Letter: February 24, 2002
My husband and I were convicted of Sabbath-keeping in our living room 15 years ago. Our search for fellowship led us to Seventh Day Adventists, CGI, and back to our living room. Our initial calling came from the Holy Scriptures, not from anyone named Armstrong. We have learned much from many and continue to seek truth but especially love.
— Mr & Mrs Warren Stevenson, Kentucky
Response: Thank you for your request to receive Servants’ News and information about your background. Our readers need to understand that there are many people like you who learned about the Sabbath by looking to God, and only became involved with organizations for fellowship, not to look to them as a “final source” of doctrine or leadership.
Letter: May 25, 2002
This is the first time I have written concerning a published article. I just read your article “Christ leaving us an example” I fully agree; my philosophy is if you don’t vote you have no right to complain about what the government does and I do complain, sometimes calling and voicing my concern. I don’t do this often enough however, but I try. Keep up the good work I enjoy your paper very much.
— Marcia Gunderson, Wisconsin
Response: I agree that people should not complain if they do not vote, but I am wondering how Christians who do not vote will explain it in the Judgment. God told the Israelites to make local governments (Deut 16:18–20). Most Christians are involved in most other aspects of our governments: they pay taxes. They use emergency services, public roads, public schools, state parks, etc. Some of them actually work for the government for businesses that do mostly government contracts. Most follow government laws, even if they disagree. If Christians are preparing to rule with Christ (Rev 20:4), should not they be involved in the decision-making aspects of governments? This is especially true in countries like the USA where the people, as a whole, are the highest level of government.
Many people believe that the Bible shows God will punish the Western democracies for their national sins. If “not voting” is the righteous thing to do, then will God spare the Christians along with the 50% of the apathetic electorate that typically do not vote? Or will God spare only those people who voted for honest candidates and just laws, and then punish those who voted for evil? Will then God give the non-voters the same judgment as the corrupt minority that did vote? After all, the technical effect of non-voting is to affirm the decisions of those who do vote. Whereas, voting for a “third party: candidate who stands for righteous principles, no matter how little chance of winning he may have, adds to the permanent record of people who disagree with the way a country is being run.
Letter: March 22, 2002
We are enclosing [omitted] to help you in your service. Any more we are extremely selective in contributing money to any Christian ministries. Our efforts to help and serve our neighbor (fellow man) is much more direct and personal than it used to be when we dumped our hard earned money into the hands of a corporate church and trusted them to use it wisely and effectively. As you well know, this empowered men of greed and lust, but often did not help the truly needy.
I wanted you to know that access to your initial paper How Does the Eternal Govern Through Humans? came to us at a very crucial time in our lives. It shed a tremendous light for us to begin to understand certain lies the church had used (most all churches use the same lies) to enslave us to them and exert an incredible power and dominion over us. Our lives have moved a long, long way from where we were when we depended on “the church”. Truly, freedom and independence are very closely tied together. Our forefathers did not put together a document called the Declaration of Dependence, but rather the Declaration of Independence. The Master declared, “If, then, the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.” Paul attained to this freedom the Master spoke of, and in this freedom he said, “For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more.”
May the Most High Mighty One, through His Son, strengthen and guide you to perform His will in all of your coming and your going.
— Steve Shrock, Mississippi
Response: Thank you for your continued encouragement. I think Christians of all ages will shake their heads in the judgment and say to Americans: “you mean you were born into a country with that much freedom and that’s all you did with it?” They will go on to tell their tales of difficulty simply meeting together, obtaining scripture, teaching others, etc.
Letter: November 9, 2001
The following is from an article in a magazine called The Week:
“Rabbinical scholars are puzzling over a space-age dilemma: When does an astronaut orbiting the earth celebrate the Sabbath? Israeli Col. Ilan Ramon, who joins the crew of the Columbia space shuttle in July, will see the sun rise and set every 90 minutes. He’s supposed to mark the Sabbath when the sun sets on Friday night. He has asked for guidance, but so far the rabbis are stumped. ‘Do you do it every seventh orbit?’ asks Rabbi Zvi Konikov. —The National Post”
Is it God’s will that man creates situations for himself that call for impossible solutions?
— Ken and Arlette Omick, Wisconsin
Response: If we look at the Scripture we see that God makes allowance for all kinds of exceptions and difficult situations. The point is not to avoid these situations or to try to use them as an excuse to avoid obeying God, but to determine how we can best obey God in an unusual situation.
For example, Numbers 26 explains how Israel’s land would be allocated among the tribes and men of Israel. Then in chapter 27, the daughters of Zelophehad say that their father had no sons, but ask if they can have some land anyway. Now, a self-righteous Pharisee (or modern day Bible teacher) might say, “God spoke of giving land only to men, so since your father is dead and you have no men, you get no land; we must obey God—end of story.” But Moses took the issue to God and found that indeed they could have land, as long as they married within their tribe.
Also, in 1 Samuel 21, David and some of his men came to the priest and asked for food. The scripture indicates that one should feed a hungry neighbor, but all the priest had was the bread of the tabernacle which was supposed to be eaten only by the sons of Aaron (Lev 24:9). Yet this command had to be balanced with the command to help people in genuine need (Deut 15:7–8). Many religious teachers, left to themselves, would probably reason, “God’s tabernacle is more important than man, so we must obey the command to give the ‘holy bread’ only to the priests, and let these men go hungry.” Yet, the priest decided to give the bread to David and Jesus upheld this decision (Matt 12:3).
Yes, even God creates exceptions to the Sabbath Day as he had the Israelites march around the city of Jericho seven days in a row (Josh 6:1–4). One of those days had to be a Sabbath!
