|The Greatest of These
|Justice For All
|What does the Church teach about Church Eras?
The Greatest of These
On Saturday, August 21, 2004, Dave Harris will be giving the sermon, titled, “The Greatest of These.”
Justice For All
As we read or watch the news, we cannot help being inundated with trials that have become a media circus — for example, those of Michael Jackson, Martha Stewart and Kobe Bryant. In the recent past we have had the O.J. Simpson trial where we became intimately involved with every graphic detail, if we were so inclined. Every one had their opinion and many of the more prominent interest groups forcefully foisted their ideas as if to send a message to the court system. In the end O.J. was found innocent and guilty. He was acquitted of the murders of his ex-wife and her boy friend in criminal court because of the criminal court’s inability to prove guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Yet in a civil trial, the jury found him to be liable for the same deaths, due to a less stringent standard for civil liability.
How can this be? Some chalk it up to issues of race, others money and fame, while still others claim it was to keep the peace. This can hardly be viewed as just reasons by which to judge a case or even at the very least mitigate its outcome. But this is what we have come to expect here in America and elsewhere. According to the Washington AP, “Some 60% of people polled said celebrities get treated better by the judicial system because they have a lot of money….”
Of course this is just the tip of the judicial system iceberg. At the other end of the spectrum there are those that cannot afford the price of justice. They can be saddled with an inexperienced or overworked public defender that does not have a vested interest in the verdict. Is this fair and just?
So when the Pledge of Allegiance, that most in the U.S. have recited hundreds of times, ends in a commitment to “justice for all,” there is a preponderance of evidence that this is not the case. Is man and his legal system capable of real justice now or ever? No, a thousand times a resounding NO! Isaiah 59:4, 7-10 states, “No one calls for justice, Nor does any plead for truth. They trust in empty words and speak lies; They conceive evil and bring forth iniquity… Their feet run to evil, And they make haste to shed innocent blood; their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity; Wasting and destruction are in their paths. The way of peace they have not known, And there is no justice in their ways; They have made themselves crooked paths; Whoever takes that way shall not know peace. Therefore justice is far from us, Nor does righteousness overtake us; We look for light, but there is darkness! For brightness, but we walk in blackness! We grope for the wall like the blind, And we grope as if we had no eyes; We stumble at noonday as at twilight; We are as dead men in desolate places.”
It is not within man to govern himself. The Good News Bible captures the essence of Romans 8:7 when it states, “And so people become enemies of God when they are controlled by their human nature; for they do not obey God’s law, and in fact they cannot obey it.” If men pull solely from their own understanding then the result is what we have today; a system that is biased and more concerned with procedure than impartiality and what is truly right and wrong.
“There is a way which seems right to a man, But in the end it leads to death” (Proverbs 14:12, World English Bible). It is not just those in the legal system but it is also those that we may come across on a day-to-day basis; their ways come up short. They may be sincere, but in the end they are sincerely wrong.
What is the answer then to this seemingly overwhelming problem? It is to replace the carnality of who and what we are with that which is of God. Through His Holy Spirit and the keeping of His Word and His Laws, this can be accomplished. If we truly do have God’s Holy Spirit working in us then we will be striving to be just in our every action… and we should be.
We know that God’s Spirit is not being given to everyone at this time, but the good news is that there is a time coming shortly when true and fair justice will abound. It will be when Christ returns and sets up the Kingdom and Government of God as it is prophesied in Isaiah 9:6-7: “For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace There will be no end, Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, To order it and establish it with judgment and justice From that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.” The upcoming Feast of Tabernacles is the annual reminder of this impending Kingdom and Government. For more information on this please refer to our web site at http://eternalgod.org/feast/index.html and our booklet, “God’s Commanded Holy Days.”
During this millennial reign, God’s Holy Spirit will abound and be poured out like a river of living water. His laws and ways will be written in our minds and hearts replacing the carnality that currently exists. It is then and only then that we will have justice for all.
This Week in the News
Germany’s Genocide in South West Africa
Associated Press reported last week that “a senior government official offered Germany’s first apology Saturday for a colonial-era crackdown that killed 65,000 ethnic Hereros -a slaughter she acknowledged amounted to genocide.” The article continued to report about this nearly forgotten incident, as follows:
“‘We Germans accept our historic and moral responsibility and the guilt incurred by Germans at that time,’ Germany’s development aid minister, Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul, said at a ceremony marking the 100th anniversary of the Hereros’ 1904-1907 uprising against their German rulers. ‘The atrocities committed at that time would have been termed genocide.’… During the ceremony, held in the Waterberg region about 250 kilometres north of the capital, Windhoek, Hereros re-enacted scenes of their ancestors being shackled and enslaved. Many of those in attendance were dressed in the khaki military uniforms worn by their former colonial rulers.
