|Live Services||We Will Succeed|
|Editorial||Lord, Save Me|
|Q&A||Would you please explain Matthew 24:44?|
|The Work||Standing Watch|
We Will Succeed
On Saturday, November 29, 2003, Norbert Link will be presenting the sermon, “We Will Succeed!”
The services can be heard at www.cognetservices.org at the appropriate time, just click on “Connect to Live Stream.”
Lord, Save Me
by Dave Harris
Bold, brash, forward, hot-tempered, a natural leader–these are all words that might very well describe Peter during the early days of his calling to be one of Christ’s disciples. In fact, it was Peter who asked Christ to bid him to also walk on the water. We read of this account in Matthew 14:22-33.
Peter courageously took those first steps of faith and actually walked on the sea; however, we read that he then looked at his unbelievable circumstances and became afraid. He also started sinking into the water. It was at this point that he did something very right, he cried out to Jesus for help (verse 30)!
Indeed, he received that help–and a lesson from Jesus Christ. Jesus said to him, ” ‘O you of little faith, why did you doubt?’ ” (verse 31)
Doubt, fear, lack of faith–all are easy avenues of retreat when any of us are confronted with what seems to us to be insurmountable. That was the way a father who had a spirit-possessed son felt. Since the disciples of Jesus were not able to cast out the demon, the man pleaded with Jesus for help. We find this account in Mark 9. In verse 22, the father asks, ” ‘But if You can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.’ “
We find the reply of Jesus in the next verse (23), ” ‘If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.’ ” Continuing in verse 24, “Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, ‘Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!’ “
It is certainly true that as Christians we should be growing in faith. The more we plunge into this way of living with the added help of God’s Holy Spirit, the greater, too, should become our faith as we learn to trust God implicitly. We find this kind of total reliance on God in the example of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego. After king Nebuchadnezzar threatened them with death, they replied, ” ‘If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up” (Daniel 3:17-18).
These three were saved. They had the kind of faith to fully believe that God would be able to deliver them. They were also willing to die in faith knowing that their physical lives were only a prelude to eternal life in the Kingdom of God. That is something that Jesus Christ also believed, and He died in order to bring about that great hope.
Jesus Christ died to save the world, and even He through Whom all things were created came to the ultimate test of faith. He willingly offered His own life in order that He might fulfill the supreme purpose of God. In the account of the death of Christ that is in Luke, we find this final statement from Christ: ” ‘Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit’ ” (Luke 23:46).
This statement is the culmination of the way in which He lived His life. Jesus always sought help from God: “who, in days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear” (Hebrews 5:7).
We all face the impossible, at least, so it might seem to us. We may falter in human relationships in which anger overwhelms us. We may face temptations and trials that cause us to stumble badly. We may even face situations in which our lives are on the line. When we do, we have this sure promise: “Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, And to present you faultless Before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, To God our Savior, Who alone is wise, Be glory and majesty, Dominion and power, Both now and forever. Amen” (Jude 24-25).
Finally, when we do reach that point where everything seems hopeless, we need to turn to Him through Whom all things are possible with these words, “Lord, save me!” Along with this, let’s keep in mind some other words from Peter which he wrote near the end of his life: “Therefore, humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:6-7).
This Week in the News
As Associated Press reported on November 24, “British Prime Minister Tony Blair and French President Jacques Chirac… announced plans for a small rapid-reaction force of EU peacekeepers… Blair and Chirac said the European Union should be capable of dispatching a 1,500-strong force within 15 days to respond to a crisis.” The article continued: “The United States generally is supportive of the EU boosting its military brawn, but wants the Europeans to rely on NATO to plan and run operations. Washington is worried about plans, strongly advocated by France, to set up a separate planning and command headquarters for running military operations outside the NATO… Earlier this year, European defense ministers agreed to establish a 60,000-strong force that could be deployed within 60 days if the U.N. requested it.” The article quoted Timothy Garden of the Royal Institute of International Affairs, stating that the rapid-reaction force “showed a commitment to boosting Europe’s defense capability and would encourage other member states to bolster their military strength.”