So how should one deal with the Sabbath if one is orbiting the earth every 90 minutes? We can take an obvious clue from how astronauts work in space. Do they go to sleep for 30 minutes after the sun sets, then get up when it rises and work for an hour, only to repeat that cycle again? Of course not. They keep some kind of schedule where they can be awake for an extended period of time: 16 hours or so, and then sleep for a while. It makes the most sense to synchronize these artificial days—periods of 24 hours—with the time of the main group of people who are working with them from the ground. Yes, they can and do communicate with people all over the world, but there is one main group of people on the ground responsible for planning and controlling the flight, and it makes the most sense to synchronize their schedule with them. If most of the people in the space program were keeping the Sabbath, they could all keep the Sabbath together.
God based the Sabbath on the sun so that almost anyone who can count to seven can determine when the Sabbath begins and ends for themselves. It is obvious that there is not some universal “blessed” period of 24 hours, because the place where the Sabbath first begins on earth and the place where it last ends can be 48 hours apart—sometimes more The Sabbath was made for man (Mark 2:27). When men live in the arctic or anarctic regions, there are times when the sun never sets or never rises. They could use this as an excuse not to keep the Sabbath, but some have rightly set a fixed time to observe the beginning and ending of the Sabbath. Someday, if men travel to other planets, there will be no sunrises or sunsets at all for long periods of time. But modern technology would certainly enable the astronauts to keep a 24-hour day and 7-day week schedule synchronized with some part of the earth—and allow them to keep the Sabbath.
Space travel and satellites have benefited our earth greatly. Many people who see the earth from space report profound religious experiences. If men can figure out how to do these complex things, they can also figure out how to obey God while they do it.
Letter: August 19, 2001
Hello. I am the webmaster for The Church Of God Jerusalem Acres in Cleveland, TN. I am also a member of the church and would like to point out some errors in your listing of our church as Sabbath-keepers. We do observe the Sabbath and Holy Days but not the dietary laws as listed. We are in the lineage of the Church of God having split from the Church of God of Prophecy in 1957. Restoration Fellowship is an independent organization that left TCOGJA several years ago. They have Hebraic emphasis similarities but doctrinal differences. They do not follow dietary laws either. For more info you may visit the web page at www.jerusalemacres.org.
— James Ludwig, Tennessee
Response: Thank you for making this correction. Our readers are quite familiar with church divisions and doctrinal variety. They should be able to understand the things that you have gone through.
Letter: December 19, 2001
I know you are busy and have serious time constraints, but I wonder if you could find the time and energy to answer a question or two for me. I personally know of two men who pastor two small congregations of the Church of God in Florida who claim and teach that they are Melchizedek Priests. You also know one of these men. They teach their congregations that they are now, present tense, literally Kings and Priests. They use Rev 1:6 and 1 Peter 2:5 & 9 to prove their teaching. I have challenged them on this teaching, believing them to be deceived and also deceiving.
My questions are:
— Mike Pepper, New York
Response: Melchizedek is one of those relatively easy subjects to study in the Bible. The name appears only 11 times, 9 of which are in Hebrews 5, 6 and 7. (Be careful when using a King James Version concordance—the name is spelled “Melchizedek” in the Old and “Melchisedec” in the New Testament. Most other Bible versions are consistent.) “Melchizedek” comes from two Hebrew words meaning “king” and “righteous”. It can mean “king of the righteous” or “my king is righteous”, maybe both.
In Genesis 14:18, Melchizedek is introduced as “king of Salem [peace]” and “priest of God Most High”. He shares bread and wine with Abraham, blesses him, and receives a tenth of the spoil of the war Abraham fought. That is about all the Old Testament says. There is no record that anyone ever spoke to him at other times or that he ever had a successor.
The other Old Testament reference is Psalm 110:4: “The Lord has sworn and will not relent, ‘You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.’” We know from Hebrews 5:6–10 that this is a prophecy of Christ. However, we need to be careful about the word “order”. The Catholic Church uses this word to describe the different levels of hierarchy, as well as different groups of its monks and nuns. But is this concept what the Bible teaches?
The Hebrew word translated “order” in Psalm 110:4 is dibrah and means “reason” or “purpose”. It is used 4 other places in the Old Testament and translated to the bold words here: “And to God I would commit my cause” (Job 5:8); “I said in my heart, ‘Concerning the condition of the sons of men (Eccl 3:18); “Surely God has appointed the one as well as the other, So that man can find out nothing that will come after him (Eccl 7:14); “Keep the king’s commandment for the sake of your oath to God. With these things in mind, Psalm 110:4 does not say “You are a priest forever according to the Melchizedek class”, but says: “You are a priest forever because of Melchizedek”. In Hebrew, it is sometimes difficult to distinguish proper names from regular words, maybe it means “You are a priest forever because my King is righteous”.
There are nine references to “Melchizedek” in the New Testament, all in Hebrews 5, 6 and 7. The Greek word, taxis, used for “order” in “the order of Melchizedek” (Heb 5:6, 10; 6:20; 7:11; 17) does not imply a special religious rank, but a “logical arrangement”. The same word is used in 1 Corinthians 14:40: “Let all things be done decently and in order”. The chapter is about things that brethren do in services, not about priests. Also, Colossians 2:5: “rejoicing to see your good order and the steadfastness of your faith in Christ.”
Hebrews 6:20–7:3 says: “…even Jesus, having become High Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek. For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, to whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all, first being translated ‘king of righteousness’, and then also king of Salem, meaning ‘king of peace’, without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, remains a priest continually.”
Here we see that Melchizedek and Christ are kings forever and live forever. There is no mention anywhere of mortal men being Melchizedek priests. The rest of Hebrews 7 explains that the Priesthood descended from Levi worked with “the flesh”, but that Christ descended from Judah, and His priesthood was for the purpose of spiritual perfection toward eternal life. Many church group leaders are thinking physical and want a Melchizedeck priesthood that receives tithes, but Hebrews 7 does not say that.