“German general Lothar von Trotha, who was sent to what was then South West Africa to put down the Herero uprising in 1904, instructed his troops to wipe out the entire tribe, historians say. When the extermination order was lifted at the end of the year, prisoners were herded into camps and allocated as slave labour to German businesses, where many died of overwork and malnutrition. Some two-thirds of the tribe was wiped out. The Herero people have for years sought reparations from Germany. In 2001, they filed a $4 billion US lawsuit against the government and two German firms in U.S. district court in Washington D.C. But German authorities have dismissed the claims, saying international rules on the protection of combatants and civilians were not in existence at the time… Germany took over the diamond-rich, semi-desert country in 1884. After Germany’s defeat in the First World War, South Africa occupied the territory for more than 70 years before Namibia became independent in 1990.”
US Troops Will Leave Germany
On August 14, 2004, Great Britain’s Financial Times reported:
“The US… is pulling 70,000 troops out of Europe and Asia in the largest restructuring of its global military presence since the second world war… Two-thirds of the reductions will come in Europe, most of them military personnel stationed in Germany who will be sent back to US bases… Germany will continue to be home to sophisticated training and command facilities and to a mobile infantry force which will be equipped with the new light-armoured Stryker vehicles and is expected to form the core of a restructured European presence. The Bush administration has been re-evaluating the US military’s global posture almost since its first days in office. Senior Pentagon officials emphasised that the move was not intended as a punishment for Germany’s lack of support in the Iraq war.”
Iran vs. Israel?
On August 16, 2004, WorldNetDaily reported that “a senior Iranian military official told reporters yesterday Israel and the United States would not dare attack Iran since it could strike back anywhere in Israel and against U.S. military installations in the Middle East with its latest missiles.”
The article continued:
“Iranian officials have made a point of highlighting the Islamic state’s military capabilities in recent weeks in response to some media reports that Israeli or U.S. warplanes could try to destroy Iranian nuclear facilities in air strikes. Iran last week said it carried out a successful test firing of an upgraded version of its Shahab-3 medium-range ballistic missile. Military experts said the unmodified Shahab-3 was already capable of striking Israel or U.S. bases in the Gulf.”
In discussing Israel’s position, the article pointed out: “Israel has recently conducted military exercises for a pre-emptive strike against several of Iran’s nuclear power facilities and is ready to attack if Russia supplies Iran with rods for enriching uranium. An Israeli defense source said ‘Israel will on no account permit Iranian reactors — especially the one being built in Bushehr with Russian help — to go critical.'”
Does the Vatican Meddle?
On August 16, 2004, the International Herald Tribune published the following article, titled, “Vatican meddling in the EU.” The article pointed out:
“Having failed to persuade Europe’s leaders to enshrine Christianity in the final draft of the constitution of the European Union, the Vatican has found a new way to try to conflate [merge] European and Christian identity. The Holy See would like to block Turkey’s candidacy to the European Union. In an interview last week with Le Figaro magazine, the Catholic Church’s top theologian, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, said that Turkey, a predominantly Muslim secular republic of 70 million people, is ‘in permanent contrast to Europe’ and that linking it to Europe would be a mistake. To drive home his point about Turkey’s disqualifying otherness, he cited the Ottoman Empire’s incursions into the heart of Europe in centuries past.”
The article continued: “Turkey’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has staked his future on EU membership, brushed off the cardinal’s comments. When the EU decides in December whether to begin formal accession talks with Turkey, it too should discount the cardinal’s views in favor of the political merits of Turkish membership.”
However, we might add that Cardinal Ratzinger’s reservations against European membership of Turkey are shared by many Europeans — especially those of the Catholic faith. As the Bible predicts, Europe is destined to become a mighty power under Roman Catholic leadership — which indeed would seem to have no membership to offer to a Muslim state.
Iraq — and No Peace in Sight…
Zenit reported on August 16, 2004 that “some 40,000 Christians have left Iraq in the wake of recent attacks on churches in the country, says a government official. In statements Sunday to the Arabic newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat, the minister for displacement and migration, Pascale Icho Warda, said that the emigration ‘is due to the insecurity and the attacks on churches in Baghdad and Mosul two weeks ago.’ Four attacks on Christian places of worship in Baghdad and two in Mosul left at least 10 dead and 50 wounded at the beginning of August.”