As Der Spiegel Online reported on November 24, Israel’s Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, accused the Europeans of being inherently and collectively anti-Semitic. In an interview with EUpolitix.com, he stated: “What we are facing in Europe is an anti-Semitism that has always existed, and it really is not a new phenomenon.” According to Der Spiegel, Sharon also denied that one could distinguish between anti-Semitism and criticism of the Israeli government, stating, “There is no distinction today. We talk about collective anti-Semitism. The state of Israel is a Jewish state, and the positions against the state of Israel are accordingly.” He continued that Israel cannot afford to turn over their fate to the Europeans. He also said that the increasing number of Muslims in the EU certainly endangers the life of Jewish people.
On November 25, The Guardian quoted Yaron Ezrahi, an Israeli political scientist, as responding to Sharon’s remarks, as follows: “We should bear in mind that during the time of the peace process, when Rabin and Peres were leading, Israel was the favourite of the west… There was so much support from Europe and its public. Why was anti-Semitism so limited during the time Rabin and Peres led the peace process and gave the world the message that Israel was prepared to abandon the occupied territories? Sharon has a long record of calling Israeli critics of his policies traitors, and foreign critics anti-Semites. The left is concerned that Sharon’s policies are endangering Israel’s future by FUELLING VIRULENT AND VIOLENT ANTI-SEMITISM.”
SUPPORT FOR HOHMANN?
As Der Spiegel Online reported on November 25, more than “1000 CDU and CSU-members have signed a statement” to “critically support” Martin Hohmann. Hohmann had been stripped of his right to vote in parliament for the CDU, due to a controversial speech in October. The joint statement was published in the “Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung,” criticizing the party leaders of CDU and CSU (Angela Merkel and Sigmund Stoiber) for their conduct toward Hohmann. Similar ads had been published before in other daily newspapers. The most recent statement read that Hohmann’s speech was “partially problematic, but not anti-Semitic.” The statement included a quote from history professor Arnulf Baring, who had said on German TV: “Of course, his speech is problematic, but his expulsion is a poor witness for the CDU and for the liberal foundational understanding in this country.” The recent statement was initiated by Fritz Schenk, former moderator of a popular TV broadcast on German public television, the “ZDF-Magazin.”
SPAIN VS. UNITED STATES?
As Der Spiegel Online reported on November 25, the Spanish Government “had been one of the most supportive voices for Bush’s Iraq war. Now, foreign minister Ana Palacio admitted that the situation in Baghdad is worse than it was under Saddam Hussein.” The article continued: “According to Spanish press releases, the minister said that we have ‘a serious security problem in Baghdad.'” Spain’s Minister-President, Jose Maria Aznar, was quoted as stating that the alliance made “mistakes” after the war.
ATTACK ON FREE PRESS IN IRAQ?
As Associated Press reported on November 24, “the U.S.-appointed government raided the offices of Al-Arabiya television on Monday, banned its broadcasts from Iraq and threatened to imprison its journalists. Media groups said the action called into question the future of a free press in the country.” The article continued to explain that the station was banned from working in Iraq “for broadcasting an audiotape a week ago of a voice it said belonged to Saddam Hussein.” The Iraqi Governing Council declared, through its current council president, that “Al-Arabiya incites murder because it’s calling for killings through the voice of Saddam Hussein.”
The Council’s action was sharply criticized and condemned by numerous organizations and individuals, including the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ); the Paris-based media watchdog group Reporters Without Borders (RWB); and Josh Friedman, head of international programs at Columbia University’s School of Journalism in New York. They warned of “heavy-handed actions… toward the media that make us apprehensive about the future of free press freedoms in Iraq” (CPJ), and of “methods… that are contrary to the promise of setting up a democracy in Iraq” (RWB).
FUTURE OF EU CONSTITUTION
As www.thescotsman.co.uk reported on Tuesday, “Britain is preparing to abandon the European Union constitution if the differences between the 15 member states cannot be resolved.” The news release continued: “In an attempt to break the deadlock, Italy — which holds the EU presidency — is to present a compromise draft to foreign ministers at the end of this week.” In addition, the article pointed out: “Ian Davidson, the MP for Glasgow Pollok and chairman of Labour against the euro, was glad to hear that the British government was considering walking away from the proposed EU constitution. He said: ‘Since it was all about the creation of an EU superstate, I welcome the fact that Britain is prepared to walk away from something not in the national interest.'”
