Servants' News

June 1998

Letters and Responses

We print a representative sampling of our mail—both positive and negative. We do not include names unless we are fairly sure that the writer would not object. To avoid any difficulty, writers should specify how much of their name and address they would like us to print.

We include our response to each letter in this type-style. We have selected a title for each letter for easy reference. If writers supply their own title, we will be happy to use it.

 

Spread Gospel—Run Local Ads

Letter: June 8, 1998

Dear Brethren:

Thank you for the article (page 6 of the Mar/Apr 1998 Servants’ News) regarding the local effort to spread the gospel here in northwest Indiana. Donna and George McCammon are instrumental in the effort as they send all the booklets out. In case any brethren want to know, Tom Justus in Springdale, Arkansas created and printed the small booklets.

An update: We have received a total of 15 responses to the ad. Four of the responses were from Knox, Indiana, where we have discovered a small non-affiliated Sabbath keeping organization. We are very excited about these new (to us) brethren. They wrote in for the booklets because they wanted to know who else believed Christ was resurrected on the Sabbath. They do keep the Passover on Nisan 14. Donna McCammon visited them last Sabbath and we hope to continue communicating with them.

I am very excited to see "Shelter in the Word" and will offer these articles to all the people who wrote in for booklets. Keep up the good work!!

— Carolynn Landgrebe, Indiana

Response: Thank you very much. I believe it is efforts like yours that will eventually spread the Gospel nearly everywhere. By this, I do not mean that everyone must run ads in a paper, I mean that everyone should reach out in love and service to others, in whichever way Christ leads them. If the new group you found allows others to comment and participate, it might make sense for a few of you (possible all of you) to stop meeting where you are and join their group for a while (if they will accept that). That may sound radical, but if we think of the ministry of Jesus and Paul, that is exactly what they did. They never built the "Synagogue of Jesus" or "The church of Paul" and then mounted a campaign to get others to come to it. Most of the records we have are of them traveling to existing synagogues and groups and then speaking to them.

Several times while I worked for the Global Church of God, we received contacts like yours, from small groups of Sabbath keeping brethren. They usually liked the GCG literature, but they did not want to disband their local meetings, drive fifty miles to the nearest GCG group, and send "tithes" to a distant headquarters where they knew nobody. So the relationship ended. How can these little groups ever come to believe that God works only through one human organization, when they have learned so many truths directly from the Bible and Christ?

But independent local groups, and non-controlling national (or international) organizations are able to work with these little groups that the Eternal is calling directly. Let us do it with zeal!

— NSE

 

Sabbath School Lessons & Bickering

Letter: June 10, 1998

To the Ministers of Servants’ News:

I once read somewhere that there was children’s Bible stories available through your work. I believe Ron Dart was in charge of them. I would like to have some sent to my granddaughter for her children: [address deleted].

I think one of the greatest mistakes Mr. Armstrong made was not providing a Sabbath school study for the children in his work and church.

I receive your Servants’ News but I believe the "nit picking", backbiting gossip of the other churches and ministers should be stopped. I’m sure according to the Bible it is not pleasing to God to be printing all of those mistakes they make. Forget the sins of others. Let’s have more on studies and lessons of the Bible. [personal request deleted].

— NB, Illinois

Response: At this time, we are not offering Ron Dart’s Sabbath School Lessons, but you may contact him directly at Christian Educational Ministries, PO Box 560, Whitehouse, TX 75791, Tel: 903-509-2999, Fax:903-509-1139, e-mail: cem@ballistic.com.

We do not enjoy printing sins and mistakes of others, but much of the Bible is lessons and mistakes of others! We print what we believe are the doctrinal mistakes and flagrant sins of those teaching others today, in order to help others understand where they should assemble, and what evangelistic efforts they should support. Nearly all of the historical books of the Old Testament are about what people did—and the majority of those things were mistakes. Of the 40 kings of Israel and Judah, the scriptures have something good to say about only a few of them. Many passages of the New Testament are warnings about evil plans, false teachers and false teachings. Sometimes, names of specific sinners are mentioned (Matt 7:15-27; 28:11-15; Acts 8:9-23; 24:25-27; 1Cor 5:1-6; 1Tim 1:18-20; 2Tim 2:16-18; 2Tim 4:10, 14-15; 2Pet 2:1-22; 3Jn 9-10; Jude 3-23; Rev 2 & 3). There are many other scriptures about church problems, but the above should be enough to understand the idea.

— NSE

 

Real Heresies Among Us

Letter: May 27, 1998

Dear Marleen and Norm,

[Personal paragraph omitted.]

Satan certainly has been busy among the brethren, deceiving some to believe Jesus was just an ordinary man, not our Savior, some "other" will save mankind, the New Testament was not written by the apostles, that it is not valid or inspired by God, only the Old Testament is inspired and possibly only Moses’ books and on and on.

We certainly need to pray without ceasing, about these matters and seek God’s constant guidance. I hope you are well and thriving.

— CM, California

Response: We have heard someone teach all of the heresies that you have mentioned. We think it is interesting to note the nature of people who tend to get caught up in these heresies. Is it people who have obvious sins and want to disprove most of the Bible so that they will not be convicted of sin? No! It is usually people who live fairly good human lives—they feel good enough about themselves that they think that they really do not need a Savior or the Holy Spirit to dwell in them. They feel "knowledgeable and skillful" enough in "explaining the law" so that they can explain away anything they do as righteousness. They are also "knowledgeable and skillful" enough to find "errors" in the New Testament, and maybe even some in the old. It has been my experience that things seem to go very well (physically) speaking when people depart from Jesus—for a while. Then, if they continue in this thinking for a few years, their entire lives come apart. They have left their Savior and lost His Spirit—their human reason, good as it may be, can no longer carry them.

