Update 689


A Vision; Comfort and Encouragement

On May 23, 2015, Kalon Mitchell will present the sermonette, titled, “A Vision,” and Norbert Link will present the sermon, titled, “Comfort and Encouragement.”

The live services are available, over video and audio, at http://eternalgod.org/live-services/(12:30 pm Pacific Time; 1:30 pm Mountain Time; 2:30 pm Central Time; 3:30 pm Eastern Time; 8:30 pm Greenwich Mean Time; 9:30 pm Central European Time). Just click on Connect to Live Stream.

Pentecost will be observed on Sunday, May 24, 2015. There will be two services with starting times as follows: 10:00 AM Pacific Time and 2:30 PM Pacific Time. The live services are available, over video and audio, at http://eternalgod.org/live-services/

In the morning, Robb Harris will present the sermonette, titled, “Crayons”, and Dave Harris will present the sermon, titled, “What Is The Church.”

In the afternoon, Michael Link will present the offertory, titled, “Cain and Abel”, and Norbert Link will present the sermon, titled, “Why Do We Keep Pentecost?”


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The Light of Pentecost—Key to a Great Reward

by Andrew Burns (Great Britain)

We all love rewards, and God loves to reward us. God has a very great reward in store for us, but have we ever wondered how our personal reward will be determined?

Jesus said:  “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12). He said also: “You are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14). Both statements can be connected with the Holy Spirit as the source of light. “Light” is a manifestation of the Spirit.

In the Revelation of Jesus Christ, recorded by John, we read about “seven lampstands which… are the seven churches” (Revelation 1:20).  Revelation, chapters two and three, identify the seven churches and their eras. Importantly, the seven lampstands, of and by themselves, are not the source of light. The source of light is the oil, representing God’s Spirit.

On the Day of Pentecost in 31 AD., light appeared “as of fire” (Acts 2:3), which was in fact a manifestation of the Holy Spirit. That was the power source, by which the lampstand of the early Church burst into illumination! That light, down through the ages, has never been extinguished. However, some individual lights, which should be shining, have gone out.

The light of Pentecost is in fact key to a great reward. We read in Revelation 22:12: “And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give everyone according to his work.” This connects with the parable of the pounds or the minas in Luke 19:11-27. The one who gained ten pounds was rewarded with authority over ten cities. The one who gained five pounds was rewarded with authority over five cities. The one who did nothing and who gained nothing, whose light went out, lost his reward.

Authority, rulership and power will be handed to us by Jesus, the King of kings. Christ’s original apostles have already been promised twelve thrones – judging the twelve tribes of Israel. That is their reward. Our reward will be the thrilling opportunity to serve, with great honours, as kings and priests – bringing salvation to our loved ones and to this dying world. We, of and by ourselves, cannot do anything. We are not the source of light – it is the light of God’s Spirit that empowers us!

Christ tells us: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). The Spirit that ignited the lampstand of the early Church now works in us, helping us to produce good works, which will determine our great reward!

May the original light of Pentecost come upon us and shine brightly within and through us!

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We begin with articles pointing to changing conditions in the State of Israel; report on the amazing influence Pope Francis is exerting as leader of the Catholic Church; present articles showing the utter confusion of circumstances in the Middle East; continue with reports centered on the UK and its shrinking commitment to world leadership; highlight news from the EU and Catholic Ireland showing the unparalleled acceptance of gay leaders and gay marriages; and we conclude with ominous proposed legislation from California making vaccines mandatory for nearly every child.

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Who Are Israel’s Friends?

The Times of Israel wrote on May 15:

“Forget the United States of America. Move over, Canada, Australia and Germany. The days when those countries were considered Israel’s closest friends are over. The Jewish state’s new best buddies are Egypt and Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. At least that’s the impression one could get if one listened carefully to… Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“… he has repeated this idea perhaps a dozen times — perhaps because he believes statements about peace can soften the expected pressure from the US and the European Union to advance the peace process with the Palestinians…

“Netanyahu officially agrees, in principle, to the creation of a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes that Israel is the nation state of the Jewish people. But he believes that in the current circumstances, with radical Islamists spreading havoc in Israel’s immediate vicinity, a two-state solution as imagined by the international community is unfeasible if not impossible.