The Bible shows that all believers are now priests (1 Peter 2:5, 9)—this is not restricted to the “ministry”. Are they “Melchizedek priests”? Someone might say, “Yes, what other kind of priests could they be?” Do priests have to have a “kind” or “order”? The Bible does not say so. There are promises of God’s people being priests from Exodus 19:6 to Revelation 20:6, and they do not say exactly what “kind” of priests we will be. The Catholic Church may have their priests neatly arranged into a hierarchy of “orders”. But if God has done such a thing, he has not made it clear in the Bible. Since the Bible never mentions any “Melchizedek priests” other than Melchizedek and Christ, I could not teach that anyone is a “Melchizedek priest” unless God had miraculously revealed it to me and told me to teach it.
And as I conclude so many other letters, in the judgment, God is not going to ask us a lot of questions about what kind of priests we and our ministers were, but about what we did with the knowledge and ability that we had.
Letter: Jan 10, 2002
Many thanks for the Shelter in the Word and Servants’ News. We have a new e-mail address and so sorry we did not let you know sooner, we had that “love virus” and so this is the first time we (my wife Kay and I) have got back on the Internet. I will have a go at trying to get it downloaded as you point out on page 2 of Servants’ News you have a lot of food for thought and we thank you for that. I thought that was a good article on the May/June Servants’ News on that blue paper especially no.3 April 25th 2000. We do listen to a lot from Fred Coulter, we do find his tapes encouraging. I will be interested to read “Mature Literature” on the Passover Controversy by Beattie. I don’t know what you feel about Fred Coulter. I would be interested to know.
Till next time we will pray for you all.
Your friend In Christ
— Ron Whitford, Victoria, Australia
Response: Fred Coulter has served as an independent minister for many years. He has been a blessing to many people who left the WCG and other groups. He certainly works with original languages and history much more than the average CoG minister. A lot of his work is also useful to people who have not been in the Church of God Groups. He is against hierarchy and does not insist that members in his group attend only with him. However, he does discourage people who are members of other groups from attending his Feasts—he specifically asked me not to list his sites in Servants’ News. He does not often recommend the works of others that are not in his group.
The biggest difficulty I perceive is that his isolation has allowed him to make mistakes and carry them on for a long time. He took a certain approach to the complex issue of the Passover, and every time he ran into a scriptural obstacle, he wove an elaborate web to get around it—hence the large size of his book, The Christian Passover. Readers frequently accept his arguments, not because they are simply and clearly true, but because proving or disproving his vast amount of writing is an exhausting task that few have the time to complete. In other places, Mr. Coulter deliberately avoids quoting parts of scriptures or other sources that disagree with his teaching. I sent him a copy of Mr. Beattie’s The Passover Controversy and received a letter back from him saying that he read it and all of the answers to our questions were in his book. He chose not to respond to any of the inconsistencies and misquotations that the paper pointed out in his book. I cannot judge if this is an oversight, or if he is actually being dishonest.
Sometimes, as in the case of Deuteronomy 16, he simply claims that the scripture must be wrong because it does not fit his teaching. He cites no old manuscripts that have a different wording in the chapter—he just disagrees with what it says and claims that the Jews must have changed it.
Fred Coulter needs to realize that God will still love him and that he can still serve the brethren if he admits these mistakes. Much of his other good work is quite valuable. It would be even more valuable if it did not promote his own group so heavily. He needs to realize that other teachers also make mistakes, but God still uses them.
May God help all of us to work together more effectively.
Letter: January 6, 2002
I am not able to send an offering at this time. But, please send me The Passover Controversy by Mr. Beattie. I was with Fred for 2 or 3 yrs. I am also disturbed by his “Sea of Glass Doctrine”. Isn’t it just another form of “Secret Rapture”? I suppose he still teaches that they are going to the throne at the last trump on Pentecost, 3½ years into the Tribulation to marry Christ, to be taught for rest of the Tribulation and return with Christ at the seventh trump. First of all, it has to be an extra resurrection—one can’t look at or marry Christ if human.
God’s people have always suffered through tribulations but He didn’t take them to heaven! They are supposed to have extensive training there. I maintain that we are in graduate college now and if we don’t get it in this world, we may not get a chance to get it in the next.
Thanks so much. I really enjoy the Servants’ News and appreciate it.
— [name withheld], Florida
Response: I will send you The Passover Controversy paper that covers Fred Coulter’s The Christian Passover.
Many church organizations have found that membership and money increase when they teach a doctrine that promises divine protection to their members, whether it be a rapture, “place of safety” or some other means. Some church groups unashamedly teach that only members of their organization will be protected. Others teach a doctrine that is so specific that no other group teaches it (the “sea of glass” doctrine might be such a thing), and so their members logically conclude that they will probably be the only ones protected because only their group has the “true understanding” of “how God will protect His people”.
I find it very difficult to accept such specific prophetic interpretations from anyone unless they have a clear track record of direct inspiration from God. If there was a Bible teacher who had shown me a prophetic interpretation of the Scriptures many months ago explaining why I should avoid Manhattan Island and air flights in September of 2001, I would be very interested in listening to some of their other prophetic interpretations. Most of the prophets of the Bible demonstrated miraculous signs in the present, as well as showing things to come. I have a hard time accepting someone’s extremely specific prophetic interpretation when they have either no claim or no proof that God has specifically shown it to them.
That does not mean that all such prophets are deliberately deceptive—they may completely believe their prophecies. Some are arrogant enough to think that everything they teach is truth and if their prophecy was not true, that God would stop them from teaching it.
I cannot prove that Mr. Coulter’s prophetic understanding is untrue. If Christ wants to take a certain group to heaven to marry and train them, He may. I would like to go. But just thinking it or getting a million people to believe it does not make it true. If nearly everyone in the Christian Biblical Church of God accepts this Sea of Glass teaching without question, I think they are following a man. I know that God loves everyone and works in the best way for each one. I do not wish trouble on anyone and I am not prophesying. But if present trends continue, I think it is likely that Fred Coulter may die before Christ returns, and those in his group will divide up along various doctrinal lines, one might be the Sea of Glass doctrine.
May God strengthen all of us and help us look to him.
