Update 400


Babylon the Great

On June 27, 2009, Norbert Link will give the sermon, titled, “Babylon the Great.”

The services can be heard at www.cognetservices.org (12:30 pm Pacific Time; 1:30 pm Mountain Time; 2:30 pm Central Time; 3:30 pm Eastern Time). Just click on Connect to Live Stream.

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Lonely but Not Alone

by Rene Messier (Canada)

Recently I visited a longtime friend in the nearby regional hospital who had been transferred from surgery in the Vancouver area. He was recuperating, but was feeling kind of  low. He informed me that his hip replacement surgery did not go that well.  During the operation, they fractured his femur in several places, and he went through a lot of emotional trauma.

He felt especially down because when he went through a trial during his marriage, his wife would comfort him. He also said that when he faced  problems then, his children would come and touch his arm and tell him, it would be all right, dad. With no mate, friends or family in the area, he found it extremely trying, and he was emotionally distraught after the surgery.

He knew about the promise from Christ, in Hebrews 13:5: “Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, ‘I WILL NEVER LEAVE YOU NOR FORSAKE YOU.'”

He also knew the admonition in 1 Corinthians 10:13: “No temptation [or serious trial] has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.”

Yet in spite of these Scriptures, he felt a deep loneliness, even on the verge of despair.

After coming home and during the next few days, I began to think about my visit. What I had experienced was something I could really relate to, having spent eleven months away from home in a hospital when I was six years old. It brought back those memories of missing family and friends.  My parents, being poor, were only able to visit me three times during these eleven months, and my two brothers and one sister saw me only once. I felt very lonely and had feelings of despair.

When pondering this, it got me thinking how blessed are the brethren who can meet on the weekly Sabbath for services and live close to fellowship during the week. Some are scattered and some don’t even have a converted mate, yet they do the best they can by partaking of the weekly Internet service on the Sabbath. How much would they like to attend Church services in person! They look especially forward to the Festival of Tabernacles and other occasions when they can all be together to fellowship in person and to worship God together.

We may be lonely at times but never alone in the sense that we can have weekly contact with our brethren. If brethren are scattered, they at least worship together via the Internet. It is hoped that those who have opportunity to attend services in person take advantage of this great blessing on a regular and consistent basis; and that they who are fortunate enough to be able to congregate as a group never take for granted the opportunity to meet together for services.

As we move closer to the time of the Great Tribulation and as problems and trials will increase, let us never forget that precious and valuable promise from Christ–that He will NEVER leave or forsake us, whether it be in good times or in bad times, in adversity and in blessings. If we want Him to, He will be there, helping us through thick and thin, and His Church will never cease to exist either.  That means, no matter what, we never have to be alone. 

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Overshadowed by the events involving Iran and, to a lesser extent, North Korea, Iraq, Afghanistan and domestic U.S. politics, many did not take note of a decision of the EU, which Der Spiegel calls “the most important decision taken in Europe this year.” That decision could bring about the adoption of the Lisbon Treaty by the end of the year, giving European institutions greater powers, a more permanent EU President and foreign minister, and a strengthened role of the EU Parliament.

According to the Bible, the unification of Europe is a given. However, we are also to wait for the development of something like a core Europe within the EU–the emergence of 10 powerful European nations or groups of nations, which will then in turn transfer their powers to a charismatic political and military European leader–the final leader of the last revival of the ancient Roman Empire (referred to in biblical prophecy as “the beast,” “the king of the North” and “King Jareb of Assyria”). Based on some indications in the book of Daniel, it is possible that even if the Lisbon Treaty comes into effect, the first permanent president and/or foreign minister under that Treaty will not remain in office for long, but will be “supplanted” by a “vile” person “to whom they will not give the honor of royalty,” but who will be gaining authority “peaceably” and “by intrigue” (Daniel 11:21). Once in power, he might act “deceitfully” and “corrupt” those with “flattery” who act “wickedly against the covenant” (compare Daniel 11:23, 32).

Even though those above-quoted passages of the prophecy in Daniel 11 refer primarily to ancient Antiochus Epiphanes, it is possible that SOME OF THEM are of dual application. For example, Daniel speaks about the “abomination of desolation”–a statue of a pagan god erected in the temple at Jerusalem and invading armies in the Middle East, leading to the suppression of daily sacrifices. All of this was indeed caused and fulfilled by Antiochus Epiphanes in ancient times (Daniel 11:31). However, Christ said–and Daniel confirmed–that these events will be repeated just prior to His return (Matthew 24:15-22; Daniel 12:7, 11).

It is fascinating to read the character description of Antiochus Epiphanes and ponder about the possibility that it MIGHT also describe, to an extent, the character of the coming “beast” (Some commentaries even feel that the following excerpts don’t refer to Antiochus at all, but exclusively to the “beast”):

“Then the king shall do according to his own will: he shall exalt and magnify himself above every god, shall speak blasphemies against the God of gods [compare Revelation 13:5-6], and shall prosper till the wrath has been accomplished [compare Revelation 18:3, referring to the wrath of the fornication of the Babylonian system; compare also the following passages referring to the wrath of GOD, in Revelation 14:19; 15:1, 7; 16:1, 19; 19:15]… He shall regard neither the God [better: god or gods] of his fathers nor the desire of women [either being very licentious and not desirous of women in a lawful marriage, thereby disregarding what women may want; or perhaps indicating his desire for unnatural sexual preferences], nor regard any god; for he shall exalt himself above them all. But in their place he shall honor a god of fortresses; and a god which his fathers did not know he shall honor with gold and silver, with precious stones and pleasant things…” (Daniel 11:36-38).

