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:  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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