Letter:January 7, 2002
Last month or in the most recent issue of Servants’ News, you wrote about “Pastor” David J Smith of Waxahachie, Texas. When I lived in Buffalo, we got one and sometimes two hours of him weeknights on the radio. I’m not a genius, but I can’t imagine any reasonably intelligent person following this man. Granted, he did offer some truth occasionally but mostly Mr. Smith offered hair-brained speculation night after night. Frankly, I could not understand how the local radio station allowed him to remain on the air.
Just wondering. Why do COG people like Richard Nickels involve themselves with something like The Sabbath Sentinel which seems freely to embrace a relationship with Adventists with their heretical views and allegiance to Ellen G. White? I mean, as believers, aren’t we supposed to stay away from people who preach false teachings? Just because they believe in the Sabbath doesn’t make it okay.
Thank you for Servants’ News.
— David Cavall, NC
Response: I am glad that the local radio station allowed David J. Smith to broadcast—that is part of what “freedom of the press is about”. Let us face it, a message of “laying down your life for your friend” may be considered insane in a selfish world. As long as he pays his bills and does not commit crimes against others, he should be able to broadcast. But if he is preaching nonsense that is deceiving people, maybe more of us should follow Galatians 6:1–2:
“Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”
I think the above principle also goes for the Seventh Day Adventists. I think they have a lot of truth, but they are also wrapped up in some false teaching of Ellen G. White just like we were (maybe still are) wrapped up in some false teachings of Herbert Armstrong. I certainly would not try to judge which leader was better or worse, the way God sees it. I have visited Seventh Day Adventist congregations and found the people honest, kind and loving. I think we should love, fellowship with and try to help these people as long as we do not get caught up in their mistakes. I have not seen Richard Nickels accept Adventist doctrines, so he may well be doing a good work by being among them.
But I also understand your point. We should not help another group perpetuate false doctrines, and if we are being affected by them, we definitely should flee them. There are many factors involved in deciding “with whom will we work”. We should always apply Biblical principles and pray for guidance.
Letter: June 4, 2002
I received your “care package” in the mail late last week. Thank you very much.
The first thing I did was re-read (in the 3rd edition) your article entitled Biblical Calendar Basics. You did a really nice job of laying things out in a balanced fashion. All who read it should appreciate your efforts.
Then I started reading the two copies of The Journal that you had enclosed. Wow! I had no idea that this calendar thing was such a big issue. My immediate reaction was to put my two cents worth in, too, but I decided to wait a little because, while I believe I have something to add, I want to make certain I fully understand what others have to say about it first.
One quick question along that line—in most articles (like the ones I read in The Journal) are the terms “Hebrew Calendar” and “Traditional Jewish Calendar” (TJC) used interchangeably?
Response: To most people, I think they mean the same thing. However, some people will say that “Hebrew” means son of “Eber” (Gen 10:21–25), and go on to say that the “True Hebrew Calendar” is the calendar that they were using at that time—which is not the “Traditional Jewish Calendar”. There is no end to the debate as to whether words mean what most people understand them to mean, or whether they mean what they originally meant. It seems that harm can come from always taking either view.
Letter: Now concerning my thoughts on the calendar I will say this: When one thinks about the calendar issues, think about the following: What was the calendar the Israelites were using just prior to the Exodus and why did God change it? My research leads me to an understanding that the answer to the first part of the question is the Israelites were using a three hundred and sixty day (yearly) calendar of the Egyptian comprised of twelve thirty-day months.
Response: I have heard and read other people’s conclusions as to what calendar the Egyptians were using. I remember one said they started the month when the moon was dark. Another said that they used a ten day week. I do not remember any that clearly laid out a list of primary sources upon which they based their conclusions. Furthermore, we cannot utterly prove that the Israelites did not maintain their own calendar while they were slaves in Egypt. Could this be possible? As evidence, I offer the strange things that exist in today’s calendars:
1) The names of our months and the days of our week correspond to pagan deities ancient leaders and incorrect counting systems that most people today know nothing about. Yet we maintain those traditions and almost nobody complains.
2) Most Christians have no idea how to calculate the dates for Easter, Lent or other “Christian” days, yet they observe them.
3) Many partially-observant Jews have no idea how to calculate Rosh Hoshana or Yom Kippur, yet they continue to observe them.
To me it does not seem unreasonable that the Israelites, living separate from the Egyptians, may have had a separate calendar from them. I do not have any proof either way.
Letter: Why then did God change the “beginning of months” from the fall to the spring? The answer to this would involve a discussion of one of my favorite “biblical” subjects—that of what is known commonly as “Joshua’s Long Day”. I think that God knew in advance that the length of the year was about to change and he wanted his people to have their beginning of months at such a time that there would never be any confusion (yet look at what we got!) as to when God’s appointed times were to be observed.When “Joshua’s Long Day” occurred, a necessary consequence of God’s seemingly causing the sun to stand still in the sky was that the orbit of the earth around the sun was affected and the length of the solar year increased by a little over five days.
Response: Hmmm. Lots of people believe that there was once a 360-day year—this comes from the 150 days that equal 5 months in Genesis 7 & 8 and the fact that the Egyptians divided the circle into 360 degrees. However, leaving Egypt was at least 40 years before Joshua’s long day. If there really were only 360 days in a year at that time and God gave them a new calendar then, the calendar would get away from the seasons by 210 days (40 years × 5.25 days/year). The seasons would be more than reversed during those 40 years. While it is possible that God made one calendar change when they came out of Egypt and another one at the time of Joshua’s Long Day, one can hardly say that the Bible proves this.
Also, I think it is important to say that we really do not know how God produced Joshua’s Long Day. God could have just slowed down the Earth’s rotation; He could have bent the light of the sun so that it reached the Earth on the night side; He could have caused time to slow down only on the Earth; He could have moved the Sun. The first three of these methods could have produced the desired effect without changing the orbit period of the Earth around the sun. While it is possible that Joshua’s long day involved a change in the Earth’s orbit, there seems no requirement that this be the case.