The proposed European constitution was also criticized again by the Catholic Church. As Zenit reported on November 20, the Catholic Church has been insisting that the future constitution “includes a reference to Europe’s Christian roots.” Cardinal Paul Poupard, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, said: “The defense carried out by the Pope has, as its objective, the VERY IDENTITY OF EUROPE.” He also criticized the present wording of Article 51 of Title VII of the proposed constitution, as it might allow to “distinguish between sects, alternative religious movements, and deep-rooted Churches in Europe.”
OUTRAGE OVER BUSH REMARKS
As WorldNetDaily reported on November 24, “many Evangelical Christians in the U.S… are outraged over President George Bush’s statement [on Thursday, during a joint press conference in England with Tony Blair] that Christians and Muslims worship the same God.” The article continued: “Bush’s equivalence of the Judeo-Christian and Muslim gods brought reactions of shock and dismay from Christians in the U.S. Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, the nation’s largest Protestant denomination, was… saying the president ‘is simply mistaken… The Bible is clear in this: The one and true god is Jehovah, and his only begotten son is Jesus Christ.'” The article also quoted Ted Haggard, president of the National Association of Evangelicals, as contradicting the president and as saying: “The Christian God encourages freedom, love, forgiveness, prosperity and health. The Muslim god appears to value the opposite.”
Would you please explain Matthew 24:44?
Matthew 24:44 reads, “Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”
Although this passage clearly tells us that we do not know the exact time of Christ’s return, many have engaged in vain attempts to “calculate” the day or month or year of Christ’s return. They have justified this by saying that Christ was only talking about “the hour” of His coming, but not the “day” or the “month” or the “year.” However, this is NOT what Christ was saying. Please notice that a prophetic “hour” may include a longer time span than just 60 minutes. Revelation 17:12 tells us that ten European leaders will rule with a political leader, “the beast,” for “one hour.” Daniel 7:25 SEEMS to indicate that, in that case, the term “one hour” could mean “three-and-a-half years.”
In Mark 13:32-33, Christ was not just talking about the exact “hour” [a time span of 60 minutes] of His coming. We read: “But of that DAY and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time is.” At the very least, this passage tells us that neither Christ, nor God’s angels, nor we “know” [present tense!] the DAY and the HOUR of His coming. Christ seems to be saying that we won’t know the exact time — a phrase broader than just a 24-hour-day. The reason for this conclusion is given in Acts 1:6-7:
“Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, ‘Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?’ [They understood that Christ would establish the Kingdom of God on this earth, when He returns.] And He said to them, ‘It is not for you to know TIMES or SEASONS which the Father has put in His own authority.'”
It is the FATHER’S decision to determine when exactly to send Jesus Christ back to this earth. That is the reason why even Jesus Christ does not know the EXACT time. All attempts to figure out the exact time are also futile in light of Christ’s words in Matthew 24:21-22:
“For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. And unless those days were SHORTENED, no flesh would be saved [alive]: but for the elect’s sake those days will be SHORTENED.”
Some have speculated that Christ will return exactly three-and-a-half years after the beginning of the Great Tribulation (and the Church’s protection at a place of safety). This does not take into account, however, that these last days will be shortened. We also read in Hosea 6:1-2: “Come, and let us return to the LORD; For He has torn, but He will heal us; He has stricken, but He will bind us up. After two days He will revive us; On the third day [not: AFTER three-and-a-half prophetic days or years] He will raise us up.”
Christ said that the last days would be shortened. We don’t know for how long they will be shortened — that is why it is futile and in violation of Scripture to try to figure out the exact time of Christ’s return. In addition, we even read, in 2 Peter 3:9, 12, that our conduct, individually and collectively as God’s church, can either delay or hasten the Day of Christ’s coming. God the Father may delay the return of Jesus Christ to give some of His children additional time to repent. He is “longsuffering toward us, not willing that any [of us] should perish but that all [of us] should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9; compare, too Luke 13:6-9). At the same time, our zeal and “holy conduct and godliness” can hasten “the coming of the day of God” (2 Peter 3:12). All of this shows, too, that it is absolutely futile to try to figure out the exact time of Christ’s return.