Europe will MILITARILY intervene in the Middle East to attempt to bring peace to that region–perhaps after Israel will have received a mortal “wound” or a decisive defeat in a coming war (compare Hosea 5:13). The United States of America and Great Britain (referred to as “Ephraim” in Hosea 5)–already bogged down by economic turmoil, political isolation and their unsuccessful military involvement in Iraq, Afghanistan and perhaps soon North Korea–will not play any major role on the world scene at that time.

We need to be “on the watch,” carefully observing the events as they unfold in Europe and the Middle East.

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EU Renders Most Important Decision of the Year

Der Spiegel wrote on June 19:

“Friday’s deal in Brussels paving the way forward for a second referendum on the Lisbon Treaty in Ireland is the most important decision taken in Europe this year. The treaty, which will bring widespread reforms to the European Union and give its institutions greater power, could… go into effect before the end of the year… Then the EU would get a president, a foreign minister and the role of the European Parliament would be strengthened considerably.

“Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen announced the referendum would be held during the first week of October. Public opinion polls currently indicate that Irish voters would likely approve the Lisbon Treaty this time around, following their rejection in a first referendum one year ago. Cowen said the European Council had given Ireland ‘firm legal guarantees’ and that he was ‘confident we now have a solid basis to go to the Irish people and to ask them again for their approval for Ireland to ratify the treaty so that Europe can move on.’

“The EU has provided guarantees to Ireland that it will remain independent in determining tax policies, military neutrality and abortion law (Ireland has one of Europe’s most restrictive abortion policies). The sovereignty guarantees are expected to be anchored in EU law as a treaty protocol in the mid-term future…

“The history of the Lisbon Treaty is a long one. It has been five [years] since EU leaders approved the text of the European constitution in Rome. After the constitution was rejected in two referenda in France and the Netherlands, the draft landed in the waste bin. Under German leadership, however, the text was brought back to life in its current incarnation as the Treaty of Lisbon.

“The streamlined treaty was supposed to have gone into effect at the end of 2008. However, another referendum got in the way. Irish voters said ‘no’ and the EU was thrown into yet another crisis. This time the other leaders made it clear that they would not accept the ‘no’ vote. They immediately began to consider how and when a second referendum could be held in Ireland.

“One year on, it looks like that referendum will soon take place. The mood in Ireland seems to be favorable: The financial crisis has made people think much more positively about the EU. And now the guarantees of sovereignty have given Cowen further arguments in favor of the treaty.

“There were tough negotiations at the summit over those guarantees. Cowen surprised the other EU leaders on Thursday when he said he would need the guarantees entrenched in the treaty. A declaration by the Council would not suffice… It was pure blackmail — but the EU leaders had little choice but to accept those terms. No one can even consider the Lisbon Treaty failing again…

“Ireland is not alone in not having ratified the Lisbon Treaty. The Czech Republic, Poland and Germany still haven’t done so. Germany, for example, must first wait for a ruling by the Federal Constitutional Court on Lisbon’s legality. However, these are regarded as much lower hurdles than Ireland.”

Merkel and Obama “Are Not Getting Any Warmer…”

Der Spiegel Online wrote on June 23:

“German Chancellor Angela Merkel is traveling to Washington this week to discuss the financial crisis and climate change with US President Barack Obama — two issues where Germany and the US are deeply divided…

“When US President Barack Obama recently met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Dresden, he… remained true to the program at first. But then he unexpectedly asked ‘Angela’ why, exactly, she didn’t want Turkey to be accepted into the European Union. Merkel was taken aback. She had to think on her feet and quickly come up with an answer for an issue on which she had no pre-prepared comments. It became clear to her, once again, that this president is a challenge, both for Merkel and for German politics as a whole…

“A clash of cultures is raging between Berlin and the United States on the issue of financial policy… The German chancellor… considers the Americans’ offensive monetary policy to be dangerous… A few hours after the encounter between Merkel and Obama, Ben LaBolt, a White House press spokesman, told a colleague about the difficult relationship between the two leaders. ‘They are not getting any warmer,’ he said…

“Obama’s visits to Dresden and Buchenwald also ruffled some feathers in Germany. The US president’s advance team, which had been sent to help prepare for the trip, made a negative impression on the Germans through their coarse language and overbearing behavior. German officials were shouted at, treated like schoolchildren and told to wait their turns… As it is, the US president in person is by no means the charming and smiling character many have come to expect from his television appearances. He cultivates a cool style or, as one of the members of the delegation describes it, ‘an almost unfeeling style.'”

Deutsche Welle added on June 24:

“Ms Merkel arrives in Washington on Thursday and meets Mr Obama on Friday. It will be their third meeting in less than a year. Ms Merkel hosted the US president in Dresden three weeks ago. Yet in spite of frequent meetings and delight among Germans at Mr Obama’s election, the rapport between the old allies has deteriorated in recent months… ‘The chancellor is not interested in joining the competition for who gets along best with Obama,’ a senior aide said on Wednesday…

“Economic policy is not the only source of tension. While Berlin has long been critical of the prison at Guantánamo Bay, it has rejected US requests to take detainees. It has also dragged its feet on committing troops to Afghanistan… Other matters have conspired to poison the atmosphere. German officials said last month the US Treasury’s role in talks between Berlin and General Motors over the future of Opel, its German arm, had been offhand and unhelpful.