The nature of man is explained in the first five books of the Bible: "...although the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth..." (Gen 8:21). The coming of a Messiah was also clearly prophesied: "I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him. And it shall be that whoever will not hear My words, which He speaks in My name, I will require it of him" (Deut 18:18-19). Acts 3:19-26 clearly explains that Jesus (Yeshua) fulfilled this prophecy. To doubt these and many similar scriptures is to say that the entire New Testament is a clever hoax.

To my knowledge, there is not one ancient document that supports the "hoax theory". If the New Testament books were not written by whom they claim to be written by (or who they are traditionally attributed to), why do we not find at least one writing of a Roman, Jew, or some other enemy of the Christians exposing when and how these "phony" books were supposedly "concocted"? The truth is we have numerous writings from the enemies of the Christians during the second and third centuries. We have records of efforts to dissuade Christians from their religion. But the argument that "all of your writings are fake" is never brought up. Does anyone believe that the Eternal caused many hundreds of ancient New Testament manuscripts to be preserved, but no manuscripts documenting the "New Testament hoax theory" to be preserved, and yet He expects everyone to reject the New Testament and accept the "hoax theory"? I, for one, do not!

— NSE

 

Computer 2000 Problem Article

Letter: February 20, 1998

Dear Norman,

Your article about the computer problems in Year 2000 is so well written, I’ve read it twice (Dec 1997 issue). Hope many people will take time to read it. Thanks for telling us how to prepare for the hardship that will come. Could you do a print-out of the article by itself for us to hand-out to others?

[Literature request omitted.] Thanks so much for your service.

— Mildred Barnette, Georgia

 

Response: As soon as we finish the update to How Does the Eternal Govern Through Humans? we will work on a separate booklet about the year 2000 problems and how to prepare. We intend to write this booklet for people with no Church of God experience. We feel it is an excellent opportunity to preach the Gospel to others—to show that our nations are greedy and not obeying the Eternal, and that He promises a punishment for doing this.

Judging from recent progress reports, it looks like many industries and governments will not be ready. As one commentator pointed out, even if the USA was perfectly ready for the year 2000, failure of international trade and military takeovers in other countries are likely to throw the world into chaos. Most other countries are far behind the USA. The possibility that even in the USA a state of emergency will be declared and martial law will be imposed is very real. The constitution does provide for a state of emergency and numerous regulations for implementing it have already been written. While this may sound overly dramatic, if the Federal Government is unable to collect taxes, they could choose this approach rather than passing a very simple, emergency tax bill. In February of this year, Arthur Gross, the man in charge of year-2000 compliance for the IRS resigned. In a search for his replacement, the IRScommissioner stated "Mr. Gross’s successor will face the biggest technology management challenge in the world." There are about 550 days left before January 1, 2000. Companies with much simpler computer systems have taken much longer than that to become year-2000 compliant.

— NSE

 

Gospel Preaching and Year 2000

Letter: May 27, 1998

Norm,

Thanks for your article in the Servants’ News that I received today! Well done! Yours is a fair assessment of all the major off-shoots, their leadership and direction. I especially liked the last few paragraphs reminding the reader of HWA’s determination to know the scripture to the very best of his ability, and to teach others who had no knowledge of the Sabbath and other scriptural truths. It is a stark contrast to those who today are working hard to scavenge the remnants of the WCG, concerned more with authority than with service. Regardless of what HWA was or was not, none can deny his tireless devotion to teaching his message, based upon thousands of hours devoted to learning God’s word. Where do we stand when compared to his example of tireless devotion to what he believed? (The person writing this sure falls short!) Can we agree that "if you teach it [God’s truth], they [who earnestly desire to hear] will come"? I hope so.

Also, I appreciate the well-balanced article on the Y2K problem in the [Dec 1997] issue. I expect we will see some very high-profile failures, lasting days, weeks or months, depending on the situation. Those companies/organizations depending on reverting to an all-paper system in the interim will be swamped with paperwork to the extent that they don’t survive, especially if they have competitors who had the foresight to be prepared. The state of the U.S. Government Agencies and the Electric Utilities, not to mention the questionable readiness of the European nations (also absorbing the reprogramming to include the "euro") as well as that of third-world countries is of major concern. There are several web sites with some very good information—www.year2000.com is one—helping to show the nature and extent of the dilemma. Compuserve has a Year 2000 forum accessible on the web from the Compuserve home page. (One can view, but not post, without a membership.)

Regards,

— "Random Axe"

Response: Thanks for your encouragement. This is very significant coming from someone with your background—one who has worked with ministries as well as run a large a large successful business.

— NSE

 

Unusual Year 2000 Problems

Letter: June 13, 1998

I just found the first (and creepiest) instance where the year 2000 crisis is not just a digital problem, but a very "analog" one, as well. It seems that the burial industry (or whatever you call it) is faced with an oversupply of headstones pre-carved with a “19” prefix.

This is pretty much out of my league, but apparently it’s common to preorder your tombstone, specify an inscription, and then leave a space blank for the actual date. Because it’s cheaper to pre-carve (who knew?), people add the "19" prefix and then leave the remaining part of the date for loved ones to fill in.

The companies responsible for holding onto these pre-carved tombstones have started worrying that they’ll have a lot of useless “19”grave markers unless an awful lot of people, pardon the crassness, drop dead over the next year and a half. One company is experimenting with a cement like paste to fill in the number “19” and has had results buffing the stone to hide the error, while others are experimenting with brass plates that fit over the “19”.

I find this particularly fascinating from an archaeological viewpoint, because centuries from now, archaeologist will wonder what the mystery brass plate meant on some of our markers. Were we hiding dates? Did some people in our culture die twice? Was brass plating a sign of nobility? Or poverty? Anyway, you get the idea, and I’ve obviously had way too much coffee, but I think this one helps us keep our perspective.