Christ’s point in Matthew 24:44 and other passages was to impress on all of His disciples, at ALL times (compare Mark 13:37), to be always spiritually ready. For instance, we don’t know when we will die. Even if we were able to figure out, precisely, when Christ comes back to this earth, His return might still catch us, individually, by surprise, as we might die before His Second Coming. We need to be spiritually ready at all times, including, when we die (compare Luke 12:13-21). For those who die, Christ “comes to them” at the time of their death — as they will sleep the sleep of death without consciousness, and as they will awake to meet Christ within the next second of their consciousness.
In addition, His disciples must be ready to be found worthy to go to the place of safety. Notice Christ’s words in Luke 21:36:
“Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass [that is, to be counted worthy to be taken to the place of safety], AND to stand before the Son of Man [at His return].”
We know, of course, that there is a time interval between the beginning of the Great Tribulation and the Church’s stay at the place of safety, and Christ’s subsequent return. At the time of the end, not everyone claiming to be in “God’s Church” will be counted worthy to go to the place of safety. In fact, Matthew 25 seems to indicate that only half of the Church will even be ready to enter the Kingdom of God. Those who are not watching themselves, the work of God and world news won’t be ready for either event.
It is a fact that the world at large won’t comprehend the times pointing to Christ’s coming. Christ explains in Matthew 24:37-39: “But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and DID NOT KNOW until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.” He then compared His coming with that of a thief (v. 43). Paul said, too, in 1 Thessalonians 5:1-4, that Christ will return “as a thief in the night”:
“But concerning the times and seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when THEY say [people of this world], ‘Peace and safety!’ then sudden destruction comes upon THEM as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And THEY shall not escape. But YOU, BRETHREN, are not in darkness, so that this Day should OVERTAKE YOU AS A THIEF.”
Paul was saying here that even for the loyal and faithful Church members, Christ’s return would come suddenly, unexpectedly, or as a thief in the night. Christ had warned the disciples time and again that this is how He will appear. He said in Matthew 24:42: “Watch therefore, for YOU [BRETHREN] do not know what hour [Margin: what day] YOUR Lord is coming.” He said in verse 44, “… the Son of Man is coming at an hour YOU [BRETHREN] do not expect.” Again, in Mark 13:33, “Take heed, watch and pray; for YOU [BRETHREN] do not know when the time is.”
Paul was warning that Christ’s return would, like a thief in the night, OVERTAKE those in the Church, who had not been consistently on spiritual guard (compare Revelation 3:3). Notice Revelation 16:15, “Behold, I am coming as a thief. Blessed is he who watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame.”
Since Christ will come as a thief in the night, we need to watch and be ready at all times. Although we may not know when exactly a thief comes, if we have secured our belongings, he won’t be able to “overtake” and rob us. In the same way, Christ is telling us that we must be ready at all times, since He will come as a thief in the night, when we don’t expect it. If we are not spiritually ready or prepared for His coming, the Day of His coming will “overtake” us “as a thief” (compare again 1 Thessalonians 5:4).
On the other hand, we know that the “time” of Christ’s return is NEAR, when we understand the developments of world news in the light of Biblical prophecy. Christ explained in Matthew 24:32-33, “Now learn this parable from the fig tree: When its branch has already become tender and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near. So YOU also, when YOU see all these things, know that it is near — at the doors! Assuredly, I say to YOU, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place.”
We KNOW today that the return of Christ “is NEAR — at the doors.” Here are some of the reasons: We are witnessing the final and last resurrection of the Holy Roman Empire in Europe, under the increasing spiritual influence of the Roman Catholic Church; we have reached the time when it has become possible, for the first time in the history of man, to exterminate all human life from this planet through weapons of mass destruction; we see the gospel of the Kingdom of God being preached in all the world as a witness (Matthew 24:14); war in the Middle East, affecting Jerusalem, is becoming more and more imminent; power blocs are forming in the Middle East (bringing about the last resurrection of the “king of the south,” Daniel 11:40) and in the far east (bringing about the appearance of a power in the east, Daniel 11:44); the political influence of the United States of America and Great Britain is constantly decreasing, and, last but not least, the “falling away” from the truth has already occurred in God’s Church in recent years, and the “man of sin” or “false prophet” may be revealed very soon (2 Thessalonians 2:3).