Letter: When these five days suddenly appeared “tacked on” at the end of their “regular year” (they actually show up between the constellation Aries and Virgo but wouldn’t have been readily apparent until the subsequent fall equinox).
Response: I do not understand this.
Letter: The Egyptians were astounded and they, the Egyptians, individually named them and commemorated them (my unpublished hypothesis). These five days are referred to as the epagomenal (spelling may not be correct here) days. Boornstein, in his book, The Discovers, talks about them in the very early part of his book, but he mistakenly identifies them as simply the names of five days of the week as the Egyptians had named them and states that two of the names for the seven days of the week had simply been lost. This is incorrect. The Egyptians never named the days of the week; they were always referred to by number. Thus the development of my thinking as to why they were so special to the Egyptians.
Response: This is very interesting; I have never heard it before. Certainly, if God did suddenly expand the length of a year by 5 days, almost any people who keep a calendar would notice it in just a few years. Spring (including the Spring Equinox) would appear to arrive 5.25 days later each year, catching the attention of farmer, seaman and scientist.
Letter: So, knowing what I know and believing as I do, I was truly astounded that so much time and energy had been spent (and apparently is still being spent) on this calendar issue. I must confess, too, that some of the discussion actually made me laugh.
Response: O.K., I’ll confess, too. I do get some laughs out of some of it, though most of the people who study it are very serious about trying to obey God.
Letter: For religious purposes, I am not certain God even wants us to follow a calendar! The “beginning of months” does not occur with a month named Abib following one or perhaps two months named Adar and Adar II. Rather, the first month of the year, for the Israelites coming out with the Exodus, was simply the month in which they could regularly expect abib (young tender green ears) to appear. Here in Michigan, you could look at it in a similar fashion. The “moonth” [sic] in which tulips bloom in Holland over by the Lake, is our month of May. It very well could have been designated the “month of blooming tulips” (as determined by the phases of the moon) instead of May and most people would still have known the proximate time period you were referring to. Compare this with “the month of tender green ears”. “Tender green ears” of barley do not determine the month. The time period in which “tender green ears” can usually be found in abundance (not simply first sighted) determines the “moonth” [sic] of Abib, not the reverse.
Response: While many writers are in agreement with you here, I certainly disagree. If is very clear to me that the Old Testament calendar was unified for the entire country. The High Priest went into the Holy of Holies once per year, not several times based upon when the barley was ripe in varying parts of Israel. Herb Solinsky is putting his finishing touches on a paper showing that the various stages of barley varied considerably throughout Egypt and Israel and that there was no consistent way that it could be used by everyone to begin the calendar year. I will send you Herb’s paper when it is ready.
Letter: What I find interesting, from a personal standpoint (and notice that I have not revealed [purposely] exactly what I believe, yet, although I am certainly willing to) is how in my practice of observing the holy days (especially Tabernacles) how the local weather always seems to cooperate even when tabernacles falls early and or when it falls late.
Response: Yes. I am grateful that God has blessed you with good weather for your Feasts. However, I have heard this claim made for Jewish Calendar Feasts, and the Feasts for a number of other calendar systems. Yet, I have never seen one scientific study where someone has charted their own Feast days or compared the Feast days of various calendar systems over a 20-year period and added up the total number of pleasant days from available weather records. (One could define a “pleasant day’ as one with less than .01 inches of rain and a wind-chill factor over 55°F—or however else one wanted to define it, as long as it was consistent.) However, this leads me to think of another question. When evaluating Calendar systems for “good weather”, one should attempt to determine if the whole world’s weather is always better during the Feast Days of a particular calendar system, or if God simply grants good weather in the particular places where people are keeping the Feast by that system. If you have ever seen any objective study like this, I would like to see it and maybe publish it.
Letter: Which brings me to a question for you: Do any or some COG followers stay outside in “booths” (sukkoths) during Tabernacles?
Response: A few do. Our Feast this year will feature a camp without central heat or plumbing in the cabins—a bit more like sukkoth than a motel room. But some of the brethren will probably want to stay in motel rooms.
Letter: And if not, why not? And if not, what is the basis of this doctrine?
Response: The WCG taught that sukkoth meant “temporary dwellings”. They emphasized the temporariness of it, not the humbleness of it. They would tell people who lived near a Feast site that they should either move to a motel or someone else’s house for the 8 days—to be in a temporary dwelling. They also taught that the Feast of Tabernacles pictured the Millennium, so everyone ought to live in a wealthy life-style like they will in the Millennium. While the Scriptures do not condemn these ideas, I do not think they are the main emphasis, either. I have explained my view of the Feast of Tabernacles in the Jan/Feb 2002 Servants’ News, page 1.
Letter: In an earlier e-mail to me, you asked a number of questions. I do not have that e-mail handy where I am right now, but let me answer one question I remember. When in high school, when I first started observing the “appointed” days, I would simply observe on the same day as my Jewish schoolmates would observe. I then learned by self-study and inspiration that sometimes this was correct and sometimes it wasn’t. The days the Jews observed were their New Year (our Trumpets), Yom Kippur (our Atonement), Tabernacles, Purim and Hanukkah, Passover (as the Feast of Unleavened Bread for either 7 or 8 days, depending on the person) and I think, that’s about it. I never did celebrate the rabbinical holidays (Purim, Hanukkah) and it wasn’t until later in life I understood that Passover was not the Sabbath.
Changing subjects, I expect to send you some money this week. Please let me know to whom to make the check to.
Response: Church Bible Teaching Ministry or a gift to Norman Edwards is fine.
Letter: Initially, I will simply send you some monies in my name to offset your expenses for what you send me. If I find that it becomes something more, my tithes and freewill offerings will be anonymous as I explained earlier. I want you to know up front that I have specific ideas as to what this is all about, too. One thing I decided early on was that the giver’s responsibility and the receiver’s responsibilities were totally separate in God’s eyes. Each had different obligations.