The report continued:
“On August 2, John Paul II sent a message to Archbishop Emmanuel III Delly, patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans and president of the assembly of the Catholic bishops of Iraq, to express his sympathy. ‘At this time of trial I am spiritually close to the Iraqi Church and society, and I renew the expression of my heartfelt solidarity to the pastors and faithful,’ the papal telegram said. John Paul II assured Iraqi Christians of his prayer and ‘constant commitment’ so that ‘a climate of peace and reconciliation will be established in the beloved country as soon as possible.’ Christians comprise about 700,000 of Iraq’s 24 million inhabitants.”
The Pope at Lourdes
On August 16, Zenit reported about the Pope’s visit at Lourdes. The article pointed out: “Like the other 6 million people who come to Lourdes annually, John Paul II came to this Marian shrine on Saturday as a pilgrim. ‘In my apostolic ministry, I have always had great confidence in the offering, prayer and sacrifice of those who suffer,’ the Pope said in the text of a message delivered at the Grotto of Massabielle, scene of the Virgin Mary’s apparitions in 1858. ‘I ask you to accompany me in this pilgrimage to present to God, through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, all the intentions of the Church and of the world,’ he said in the message.”
The article continued: “In the afternoon, John Paul II participated together with some 100,000 people in a meditation on the luminous mysteries of the rosary… The procession began at the pools, the most characteristic place of Lourdes. Last year, more than 380,000 pilgrims were submerged in the waters in response to a request of the Blessed Virgin to Bernadette Soubirous on Feb. 28, 1858: ‘Go drink at the spring and bathe there.’ In his introductory address, the Pope said: ‘When kneeling here, before the Grotto of Massabielle, I feel with emotion that I have arrived at the end of my pilgrimage. This grotto, in which Mary appeared, is the heart of Lourdes.’… The third mystery was prayed in front of St. Bernadette’s Church, located near where the saint witnessed the Blessed Virgin’s first apparition… The rosary ended with a prayer the Pope composed, calling on the Virgin Mary’s intercession… ‘Invoke the Virgin Mary with me, so that she will obtain for the world the longed-for gift of peace,’ he said. ‘May she inspire in us sentiments of forgiveness and fraternity!’ he implored. ‘May arms be put down and hatred and violence extinguished in our hearts.'”
The Bible teaches very clearly that Mary, the mother of Christ, is dead and in her grave, waiting, together with all true Christians, for the resurrection from the dead, at the time of Christ’s return. Prayers to Mary — or to other dead “saints” — are forbidden in Scripture; rather, we are to pray to God our Father, with Jesus Christ being the ONLY Mediator between men and God. Since Mary is still dead and in the grave, it is abundantly clear that Mary did not appear, in a vision or otherwise, to anyone at Lourdes. This is not to say that there was no apparition — but it was distinctively NOT that of Mary. For more information, please read our free booklet, “Do We Have an Immortal Soul?”
What does the Church teach about Church Eras?
The concept of “Church Eras” is derived from the book of Revelation, chapters 2 and 3, reporting messages of Jesus Christ to the “seven angels” of the “seven churches.” Although these churches were quite literal congregations, they have also been understood as representing seven Church eras, beginning at the time of the early apostles and leading to the time of the return of Jesus Christ.
Note, for example, the following comments from the Ryrie Study Bible: “The 7 churches addressed in chapters 2 and 3 were actual churches of John’s day. But they also represent types of churches in all generations. This idea is supported… by the statement at the close of each letter that the Spirit was speaking to the churches.” This means, that all seven letters are warnings to every church in every age.
In addition, the Nelson Study Bible states: “The seven churches were congregations in Asia Minor in John’s day. Sometimes they are interpreted as representing seven stages of church history.” This commentary continues to state that this interpretation is “unlikely, since there is disagreement among interpreters about what part of Revelation represents which period in history.” It should be obvious, however, that this uncertainty cannot negate the possibility, per se, that those seven churches represent seven stages of history, or “Church Eras.”