Of course, the truly dark and morbidly missing link in all of this is the opportunity to buy them up wholesale and offer them up to the poor data managers who can’t face another day struggling with the digital year 2000 crisis (couldn’t resist!).

— John (e-mail)

Response: The headstone problem will probably resolve itself in a true free-enterprise manner. Somebody will find a very good way to repair or cover the stones, so they will not be wasted. Also, repaired stones will sell at a discount compared to new, properly etched "2000" stones. (And some shysters will probably try to sell repaired stones as "2000" stones to unsuspecting customers.)

But the idea that someone might try to use those "19" stones before the year 2000 does give us pause for thought. Many smaller countries are loaded with military hardware that they obtained inexpensively when they were "friends" with a superpower. But when small countries want to attack their neighbors, they often have to greatly distance their relationship with superpower lest the superpower pressure them not to attack. Realizing that they may not have the ability to repair or reprogram military hardware that is not year-2000 compliant, will some nations decide to attack their enemies before 2000 arrives? From an evil military perspective, it makes a lot more sense to expend one’s military hardware against an enemy than it does to see it become useless due to a computer bug. Could many people die in such a war? Yes! But is not this a good time to buy headstones?

We need to realize that the Earth contains many evil men. Should we fear them? No! But, all of us need to learn to have a much greater faith in our Father in Heaven, and to realize that our existence here can be very temporary.

— NSE

 

Organization Affiliation Addict

Letter: May 30,1998

It has been about 42 months (or 1,260 to 1,335 days, or about 3½ years) since we finally left WCG. Although it was good that we "came out of her", it has not been a "place of safety" out here. After affiliation with GCG, UCG, PCG, CGG, and now various splinters, our issues that we focus on have changed somewhat in their priority. I have just finished your June 1995 article on "How Does the Eternal Govern Through Humans?" There is a paradox in my writing this to you.

I want to ask about your personal church history, and the history of the Servants’ News organization. Does my wanting to ask this indicate that I have been an organization-addicted churchie since 1969? I am not trying to corner you with the question—it is a question that I am honestly asking myself. As stated above, the priority of issues has changed with each affiliation change since January, 1995. The new #1 question now seems to be: should we even look for any particular organization? It seems paradoxical to ask you, considering your article which points out the importance of "Attitude not Form". Hopefully, I can learn more about a "Messiah-centered" organization from your "Assembling on the Sabbath" article.

Nevertheless, if you do have information of how you started, and how the Servants’ News is organized, it would help this "Organization Affiliation Addict". Perhaps it can lead to a cure.

— Ted M. I. McCord
UKZC41B@prodigy.com

Response: Your questions are fair. I graduated from Ambassador College in 1978, and worked for the Worldwide Church of God in various technical areas until 1992. Toward the end of my stay in the WCG, I witnessed many events that convinced me that people within that organization, all the way up to the top, were dealing dishonestly and that the Eternal was no longer using it in the same way. I began to study my Bible and really see that false doctrines were being preached.

I quit my WCG job to help Rod Meredith start the GCG. I felt that the Eternal was testing everyone to see if they would leave one corporation to go where the true doctrines were being preached. It was 6 weeks before he was able to pay me. When Meredith began, there were no full-time WCG ministers with him. He had faith that the Eternal would take care of him and supply what he needed, and it worked out. He admitted a number of errors in the way he had dealt with church government in the past. But as several long-time WCG ministers began to join him, it became largely back to the same old church government "business as usual".

As I continued to study the Bible, I realized that there were questions that Rod Meredith and other long-time WCG evangelists could not answer—especially in the areas of government, the Passover, etc. Also, Mr. Meredith admitted on more than one occasion that he simply did not have time for major study in some of these areas. Of course I, as a GCG board member, was expected to speak the "party line" on all doctrines. After about a year in the GCG, I began to realize that if I were going to be able to grow in understanding and share with others, that I would have to stop working for the GCG. Yet, I did not have any idea where I should fellowship, except with Church-of-God organizations. I quit working for the GCG after two years, late in 1994. For more information on this part of my life, you may write for our package on our relationship with the Global Church of God.

After that, I decided to start Servant’s News, as a publication to share sincere information and study. Soon, I was able to study and write my paper, How Does the Eternal Govern Through Humans? At that point I began to realize how far away WCG-style church government was from the Bible. I also began to realize that the Eternal did not break up the WCG in order to create a dozen or more much weaker, look-alike organizations somewhere else. If God really wanted us to learn hierarchical government—that he rules top-down through human organizations—would he do it by placing corrupt men at the top? Would He then have dozens of others claim they are Armstrong’s successor, apparently none of which have shown great faith or other spiritual gifts?

What I believe the Eternal has done is allow many to learn from HWA’s diligent job of teaching, but that HWA seems much like Solomon—his desire for riches and possibly women took him away from his job. The Eternal allowed his way to go on so that we could see the fruit and dangers of human hierarchies: we can see how many ministers simply followed whoever would pay them—how few stood up for what they understood to be truth. Now, the Eternal has many people all over the Earth who are trained in much truth, but who will never be tempted to start an organization where people look to a man in place of Christ or the Scripture.

Today, Servants’ News goals are much the same as stated in its original issue, three years ago. I have learned a lot along the way: Bible teaching, and how to ask for things from God and how to listen to Him. I realized that I did not want to incorporate or apply for IRS tax exemption. In 1996, we moved to Michigan where George and Pam Dewey now help us. They had seen the error of the WCG government back in 1978. We have visited a great many congregations and talked to a great many people. The vast majority of people whom I have met who are spiritually at peace with the events in the WCG during the past 10 years are people who have a view similar to mine. We can talk to others in any group and not be upset with what we hear. We can learn from them. Most people who believe they must stay in a certain group simply do not want to talk about how they know that their leader and group is the right one. I have had only a very few people spend any length of time trying to convince me that I should join their group. And once I began asking them questions about their group, they usually did not want to talk about it any more.

