinth, those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours” (1 Corinthians 1:2). See also 2 Corinthians 1:1; Romans 1:7; Philippians 1:1; Colossians 1:1.

Paul did not write to dead members but living members of the church! Here alone we can see how the Catholic Church has departed from the Bible’s testimony. With that definition in mind, it is possible to trace where the church that Jesus founded has gone to down through the centuries, up to our times today. The WCG published a booklet titled “A True History of the True Church.” [To read this eye-opening booklet, see this link: http://www.herbert-armstrong.org, click ENTER HERE, select “Books & Booklets” and scroll down to the booklet with that title.]

This is the end-time remnant of the church that Jesus founded on the Day of Pentecost in AD 31. The resurrected Jesus had promised that His disciples would “be endued with power from on high” when they remained in Jerusalem (Luke 24:49). Before then, they had been in hiding, “for fear of the Jews” (John 19:19). But after they had received that power (Acts 2) they boldly gave witness to the Jews regarding Christ, as He promised and commissioned them (Acts 1:8).

This is that same message that the WCG has preached over the past decades. [See: Fake News And this link: http://www.herbert-armstrong.org, click ENTER HERE, select “Books & Booklets,” and scroll down to the booklet titled “What Is the True Gospel?”]

The unraveling of the WCG

Shortly after Mr. Armstrong’s death in January 1986, and the takeover of the WCG by Joseph W. Tkach Sr. as the church’s new pastor-general, a movement rolled that sought to demolish all the teachings that Herbert Armstrong had left as something that “cannot be fixed” and had to go. In late 1994 Mr. Tkach came out with a proclamation of “new covenant” changes that would “liberate” WCG members from perceived oppressive and legalistic beliefs and practices of the past. [See: Just What Do You Mean – Legalism? and Freed From Bondage.]

When Mr. Armstrong traveled the world to preach the gospel of God’s coming kingdom to world leaders in the 1970s, he left the care of the church to his son Garner Ted (GTA). Unknown to his dad, GTA initiated what came to be known as a Systematic Theology Project (STP), which sought to revamp WCG doctrines, to conform to “orthodox” theology. Members who opposed this project called it “Slowly Turning Protestant.”

When Herbert Armstrong regained control of the WCG, he moved to get the church “back on track,” whereas it had gone “off the track.” Church members saw this as a prophetic fulfillment of Zechariah 4:9, “The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this temple. His hands shall also finish it.” Mr. Armstrong was thus seen as a modern-day “Zerubbabel” who would restore the ruined temple that the church had become while he was away from the WCG HQ or “command center.”

After Mr. Armstrong’s death, the WCG was again in shambles! The WCG split up into various splinter groups, some aiming to maintain doctrines and practices of the original WCG. Others went off on a wide tangent. While WCG members became scattered, the church as such remained “alive,” although “sickly,” we might say – much like the Jews in captivity in Babylon [later Persia] remained a nation or a distinct “people” (Esther 3:8),although under oppression by their captors. Many WCG brethren became “floating” members – clueless about where they are going, perhaps waiting for some positive sign from above. Some have become frustrated enough to turn agnostic or atheist.

The “changes” that Mr. Tkach initiated turned the WCG (now renamed Grace Communion International or GCI) into a denomination that has become thoroughly Protestant, or “evangelical.” The GCI has, in fact, become a member of the World Evangelical Fellowship (WEF). Church historian Ruth Tucker described WCG’s transformation- – hailed as a “miracle” –as a move “From the Fringe to the Fold.” The evangelical community embraced GCI as now one of their own.

One GCI minister described this reaction as the fulfillment of Jesus’ words, “”If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor” (John 12:23). However, may not Jesus’ other words apply here, too? Jesus told His disciples: “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, therefore the world hates you.” (John 15:18-19) .Before its transformation, the WCG had been considered by evangelicals as a “cult” – an unorthodox denomination that was on the “fringes” but not really in the “fold,” or what is considered the mainstream Christian community. They warned the world not to fall for Herbert Armstrong as a “false prophet”  and “Mr. Confusion,” and his teachings as Satanic “Armstrongism.”

In comparing Mr. Armstrong to Zerubbabel (who came out from Babylon), church members imply that the WCG has become captive in some kind of spiritual “Babylon.” The ruined temple in Jerusalem was compared to the Church of God which has again lain in shambles after Mr. Armstrong’s death. While Mr. Armstrong was alive, some members believed that, as the end-time fulfillment of Zechariah’s Zerubbabel, he would be one of the “two witnesses” prophesied to arise before Christ’s return (Revelation11:1-12). His son Garner Ted was seen as the fulfillment of Joshua, the high priest who had fallen into sin, as Garner Ted did, and was hoped to have repented and thus had been cleansed and would be ready to be the other of the “two witnesses” (Zechariah 3:1-9).