“While Mr Obama had only planned to tour the Buchenwald concentration camp during what had been billed as a private visit this month, Ms Merkel insisted he go to Dresden, the Baroque city razed by US and UK bombers in 1945. Their first clash goes back before Mr Obama’s election last summer, when Ms Merkel vetoed his plan to make a speech before the Brandenburg gate. The address was moved a mile west to the victory column.”

Europe Caught Between Rock and Hard Place on Iran

Deutsche Welle wrote on June 19:

“With mass demonstrations continuing since the announcement of the presidential election results in the Iranian capital and other cities despite a government crackdown, many observers inside and outside the country had hoped that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei would make an effort of reconciliation in his traditional Friday sermon. Instead, Khamenei defended Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, declaring him the clear winner of the election and urged the opposition to end its protests.

“That puts the West in a terrible bind, says Nicola Pedde, Director of Globe Research, a Rome-based think tank focusing on the Middle East. ‘We can do nothing. If you support the reformists, the Iranian government will say that the opposition is supported by agents of foreign governments. And if you stay silent it can be interpreted negatively as support for the government.’

“Paul Luft, founder of the Center for Iranian Studies at Durham University, agrees that Western countries should stay out of what he describes as an internal conflict… If the West is perceived to be meddling in Iran’s domestic affairs, that could help unite the Islamists, says Luft…

“But other experts argue that the West can’t just stand by and let events unfold, but must make a concerted effort to support the democracy movement in Iran… ‘The West shouldn’t prematurely recognize Ahmadinejad as the winner of the election’, says Jamsheed Faroughi, Head of Deutsche Welle’s Farsi service. Instead, Western countries should demand new elections in Iran under independent, international supervision. ‘If Ahmadinejad really won the election by a landslide as the official results claim, then what is the government afraid of?’

“It is crucial that Europe doesn’t just remain on the sidelines this time, argues Bernd Kaussler, an Iran expert at James Madison University… Kaussler admits that Europe is in a difficult position, but says it could lose all of its credibility with reform-minded Iranians if it doesn’t act now… Kaussler agrees with Faroughi that the West should not recognize Ahmadinejad as the winner of the election. While the EU and the US shouldn’t endorse his opponent Mir Hossein Mousavi in order not to meddle too much in Iranian affairs, they should highlight human rights violations and demand freedom of expression in Iran. ‘It could start with the European Parliament issuing a resolution claiming solidarity with the Iranians.'”

The article also published the following chart, explaining more fully the rather complicated Iranian governmental system or power structure.

Iran's power structure

Exiled Son of Shah Warns of Nuclear War

AFP wrote on June 22:

“The exiled son of the late shah of Iran, Reza Pahlavi, warned Monday of dire consequences for the volatile Middle East and the rest of the world if the popular uprising in Iran is crushed. The defeat of the movement protesting the outcome of presidential elections… would not only threaten global stability but could lead to nuclear war, Pahlavi [said].”

Iran Plays Hardball–Attacks Britain…

USA Today reported on June 23:

“Iran’s rulers stiffened their stance against protesters Tuesday, firmly rejecting demands to annul the election over fraud allegations, setting up a special court for detained demonstrators and keeping troops in riot gear on the streets to break up any gatherings. Iran also expelled two British diplomats Tuesday after bitterly accusing Britain of meddling and spying… During Friday prayers at Tehran University, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei lashed out against Western countries he said were displaying their ‘enmity’ against the Islamic state, ‘and the most evil of them is the British government’…

“In a boost for the embattled regime, Russia said Tuesday that it respects the declared election result. But France summoned Iran’s ambassador to express concern about what it called ‘brutal repression’ of protesters in Tehran.”

The Telegraph reported on June 24 that “Britain… was throwing out two Iranian diplomats in response to Tehran’s expulsion of two British diplomats.”

The Times wrote on June 25:

“In a briefing to heads of foreign missions in Tehran this week, Manochehr Mottaki, the Foreign Minister of the Islamic Republic of Iran… reserved his severest criticism for Britain. In what must rank as one of the most idiotic statements made by a serving Foreign Minister of an Iranian Government, Mr Mottaki charged that ‘they [the British Government] sent planes full of passengers to Iran with special intelligence and security ambitions’…

“The madness does, of course, have some method attached to it. It… plays to a particular constituency in Iran, which still sees Britain as the root of all evil.”

… and the USA

Reuters reported on June 25:

“Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad accused President Barack Obama on Thursday of behaving like his predecessor toward Iran and said there is not much point in talking to Washington unless Obama apologizes. Obama said on Tuesday he was ‘appalled and outraged’ by a post-election crackdown, and Washington withdrew invitations to Iranian diplomats to attend U.S. Independence Day celebrations on July 4, stalling efforts to improve ties with Tehran…”

The Times added on June 25:

“Hugo Chavez, the President of Venezuela who is an ally of Mr Ahmadinejad, [said about the demonstrations in Iran], ‘People are in the streets, some are dead, they have snipers, and behind this is the CIA, the imperial hand of European countries and the United States.'”

The irony is that, according to Western reports, Iran might be using terrorists from Hamas and Hezbollah to brutally suppress the demonstrations in Iran.