While being at peace and being able to answer questions is not a proof of truth, "uptight people" who cannot explain their belief are a good indication that error was present. Think about it. If a person believes that they must follow a certain leader for salvation, but that person cannot easily explain to anyone who might ask exactly why they must follow, are not they putting faith in that man, rather than in the Eternal? Can they afford to be uncertain of their belief on such a critical point?

There are statements in the Bible that tell us to cooperate with the leaders whom the Eternal sets up. But there is no command anywhere to follow a human leader when he is doing something contrary to our understanding of Scripture. Even children are told to obey their parents "in the Lord" (Eph 6:1). Now if we try to twist the meaning of Scripture to suit what we want to do, we bring judgment upon ourselves (2Pet 3:16). But if we are obeying the Eternal in real faith, we do not have to worry what men tell us (Rom 14:23, Acts 5:29).

— NSE

 

Question on 1 John 2:27

Letter: Sept. 7, 1997

Pam and Norm,

I have a question about 1John 2:27. Recently I heard a minister (whom we all regard highly) in a sermon explain 1John 2:27 as "no need to be taught by anyone other than those who are of the body of Christ and of the same spirit. There obviously is a need for us to teach each other."

Is this what this verse says to you? To me it says that the Holy Spirit will teach me all things, and is truth.

Am I missing the understanding of the scripture?

— DW, Ohio

Response: The verse confuses many people. Some think it says that no believer ever needs to listen to any teacher because they will be taught everything they need to know directly by the Holy Spirit. Others look at this scripture, then immediately show the other scriptures about the need to assemble together, the need for teachers in Christ’s body, etc. They use the overwhelming evidence of the many other scriptures about teaching to sort of dismiss this scripture. The best way to understand this scripture is to read it in context. We offer the following excerpt from 1 John 2:

18 Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour. 19They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us. 20But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things. 21I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and that no lie is of the truth. 26 These things I have written to you concerning those who try to deceive you. 27 But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him.

John was not advising them to get rid of all teachers, but telling them that they should leave false teachers. Verses 22-25 give the nature of the specific heresy in question, but the overall principle here is that believers with the Holy Spirit will learn more on their own than they will from recognized teachers who are teaching error. Revelation 2:2 shows that there were some who claimed to be apostles, but were found by the brethren to be liars. The question our brethren must face today is: "How do we know when a teacher is ‘false enough’ to leave?" In this case, John was dealing with people who no longer taught that Jesus (Yeshua) was the Messiah. We must obviously depart from people who teach or insist that we practice major heresies like this. But if there are no major heresies, then we need to look for works and fruits (Matt 7:15-20, 2:Cor 12:12; Gal 5:22-23). We need to be careful not to simply let the teacher claim that he has great works and fruits, but we need to really see them!

— NSE

 

COG Divisions Hindering Growth

Letter: June 6, 1998

Greetings!

Would you please send me your free subscription of Shelter in the Word.

I am so pleased to find out about this publication. I have been blessed in that God has been using me to "plant seeds". And while "planting" I’ve passed out many booklets that I had accumulated over the years from CGI and UCG-AIA. The problem with that is eventually you’re faced with explaining the what, how and why of "splits", "spin-offs" and disarray of the COG. No "spiritual Babe" should have to endure this "spiritual indigestion"!

God Bless You!

— David Martel, Oregon

Response: We agree. We do not believe that significant evangelism will be possible until the various Sabbatarian groups can freely acknowledge other groups to outsiders and admit that there is very little difference between themselves and others.

— NSE

 

The Scattering Produces Blessings

Letter: January 10, 1998

Dear Servants’ News,

Many miracles have been performed behind the scenes bringing people together since the scattering of the large corporate churches. Jesus Christ can gather his flock to Himself and to one another without men even being aware of it.

Look at all the grass roots efforts trying to serve others, research, study papers, newsletters, etc. Believers who left the large corporate churches 20 years ago are coming out of isolation, and sharing insights and communications. Avenues to reach people are spreading out more than some realize—newsletters, tapes, videos, letters, seminars, etc. We all have the same goal: to grow in the maturity of Christ.

John 17:20: "I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word".

Their word is still going out. The Bible has recorded the words of the apostles and their eyewitness accounts. Let’s not limit "those who will believe". Let’s leave that to our Creator.

While some groups are isolated by choice, it is unfair to say that all the independent groups are uninterested in cooperation. Actually, there is much communication between the interdependent groups, and I find it amazing the similar growth patterns and beliefs of the many scattered who have never even heard of one another. Let’s praise Jesus Christ who is keeping tabs on all of it and guiding the whole process!

— Michigan

Response: Amen!

— NSE

 

What are the Nephilim (Giants)?

Letter: June 11, 1998

What is your answer to Genesis 6 regarding the Nephilim (giants). Some people, like Dankenbring, and others are purporting this is the answer to our UFOs and other problems. What is your answer to this.

Can demons take on human form like their angelic counterparts and repopulate themselves with females? Or is this absolutely preposterous?

— James P. (e-mail)

Response: There are many scriptures, and we have written many articles about how we will be judged for what we do in this life. We cannot think of any scriptures that indicate we will be judged on knowing the answers to these kinds of questions. While the scriptures do say "my people are destroyed for lack of knowledge", we cannot think of one person who has suffered for lack of this kind of knowledge. (If you, or any of our readers know of someone who suffered or perished because he did not know about the Nephilim, please let us know.)

On the other hand, we can think of many people whose lives deteriorated because they spent much time studying such issues when their own lives, or the lives of their families and friends, were in desperate need of real spiritual help.

