What Shall I Do?
On Saturday, August 16, 2008, Dave Harris will give the sermon, titled, “What Shall I Do?”
The services can be heard at www.cognetservices.org at 12:30 pm Pacific Time (which is 2:30 pm Central Time). Just click on Connect to Live Stream.
Citius, Altius, Fortius!
These three Latin words mean “Swifter, Higher, Stronger” and are a continuing motto for the Olympics. Once every four years it is truly amazing to witness some of the feats that are accomplished. These athletes continue to out-do previous records, some of which were thought to be unassailable. In many cases it is a testimony to what can be accomplished if someone puts their mind to it.
As we compete in the Christian Olympics, we also must continue to grow and do better on a continual basis (compare 2 Peter 3:18; 1 Peter 2:1-2; Psalm 92:12).
We are running in a race towards a prize. We are not to run lackadaisically or half-heartedly, but to run with certainty (compare Colossians 3:23). Without a doubt, the quickest distance between where we are and where we are going is a straight and narrow line (compare Matthew 7:13-14); it does not wander aimlessly but stays on the track with the goal always in mind: “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it” (1 Corinthians 9:24).
We are to take the “high” way. If we are of Christ, we are to seek and strive for those things above (compare Colossians 3:1-2)! God’s ways and thoughts are higher than ours (compare Isaiah 55:9). In and of ourselves we cannot reach these heights (compare Psalm 139:6). But with the help of God we can soar to new altitudes that were once unobtainable (Psalm 18:33). This is what we should always be shooting for.
God is our strength (Psalm 118:14), but this does not negate our part in our fight: “All that your hand finds to do, do it with your strength. For there is no work, or planning, or knowledge, or wisdom, in Sheol, there where you go (Ecclesiastes 9:10, LITV).” Now is the time to do all things through Christ who strengthens us (compare Philippians 4:13). Then we will increase all the more in strength as Paul did (compare Acts 9:22).
The finish line is in sight. Our goal is the Kingdom of God, and the gold medal is eternal life in His Family. In many respects it has been a marathon (compare Hebrews 12:1), and now more than ever as we come to the end. Brethren, let us finish Citius, Altius, Fortius!
This Week in the News
Special Report–The War in the Caucasus
The Associated Press reported on August 8 that “Russia dispatched an armored column into the breakaway enclave of South Ossetia on Friday after Georgia, a staunch U.S. ally, launched a surprise offensive to crush separatists… The fighting, which devastated the capital of Tskhinvali, threatened to… escalate tensions between Moscow and Washington…”
And indeed, it has escalated tensions. Russia has once again shown its true colors, and both the USA and Europe have been incapable or unwilling to do anything about it–notwithstanding some “harsh” lip services of “condemnation.” Although Russia claims that it had to act to protect Russian citizens in South Ossetia, this claim is belied by its brutal actions against innocent women and children. Russia’s real goals are quite different–and have nothing to do with the welfare of the South Ossetian people. America and Europe should not have been caught by surprise as they were–and their conduct in this power play has been quite embarrassing.
Even though Russia has claimed that it has ceased further aggressions against Georgia, new reports prove the opposite. In any event, the conflict is far from over and will continue to be fought on the political stage. Will America overcome its weakness and paralysis and do something productive in this matter? The recent developments seem to suggest the opposite. Insofar as Europe is concerned, they have again realized the sad state of affairs for themselves–that they are presently too powerless to stand up against the Russian Bear.
The BIBLE indicates that the situation on the world scene will drastically change in a few years from now. While America’s influence will steadily deteriorate, a united Europe will become a very powerful entity in the world. At that time, Europe WILL react MILITARILY to perceived or real Russian aggression–as Russia has proven historically that it IS willing to invade other countries if it seems to serve its purposes. But that future conflict won’t be good news for the world, either. Notice this remarkable prophecy in the book of Daniel, pertaining to the very end time:
“But news from the east and the north [referring to countries like Russia and China] shall trouble him [the “king of the North,” a future political leader of a united States of Europe]; therefore he shall go out with great fury to destroy and annihilate many… yet he shall come to his end, and no one will help him” (Daniel 11:44).