Iran’s Turmoil Unsettles the Middle East

The Wall Street Journal wrote on June 24:

“The turmoil in Iran is threatening to reshape the balance of power in the Middle East, denting the Islamic Republic’s regional standing and spooking some Arab regimes with the specter of similar people-power uprisings. Whether or not the protests over Iran’s disputed June 12 presidential election endanger President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, or the Islamic Republic itself, the crisis — Iran’s gravest internal challenge since the 1979 Islamic revolution — has already triggered repercussions well beyond the country’s borders…

“Iran-backed movements that the U.S. considers terrorists, such as Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Palestinian lands… [put] moderate Arab states such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia on the defensive. But, over the past week, the vivid TV images of Iranian security forces and Basij militias beating and killing unarmed protesters, including women, on the streets of Tehran have punctured the Islamic Republic’s carefully constructed image as a champion of the oppressed masses…

“Even Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, whose leaders used to praise Mr. Ahmadinejad’s radical views, seems dumbfounded by the upheaval. ‘People are confused about what’s happening in Iran,’ says the head of the brotherhood’s political bureau, Essam el Erian. On one hand, he explains, many Arabs share Mr. Ahmadinejad’s hostility to Israel and the U.S. Yet, he adds, they also admire the courage of Iranian protesters and can relate to their cause, because elections in most Arab countries are either falsified or not held at all…

“Arab governments seem equally at a loss over how to react to the Iranian protests. In Bahrain, a Shiite-majority country ruled by a Sunni royal family, the government, seemingly fearful of provoking Tehran, this week temporarily closed the nation’s oldest newspaper, Akhbar al Khaleej. The reason: a column, written by a government-appointed member of the country’s legislature that attacked Mr. Ahmadinejad and Iran’s theocratic system. In nearby Saudi Arabia, as well as in Egypt, state media gave relatively little prominence to Iranian protests.

“But the Saudi-backed al Arabiya satellite TV channel… was airing such sympathetic coverage of pro-democracy campaigners in Iran that the Iranian regime shut down the network’s Tehran bureau…

“In Palestine, Iran is the key supporter of Hamas, the Islamist movement that controls the Gaza Strip and fought a bloody war against Israel in January. Palestinians have long been grateful to Iran for its unflinching support against Israel… The supporters of Hamas ‘will remain sympathetic to Iran no matter what,’ estimates Ghassan Khatib, a former Palestinian Authority government minister and peace negotiator… In Lebanon, Hezbollah… has been even more defensive of the Iranian regime, and more scornful of pro-Mousavi protesters… Hezbollah remains a formidable force, and turmoil in Iran is unlikely to weaken its hold over Lebanon’s large Shiite community…”

Israel and Iran–Is Nuclear Apocalypse Inevitable?

On June 22, Der Spiegel Online published an article on Iran and Israel, with the following headline: “HEADING FOR A NUCLEAR APOCALYPSE.” It continued with the following question: “Is War between Iran and Israel Inevitable?”

The magazine went on to say:

“There is every indication that the coming nuclear negotiations between Washington and Tehran — if, indeed, they begin in the next few months with Ahmadinejad still Iranian president — will end in a stalemate by the end of the year. If that happens, US President Barack Obama will push for tougher sanctions against Tehran in early 2010, with the reluctant support of the Russians and Chinese. The leadership in Tehran will interpret this as an aggressive act and will likely speed up its uranium enrichment, meaning that Iran will only be a few months away from having the capability to build a nuclear bomb. At some point next spring, things could have proceeded so far that the Israelis could decide, even without Washington’s approval, to launch attacks against Iranian nuclear facilities. The entire Middle East would see thousands of casualties, and the consequences for the global economy would be devastating.

“To understand what motivates the Iranian president and the Israeli prime minister, and what convictions guide their policies, it is important to examine the deeply religious ideas that shape both Ahmadinejad and Netanyahu and practically destine them to clash with each other: the theology of the [fundamentalist] Islamic Haqqani school and the Jewish concept of Amalek…

“The so-called Mahdists [of the Haqqani school] around… Ahmadinejad believe that their Twelfth Imam disappeared from the face of the earth in the 9th century because Allah the Almighty hid him to put mankind to a test. They also believe that this Twelfth Imam, or Mahdi, will return to the earth… The Mahdi… will create a paradise on earth for believers and condemn blasphemers to eternal damnation. But he will only return when the world has undergone a catharsis, a whirling, gigantic, cleansing upheaval…

“In a face-to-face conversation, Ahmadinejad can be polite, even charming… But he also has a different, mystical side. He considers himself chosen. In a meeting with Iranian members of parliament, Ahmadinejad claimed that he was surrounded by a light when he addressed the United Nations General Assembly in New York, and that the light silenced the leaders of other countries in the audience during his speech…

“Benjamin Netanyahu… has repeated his mantra that the Iranian nuclear program is the greatest threat Israel has confronted ‘since its creation in 1948.’ The liberal and consistently well-informed Israeli daily Haaretz wrote: ‘Politicians in touch with Netanyahu say he has already made up his mind to destroy Iran’s nuclear installations’ — apparently without Washington’s approval.