Nevertheless, we are told to live by "every word that proceeds from the mouth of God", so we should not ignore this scripture. But do we want an answer out of the mouth of God, or do we just want an answer?

The Hebrew "Nephilim" appears in Gen 6:4 and Numbers 13:33, and is translated "giants" in the KJV and NKJV. Most modern Bible versions simply say "Nephilim" as the meaning of the word is not certain. However, "giants" seems to be a reasonable translation, as Numbers 13:32-33 makes it clear that these people were taller. However, the comparison made by the Israelites of themselves as grasshoppers in their sight is clearly an exaggeration—a person is 50 to 100 times taller than a grass-hopper—there were never any people who were hundreds of feet tall.

All I really know about these verses is what the Bible says. The Nephilim were "mighty men" and that they were tall. Does the expression "sons of God" refer to some kind of spirit being? This exact Hebrew phrase is used in Genesis 6:2,4 and Job 1:6 and 2:1). In Job, it definitely appears to be referring to spirit beings. However, there are very similar expressions found elsewhere:

You [the Israelites] are sons of the LORD your God... (Deut 14:1, RSV or NASB).

...Bring My [the Eternal’s] sons from afar, And My daughters from the ends of the earth (Isa 43:6).

Yet the number of the children of Israel Shall be as the sand of the sea, Which cannot be measured or numbered. And it shall come to pass In the place where it was said to them, "You are not My people," There it shall be said to them, "You are sons of the living God" (Hos 1:10).

From studying the language of Genesis 6:4, I think it is possible that it refers to spirit beings, but from studying the meaning of the rest of the Bible, it seems like they were men—the Bible gives no clear explanation of a race or group of people that are partly spirit beings. On the other hand, the Bible does not clearly state that such a thing is impossible. The three verses above indicate that the "sons of God" might refer to people who followed the Eternal—so the "daughters of men" might refer to people who did not. But in all of this, if the Word of the Eternal does not clearly say, then we do not clearly know.

To speculate about such things is largely harmless. To make dogmatic statements about UFOs or half-human/half-demon creatures without clear Biblical proof or a revelation from the Eternal is a big mistake. Nevertheless, religious teachers through the ages have gained followings by claiming to understand difficult scriptures—even though there was no way to prove that their interpretation was correct. Some will also cite apocryphal books that claim to explain these events, but these same apocryphal books contain statements clearly in opposition to the Bible and almost no one accepts them as totally reliable.

If it were important to me to understand exactly who these "sons of God" were, I would pray, fast, and seek an answer from the Eternal. But I do not think I will do it any time soon. There are too many other pressing needs to ask about. I feel that understanding scriptures to help the personal lives of myself and others are much more important. Understanding how to preach the Gospel to others is more important. Yes, even physically preparing to be ready for difficulty caused by year-2000 computer crashes is more important.

I think your question is a reasonable one, but my "I do not know for sure" answer needs to be considered in light of the important events facing us in the near future.

— NSE

 

How to Keep the Feast?

Letter: June 21, 1998

Dear Mr Edwards,

Concerning the Feast of Tabernacles I am really unclear on what is the right or wrong thing to do.

1. Some people in the church don’t even observe this feast, not sure why.

2. Some go to the services, but stay close to home so they go home every night.

3. Majority will go to services and stay in temporary dwellings for the duration.

4. Then there is those that only go on the holy days and work the rest of the days in between. This is so confusing to me since I haven’t been in the church but 3 yrs. What does the Bible say we should do?

I do know the Bible says you shall go where He (God) puts his name. Well where is that? There is a Feast site everywhere! I sure would appreciate any information on this to help me serve God the way he truly wants me to.

Thank you for all your help.

— C. (e-mail)

Response: The reason you are having such trouble is because the Bible is not specific about how to keep the Feast, especially without sacrifices and a temple.

We are told in three different places that we should assemble together three times a year (Ex 23:14-17; Ex 34:22-24; Deut 16:16-17). If we read other scriptures about what to do on the Feasts, we find they are mostly about how many and what kind of animals to sacrifice (Lev 16; 23; Num 28; 29). There are commands for assemblies on most of the holy days.

Obviously, there are specific things to do on the Passover night, we put out leaven during the Days of Unleavened Bread and fast on the Day of Atonement. The law was to be read at the Feast of Tabernacles every seven years (Deut 31:10-11)—some groups today have actually done this latter point. Also, during the Feast of Tabernacles, the Israelites were told to live in Sukkoth (Hebrew) which means a primitive shelter, either a tent or a lean-to.

When the Jews were sent into captivity, they began to keep the Feasts locally, without sacrifices. They had no great section of scripture to guide them, they just did the best that they could in captivity. They built symbolic "Sukkoth" during the Feast of Tabernacles and ate meals in them, they did not need a real building since they were not journeying and did not need a place to stay. When the Jews again had a presence in Israel, diligent Jews in the dispersion would try to get to Jerusalem for a Feast whenever they could. Very few could afford to travel there three times a year.

There is no long discourse about keeping the Feasts in the New Testament, but it is clear that the believers did it and seemed to follow the Jewish lead of meeting locally. Paul went to Jerusalem for some Feasts, but he never encouraged other brethren to do it en masse, nor does there appear to be any records of others doing it. Gentile believers would not be welcome to take part in the Temple sacrifices, anyway.

The Worldwide Church of God once attempted to get their members in the USA together for both the Days of Unleavened Bread and the Feast of Tabernacles. As they found that this was nearly impossible for many brethren, they dropped their central Days of Unleavened Bread meeting, and tended just to combine services for several local congregations. Pentecost was always handled this way, too.

Are there clear scriptures that show God’s people need to get together for the Fall Feast but not the Spring or Summer? Are there scriptures that prescribe our traditional format of fancy motels and restaurants, half-days of sermons, and half-days and nights of entertainment? Are there verses that tell us how far we need to leave our homes and how many days? Are there verses that tell us how to determine where the Eternal has "placed his name"?