These are some of the reasons why we know that Christ’s return is “near — at the doors!” But, we still don’t know the EXACT year, day or hour of His return.
Some claim that we can know the exact year or even day of Christ’s return, in light of some figures given in the book of Daniel. If that were so, then this would contradict all the Scriptures quoted thus far. The Scriptures however do not contradict each other. Let us notice, then, the passages at issue:
We read in Daniel 8:13-14: “… ‘How long will the vision be, concerning the daily sacrifices and the transgression of desolation, the giving of both the sanctuary and the host to be trampled underfoot?’ And he said to me, ‘For two thousand three hundred days; then the sanctuary shall be cleansed.'” The margin points out that the word “days,” should be translated, “evening-mornings.” The reference here is to daily sacrifices, which will begin again in Jerusalem PRIOR to Christ’s return. Through the intervention of the European beast power, those daily sacrifices will cease. These daily sacrifices will have been given twice a day, in the morning and in the evening. Therefore, the time frame mentioned here is 1,150 days (that is, 2,300 sacrifices, which will be given twice a day). From this passage, we know that SOME TIME after 1,150 days, following the “transgression of desolation” placed in the holy temple (compare Matthew 24:15; Daniel 11:31), the sanctuary will be cleansed.
A second passage can be found in Daniel 12:11: “And from the time that the daily sacrifice is taken away, and the abomination of desolation is set up, there shall be one thousand two hundred and ninety days.” This gives us a different figure than in Daniel 8:13-14, but it still does not tell us what is going to happen after the 1,290 days.
We continue to read in Daniel 12:12:
“Blessed is he who waits, and comes to the one thousand three hundred and thirty-five days.” Still nothing is said about what is going to happen after the 1,335 days or, from what point in time to begin to count those 1,335 days. All that is said is that those are “blessed,” who reach the 1,335 days.
In addition, we read in Daniel 12:7: “Then I heard the man clothed in linen… that it shall be for a time, times, and half a time [or 1,260 days, viewing a prophetic “time” or year as a time period of 360 days]; and when the power of the holy people has been completely shattered, all these things shall be finished.” “All these things,” talked about here, deal with the Great Tribulation (verse 1), leading to the resurrection of the saints (vv. 2-3). It seems to be talking about the time of the final Church persecution, as described in Daniel 7:25.
Much has been speculated as to what all these figures mean, and when to start counting in order to determine exactly the DAY of Christ’s return. Some have counted forward, others backward, to figure out the exact day of Christ’s return. However, as we have seen, nobody knows the DAY of Christ’s return — not even Jesus Christ Himself. Without trying to explain here the possible meaning of those different time periods (compare Daniel 12:10), it is clear that they cannot be used as a road map of events to determine and calculate exactly the day of Christ’s return. Otherwise, Christ most certainly would be able to know exactly the day of His return, once the events signified by those dates would begin to unfold. But Christ said that only the Father will decide and therefore know when the day of Christ’s return has arrived, and He will even cut those days short in order to prevent human extinction.
Many have tried, over the years, to calculate and figure out, exactly, the day of Christ’s return, and they have all been proven wrong. They could have saved themselves much frustration and embarrassment, if they had only believed Christ’s very clear statement in Matthew 24:44: “Therefore YOU also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour YOU do NOT expect.”
A new Standing Watch program, titled, “Giving Account,” has been posted on the Web.
How This Work is Financed
This Update is an official publication by the ministry of the Church of the Eternal God in the United States of America; the Church of God, a Christian Fellowship in Canada; and the Global Church of God in the United Kingdom.
Editorial Team: Norbert Link, Dave Harris, Rene Messier, Brian Gale, Margaret Adair, Johanna Link, Eric Rank, Michael Link, Anna Link, Kalon Mitchell, Manuela Mitchell, Dawn Thompson
Technical Team: Eric Rank, Shana Rank
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