Notice the following excerpts from the world press, reporting on the ongoing crisis in the Caucasus. They demonstrate how wars are made and lost; how war propaganda is aimed at brainwashing people and soliciting “patriotic and nationalistic support”; and how interests of big politics [including the brutal occupation of other countries and the fight for oil] overrule any humanitarian decency and love for our fellow man (compare James 4:1-4).
It’s the Oil
Der Spiegel Online reported on August 8:
“[The conflict] is one that, in the past, has repeatedly shone the spotlight on differences between Russia and the US. Russia does not want to lose its influence on the former Soviet Republic of Georgia whereas Washington — which sees the country as a vital regional bridgehead and as an important transit country for gas and oil — would like to see the country join NATO and has provided political and economic support…
“Europe has also supported Tbilisi so far… But now that bombs have started to fall, no one in Brussels, Berlin or Paris quite knows what to do…
“As the gateway to the Central Asian oil and gas fields, the former Soviet nation has huge strategic importance to Europe. Planned pipelines will pass through Georgia to help reduce Europe’s energy dependence on Russia. The EU has pumped more than €500 million ($754 million) into aid and development programs in the country…”
The Associated Press reported on August 8:
“A U.S.-backed oil pipeline runs through Georgia, allowing the West to reduce its reliance on Middle Eastern oil while bypassing Russia and Iran… The pipeline that crosses Georgia can pump slightly more than 1 million barrels of crude oil per day, or more than 1 percent of the world’s daily crude output. The 1,100-mile pipeline carries oil from Azerbaijan’s Caspian Sea fields, estimated to hold the world’s third-largest reserves.”
In this context, the following unverified report by Reuters, dated August 9, is quite alarming:
“Russian fighter jets targeted the… major Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) oil pipeline which carries oil to the West from Asia but missed, Georgia’s Economic Development Minister… said on Saturday.”
War Propaganda–How Russia Distorts the Facts and Justifies War Crimes
In spite of Russia’s brutal actions against Georgia, murdering indiscriminately women and children, in a terrible piece of war propaganda, the Russian Pravda justified on August 9 Russia’s action. In distorting the facts and ignoring Russia’s brutal murderous conduct, as has sadly occurred so many times before in its bloody history, the article spread the following fairy tale for warmongers under its appalling headline: “Russia: Again Savior of Peace and Life”:
“The international community collectively held their breath waiting for the reaction of Russia after the savage, brutal, criminal attack by Georgia on South Ossetia. After having offered a cease fire in hostilities, the back stabbing Georgians immediately violated the cease fire, invading South Ossetia and causing massive destruction and death among innocent civilians, among peacekeepers and also destroying a hospital… Georgian troops attempted to storm the city much as Hitler’s Panzer divisions blazed through Europe. Also noteworthy is the fact that Georgian tanks and infantry were being aided by Israeli advisors, a true indicator that this conflict was instigated by outside forces.
“Meanwhile, the western corporate media was maintaining a blackout of ‘the grand silence’ on the aggression of Georgia. When they did finally report on it, they were as usual telling the story backwards with headlines such as ‘Russian Jets Attack Georgia’ and ‘They Have Declared War Against Us’ as though Georgia had not done anything wrong… NATO, the US and the EU all called for an immediate end to hostilities… In a display of cowboy bravado, Georgia also announced that their contingent in Iraq would be withdrawn, ostensibly to be available for further incursions and murderous rampages such as the one of Friday morning…
“President Medvedev said, ‘The Russian military presence in South Ossetia complies with international law and is aimed at enforcing peace. As it has been throughout history, Russia continues to guarantee peace and security in the Caucasus…’ Vladimir Putin stopped by the North Ossetian capital on his way back from the Olympics to survey the situation and speak about the refugee situation. ‘Georgia’s actions are criminal, whereas Russia’s actions are absolutely legitimate,’ the Russian Prime Minister said…
“And so protecting LIFE is the honorable duty of the Russian military. Much as it was during the Great Patriotic War, when the Red Army hoisted the hammer and sickle flag on the Reichstag building, signifying the defeat of fascism.”