The answer to all of the above questions is "no".

The only justification that most groups give for their Feast practices is "church authority". Many people have a tendency to believe that their church group’s Feast practices are "right out of the Bible", but that simply is not so. Today, there are many groups with many Feast sites, and what happens at these sites varies greatly. Some sites simply view taped messages of sermons by the group’s one or few "top leaders". Others hear from a variety of live speakers. Some expect everyone to take an active part so that all may learn. Some sites emphasize their entertainment potential, others emphasize bringing the brethren closer in a sort of spiritual family reunion.

Obviously, it is not sensible for each person to study the scripture and organize their own feast site according to their own interpretation. There would be no assembling together if there were as many sites as believers. On the other hand, there may be people who have the gift for organizing Feast sites, who should be doing it! So if you believe you should be organizing a site, do it. But if not, which site we will attend is another decision we have to make—just like where will we work, whom will we marry, etc. The choices are vast and we have to pray for the Eternal’s will in our life. If He clearly shows us, we take His choice, and if not, we make the best decision we can.

Where has the Eternal placed his name? I once heard a big church organization strongly warn an independent believer against "going where the Eternal has not placed his name". I am sorry if I destroy anyone’s cherished belief, but I have talked to many directors of Feasts for the various church organizations and not a one of them could remember an instance where the location of a Feast site was chosen in some miraculous way. No city name ever miraculously appeared on someone’s desk or chalk board. No one ever put a bunch of city names in a box, drew a few out, and then held Feasts in those cities. As far as I know, every Feast site was always chosen by people looking for affordable, available facilities in a city where they believed brethren would want to attend. I have never heard anyone attempt to prove from the scripture why they have any more authority than anyone else to "place the Eternal’s name" somewhere. (The only argument ever used is one of the church authority of a particular organization—that their church has the right doctrines or the "biggest work" and therefore has the right to speak for God in matters of Feast sites, doctrines, ministerial control, etc. etc.)

The truth of the matter: "For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them" (Matt 18:20).

We hope that you will be able to choose a Feast site where you can learn as well as serve others. We hope you will try to attend as many days as you can, rather than as few. If you want to be as literal with scriptures as possible, stay in a tent, cabin or maybe an RV? But if you are not going to do that, we see little difference whether you stay in a motel or home. The Hebrew "Sukkoth" never seems to mean either one of those. However, it is our understanding that the main point of the Feast should be praising the Eternal and fellowshipping with other believers. Recent history has shown us that the results of fall Feast-keeping have been good. Most people look forward to it all year, and come back spiritually refreshed. A great many long-time friendships and marriages of brethren have begun at the Feast.

Have a wonderful Feast this year!

— NSE

 

Feasts Should Be Kept Locally

Letter: November 30, 1997

Dear Norman and all at SN,

I came across this paper that I scribbled some thoughts on probably a year ago. It is incomplete no doubt but, I think the 2 points I bring out are important and should be looked at/thought about. I believe the early churches kept all the Feasts in their local areas. I believe the Bible proves this. The Churches today continue a practice Mr. Armstrong instituted—not God. It doesn’t make sense to travel out of our local areas for Tabernacles, but not for UB and Pentecost. Either we pilgrimage for all three or keep them all locally.

And I know point 2 is a hard one for the Churches of God (Armstrongites) to swallow but I believe the Bible proves that Christ comes for his own on Pentecost and that we return with him when he comes to claim His Kingdom. Of course we don’t sit around heaven forever on clouds like so many protestants believe but scriptures in Revelation show the saints in heaven and returning with Christ. (at least some of the firstfruits). The Protestants have some good ideas and some bad. The Kingdom definitely comes to earth though.

I would very much like these points to be brought out in SN and would like to know what others think.

 

[Copy of attached paper follows]

I have been thinking about the Holy Days for quite some time now and would like to share my thoughts with the brethren.

The Days of Unleavened Bread, Pentecost and Feast of Tabernacles were "all" pilgrimage Feasts to Jerusalem. Passover/Unleavened Bread was 8 days long the same as Tabernacles. People didn’t journey all the way to Jerusalem, stay for Passover and the first high day, then journey home only to come back for the last High day. Christ told the Samaritan woman (John 4:21-23) that a time was coming (70 AD) and has now come when true worshippers would not worship in Jerusalem but in spirit and in truth.

If Passover/Unleavened Bread and Pentecost can be kept in local church areas then so can the Feast of Tabernacles. According to Acts 20:6, Paul, Luke and some others sailed from "Philippi" after the Days of Unleavened Bread, therefore they must not have been in Jerusalem although the temple worship was still there. Paul says in Galatians 1:18 that he didn’t go up to Jerusalem until 3 years after his conversion and in Gal 2:1 he says he went up again to Jerusalem 14 years after that. When Christ said, "a time is coming and now is…" he meant in 70 AD the temple worship would be taken away from the Jews, but it was already eliminated for true believers. If one is a pilgrimage Feast then so are the other two. If two can be kept locally then so can the third. In the past, in the WCG, I don’t think we ever kept the true meaning of the Holy Days and especially Tabernacles. I don’t think God meant for us to get used to living like Kings. The temporary dwellings remind us that we are strangers here and we look forward to the city with foundations (Hebrews 11:10-16).