Both Armstrongs have died, the “two witnesses” have not come on the scene, and Christ has not returned. So, where does that leave us? 2 Peter 1:19 assures us that there is no more sure word than that of prophecy. Revelation 11:1-12 will yet be fulfilled with certainty!

But how?

Many have come forward to present themselves as one or both of the “two witnesses.” Most have proven to be self-appointed crackpots with supposed miraculous powers. What everyone should grab hold of is the assurance that God is ever alive and has power to appoint and reveal – in His own time—those “two witnesses.”

As with the apostle Paul, so God will show us, without a doubt, how to recognize who those “two witnesses” truly are or will be. The apostle Peter acknowledged that Paul had received wisdom from God that made his letters a part of the Scriptures (2 Peter 3:15-16). With James and John, Peter (called “the big three” or “pillars” of the New Testament church), agreed that God had called Paul and given him the grace to minister the gospel of Christ to the Gentiles while they were to do the same to the Jews and Israel (Galatians 2:7-9).

They accepted Paul’s testimony about Jesus Christ Himself calling him to minister in His name (Acts 9:15; 22:14-21; 26:15-18). That is how Paul introduced himself to the Christian brethren in Rome (Romans 1:1-6). To the brethren in Corinth he introduced himself as “an apostle [meaning “one sent”] of Christ Jesus and God the Father (1 Corinthians 1:1; 2 Corinthians 1:1). He told them that he had conducted himself in his dealings with them “in holiness and sincerity that are from God” (2 Corinthians 1:12) – that he had done so “not according to worldly wisdom, but according to God’s grace.” “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain. I labored more abundantly than they [the other apostles], yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me” (1 Corinthians 15:10).

To the brethren in Galatia Paul introduced himself as “an apostle – sent not by men nor by man but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead (Galatians1:1). To the brethren in Ephesus Paul introduced himself as “an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God” (Ephesians 1:1). He also reminded them about what they had heard from him – the “administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you, that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly.” He hoped that they would understand that his “insight into the mystery of Christ was not made known to men in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s apostles and prophets….I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of His power….this grace was given to me to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God” (Ephesians 3:2-5). Paul also taught that God’s grace given through Christ has appointed some to be apostles [as Paul was], prophets, evangelists, pastors,” etc. …. so that the body of Christ [the church, Colossians 1:18] may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11-13).

To the brethren in Colossae Paul introduced himself as “an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God” (Colossians 1:1). He also reminded them that he became an apostle by commission given him by God to present the mind of God in its fullness (Colossians 1:25). He thanked the brethren in Thessalonica that they received the word he preached “not as the word of men but as the word of God (1 Thessalonians 2:13).

To Timothy Paul introduced himself as “an apostle of Christ Jesus by the command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope.” (1 Timothy 1:1; 2 Timothy 1:1). He told Timothy about Jesus appointing him to His service, to preach the glorious gospel of the blessed God which He entrusted to me” and that the grace of our Lord was poured out on him abundantly along with faith and love that are in Christ Jesus (1 Timothy 1:11, 12, 14).”And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher” (2 Timothy 1:11).

To Titus Paul introduced himself as “a servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ for the faith of God’s elect and the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness – a faith and knowledge resting on the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time, and at His appointed season he brought to light through the preaching entrusted to me by the command of God our Savior” (Titus 1:1-3).

I have belabored this point to show that Christ, who is ever alive and sitting at the right hand of His Father knows fully well what His church today needs to be able to become a vibrant, unified body of believers, as it was in Paul’s day. True, there were those who opposed Paul, but we cannot deny his push toward the unity and upbuilding of the church. His passion was to prepare the church to be presented to Christ “as a chaste virgin” (2 Corinthians 11:2), pure and spotless, and without any wrinkle – holy and blameless (Ephesians 5:25-27).

Is it too difficult for God to raise up in these our end times faithful servants like Paul who will help the scattered members of the Church of God come to “unity in the faith and knowledge of the Son of God, Jesus (Ephesians 4:13)? God assures: “behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh. Is there anything too hard for Me”(Jeremiah 32:27)?

Zechariah 13:7 [“Smite the shepherd and the sheep will be scattered”], fulfilled when Christ was arrested by a mob of Jews (Matthew 26:55-56), may well apply to the WCG after the death of Mr. Armstrong. Isaiah 53:6 (NIV) may well describe what has happened to the former flock that was the WCG: “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way.

Ezekiel 34 pictures the sad plight of God’s flock under the hand of wayward shepherds. While God vows to punish these shepherds, in the end He will move to regather His people and place them under the care of a shepherd like King David (Ezekiel 37:21-24). See also Jeremiah 23, 50 and 51.