Can ANYONE, who knows just a little about Russia’s brutal and bloody history, really believe the nerve with which this article was written? Sadly, some WILL believe it–and that is WHY wars are fought and WHY man CANNOT live in peace with his neighbor. The bloody and murderous history of mankind WILL continue–until Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, returns to put an end to this MADNESS.
More Russian Propaganda
Sadly, AFP reported on August 12 about another incredible piece of Russian propaganda, as follows:
“Former Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev, commenting on the Russia-Georgia conflict, accused the United States of making a ‘serious blunder’ in pursuing its interest in the Caucasus region. He also said that the US charge that Russia was committing aggression into Georgia was ‘not just hypocritical but shows a lack of humanity’.
“‘By declaring the Caucasus, a region that is thousands of miles from the American continent, a sphere of its “national interest”, the United States made a serious blunder’, Mr Gorbachev said in an opinion piece to be published in the Washington Post on Tuesday. Mr Gorbachev, the last leader of the Soviet Union, said Russia was not seeking territorial expansion, but it has ‘legitimate interests’ in this region.”
Europe Did NOT Help Georgia
Der Spiegel wrote on August 11:
“The dispatch of the Black Sea fleet to Abkhazia, the bombing of the Georgian towns of Poti and Gori and of an aircraft factory near the Georgian capital of Tbilisi show how determined Russia is to escalate this conflict. And how uninterested Russia is in living up to its role as a peacekeeping power. Russia wants to prevent Georgia from joining NATO and it wants to topple Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, the initiator of this policy… The Russian attacks are a blatant violation of Georgian territorial sovereignty, and the fact that many Abkhazians and South Ossetians have Russian passports provides no legal justification for Russia’s actions…
“Since Saakashvili came to power in 2004 with the ‘Rose Revolution,’ he has been urging US and Europe to take a greater role in helping to solve the conflicts. His calls have been in vain as far as Europe is concerned. Georgia is a member of the EU’s European Neighborhood Policy, but when it came to concrete steps to limit and prevent conflicts, Berlin in particular has been quite reticent — in contrast with Sweden, Poland and the Baltic States.
“Georgia’s demands for European solidarity have been refused amid — albeit justified — criticism of the country’s democratic shortcomings… In the end it will be up to Washington to show Russia the red line it must not cross, although the threshold for US intervention will be very high. And for Berlin and Brussels, it’s time to grant Georgia the kind of European solidarity that a European state is entitled to under the European Charter of Fundamental Rights.”
Once Again, Russia Has Shown Its True Face
The Jerusalem Post wrote on August 12:
“Earlier in the day, Medvedev ordered a halt to military action in Georgia, after five days of air and land attacks that took Russian forces deep into its small US-allied neighbor in the Caucasus… The UN and NATO had called meetings Tuesday to deal with the conflict, which… raised fears in former Soviet bloc nations of Eastern Europe. Poland’s president and the leaders of four ex-Soviet republics headed to Georgia for a meeting with President Mikhail Saakashvili to send a signal of solidarity with Tbilisi.
“‘We may say that the Russian state has once again shown its face, its true face,’ said Poland’s Lech Kaczynski, who will be joined by counterparts from Lithuania, Estonia, Ukraine and Latvia… The Russian onslaught, accompanied by relentless Russian air raids on Georgian territory, angered the West, bringing the toughest words yet from US President George W. Bush… ‘Russia has invaded a sovereign neighboring state and threatens a democratic government elected by its people. Such an action is unacceptable in the 21st century,’ Bush said in a televised statement from the White House.”
Russia’s TRUE Intentions
On August 12, The New York Times published an article, which was re-published by Der Spiegel, stating the following:
“Russia is portraying its war in Georgia as a legitimate response to Georgia’s incursion last week into its breakaway region of South Ossetia… But the truth is that for the past several months, Russia, not Georgia, has been stoking tensions in South Ossetia and another of Georgia’s breakaway areas, Abkhazia. After NATO held a summit in Bucharest, Romania, in April — at which Georgia and Ukraine received positive signs of potential membership — then-President Vladimir Putin of Russia signed a decree effectively treating Abkhazia and South Ossetia as parts of the Russian Federation. This was a direct violation of Georgia’s territorial integrity.