“What could make the Israeli prime minister feel so confident that he is doing the right thing, given the potentially serious consequences of such a military strike, which could range from Iran firing missiles at Tel Aviv to a wave of Hezbollah and Hamas terrorist attacks, not to mention the damage this would do to Israel’s relations with the United States, whose backing is critical to its survival?…

“When American author and Israel expert Jeffrey Goldberg recently asked a Netanyahu confidant to explain this fixation, he simply replied: ‘Think Amalek.’… In a biblical context, Amalek was the grandson of Esau who, with his tribal warriors from Canaan, launched a treacherous and unprovoked attack on the Hebrews as they were traveling to the Holy Land, Eretz Israel. In a broader sense, the term Amalek refers to the existential threat to Judaism at all times, under all circumstances and by all enemies… Those who, like Netanyahu, see Iran’s nuclear program as Amalek’s arsenal of weapons, are not just entitled, but are in fact obligated, to take preventive measures to destroy it…

“Is a coming war virtually unavoidable?…  the signs are currently pointing to stormy weather ahead…”

The Threat of North Korea

The Associated Press reported on June 22:

“President Barack Obama assured Americans in an interview broadcast Monday that the U.S. is prepared for any move North Korea might make, amid reports that Pyongyang is planning a long-range missile test to follow up its provocative nuclear test last month. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has ordered additional protection for Hawaii as a precaution, though experts say North Korea doesn’t yet have a ballistic missile that can reach Hawaii and has not mastered mounting a nuclear bomb on a long-range missile. Still, North Korea declared itself a ‘proud nuclear power’ and warned it will strike if provoked… The U.S…. has 28,500 troops in South Korea…”

The Associated Press added on June 24:

“North Korea has said it would consider interception of its ships a declaration of war, and on Wednesday accused the U.S. of seeking to start another Korean War… The warning came on the eve of the 59th anniversary of the outbreak of the Korean War. The brutal fighting ended after three years in a truce in 1953, not a peace treaty, leaving the peninsula divided and in a state of war.”

No Peace in Iraq!

BBC News reported on June 25:

“At least 69 people have been killed by a bomb blast in the eastern Sadr City area of Baghdad… More than 130 people were also reported to have been injured in the blast, one of the worst in Iraq this year. It comes less than a week before US soldiers pull out of all Iraqi cities, a move the US said would not be affected by a recent surge in violence… Under an agreement with the Iraqi authorities, most of the 133,000 US troops in Iraq are due to leave the country’s cities and towns and withdraw to military bases by 30 June. Combat operations across Iraq are due to end by September 2010 and all US troops will be out of the country by the end of 2011…

“The attacks are the latest in a violent week in Iraq. On Monday, at least 29 people were killed in attacks in Baghdad and elsewhere… In the largest attack of the year, more than 70 people died in a truck bombing in Kirkuk on Saturday. But Iraq’s Prime Minister Nouri Maliki has said the violence will not delay the withdrawal which, he said, would ultimately be a triumph for the country.”

War in Afghanistan

Deutsche Welle reported on June 25:

“German Defense Minister Jung has insisted that Germany is not fighting a war in Afghanistan, rejecting calls for such an admission after three German soldiers died in the country this week. The parliamentary commissioner for the armed forces, Reinhold Robbe, on Wednesday called on the German government to recognize it was fighting a war in Afghanistan…

“Around 700 German troops are based in the Kundus region in the north of Afghanistan, a region previously considered relatively safe. Taliban fighters have become increasingly active in a region around Kundus known as Char Dara, where Tuesday’s attack took place. In June alone there were 30 Taliban attacks on German soldiers, putting the soldiers under daily fire…

“Germany has the third-largest contingent in the NATO-led force in Afghanistan, with about 3,380 troops. Despite US pressure to contribute troops to the more restive southern provinces where members of NATO and US soldiers have been fighting the Taliban since the 2001 invasion that ousted the group from power, the German army has focused on the Regional Command North…”

Der Spiegel Online wrote on June 25:

“Germany’s military presence in Afghanistan is deeply unpopular at home. But even after spending seven years there and losing 35 soldiers, many German politicians still refuse to call it a ‘war.’ German commentators argue Thursday that the government is afraid to tell the truth…

“The center-left Süddeutsche Zeitung writes: ‘… Afghanistan is the Bundeswehr’s first wartime deployment…’

“The Financial Times Deutschland writes: ‘… There is no doubt that the number of people in Germany who disapprove of the mission in Afghanistan is very high… When the Bundeswehr is getting into firefights with Taliban militants on an almost daily basis, and when soldiers are dying in these exchanges, then that is war… The fact that the government still refuses to acknowledge this isn’t merely disrespectful to the soldiers putting their lives on the line in the Hindu Kush to defend Germany. It’s also completely useless in terms of political strategy.’

“The left-leaning Berliner Zeitung writes: ‘It would help if the Defense Ministry would just… be clear for once about why it is so adamant about not using the term “war”… the government’s insistence on using vague terminology makes it sound like it’s afraid of the truth.'”

California’s Tax Increases

SF Gate wrote on June 23:

“To help balance its budget, California has reduced the state tax credit for dependents. The change will increase a family’s California taxes for 2009 by about $210 per dependent compared with 2008… At issue is the exemption you get for each person listed on your tax return… If you are in this boat and would rather not face a big tax bill early next year, you could pay more state tax this year, either by increasing the amount withheld from your paycheck or – if you are self-employed – by making bigger estimated quarterly tax payments…

“At the same time it slashed the dependent credit, the state also raised all tax rates by one-quarter of 1 percent… The state sent new tax-withholding tables reflecting this change to employers in April. Employers should have started using them in May. Many employees will have been underwithheld for the first four months of the year. That means a slightly bigger tax bill (or smaller refund) when they file their 2009 taxes…”

Healthcare Promises Just That–Empty Words?

The Associated Press reported on June 24:

“President Barack Obama left the door open to a new tax on health care benefits Wednesday… ‘I don’t want to prejudge what they’re doing,’ the president said, referring to proposals in the Senate to tax workers who get expensive insurance policies. Obama, who campaigned against the tax when he ran for president, drew a quick rebuff from one union president… It was the latest in a series of signs of presidential flexibility…”

Is the Great Depression Coming…?