Many WCG members believe that God has revealed all that the church needs to know through the late Herbert W. Armstrong, who was a descendant of King David. That his hands will yet finish the work of restoring the church in such a way as to make it ready at Christ’s return (Zechariah 4:8). [To understand how God works out the succession of His servants, see: Leanings and Two Goats Together, especially the box titled “Reexamining the roots of our beliefs”.  See also: Laodicean Christians .]

The Spirit of God given through His grace to inspire His chosen servants will also inspire church brethren and others whom God may call into His church at this time, to accept the teachings, wisdom and insights of those servants as indeed coming from God and are truth ( Corinthians 2:1-16). Paul urged the brethren to have the same mind and attitude of Christ (Philippians 2:5). That they would thus “be perfectly united in mind and thought,” that they would agree with one another and have no divisions among them (1 Corinthians 1:10).

Such is the clarion call to former members of the WCG to submit to the teachings of God’s chosen servants in these end-times! May God reveal clearly and unmistakably His chosen “two witnesses” soon! These two are the two “olive trees”—the Lord’s anointed servants — who pour out “oil” [symbolic of God’s Spirit] into God’s church [symbolized by a lamp stand, compare with Revelation 1:19-20] (Zechariah 4:11-14; Revelation1:4).

God’s “two witnesses” will complete the restoration of God’s Church that Mr. Armstrong could no longer fulfill after his death. Through his hands that ordained the “two witnesses” while he was still alive, Mr. Armstrong [see the principle in Hebrews 6:1-2; Deuteronomy 34:9], can be said to have completed the restoration of the Church of God, God’s “temple” on earth today (1 Corinthians 3:16; Zechariah 4:9), to make it ready to meet Christ at His return.

Dire end of “Babylon”

Revelation 18 describes God’s judgment upon a spiritual “Babylon” that symbolizes false religion, as embodied in the Roman church and its cohorts, such as the evangelicals (Psalm 137:8; Revelation 17:5). That God tells His people [His church] to “Come out” of that “Babylon” shows that God’s people are in it and must come out of it, or else they will partake of the dire plagues that God will pour out on “Babylon” (Revelation 18:4-8)!

Former WCG members may not realize it, but they have been drinking of the “cup” that this “Babylon” has filled with the “maddening wine of her adulteries [KJV, “fornication”, see: Drunk With Strange Wine.] (Revelation 18:3). No wonder they are confused and have lost their way! [“Babylon” means confusion! – and God is not its author (1 Corinthians 14:33).]

If you are concerned about your salvation, you had better heed God’s serious warning, repent of all the abominations and falsehoods you have imbibed while in captivity in this spiritual “Babylon!” Do it soon – before it will be too late!

May God give you the eyes to see and ears to hear and may you be saved from this present evil age (Acts 2:40)! May you hear the authentic voice of our “Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ,” and follow only that voice (John 10:14, 3-5; 18:37).

God tells us to be diligent to make sure we are a part of His “elect” church (2 Peter 1:10-12)! Only that elect will be gathered to Christ at His return (Matthew 24:31)! [See: “I Never Knew You!”]

 

Pedro R. Meléndez, Jr.
190518/010618

Blood Moon

The world was agog over the rare (“once in a blue moon”) lunar phenomenon that took place in the evening of January 31 this year 2018.  It was known here in the Philippines (as perhaps elsewhere also) as the “super blue blood moon.”

According to meteorologists, the last time the same event happened was in 1982 — 36 years ago:  the moon could be viewed at its rising as bigger than usual (thus “super”) since it was then closer to the earth than at other times; it was a “blue moon,” according to one definition, because it was the second full moon within the same month (January 2 and 31 this year 2018) [see:  Two Full Moons in One Month!]; and the moon took on a reddish color (thus like blood) as an effect of a total lunar eclipse, plus other factors like volcanic ash in the atmosphere.

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Two Full Moons in One Month!

As I looked over the first calendar I got for the new year 2018 (as commonly recognized), one thing struck me as never before.  It was the discovery that there are two full moons occurring this first month of the year!  The first was last January 2, and the second will be on January 31.  Oddly, February this year thus has no full moon!

Not only is January a month with two full moons this year.  March will also feature two full moons — on the 2nd and the 31st as well!

Some things happen on a more or less regular basis in this life, and we hardly notice them.  Until they hit us, as my recent discovery hit me, between the eyes!

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Climate Change

One of the most controversial topics being discussed in the news, social media and halls of government these days concerns “climate change.”  A good number of scientists who claim to have honestly and objectively looked at the challenge of “climate change” declare that this recent and ever-worsening global phenomenon is real!  They are sounding an alarm and warning that unless humankind pulls together to remedy the situation, we and our environment will have had it!

On the other side of the fence are politicians, businessmen and even some religious figures who flatly deny that there is such a thing as “climate change.”  Some of them may admit that, yes, there is that challenge, but the “solution” offered by “environmentalists” would cause businesses to go bankrupt and many people to lose their jobs, thereby exacerbating the already runaway problem of poverty worldwide.

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