Response: The WCG and many other groups have taught this. Have you considered 2 Corinthians 8:14–22 where the Corinthians appoint a person to go with a financial gift to make sure that it is spent correctly? Paul commends them for doing that. Also, 2 John 1:7–11 says that we should learn to detect deceivers and not support them in what they do. I certainly agree that if a person accepts money in the name of God and does not do God’s work he will be held accountable in the Judgment. I doubt God will accept an argument like: “the givers knew what I was doing, or didn’t care what I was doing with the money they gave to God, so the waste was their fault, not mine.” If a person is accepting money to “do God’s work”, I believe they are responsible for doing what they understand to be right, not what will gather the most money. Some people would say that I am foolish for writing a long letter that partly disagrees with somebody who is trying to give me money, but people with that attitude are not spiritually mature enough to be accepting money for doing a ministry (1Tim 6:5).
However, I also see some responsibility on the part of the giver to give to something that God is doing. You seem to be very interested in knowing what I teach and how I operate before you send me anything and I think that is wise and good. I would guess that you would not consider giving to a ministry that sponsors Easter-egg hunts for children. And I would further guess that if you found out that a ministry that claimed to be Sabbatarian was secretly sponsoring Easter-egg hunts, you would stop giving to it. I think that is the way to do it. 1 Corinthians 3:10–15 shows that each person’s work will be “tried by fire”. If a person has primarily a gift of giving, and he gives to something that bears no fruit, what will be left when the fire comes? I do not think “good intentions” are the same as “good fruit”. Because so many people are willing to give to an organization that they know little about, a great many of them are phonies and keeping a large part of the money for themselves.
I do not think that a giver must prove that every cent of the money he gives is well-spent. He cannot prove that every word taught by a group is all truth. However, he can verify that the majority is good—and should. In other words, there must be tangible fruit. I will send my tract, The Gift of Giving.
Letter: Since what I will be sending you is neither a tithe nor a freewill offering in my eyes, you may consider it to be simply a quasi-payment in support of your work. No receipt is necessary.
Response: Thank you for helping us. We are able to continue our work, but at the expense of eating into investments of many years ago. At this point, we will probably not be able to help our children go to college, but we have prayed that God will make a path for them and I am convinced He can do more than “all the money in the world”.
Letter: I did subscribe to The Journal today. I learned a lot from digesting the two issues you passed along to me. Thank you again.
Response: Good. I think it is an excellent paper for diverse information.
Letter: Finally, I would like to ask you a question, as a sort of test of your thinking. I am not interested in church doctrine here, but your thoughts. And this may develop into an article by either you or me sometime in the future. “What do you think the purpose of removing leavening from the home prior to celebrating the Feast of Unleavened Bread is all about?”
Response: I have always understood leaven to represent sin (1Cor 5:6–7), and the Feast symbolizes putting out sin and taking in Christ, who is without sin. However, I have not made a thorough personal study and would be very interested in other biblical approaches.
Letter: As always, I know that you must have many demands on your time. Whatever and whenever you answer will be fine.
— Michael Zaeske, Kalamazoo, Michigan
Response: I am quite behind on my issues. But I am up late waiting for my wife to return from a trip and did not quite feel up to starting something new, so I am answering it soon.
Letter:June 12, 2000
Dear Mr. Edwards,
The first time I read that you would not want to trade places with Mr. Armstrong in the Judgment it didn’t sit well with me. And with other things you’ve printed or said about him, I thought, “what a shame?”
After reading the Ambassador Report on the net I can understand you and your Servants’ News. What I read made me sick. But my faith and what I believe has not changed. I know it was Mr. Armstrong who angered me enough to blow the dust off my Bible and prove all things 15 years ago and I haven’t stopped since. To put on paper all my feelings now isn’t possible.
Just wanted to let you know I don’t feel you are doing more harm than good anymore.
Response: Thank you for your honest opinion. I agree that Mr. Armstrong challenged a lot of people to study. I have also met people who were challenged to study by Billy Graham or other similar evangelists—who eventually ended up in a Sabbatarian congregation. It seems that God works as He wants and that we ought to be happy with however he worked with us. If we have emotional scars from the way God worked with us, then it seems that we ought to go to him about them and ask for healing. He should be very interested in healing difficulties caused largely by our lack of understanding at the time.
I also have to think about how my life might have been without God. Before committing my life to God, I did not value the friendship of others and was almost totally self-centered. I would have had to learn some lessons the hard way, or end up being a very lonely individual.
Letter: May 2, 2002
Are you familiar with this web site? www.home.datawest.net/esn-recovery
Have you read the OIU newsletters? Could the scenario they relate be true?
Response: The website you mentioned is for Exit and Support Network. I corresponded with Lin Stuhlman, who worked for them, several times in 1995– 1997. We shared some things in common, but had two largely different paths. She apparently intended to get anyone out of the WCG and major offshoots that she could. Doctrine seemed almost a non-issue to her, she did not mind people continuing to keep the Sabbath, Feast Days or other doctrines, but she did not seem to mind if they became mainstream Protestant either. I never experienced her trying to teach doctrines of her own. Also, I found her somewhat uninterested in determining if accusations against WCG leaders were actually true or not. A story against them seemed good enough for her, she did not seem to have much in the way of standards for evidence. She stopped getting SN in 1998 because she had not corresponded and did not respond to the postcard I sent her.
I have since read some of the OIU newsletters and found that their overall historical account is true, but they made a lot of assumptions about details and why people did certain things that are completely false. Some of the seminars they said were started to make a lot of money made almost none. Some of the people they accused of being involved in a conspiracy certainly were not—they were doing what they believed to be right.
Letter: Is there evidence to support the accusation that HWA was a communist and using WCG as a front for NWO agenda?
Response: By NWO, I assume you mean “New World Order”—a name applied to a group of wealthy people who are secretly trying to gain control of the world. I think I have seen enough evidence to believe that such a group exists, but I certainly do not believe everything thing that is written and said about them. Many of the people who claim to be exposing the New World Order seem more interested in selling books and tapes and gaining their own following than they are in painstakingly documenting facts. One person once wrote that I was part of the NWO because I encourage diverse Christian groups to work together. (I encourage individual believers and congregations to work together, but I am not part of any NWO. I am against the merging of denominations into a single church mega-hierarchy.)