Newsmax.com wrote on June 23:

“Is Obama leading the nation into an economic train wreck? Dick Morris, one of America’s astute political observers, the person Time magazine called the most influential man in America, says, ‘Yes!’ Morris reveals that Obama’s policies and clear shift toward socialism will actually lead the country toward a 1930s-style Great Depression. In his newest blockbuster book ‘Catastrophe’ Dick lays out the shocking economic data — much of which has been hidden by the major media. Dick also reveals how Obama’s massive deficit spending will cause a tidal wave of inflation — which will shock the economy — at some point in the near future.”

Huckabee Attacks Establishment Republicans

Newsmax.com wrote on June 24:

“Signaling wider dissensions in the Republican ranks, former Arkansas governor and presidential candidate Mike Huckabee is slamming the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) for endorsing Gov. Charlie Crist over another, more conservative Republican in Florida’s open Senate race… ‘I’m disgusted that they would take a position in a hotly contested race when you have a quality candidate like Marco Rubio, who was the youngest Speaker in the Florida House,’ Huckabee told The Hill. ‘This is not just some nameless, faceless guy that decided to throw his name in, who had no chance and no credibility.’

“He continued: ‘I thought that their endorsement not only was premature, but was outrageous. And they ought to get behind the guy who would do a whole lot more, in my mind, to unite and fire up Republicans, and that’s Marco Rubio. The establishment Republicans have made this endorsement for the same reason that they’re in so much trouble,’ Huckabee said. ‘They go out there and support stuff like TARP bills and stimulus packages, pork-barrel spending and huge debt, and they wring their hands and act like, “This is not good, but we don’t have a choice.”‘

Ron Paul Attacks Obama and Congress

Newsmax.com wrote on June 24:

“U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, says he was dismayed that Congress passed the war supplemental appropriations bill so easily last week. ‘An economic collapse seems to be the goal of Congress and this administration,’ Paul said during his weekly radio address Monday…

“Mocking the idea that Obama was a ‘peace candidate,’ Paul pointed out that his administration will be sending another $106 billion it doesn’t have ‘to continue the bloodshed in Afghanistan and Iraq…’ Paul noted that many of his congressional colleagues who previously voted with him in opposition to every war supplemental request under the Bush administration seem to have changed their tune…

“The emergency supplemental appropriations bill sends… $660 million to Gaza… $555 million to Israel… $310 million to Egypt… $300 million to Jordan… $420 million to Mexico… $889 million to the United Nations for so-called ‘peace-keeping’ missions… $1 billion overseas to address the global financial crisis outside U.S. borders… [and] $8 billion to address a potential pandemic flu, which [Paul] said could result in mandatory vaccinations ‘for no discernable reason other than to enrich the pharmaceutical companies’…”

Obama and Bush–Two of a Kind?

Der Spiegel Online wrote on June 25:

“The occupant of the White House may have changed recently. But the amount of ill-advised ideology coming from Washington has remained constant. Obama’s list of economic errors is long — and continues to grow. The president may have changed, but the excesses of American politics have remained. Barack Obama and George W. Bush, it has become clear, are more similar than they might seem at first glance.

“Ex-President Bush was nothing if not zealous in his worldwide campaign against terror, transgressing human rights and breaking international law along the way. Now, Obama is displaying the same zeal in his own war against the financial crisis — and his weapon of choice is the money-printing machine. The rules the new American president is breaking are those which govern the economy. Nobody is being killed. But the strategy comes at a price — and that price might be America’s position as a global power.

“In his fight against terrorism, Bush had the ideologue Dick Cheney at his side… Obama’s Cheney is named Larry Summers… President Barack Obama follows him like a dog does its master… Summers [said]  that the way to bring about an end to the crisis was — more confidence, more credit and more debt… Experts and non-experts alike were perplexed… Summers was unable to supply an adequate explanation for how a crisis caused by frivolous lending was going to be solved through yet more frivolity…

“Just as the US public initially rallied behind the war President Bush — even to the point of re-electing him — Americans have now thrown their support behind the debt president Obama. The mistakes of the Bush administration are now widely accepted. The mistakes of the Obama administration are still not recognized as such…

“According to conservative forecasts, Obama’s policies could end up being three times as expensive as US expenditures during World War II. If one calculates using today’s prices, America spent $3 trillion for the war. Obama’s budgetary calculations for the decade between 2010 and 2020 assume additional debt of $9 trillion.

“American borrowing in 2009 comprises about half of Obama’s budget. The country is living beyond its means — and it still would have been even if it weren’t for the economic crisis…

“Many believe that when the crisis ends, borrowing will automatically fall. The truth is that it could climb afterwards… Washington would need to spend several times more than it is now just to service current pension entitlements and the free, state-funded medical care provided to senior citizens. In addition, Obama has promised to introduce healthcare coverage for America’s close to 46 million uninsured…

“… trust in the gravitas and reliability of the United States has suffered to such a great degree that fewer and fewer foreigners are purchasing its government bonds…

“The supply of money has increased by 45 percent in the last three years and there has not been a corresponding rise in hard assets or production. That imbalance will eventually make itself felt in the form of inflation. The dollar, which has already lost 40 percent of its value against the euro since 2000, would then devaluate and its reputation would be further diminished…”

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Would you please explain Nebuchadnezzar's dream, as recorded in Daniel 4?

Much prophetic speculation has ensued pertaining to Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in Daniel 4, but if we allow the Bible to interpret itself, the answer to the meaning of that dream becomes very clear.