“It came after years of growing Russian efforts to assert control over these regions, for example, by distributing Russian passports to citizens and arranging the appointment of Russians to the territories’ governments. Mr. Putin, who is now Russia’s prime minister, oversaw a build-up of Russian ‘peacekeeping’ forces in Abkhazia, which was clearly intended to provoke Georgia into a military response. Yet Georgia showed restraint — in large part because Mr. Saakashvili understood that military adventurism would harm his NATO prospects. Moscow, in turn, transferred its efforts to South Ossetia, where pro-Russian rebels carried out attacks on Georgian forces and villages, finally provoking the response that Moscow had sought as a pretext to intervene.
“Now Moscow has sent out the Black Sea fleet to Georgia’s coast and broadened the war into Abkhazia and Georgia proper, showing that Moscow’s war is not just about South Ossetia. In any case, Moscow’s own treatment of separatism — killing tens of thousands of Chechens over the past decade — says volumes about its claims that it is just trying to protect a minority population.
“This war is about making an example in Georgia, about the consequences post-Soviet countries will suffer for standing up to Moscow, conducting democratic reforms and seeking military and economic ties with the West. No Eurasian country has come so far as Georgia in recent years in terms of democratization and reform. Georgia has the third-largest contingent of forces in Iraq, and before this crisis it had pledged to send forces to Afghanistan…
“Should we allow Russia to occupy Georgia or even just depose the Saakashvili government, the implications for America’s standing in Eurasia would be dire… Indeed, we have no real military options against Russia. But we can put together a meaningful comprehensive reaction, attaching real costs to Russia for its policies.
“America must hit where it hurts: Russia’s international prestige, an obsession of Mr. Putin’s. To begin with, we must do everything possible to see Russia’s membership in the Group of 8 industrialized nations be suspended (something the Republican presidential hopeful John McCain called for even before this crisis). Once the fighting is over, America must step up its campaign for NATO membership for Georgia and Ukraine. Should European countries reject the idea, America could designate them ‘major non-NATO allies,’ along the lines of Israel and Pakistan. This would involve more American military trainers in Georgia, intelligence-sharing, joint exercises and other steps, if not a full pledge by Washington to defend the country in case of attack.
“Finally, in a measure of fitting symbolism, America must note that Russia started this war on the opening day of the Olympics, while it plans to hold its own Winter Olympics only a dozen miles from the victim of its aggression. America should seriously consider announcing a boycott of the 2014 Sochi Olympics. We owe our Georgian allies nothing less.”
On August 12, 2008, The Wall Street Journal wrote the following:
“The farther Russia’s tanks roll into Georgia, the more the world is beginning to see the reality of Vladimir Putin’s Napoleonic ambitions. Having consolidated his authoritarian transition as Prime Minister with a figurehead President, Mr. Putin is now pushing to reassert Russian dominance in Eurasia. Ukraine is in his sights, and even the Baltic states could be threatened if he’s allowed to get away with it. The West needs to draw a line at Georgia…
“While the rape of Chechnya was brutal, this is the most brazen act of Mr. Putin’s reign, the first military offensive outside Russia’s borders since Soviet rule ended. Yet it also fits a pattern of other threats and affronts to Russia’s neighbors: turning off the oil or natural-gas taps to Ukraine, Belarus, Georgia, and even to NATO-member Lithuania; launching a cyberassault on Estonia; opposing two antimissile sites in NATO members in Eastern Europe that couldn’t begin to neutralize Russia’s offensive capabilities…
“The Georgia invasion is a direct slap at the Western alliance. Tbilisi, like Kiev, has been pushing for NATO membership. Mr. Putin decided to act while some alliance members, led by Germany, dallied over their applications. Georgia was first. Ukraine, which has been pushing Russia to move its Black Sea fleet’s headquarters out of the Crimea, could be next…”
“As for the U.S., this is perhaps the last chance for President Bush to salvage any kind of positive legacy toward Russia, amid what is a useful record elsewhere in Eurasia. While Mr. Bush has championed the region’s fledgling democracies, he and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice badly misjudged Mr. Putin. Now would be a good moment for Mr. Bush to publicly acknowledge his misjudgment and rally the West’s response.