Anyway, I have heard some accuse the WCG of being a NWO front. I have never seen any real evidence for it and certainly do not know of anyone who was close to HWA who believes it. HWA taught people to look to God and himself (“the Apostle”) instead of national governments. He preached the destruction of the main part of the civilized world and the need to flee to a place of safety, possibly in the face of persecution. He preached that the US & BC were Israel and responsible for setting a Godly example, and that people would need to resist “the mark of the Beast”—none of these doctrines sit well with NWO-types who want us to visualize a man-made “global community” with people who will do nice peaceful religious things and submit to their civil government.
I think HWA was originally serious about God, but after he got to be “important”, the power went to his own head. I cannot see what the NWO would have had to offer him. He had as much money as he could spend from his Church (did not need more). He was able to see world leaders on his own merits—he did his best to look and act like one of them, but he came demanding little and buying great gifts, so they continued to see him. I know workers who went on some trips with him—they say he preached his mild religious message, he did not talk about plans to take over the world when he saw leaders. HWA had the undivided loyalty and respect of thousands of people (WCG members)—that is something that few politicians have. I see no reason for HWA to work for outside money-powers, nor any evidence that he did. Of the many changes in teaching and church policy over the years, I do not see a NWO agenda, but a HWA agenda—doing what he needed to do to keep his work large and prestigious.
I can completely assure you that Rod Meredith is not working for the NWO. I was there when he got started and he did not have any outside help or money to do it—and he really could have used help. He was obviously concerned that his work might not survive. He did not know the computer/mailing aspect of running his work well at all. He openly admitted that he could not have started it without me in several sermon tapes. To his credit, I would also say that Rod Meredith was not the kind of skilled liar that a person needs to be in order to do a deceptive, NWO-style work—he would often “give himself away” and say what he was really thinking when he meant to be discreet.
I think if UCG, LCG, CGI and other groups were working for the NWO, they would not have all of these splits, problems with their boards, etc. These problems and the fighting among the groups have driven old members out and caused very few new members to come (this is what my Hierarchical Leader Letter articles are about). The actions of these splinter group leaders are what I would expect from men who are used to hierarchy (WCG) and who are trying to be the top man in charge. The NWO could not possibly be in favor of the thousands of members who are leaving the splinter groups for independent, unincorporated congregations responsible only to God.
Letter: Do you know if Stanley Radar is a 33rd degree Mason?
Response: I have heard people say this, but the problem with secret societies, such as the Masons, is that they are secret. They do not publish lists of their members or their goals and plans. Anyone could be a member and we might not know. Anyone can accuse anyone else of being a member, and we still don’t know. Public records show that Stanley Rader received a lot of money from the WCG. But he was a very private person and said little about his goals and plans to others. A few times, I remember him making statements that I regarded as intentionally misleading, such as saying that he really desired to be a local church pastor someday—he seemed to have little interest in getting to know the brethren, visiting the sick, teaching the Bible, etc. I think he was a brilliant man and very capable of carrying out a complex plan, but I have never heard any hard evidence that he was still leading the WCG or its offshoots after he officially left them. I’ve never heard of a meeting he attended with them, saw a paper he signed or even heard someone who left one of those groups say, “Stan Rader was still giving us orders”. Unless he discussed his plans with somebody who is willing to talk about them, I do not see how anyone will ever know what they were.
Letter: Even you have written that the UCG movement was planned as early as 1986. Can you back this up?
Response: I remember saying that major WCG doctrinal changes were planned in 1986. That information came from Doug Horchak. I have various emails and comments from individuals that said Vic Kubik and others were talking about a UCG-like group in the early 90’s, but I do not remember all the way back to 1986. Do you have a specific article in mind that I wrote?
If the UCG were some kind of NWO conspiracy, I am sure that only a few are involved. Its voting-type of government certainly leaves the door open for all of the old leaders to eventually be voted out. It makes little sense to me.
Letter: I feel silly even asking these questions, but I’m learning.
Response: I have asked them. I have learned that we are not responsible for knowing everything, but responsible for doing the right thing with what we know, and for continuing to try to learn—not to hide our eyes and say, “I’m comfortable, don’t tell me about that bad stuff and spoil my nice little environment.”
Letter: “Things are seldom as they seem Skim milk masquerades as cream” (from Gilbert & Sullivan).
Letter: Could the whole WCG experience have been an experiment in controlling the masses? I hope I’m way off base with this question.
— [name withheld], Florida
Response: Who had HWA start the Radio Church of God in 1934 and was then still continuing to work with it in 1986? Couldn’t the NWO have prevented the near-disastrous WCG receivership in 1979? If Stanley Rader worked for the NWO, why did the NWO let HWA fire him? Why couldn’t the NWO have kept the WCG going after 1986? They could have installed almost any WCG minister that would go along with HWA’s teaching, and the organization would have stayed together for years. Breaking it up caused more of those people to think and look to God for themselves than almost any other event.
We must also realize, that when anyone tries to secretly control anything, plans do not always go the way they would like, and there is often little that the “controller” can do to change anything. For example, I have seen good evidence that wealthy Europeans helped to fund the communist revolution in Russia. Yet, by the time Joseph Stalin consolidated his power, I believe he did whatever he wanted—he answered to nobody. On the other hand, I think there is evidence that Mikhail Gorbachev may well have sold out to wealthy international interests—he lives in the US now and openly works for world government.
I have seen much anti-NWO literature where they claim that nearly everything that happens is planned by the NWO and works out just like they plan. I don’t believe it. Satan certainly has a plan and is trying to carry it out, but he cannot go against what God is doing. I would think it is possible that some wealthy interests (the NWO, maybe) planned to break up the WCG because it was too big of a group that was too independent. However, I cannot prove that. The idea that someone is controlling all the major splinter groups is wrong. I have heard Joe Tkach, Jr. explain how he did not like the WCG and their rules when he was growing up as a boy. I believe he had other bad experiences with them as a young man. I think he was glad to simply undo what HWA did.