Note, first, the following highlights from that chapter. We are told that Nebuchadnezzar had a dream which made him afraid (verse 5), but none of the “wise men of Babylon” could explain the meaning of the dream. Finally, Daniel was brought before the king (verse 8). We will recall that Daniel had explained to the king his first dream about a statue, as recorded in Daniel 2.

Nebuchadnezzar described to Daniel his second dream and asked him to interpret the same for him. In the dream, Nebuchadnezzar had seen a strong tree, which was cut down, but the stump and roots in the earth would be preserved, “bound with a band of iron and bronze” (verse 15). Showing that the dream did not refer to an ordinary tree, the king continued to describe to Daniel that a watcher from heaven said: “The heart be changed from that of a man, Let him be given the heart of a beast, And let seven times pass over him” (verse 16).

Daniel proceeded to explain the meaning of the dream, as follows:

“(20) The tree that you saw, which grew and became strong… (22) It is you, O king, who have grown and become strong… (23) And inasmuch as the king saw a watcher, a holy one, coming down from heaven and saying, ‘Chop down the tree and destroy it, but leave its stump and roots in the earth, bound with a band of iron and bronze in the tender grass of the field; let it be wet with the dew of heaven, and let him graze with the beasts of the field, till seven times pass over him’; (24) THIS IS THE INTERPRETATION, O KING, and this is the decree of the Most High… (25) They shall drive you from men, your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field, and they shall make you eat grass like oxen. They shall wet you with the dew of heaven, and seven times shall pass OVER YOU, till you know that the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomever He chooses. (26) And inasmuch as they gave the command to leave the stump and roots of the tree, YOUR KINGDOM shall be assured TO YOU, AFTER YOU COME TO KNOW THAT HEAVEN RULES…'”

After about twelve months, the fulfillment of the dream began to come to pass. Nebuchadnezzar, in his pride, glorified himself rather than God, and immediately, he was driven out from men to live with the beasts “for seven times,” until, “at the end of the time,” his understanding and his reason returned to him (verses 32, 34, 36). Nebuchadnezzar is reported as saying: “…I was restored to my kingdom, and excellent majesty was added to me. Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, all of whose works are truth, and His ways justice. And those who walk in pride He is able to put down” (Daniel 4:36-37).

Please note that this dream is strictly talking about events in Nebuchadnezzar’s life. The dream referred specifically and exclusively to him–and not to anyone coming after him. Compare again Daniel 4:22, 25, 26, 32-33, 34.

This is remarkable because Nebuchadnezzar’s first dream in Daniel 2 clearly is said to refer to future times and kingdoms, beginning with Nebuchadnezzar, and ending with the return of Christ. Nothing similar is remotely suggested to apply to Nebuchadnezzar’s second dream in Daniel 4.

Let’s notice what is said specifically in and about that dream:

(1) The Cut-Down Tree

Verse 14 tells us that the tree was to be cut down and that the beasts were commanded to flee away from under its branches. This means that the king’s courtiers, officers, etc., all abandoned him as soon as his insanity appeared; and he soon fled from the society of men (compare Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible).

(2) The Stump and the Roots Remain

Verse 15 tells us that the stump and the roots should be left. Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible explains:

“The word here used [for “stump”] implies that it was still alive, or that there was a germ which would send up a new shoot, so that the tree would live again. The idea is, that though the mighty tree would fall, yet there would remain vitality in the root, or the portion that would remain in the earth after the tree was cut down, and that this would spring up again – a most striking image of what would occur to Nebuchadnezzar after he should be cast down from his lofty throne, and be again restored to his reason and to power.”

(3) Stump Bound With Band of Iron and Brass

We are also told, in verse 15, that the stump would be bound with “a band of iron and brass.”

Barnes explains:

“This expression may be regarded as applicable either to the cut-down tree, or to the humbled monarch. If applied to the former, it would seem that the idea is, that the stump or root of a tree, deemed so valuable, would be carefully secured by an enclosure of iron or brass, either in the form of a hoop placed round the top of the stump, to preserve it from being opened or cracked by the heat of the sun, so as to admit moisture, which would rot it; or around the roots, to bind it together, with the hope that it would grow again; or it may refer to a railing or enclosure of iron or brass, to keep it from being plowed or dug up as worthless. In either case, it would be guarded with the hope that a tree so valuable might spring up again.

“If applied to the monarch – an explanation not inconsistent with the proper interpretation of the passage – it would seem to refer to some method of securing the royal maniac in bonds of iron and brass, as with the hope that his reason might still be restored, or with a view to keep him from inflicting fatal injury on himself. That the thing here referred to might be practiced in regard to a valuable tree cut down, or broken down, is by no means improbable; that it might be practiced in reference to the monarch is in accordance with the manner in which the insane have been treated in all ages and countries.”

John Gill’s Exposition to the Entire Bible adds:

“… the allusion is to his distracted condition afterwards related; it being usual to bind madmen with chains of iron or brass, to keep them from hurting themselves and others, as in [Mark 5:4].”

(4) Heart Changed for Seven Times

Verse 16 explains that the king’s heart would be changed for seven times.