“John McCain had the Russian leader pegged better, which speaks well of his foreign-policy instincts. The Republican Presidential candidate has long said that Russia should be booted from the G-8 and yesterday he outlined a forceful Western strategy on Russia that stops short of military action. Barack Obama has in the past indicated support for the Georgia and Ukraine NATO bids, but the Democratic candidate has yet to explain in any detail how he would respond to the current conflict.”
How Much Can You Believe Russia?
The Associated Press reported on August 12:
“The State Department is recommending that all U.S. citizens to leave Georgia due to ongoing Russian bombing of civilian and military targets despite Russia’s claim to have halted military operations there.
“In a new travel warning, it says the security situation throughout Georgia remains uncertain and that it is organizing a third evacuation convoy to take Americans who want to leave by road to neighboring Armenia. More than 170 Americans left Georgia on Sunday and Monday in two similar convoys. The entire contingent of Peace Corps volunteers in Georgia has left for Armenia.
“The department says the U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi remains open for emergency services and that Americans who chose not to leave should consider moving to secure locations.”
Will the USA Be Drawn Into the War?
Times On Line reported on August 13:
“President Bush dispatched US military hardware to the heart of the Caucasus yesterday and warned Russia that it could be frozen out of international bodies as punishment for its aggression in Georgia. In his toughest criticism of Russia since becoming President, Mr Bush accused it of breaching the provisional ceasefire agreed with Georgia only 24 hours earlier. He cited intelligence showing that Russian troops had again taken the town of Gori and could threaten the capital, Tbilisi. He insisted that Moscow respect the former Soviet republic’s territorial integrity. There were also reports of Russian-backed militia in South Ossetia looting ethnic Georgian villages and killing inhabitants…
“Although direct military intervention is not being considered, Pentagon sources have hinted that a limited number of troops could be deployed to support what Mr Bush described as a vigorous and continuing humanitarian mission headed by the US military. The first US air force transport aircraft arrived last night, and the navy was heading to the Black Sea – which is controlled by Russian warships – to deliver humanitarian and medical supplies direct to Georgian ports…
“Condoleezza Rice, the US Secretary of State, flew to France last night to meet President Sarkozy before heading to Tbilisi. Sergei Lavrov, her Russian counterpart, said that the US must choose between supporting the Georgian leadership and maintaining a partnership with Russia on international issues. Dr Rice said: ‘This is not 1968 and the invasion of Czechoslovakia, where Russia can threaten its neighbours, occupy a capital, overthrow a government and get away with it. Things have changed.'”
Is The USA Waking Up?
Time Magazine published the following analysis on August 12, with the headline: “Failing the Georgia Test”:
“Russia’s swift invasion of Georgia appears to have met its goals: humiliating a neighbor that deigned to escape its sphere of influence, and proving that the Bear still has very sharp claws. While it is not yet clear that all military operations have ceased (Georgia reported that bombings continue), the past five days have been a test case for the limits of post-Iraq U.S. power – and the nimbleness of American policy. The results are not encouraging for Washington: the incursion of Russian troops beyond the secessionist province of South Ossetia represents a direct challenge by Moscow to the U.S., the European Union and NATO, reviving the old confrontation between the former cold war adversaries.
“If the stakes are high, you wouldn’t have known it from Washington’s early reaction. The President made cautious statements of condemnation over the weekend at the Olympic games in Beijing, and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice remained on vacation, oddly absent from public view on an issue she had made her career on. At the same time, the presidential campaigns of Barack Obama and John McCain have seen the crisis largely as an occasion for political sniping, perhaps more eager to gain an edge in the race for the White House than they are to seek solutions.