“Both the US administration and the EU have explicitly called on Israel’s new government to commit to the goal of Palestinian statehood and take actual steps toward a renewal of the peace process…

“So what of Netanyahu’s dream of an Arab-Israel détente?… experts doubt that an alliance with the Gulf states is in the cards… In the absence of significant progress on the peace process, Netanyahu’s new ‘best allies’ in the Arab world will continue to show Israel the cold shoulder. Jerusalem’s friends in the US and Europe will not be so kind either…”

Israel will find itself isolated and alone in the near future. The notion that Germany might intervene in the Middle East on Israel’s behalf, as propagated by some religious groups, is naïve and unrealistic. In fact, the Bible prophesies something altogether different.

Violence on Jerusalem Day

Times of Israel wrote on May 17:

“Tens of thousands of revelers danced at Jerusalem’s Western Wall Sunday evening amid celebrations throughout the capital, marking Israel’s conquest of the city in the 1967 Six Day War. The celebrants marched to the Western Wall plaza, adjacent to Judaism’s holiest site, the Temple Mount, through the Old City’s Muslim Quarter, where Jewish marchers and Arab protesters clashed violently throughout the afternoon and evening.

“While some 2,000 police were deployed in an effort to preserve the peace and separate Israelis and Palestinians along the route of the march, Jewish teens chanted nationalistic slogans and threw cardboard boxes at the Palestinians, while Arab teens threw stones at marchers and police. Altercations broke out between the groups at the Old City’s Damascus Gate Sunday evening. It was the latest of multiple rounds of clashes…

“Israelis marked the 48th anniversary of the IDF’s capture of East Jerusalem Sunday, a military victory that opened the holy city’s ancient center — and with it the holiest place in Judaism, the Temple Mount and its Western Wall — to Jewish worshipers for the first time since Israel’s founding in 1948. The day is celebrated with official ceremonies, special tours and events, and a march which for years has raised tensions over its route through the Old City’s Muslim Quarter.

“The march concluded in the evening with tens of thousands of celebrants dancing at the Western Wall in the company of prominent politicians and rabbinic leaders. Events were taking place throughout the city Sunday, including concerts, museums opening to the public for free and parades to mark Israel’s larger victory in the 1967 Six Day War and the unification of the capital under Israeli rule. Official events included memorials for soldiers killed during the 1967 war and a ceremony featuring Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Reuven Rivlin and other prominent officials…

“A number of other ceremonies were also scheduled at the Mount Herzl military cemetery, at the Rockefeller Museum, the American consulate in Jerusalem, and a special event for Ethiopian Jews who died on their journey to Israel. Settlements throughout the West Bank also celebrate Jerusalem Day as the beginning of the Jewish settlement movement in the West Bank.”

Abbas an Angel of Peace?

The Associated Press wrote on May 16:

“Pope Francis praised Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas as an ‘angel of peace’ during a meeting Saturday at the Vatican that underscored the Holy See’s warm relations with the Palestinians.

“Francis made the compliment during the traditional exchange of gifts at the end of an official audience in the Apostolic Palace. He presented Abbas with a medallion and explained that it represented the ‘angel of peace destroying the bad spirit of war.’ Francis said he thought the gift was appropriate since ‘you are an angel of peace.’ During his 2014 visit to Israel and the West Bank, Francis called both Abbas and Israeli President Shimon Peres men of peace.

“Abbas is in Rome for the canonization Sunday of two 19th-century nuns from what was then Ottoman-ruled Palestine. The new saints, Mariam Bawardy and Marie Alphonsine Ghattas, are the first from the region to be canonized since the early days of Christianity. Abbas on Saturday offered Francis relics of the two new saints… Abbas’ visit also comes days after the Vatican finalized a bilateral treaty with the ‘state of Palestine’ that made explicit its recognition of Palestinian statehood…”

Pope Francis’ Diplomatic Leadership

Reuter’s reported on May 17:

“Pope Francis’ hard-hitting criticisms of globalization and inequality long ago set him out as a leader unafraid of mixing theology and politics. He is now flexing the Vatican’s diplomatic muscles as well.

“Last year, he helped to broker an historic accord between Cuba and the United States after half a century of hostility.

“This past week, his office announced the first formal accord between the Vatican and the State of Palestine — a treaty that gives legal weight to the Holy See’s longstanding recognition of de-facto Palestinian statehood despite clear Israeli annoyance.

“The pope ruffled even more feathers in Turkey last month by referring to the massacre of up to 1.5 million Armenians in the early 20th century as a “genocide”, something Ankara denies.

“After the inward-looking pontificate of his scholarly predecessor, Pope Benedict, Francis has in some ways returned to the active Vatican diplomacy practiced by the globetrotting Pope John Paul II, widely credited for helping to end the Cold War.