Ultimately, Satan is the master conspirator and he tries to get individuals from many groups to do his bidding. Sometimes they work together, sometimes they fight each other—Satan does not care as long has his purpose is accomplished. Satan tells his followers that God would have gotten rid of him long ago, but he cannot, so there will always be a struggle between Satan and God. Satan claims that if you join him, you can do whatever you can get away with, but to join God you have to obey His laws. That, of course, is one of Satan’s big lies. He still can only do what God will let him do. People who follow Satan suffer greatly at the hands of Satan and his demons, as well as sometimes receive punishments from God. The truth is, Satan and his followers are going to “lose it all” someday.
Unfortunately, there are far too many “conspiracy theorists” who do not diligently seek for facts, but who try to explain everything as a part of their particular “conspiracy theory”. So, if the WCG went bad, it “had to be” the New World Order that did it. Some of these theorists will actually say things like: “Have you ever missed some of a good sermon because somebody’s baby was crying? That baby probably had chemicals placed in his food by the NWO so he would cry so you couldn’t hear the sermon. Maybe the baby is even mind-controlled by the NWO to wet his diaper and cry on command!” While occasionally, some incredible-sounding things turn out to be true, there are many incredible sounding things that are just nonsense. Not to mention that this is a very expensive way to cause somebody to maybe miss a few minutes of a sermon.
Over the past few years I have come to see that we will be judged by what we do with what we know in this life, not by simply how much we know. I see a lot of people trying hard to understand current events, conspiracies, doctrines, prophecies, etc., but very few trying to serve and teach others—the things that we should be doing whether the end comes next week or next century.
It is not a mistake to study these things that you mention, but after a while you must ask “which of these things can I really prove?” “What difference do they make?” and “What does Christ really want me to accomplish with my life?” I have hundreds of books and articles in my files that prophesied or predicted some great event to occur within the next years—but these events did not happen as claimed. Their prophetic understanding, or their accurate inside knowledge of the NWO turned out not to be so good after all. I am just a lot more slow to accept somebody’s assertion now—especially when they seem to be collecting a following or selling their thinking. But on the other hand, I have read some well-prepared information, that has turned out to be true and has been a great help to me. I certainly do not always believe the TV news or what I read in the papers.
Letter: March 8, 2001
Dear Norman Edwards,
I have been receiving the Servants’ News for two or more years and enjoy it very much.
You have good insight and discernment in the articles you write and the response to letters that you answer.
The question that I have for you may not be worthy for the Servants’ News, which is okay, but I would appreciate a brief private response to the following Sabbath and Holy Day problem:
2001_______x Christ Return________x 1000 years________x eternity___________.
Out in eternity, will there be days, weeks, months, years, and centuries? Just like today? Will we always for eternity be keeping the Sabbath? Will we always for eternity be counting 50 days for Pentecost? Will we always for eternity be keeping the Passover, Atonement, Feast?
If the Sabbath and Holy Days are spiritual laws and cannot be broken or done away with, then for all eternity we will have to keep them. Is this true?
— Fred Brettell, Ohio.
Response: I hope that I will not upset anyone, but I think the answer to all of your questions is, “No”. All of the time elements you describe are a function of our Solar System. Our sun is using up its hydrogen, and in some number of billions of years it will no longer be able to function. Revelation 22:5 seems to address that problem: “There shall be no night there: They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever.” Exactly when and how this will come about I do not know. But if there are no nights, then it seems there would be no “days” either. Therefore, all of the countings of days that we do would no longer be meaningful. Jesus said: “For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled” (5:18).
So, does the fact that these laws may not be kept for all eternity mean that we do not need to keep them now? No. God has a specific purpose for us here now. Notice these two scriptures:
Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it… Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Gen 1:28; 2:24).
“For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels of God in heaven” (Matt 22:30).
If people throughout history had decided that they did not need to marry in this life because they would not marry in the resurrection, the population of earth would have died out and God’s plan would have come to an end. I believe that spiritual principles such as loving one’s neighbor as oneself are eternal. However, things designed to teach us and to deal with our present physical world may change.
I believe that God instructs us according to what is best for us and that He will show us the truth we need when we are ready. I will not try to outguess Him and pretend that I know more than He does about what is best for me.
Letter: Feb 27, 2002
I was reading your papers not chucking (throwing) them away. I just finished your latest ones. Do you recall me telling you (way back when) I was in the WCG for about 2 years and left just before the split? Was also with the SDA & left them, read booklets from PCG, GCG, LCG & checked out other COG`s web sites. They all claim to be the true church for one reason or another, be it they keep the 10 commandments to they have a prophet, keep the testimony of Jesus to a special message. I am tired of hearing it Jesus said I will build my church—those who accept Jesus as their saviour, been baptized, and have His holy Spirit are in His church. Some may never come to the full truth (as others may see it). My family still kept Christmas & if I had some from the WCG in my home they did their best to keep their eyes averted. If you look at a tree or a house with colored lights on it, will you face hell fire? Why do people live in such fear? I have nothing against your views and am in agreement with some of them. I can still check out your web site now and then (save you the cost of mailing your papers). The truth is I want to do my Bible studies for awhile with only the Holy Spirit’s guidance. Hey, wow, if I sound a little mean or what ever I don’t mean to. I used to travel to church with one guy. He forgot to get gas on Friday & got it on the way to church on Sabbath. Well says I, I thought you don`t believe in Sabbath work, why are you asking this man to pump and sell you gas? His answer! Well he is not saved anyway so it don`t make any difference. Give me a break eh. Guess I said enough, eh? Hear from you soon? The Lord Bless and Keep you.
— Robert, Nova Scotia, Canada
Response: May God bless you in your studies, and provide you with fellowship with brethren of His choosing.