“The Administration struggled to shape a response to the crisis from the beginning. A senior State department official tells TIME that on Aug. 7 he personally warned the Georgian foreign minister ‘not to get into a military tangle’ with the Russians. ‘The Russians are looking for an excuse to kill Georgians,’ the official says he told the foreign minister – reiterating a similar message the official says he delivered in May, during a prior uptick in tensions. But the warning came too late: Georgia’s attack in South Ossetia, in response to provocative attacks by pro-Moscow separatists, began Aug. 6; by the time of the State Department official’s warning, a day later, Russia’s forces were already on the move…
“The crisis has played mostly to McCain’s advantage. McCain and his advisers have long pushed for the U.S. to respond more aggressively to Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s threats against pro-Western neighbors like Georgia and Ukraine by kicking it out of the G-8 and limiting its contact with NATO. The campaign wasted no time calling this position ‘prescient,’ and it called for a more thorough application of diplomatic pressure than did either the Administration or the Obama campaign – including an emergency session of the NATO council to consider a peacekeeping force, to reassess relations with Russia and to reconsider offering a membership plan to Georgia.
“Obama’s campaign made two early missteps. First, in its initial statement, it called for restraint from both Russia and Georgia… Then Obama’s campaign released a statement questioning McCain’s objectivity in the crisis because a top McCain aide, Randy Scheunemann, had lobbied for the Georgians…
“What neither Bush nor either of the campaigns are saying is that the outcome of conflict in Georgia is likely to redefine perceptions of American and European power around the world, especially in the strategically important regions of the caucuses and Central Asia. Russia’s attack has been met with fairly weak diplomatic warnings; and, with no negative consequences in the offing for its adventure, the invasion could mark a return of the military compulsion Moscow practiced in the Soviet era. There is no greater incentive than success.”
Germany’s Newspapers Demand: “The West Must Stop Putin”
Der Spiegel Online wrote on August 13:
“The West urgently needs to get tough to contain Russia’s new-found imperialism in the wake of its military action in Georgia, write German media commentators. The problem is that the EU, as usual, lacks the required unity while the US has a lame duck president whose invasion of Iraq robbed him of authority. Russia has shown the world it won’t shy away from using tanks to enforce its geopolitical interests. And the West has shown it doesn’t have any leverage to halt Russia’s new-found imperialism, write German newspaper commentators…
“Left-leaning Die Tageszeitung writes: ‘The EU cannot accept such developments in neighboring countries and it must not look on without doing something…’ Center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung writes: ‘The West would be well advised to get used to the idea that Moscow no longer shies away from military action in pursuing its interests. That forces the EU to define its foreign policy lines more clearly. Should a country like Georgia that is of strategic importance to the West as a transit country for oil and gas be left to Russia? The EU will have to tackle these uncomfortable questions and even more uncomfortable answers, if it ever wants to be more than a superfluous ‘mediator’ in the step-by-step restoration of the Russian empire.’
“Center-left Süddeutsche Zeitung writes: ‘…After hesitating for days, George W. Bush found strong words and branded the Russian attack on a “sovereign neighboring state” as unacceptable in the 21st century. But the admonition of the outgoing American president won’t have much impact in Moscow. Firstly, the Russian leadership doesn’t see itself as morally accountable to the Iraq warrior Bush. Secondly, it’s waiting to see who will be moving into the White House: Republican hawk John McCain, who wants to throw Russia out of the G8 group of leading industrial nations, or the young Democrat Barack Obama who has made more moderate noises…’
“Business daily Financial Times Deutschland writes: ‘The world, and that means not just the West, has a choice: It can keep on knuckling under to Putin by just tut-tutting and doing nothing. If it does, it will have to live with the consequences of Putin’s imperialism. Or it shows him a clear stop sign and forces him and his so-called peacekeepers out of Georgia so that an international peacekeeping force can be stationed in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Travel restrictions, economic sanctions or frozen Russian bank accounts abroad are measures that could hit Russia’s economy hard.'”
… And Big Politics and Fighting Are Going On…
The Associated Press reported on August 14:
“The White House says it is ignoring Russia’s claims that Georgia’s territorial integrity has been breached and that its two separatist provinces will no longer be part of the former Soviet Republic… Russia apparently is sabotaging airfields and other military infrastructure in Georgia as its forces pull back, in a deliberate attempt to cripple the already battered, U.S.-trained Georgian military, a U.S. official said Thursday.