Also, Pentecost is the "harvest" of firstfruits. The Church of God people are firstfruits and I believe we will be harvested then. John 14:2-3, Revelation 14:14-16. When Christ returns to Jerusalem, (on the Feast of Trumpets?) we will be with Him. The saints come out of heaven with Christ. Rev 17:14 ; 19:14. Rev 18:20 and 12:10-12. Some are not appointed to suffer wrath, but are kept from the hour of trial that comes—others do have to suffer but overcome the Beast and his mark through death. "Watch and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape these things." Christ comes in 2 stages at His second coming. As a thief for those who are watching and praying. No one but Christ’s own saw Him depart on the Mount of Olives after his resurrection and He will come in like manner, yet He will also come in power and glory finally when all will see Him. Just as Christ’s 2 "advents" were blended in prophecy, so no one understood how he could come as the humble servant and die for us yet also come as King as Kings etc. So His final return is in 2 stages that are blended in prophecy so as not to be easily understood. Christ goes to prepare a place for those who are counted worthy to escape yet there are many of us that will have to undergo a more severe trial during the Beast’s reign before we are counted worthy yet will persevere and gain eternal life as well. Luke 17:26-37. The day Noah entered the ark…sudden destruction! The day Lot left Sodom…sudden destruction! I Thes 5:3-4 (on them) 9. The Day of the Lord is a long day-1000 years and many things occurs at different times on that Day. Noah wasn’t surprised and neither was Lot. Nor will be those counted worthy to escape. Christ will come for them. Matt 24:36-42, 44. Also Matt 24:15-17 and Luke 17:30-31. Compare these with Zech 14:4-5 If Christ is returning in power and glory at this time, who if fleeing? We should be free and rejoicing—but He is just returning in like manner as He left—only those ready will see Him and go with Him, those in Judea will flee to the mountains made possible by the great earthquake that occurs. The Beast will set up the abomination of desolation Rev 12:10-12. Some of the firstfruits go to heaven. Satan is cast out—no longer able to accuse. They overcome him by their steadfast faith—the blood of the Lamb (Christ’s sacrifice) Rev 15:1-2. Later after the Beast’s reign and battle of Armageddon, those victorious over the mark, because they died rather than take the mark. I believe the Bible shows the resurrection to be in more than one stage as well.

No one has even talked about to any extent let alone explained…Luke 17:26-27, Matt 24:15-17, 36-44 and Luke 21:20-24, 36 and Mark 13:14-15. Just as Noah and Lot were righteous and saved by God/angels directly from sudden destruction, so will some brethren. When the abomination comes—will be a momentous time—much will be happening and many will begin to understand. The 2 witnesses will be preaching during the Beast’s reign.

Sincerely,

— Jean Colgrove, Montana

Response: I agree with you that the early apostles and brethren did not always keep the Feast in Jerusalem every year. As far as I know, there was no Jewish tradition of getting together in regional areas—they either went to Jerusalem or stayed home. If the apostles implemented something radically different, we would expect to find something of it in the New Testament. We really do not know what they did, but we do know that there is no command for any kind of regional Feast gathering.

We also do not see any command in the New Testament to pay tithes other than to the Levites (for more details, write for our paper How Do We Give to the Eternal?). There is no mention of saving "second tithe" for the Feasts. It is almost inconceivable that first century brethren would be saving 10% of their earnings to keep the Feasts locally. As you say, the temporary dwellings of the Old Testament were not the "live like kings" image that the WCG promoted.

Nevertheless the spiritual fruit of Feasts has been good—and is even more so now that brethren are even more scattered than they were in the past. Many independent congregations now make an effort to get together for some of the Spring Holy days and Pentecost as well.

Can everyone get away from their job for all of these holy days? Does everyone have the faith to tell their boss that they are going no matter what, and then come back to see if their job is still there? Does anyone have the right to judge others in these matters? I think the answers to all of these questions is "No." But if anyone’s approach to his or her Christian life is "what is the least that I have to do to obtain salvation", I think that person is in serious trouble. If anyone thinks that they are going to be saved because they have gone to the Feast every year for 30 years, I think they are in trouble, also. We should make an effort to make the most of every Feast day, because we want to learn from the Eternal on those days, not because it is some kind of work that will earn us salvation. The Eternal knows whether we are trying to keep his Feasts, or trying to avoid his Feasts in a world that often makes their keeping rather difficult.

The sacrifices and temple rituals are gone. But the assembling together, the rejoicing before God, and the building of friendships that occurred during the Old Testament Feasts can also occur during our Feasts today. "Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth" (1Cor 5:8).

In regard to your second point, your speculation about the return of Christ on Pentecost, I must say that I do not know for sure. I believe it is a subject well worth studying.. Your idea that the saints may spend some time in heaven is probably foreign to most of our readers. However, most people who believe that the righteous go to heaven use these scriptures in Revelation to prove it. Obviously, there are many scriptures that say things similar to "the dead know nothing." But the possibility that some converted brethren will spend some limited time in heaven may satisfy all of the scriptures. Nevertheless, I have not studied the matter at length, nor have I received any divine revelation on the subject.

— NSE

 

Resurrections, New Moon Calendar

Letter: September 15, 1997

Greetings Archie Faul & Norman Edwards,

Thank you for sending me the Servants’ News. I look forward to them, and I have found as long as we listen to all our brethren from the break off of the WCG, we put all our studies together, instead of condemning each other for being in different so called groups. (We all have the same foundation beliefs). We can learn more much faster, even as the world did when they were able to understand each other all over the world. They went from horse and buggy to space age in about fifty years.

Your article "Feast of Tabernacles…What does it symbolize?" You did not say where you felt the dry bones came in… These bones are dry, very dry. Breath comes into them, sinews are layed upon them, and bring flesh upon them, covered them with skin, and put breath into them, and they shall live, and know the Lord; an exceeding great army of the Eternal’s people was brought back to physical life and prophesied to, and brought into the land of Israel; and He will put His Spirit into them, Judah and all Israel is joined together once again. Under the Eternal’s rule, they will be burying Gog and all his multitude for seven months. When will they be resurrected?