The Church, under the direction of Herbert W. Armstrong, has been consistent in its teaching on this subject. Mr. Armstrong wrote in the Pastor’s Report, volume 2, number 23, dated June 26, 1978: “Let me tell you what I have always said for fifty years. Fifty years ago I was writing that the message to the seven angels of the seven churches in the 2nd and 3rd chapters of Revelation has a dual interpretation and meaning. Number one, it is telling of the seven successive eras or stages of time in the 1900-2000 year existence of the church. And number two, it is telling of the spiritual condition in the church during those eras. The account starts out with the Church of Ephesus and the predominant situation in the first and second century during and right after the days of the original Apostles.
“Laodicea had what will be the prevailing condition in the final church era: drowsy or asleep and lukewarm. And Christ is going to spue most of them out of His mouth.”
Later in this article, Mr. Armstrong said: “…I have said that the spiritual condition of which Laodicea is a type will dominate at the tail end, but I have also said that all of these conditions — all the way from Ephesus up to Laodicea, all seven — are present at all times in the church. But now [at the time he is writing this article] we in the Philadelphia era have the Laodicean condition… but we’re not Laodicea…”
“We also have the condition of Ephesus — we have lost our first love, and it’s time to get back to it. Every one of these conditions are in this church…”
“You know that this church (Philadelphia) is the only one of the seven that God doesn’t attribute any fault to. And yet, we are full of faults.”
Five full lessons of the 58 lesson Bible Correspondence Course were devoted to this subject of church eras. And in 1985, Mr. Armstrong published the book entitled “Mystery of the Ages.” In chapter 6, covering the “Mystery of the Church,” beginning on page 282, he begins the discussion of Revelation 2 & 3 relative to the seven church eras, and after discussing, briefly, the seven churches that existed in Asia Minor toward the end of the first century A.D., he begins showing that these seven messages to the churches were intended for a much wider audience than just the people of that day.
Mr. Armstrong then takes the next ten pages, from page 283 to the end of the chapter, discussing church history relative to the first six of the seven church eras, describing their history in some detail. In this chapter, Mr. Armstrong gives the name of the man God had put over each of these eras of the Church, and describes the weaknesses, the strengths, the accomplishments, and the failures of each era, in light of the prophecies of Revelation 2 & 3, as revealed by Jesus Christ to John, one of Christ’s apostles.
He explains that the Sabbath, the Holy Days, the name of the Church and the gospel of the Kingdom would be recognizable by those God is dealing with as these doctrines are handed down through the ages from one era to the next; beginning with the time of Christ right down to the time of the end.
He shows, in the time of the end, it is the Philadelphia era, primarily, and all who have the attitude of Philadelphia, that will be supernaturally protected during the time of the tribulation. And he shows that the Laodicean era, and all who have the attitude of Laodicea will have to suffer the wrath of Satan during that time period.
Mr. Armstrong pointed out in the Pastor’s Report noted above, on page 6, that “The Laodicean Church will be keeping the commandments of God and the testimony of Jesus or they couldn’t be the Church of God. But they will be lukewarm and asleep.” It is for this reason that God will spew them out of His mouth, unless they repent!
This condition is also the condition we find in the world, today, relative to the Truth of God. That is one reason why God is going to intervene in the affairs of men. He is going to remove Satan as the ruler of this world and put Jesus Christ at the Head for one thousand years; and the Church at that time will be incorporated into and become a part of the very Government of God on the earth. It will literally become a part of the Family of God. And today, God is calling whom He will to be a part of the Family.
Interestingly, we know that those who have been called to this Way, who have been faithful, and who held fast to what was given to them until death, have been chosen by God to be in that Family. But the Scriptures in Revelation, chapters 2 & 3; particularly, Revelation 2:25 (“But hold fast what you have till I come”); Revelation 3:3 (“… you will not know what hour I will come upon you”); Revelation 3:10 (“I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world”); and Revelation 3:20 (“I stand at the door and knock.”) indicate that some members of these four eras will still be living on the earth at the time of Christ’s return. They must continue to “hold fast” till He comes. This too was taught in the Church under Mr. Armstrong’s leadership.
It is our understanding that the messages to the seven angels of the seven churches, in Revelation 2 and 3, address literal churches at the time of John; seven successive Church Eras, leading to the return of Christ; and spiritual attitudes and conditions in existence in the church at all times, and especially during those Church Eras.
A new member letter was written by Edwin Pope, discussing true and false knowledge. The letter will be sent out this Friday. A copy of the letter can be found at https://www.eternalgod.org/lit/letters/.
A new StandingWatch program, titled, “The King of the South,” has been posted on the Web.
The final text of our new book, titled, “Jesus Christ — A Great Mystery!” was sent to Shelly Bruno, our graphic designer, for finalization.
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