“Reports from Georgia indicate that Russian forces are doing what they can to disable Georgia’s ability to fight a future conflict, the official said. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to describe incomplete but apparently convincing eyewitness accounts. Explosions were heard near Gori on Thursday as a Russian troop withdrawal from the strategic city seemed to collapse. A fragile cease-fire appeared even more shaky as Russia’s foreign minister declared that the world ‘can forget about any talk about Georgia’s territorial integrity.'”
That was one of Russia’s goals from the outset–to occupy Georgia and to force it back into the “loving” arms of “Mother Russia.” In the recent past, Russia occupied and brutally suppressed the peoples of Poland, East Germany and Czechoslovakia. It is now trying to do the same regarding former Soviet countries, beginning with Georgia. As reported above, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said: “This is not 1968 and the invasion of Czechoslovakia, where Russia can threaten its neighbours, occupy a capital, overthrow a government and get away with it. Things have changed.”
But have they? Only the future will tell.
For more information, please read our free booklets, “Europe in Prophecy,” “The Fall and Rise of Britain and America,” and “The Great Tribulation and the Day of the Lord.”
Please explain Christ's words in Matthew 24:34, saying that "this generation" would not pass away until "all these things" have taken place.
Actually, Christ’s words, as quoted above in the book of Matthew, are also recorded in Mark 13:30 and in Luke 21:32. Christ had been asked privately by four of His disciples (Mark 13:3) “… when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” (Matthew 24:3). Christ proceeded to describe events which would take place, leading to His Second Coming and to the end of THIS age and the beginning of the Millennium–the NEW age of the wonderful world tomorrow.
He warned against ever-increasing religious deception, wars, famines, pestilences and earthquakes (Matthew 24:4-7); as well as religious and national persecution of spiritual and physical “Israel,” which persecution is also referred to as the Great Tribulation (Matthew 24:9, 15-28; Mark 13:9, 11-23; Luke 21:12-24). He stated that the Great Tribulation will be followed by heavenly signs or cosmic disturbances (Matthew 24:29; Mark 13:24; Luke 21:25-26), which will finally lead to His return in great power and great glory (Matthew 24:30-31; Mark 13:26-27: Luke 21:27-28).
It is in THAT context that Jesus added the following words:
“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. Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away” (Matthew 24:32-35).
It is clarified in the parallel Scripture in Luke 21:31, that Christ was speaking about His Coming and the establishment of the “kingdom of God” here on earth: “So you also, when you see these things happening, know that the kingdom of God is near.” He also made clear that before the Kingdom of God would be established on earth, the gospel or good news of the Kingdom would be “preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations” (Matthew 24:14).
Commentaries are divided on the meaning of Christ’s statement that “this generation” would not pass away.
(1) Some erroneously assume that Christ was addressing His disciples at the time prior to His death, and that He was promising them that He would return in their lifetime. These commentaries overlook that Christ was not only addressing His four disciples who had asked Him about the signs of His coming, but that He spoke to ALL of His disciples–present and future. He specifically said in Mark 13:37: “And what I say to you, I say to all: Watch!”
Also, whenever the Bible uses the expression “you,” it is referring to the physical or spiritual “descendants” of “Israel”–including the modern descendants of the physical nations of the ancient Houses of Israel and Judah, AND the modern descendants of spiritual Israel, which is the Church of God (Galatians 6:16).
Since Jesus did NOT return in the lifetimes of His early disciples, we can rule out the possibility that He was talking about the generation at the time of the Twelve Apostles. He clearly did not mean to tell them that their generation–the people living at the time of the original Apostles–would not die out before His return. Christ could not have meant that, as otherwise, He would have lied. Lying is sinning–a transgression of one of the Ten Commandments–but Christ never sinned (compare 1 Peter 2:22).
(2) Other commentaries state that the word “generation” can mean “race,” and that Christ meant that Israel as a people would not cease to exist before Christ’s return (compare The Nelson Study Bible).
Even though it is true that Israel as a people would not cease to exist–and neither would the Church of God (spiritual Israel)–it is doubtful that Jesus had that aspect in mind. Rather, He emphasized the need for His disciples to watch world events and to be ready for His return. He told us that when “these things BEGIN to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near” (Luke 21:28). The context of His statement that “this generation” would not pass away, is clearly the very end time, just prior to His return, not the continuing existence of “Israel” for over 2,000 years. The events described by Christ were meant to be indications for His end-time disciples that He would return soon.