Response: I cannot say dogmatically when this Ezekiel 37 resurrection occurs, but it would appear from Revelation 20:5 that it is after the Millennium: "But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished." We must remember that it is only Revelation 20 that clearly mentions a 1000-year reign of Christ. Without divine inspiration, our assignment of various Old Testament events before, during or after the Millennium is often guess-work.

Letter: Why does Rev 19:10 and 22: 9 say "I fell at his feet to worship and he said unto me, see you do it not, I am thy fellow servant and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus , worship God.

22:8,9 I fell down to worship, before the feet of the angel which showed me these things, then he said to me, see you do it not, for I am thy fellow servant, and of thy brethren the prophets, and of them which keep the sayings of this book, worship God.

Response: These scriptures should be self evident—we should not worship angels. Some people may think that this angel (Greek means "messenger") may be Christ, and therefore Christ is not to be worshiped. But notice Revelation 5:12: "saying with a loud voice: ‘Worthy is the Lamb who was slain To receive power and riches and wisdom, And strength and honor and glory and blessing!’" Also, notice Philippians 2:10-11: "that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."

Letter: Wilderness: seems to be where we find the Eternal... it is in a sense a driving, pasture, an open field...

Response: I do not know exactly what you mean here.

Letter: There is another thought...the Feast days, the Sabbaths, and New Moon, are shadows of things to come. How are New Moons shadow of things to come?

Response: Col 2:16-17 certainly indicates that New Moons were a shadow of things to come. Certainly they foreshadow the restoration of the lunar-month calendar—when everyone will know when the Feast Days occur, instead of needing a little pocket conversion chart. It is possible that they foreshadow some spiritual event also, but I do not know what that would be. We have received many papers on new moons but have not had time to study them thoroughly.

Letter: And how in Psa 81:3, can this New Moon be a crescent moon? It says, blow up the trumpet (singular) in the new moon in the time appointed on our solemn feast day (singular).

The word for appointed in this scripture and one other place is 3677 which is from 3680 meaning a full moon and hides, concealed, covered. That cannot be a crescent moon.

Why does the new Brown-Drivers Griggs Genious Hebrew English Lexicon (page 294) say concealed behind a curtain? That is what it says about the words in the beginnings of your months?

Why does the ones who map the sky for the time we live by, and teach our school children that the dark moon is the new moon?

Response: We have covered Psalm 81:3 in previous answers to letters. It is a poetic verse with three expressions, but no Hebrew words that tell us how these expressions are related—are they the same or are they all three different? A literal reading is: "Blow the ram’s horn in the new moon, at the full moon, on the day of our Feast." You can blow one ram’s horn (singular) on one Feast day (singular), and blow that same ram’s horn on another Feast day (singular). The Septuagint version of this scripture (Psalm 80:3) says "Blow the trumpet at the new moon, in the glorious day of your feast."

The Septuagint is a translation of the Old Testament from Hebrew into Greek—much of which was completed before Christ. While there are many versions of the Septuagint, and those versions vary much more greatly than the Hebrew Masoretic texts, the Septuagint is often in better agreement with the New Testament quotes of the Old Testament and with the Dead Sea Scrolls. As you can see above, the Septuagint says nothing about the full moon at all. Which text is right? I do not know. But I know that if Christ is to hold me responsible for keeping Feasts based on the Full Moon calendar, that He would reveal it to me either miraculously or in his Bible.

Furthermore, it is evident that Christ and his disciples kept the Feasts in Jerusalem at the same time as the other Jews. If they were keeping the full-moon calendar, and the Jews were keeping a crescent- or dark-moon calendar, their feasts would never be at the same time. There is significant historical evidence that a crescent-moon calendar was in use during the first century.

Letter: All I want is, what is truth, I don’t want my own way, what good is my own way, I want to continually learn and change to what ever is truth. Are people afraid of losing face? No one can lose face with truth, but they sure can by holding onto something once they have proved it wrong.

Sincerely wanting to learn and go forwards even if it means change.

— NT, Missouri

Response: I, as well as many other brethren I know, would start keeping a full-moon calendar this year if we were convinced that the Scriptures taught it, but most simply do not see Psalm 81:3 as a clear command to do so. If Psalm 81:3 said "Blow the ram’s horn on the new moon which is the full moon..." it would be different, but it does not say that. Those who do believe that the months start with the full moon, should observe the Feasts accordingly—we have mentioned two full-moon Feast sites this year. But we should not say other people are not interested in truth or "just trying to save face" because they do not understand a difficult scripture in exactly the way we do!

— NSE

 

New Moons Not Sabbaths

Letter: March 26, 1998

Norm,

A couple of interesting points on the new moons question:

1) In Numbers 1 Moses took a military census. This was on the first day of the second month, i.e., a new moon.

2) In Ezra 10:16, on the first day of the tenth month, Ezra and certain others held court and rendered a legal judgement.

Looks to me like the new moons couldn’t possibly have the same force of law as the Sabbath.

— Lenny Cacchio, Missouri

Response: Thanks for this brief insight into one of the many questions about new moons. Most people I know who observe new moons do not regard them as Sabbaths, but a few do. Your scriptures show that they are not the same as a Sabbath. I would be interested in hearing any more factual conclusions of this nature.

There is no section of scripture that commands individuals to keep new moons or tells exactly what to do. There are commands for the Priests. I know of no scripture that says anything against keeping new moons. There are simply references to people keeping them and we are left to study them and attempt to determine what was done and why. Were they only a method of marking months, or was there a specific spiritual lesson in them? Were they kept before Moses?

As far as I know, the only New Testa ment verse about them is Col 2:16: "So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths." Some say that this is a proof that we should be keeping them, but to me it simply says that we should not judge others about how or if we keep them. We do not have any New Testament references to people actually keeping them—like we do for the Sabbath and most of the Holy Days. Obviously, though, this scripture indicates that we should not judge people who decide to keep them.

— NSE


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