Barnes states regarding the king’s changed heart:

“… some man was represented by the vision… The word heart here seems to refer to nature – ‘let his nature or propensity cease to be that of a man, and become like that of a beast; let him cease to act as a man, and act as the beasts do…'”

Regarding “seven times,” Barnes points out:

“The more common interpretation is what supposes that it was a year, and this will agree better with all the circumstances of the case than any other period… Josephus understands by it ‘seven years’… While the Chaldee word is indeterminate in respect to the length of time, the most natural and obvious construction here and elsewhere, in the use of the word, is to refer it to years. Days or weeks would be obviously too short, and though in this place the word ‘months’ would perhaps embrace all that would be necessary, yet in the other places where the word occurs in Daniel it undoubtedly refers to years, and there is, therefore, a propriety in understanding it in the same manner here.”

The Treasury of Scriptural Knowledge agrees, stating: “seven times: That is, seven years, a time in the prophetic language denoting a year.”

The commentary of Jamieson, Fausset and Brown agrees (“times — that is, ‘years.'”); and so do Gill (“seven years are meant”); and Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible, where we read:

“Let him continue in this state for seven years. I knew a man who was thus changed in his heart – in his imagination. He believed himself to be a bear, and would imitate the usual growl, etc.; and the case did not appear to be hypochondriacal. Whether he ever came to sound mind, I kno
w not.”

(5) The King’s Restoration

After seven years of insanity, King Nebuchadnezzar became sane again and was restored to his kingdom, as was also clearly announced in the dream (verse 26).

Clarke writes:

“No new king was set up; Evil-merodach his son was regent during his father’s insanity.”

Gill adds:

“… another king should not be set up in his place; and though the kingdom and administration of it would depart from him for a while, yet it would be restored again, and be firm and stable…”

Verse 34 tells us that “at the end of the days,” Nebuchadnezzar was restored to sanity. As Barnes explains, “That is, the time designated; to wit, the ‘seven times’ that were to pass over him.” Gill adds that that phrase means: “Of the time fixed in the dream; that is, at the end of seven years.”

(6) The Lion and the Man

Another reference to that incident is found in Daniel 7 where Daniel sees four beasts in a dream, representing four world-ruling kingdoms which would come up from the sea and arise out of the earth (verses 3, 17). The first beast was the Babylonian Empire under King Nebuchadnezzar. Verse 4 tells us that it “was like a lion, and had eagle’s wings… till its wings were plucked off; and it was lifted up from the earth and made to stand on two feet like a man, and a man’s heart was given to it.” The reference to Nebuchadnezzar is unmistakable, who was living with the beasts for seven years–with the heart of an animal–and who was then restored by receiving again the heart of a man.

The commentary of Jamieson, Fausset and Brown explains this passage as follows:

“Nebuchadnezzar is called ‘the lion’ [Jeremiah 4:7]… So long as Nebuchadnezzar, in haughty pride, relied on his own strength, he forfeited the true dignity of man, and was therefore degraded to be with the beasts. [Daniel 4:16]: ‘Let his heart be changed from man’s, and let a beast’s heart be given unto him.’ But after he learned by this sore discipline that ‘the Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men’ [Daniel 4:35, 36], the change took place in him, ‘a man’s heart is given to him’; instead of his former beast’s heart, he attains man’s true position, namely, to be consciously dependent on God.”

(7) Conclusion

It is abundantly clear from the biblical description of the dream and its interpretation, that the dream referred strictly and exclusively to the time of Nebuchadnezzar’s insanity and subsequent discovery.

We are aware that some have alleged over the years that Daniel 4 would also refer to the curse or punishment of the Babylonian Empire for seven “prophetic” times or 2,520 years, beginning with the fall of Babylon in 539 B.C. They have also claimed that somehow, ancient Babylon would be restored to power after the time of its punishment, and that Christ’s reference in Luke 21:24 to the fulfillment of the times of the Gentiles (see previous Q&A), would be somehow related to that punishment and/or restoration of Babylon.

However, there is no biblical support for any of these concepts. A follow-up Q&A will discuss in more detail why all of these speculations are faulty.

Lead Writer: Norbert Link

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Preaching the Gospel and Feeding the Flock

As announced in our previous Update, our newest booklet, “The Book of Zechariah–Prophecies for Today,” is being printed in England. At the same time, our booklet, “And Lawlessness Will Abound…” is being reprinted in England.

A new StandingWatch program was posted on StandingWatch and YouTube. It is titled, Fixing Healthcare Through Brainwashing? In the program, Norbert Link points out that the U.S. healthcare system is broken and needs to be fixed, but the procedures employed by some politicians and parts of the media are highly problematic and dangerous.

A new German “AufPostenStehen” program, titled, “Irans Gefaehrliche Zukunft”  (“Iran’s Dangerous Future”) was posted on YouTube and our German Website.

Norbert Link’s recent video-recorded sermon, “The Wisdom of Solomon,” dated June 13, 2009, was posted on the Audio page of our Web, under “Sermon Videos.”

A new German sermon (“War und Ist Christus Gott?”) was recorded this week, addressing the fact that God the Father created everything through Jesus Christ; that Christ existed as God prior to His birth as a man, and that He is God today–the second member of the God Family. Also, that He was the God of the Old Testament Who wrestled with Jacob, spoke with Abraham and Moses, and led Israel out of Egypt.

Our Internet campaign in the USA has so far resulted in more than 80 requests for our booklet, “The Great Tribulation and the Day of the Lord.” In addition, almost 75 people requested our free booklet, “Angels, Demons and the Spirit World,” which is also offered in the Internet ad. We have also just begun to run Internet ads for these two booklets in Canada. So far, 13 people requested the Great Tribulation booklet, and 10 the Angels and Demons booklet.

Our Internet campaign in the UK has resulted so far in almost 120 requests for our free booklet, “Europe in Prophecy.”

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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

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