(3) Therefore, some commentaries offer the explanation that “the word describes a particular era in which people will see the end times. That is, the events will occur so rapidly that all will happen within one generation. ‘All these things’ includes the Antichrist [better, the manifestation of the Beast and the False Prophet, compare Revelation 19:19-20], the tribulation, and more importantly the appearance of Christ in glory” (The Nelson Study Bible).
This is the correct explanation. We need to realize that the Greek word for “generation,” i.e., “genea,” can describe a particular people at a very specific time–not the entire race throughout many “generations.” For instance, Christ spoke on several occasions to His particular “generation” which was alive at the time of His First Coming, and He did NOT mean that THAT generation would not die until His return. Notice Matthew 12:41-42: “The men of Nineveh will RISE UP in the JUDGMENT [the Great White Throne Judgment, after the Millennium, compare Revelation 20:11-12] WITH THIS GENERATION [so they will have also died] and condemn it… The queen of the South will rise up in the judgment with THIS generation and condemn it…”
Christ said in Mark 8:12 that no sign from heaven would be given to “this generation” (living at the time of Christ’s First Coming), but we just read that heavenly signs WILL be given to a future generation, which will live just prior to His return.
(4) We might wonder how long a “generation” lasts, according to the Bible. We find a biblical definition for the approximate length of a human life in this modern day and age in Psalm 90:10, where we read: “The days of our lives are seventy years; And if by reason of strength they are eighty years, Yet their boast is only labor and sorrow; For it is soon cut off, and we fly away.” We also read in God’s Word that God sometimes shortens or prolongs human life, and that bloodthirsty and deceitful men may not live out HALF their days (Psalm 55:23). This is an interesting statement in light of the fact that men will be so bloodthirsty and destructive in the end time that Christ will HAVE to come and SHORTEN the days of worldwide warfare, lest ANY man would be saved alive or survive (Matthew 24:22).
At this moment in time, we have not yet seen the beginning of the Great Tribulation, but we have been witnessing ever-increasing religious deception, wars, earthquakes, famines and disease epidemics–events which are described by Christ as the “beginning of sorrows” (Matthew 24:8). These will become more and more visible and frightening in the years to come. We do not know the exact time of Christ’s return, but based on the parable of the fig tree, we CAN say that we ARE living today in the very last generation, and that Christ WILL return BEFORE this present generation has “passed away.” It is therefore important for us to watch and pray, and to be “ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an HOUR [we] do NOT expect” (Matthew 24:44).
Lead Writer: Norbert Link
Preaching the Gospel and Feeding the Flock
An advertisement for our free Public Bible Lecture in Fort Collins, Colorado, on September 7 has been posted on the Internet. The ad is targeted for the Fort Collins area. Please pray for the success of this ad and the lecture.
Recently, we had to reprint our booklet, “Europe in Prophecy.” Now, we will reprint our booklet, “The Mysteries of the Bible.”
The following sermons by Norbert Link have been posted on Google Video:
“Bible Study–The Book of Malachi” (August 9, 2008)
“Bible Study–How Assertive Are You?” (August 27, 2005)
“Bible Study–The Son of Man and of God” (December 17, 2005)
A new StandingWatch program in the German language was posted on our German Website and on YouTube It is titled, “Krieg mit Iran–Nie im Leben?” (i.e., “War With Iran–Not in Your Life?”)
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
Our activities and literature, including booklets, weekly updates, sermons on CD, and video and audio broadcasts, are provided free of charge. They are made possible by the tithes, offerings and contributions of Church members and others who have elected to support this Work.
While we do not solicit the general public for funds, contributions are gratefully welcomed and are tax-deductible in the U.S. and Canada.
Donations should be sent to the following addresses:
United States: Church of the Eternal God, P.O. Box 270519, San Diego, CA 92198
Canada: Church of God, ACF, Box 1480, Summerland, B.C. V0H 1Z0
United Kingdom: Global Church of God, PO Box 44, MABLETHORPE, LN12 9AN, United Kingdom