“Much of his effort has concentrated on improving relations between different faiths and protecting the embattled Middle East Christians, a clear priority for the Catholic Church…

“‘He’s someone who’s capable of praying in the Blue Mosque in Istanbul and then talking about the Armenian genocide. He’s not someone who’s bound by political correctness,’ said former Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini.

“‘It’s the diplomacy of a real leader.’”

Iran’s True Colors

Breitbart wrote on May 15:

“Iran will never allow Western powers or the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to inspect Tehran’s military sites as part of a final agreement with the P5+1 world powers, Iran’s Ayatollah Mohammad Ali Movahedi Kermani said Friday in an address to Tehran University students. Kermani has enormous influence in the country as Tehran’s Friday Prayers imam, and is appointed directly by the country’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

“He said that the West, and particularly the United States, ‘are hallucinating’ if they think that Iran would allow inspection of its military apparatus, according to Iran’s state-controlled Fars News agency. Those who wish for Iran to recognize the State of Israel as part of a final agreement should ‘bury their dreams,’ the Ayatollah added…

“In addition to his role as Friday prayers leader, Kermani serves as the leader of the Combatant Clergy Association, an Iranian political party that helped overthrow the Shah in 1979 and install the radical Islamic Republic into power.”

As Iran is very clear in its ambitions and goals, why is the West so set on striking a deal with Iran?

Egypt’s New Phase of Terrorism

AFP wrote on May 16:

“An Egyptian court on Saturday sentenced deposed Islamist [first democratically elected] president Mohamed Morsi and more than 100 other people to death for their role in a mass jailbreak during the 2011 uprising. [The verdict included Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed Badei, already sentenced to death in another trial, and his deputy Khairat al-Shater.]

“Hours after the ruling, gunmen shot dead two judges, a prosecutor and their driver in the strife-torn Sinai Peninsula, in the first such attack on the judiciary in the region…

“Morsi, elected president in 2012 as the Brotherhood’s compromise candidate after Shater was disqualified, ruled for only a year before mass protests spurred the military to overthrow him in July 2013. He was among dozens of Islamist leaders detained during a crackdown that left hundreds of Morsi supporters dead. Many of those sentenced on Saturday were tried in absentia, including prominent Qatar-based Islamic cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi.

“The court will pronounce its final decision on June 2, since under Egyptian law, death sentences are referred to the mufti, the government’s interpreter of Islamic law, who plays an advisory role. Defendants can still appeal even after the mufti’s recommendation…

“Amnesty International lashed out at Saturday’s verdict, saying it reflected ‘the deplorable state of the country’s criminal justice system’. ‘The death penalty has become the favourite tool for the Egyptian authorities to purge the political opposition,’ the London-based rights watchdog said. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan condemned the death sentence, saying the country was ‘turning back into ancient Egypt’, referring to Pharaonic rule that ended more than two millennia ago… [He also accused the West of turning “a blind eye” to the 2013 coup.]

“Many of the defendants are Palestinians alleged to have worked with Hamas in neighbouring Gaza. They were tried in absentia, as was a Lebanese Hezbollah commander. They were alleged to have colluded with Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood to carry out attacks in Egypt in what prosecutors allege was a vast conspiracy…

“Condemning the verdict, Hamas said that some of its members mentioned in the proceedings were already dead before the 2011 uprising, while some are in Israeli prisons…

“Morsi and other former opposition members have now been condemned for violence during the anti-Mubarak uprising, while Mubarak himself has been cleared of charges over the deaths of protesters during the 18-day revolt that toppled him. Morsi was in prison when the anti-Mubarak uprising erupted on January 25 2011, having been rounded up with other Brotherhood leaders a few days earlier.

“On January 28, protesters fuelled by police abuses torched police stations across Egypt, allowing thousands of prisoners to escape when the force all but collapsed. Since Morsi’s overthrow, the police [have] largely been rehabilitated in public eyes, with officials and loyal media blaming the Brotherhood and foreigners for the violence of the anti-Mubarak uprising.

“The army chief who overthrew Morsi, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, was himself elected president last year. He has pledged to eradicate the Brotherhood, once Egypt’s largest political movement.”

This does not sound like Egypt will become a modern “king of the South,” as some erroneously claim, leading the Arab world, including Iran, the Palestinians and other Islamic countries, and “pushing”  against Europe. Welt Online commented that these verdicts show how much Egypt has departed from being a “constitutional state.”

US Forces Kill One of IS Leaders in Syria

Deutsche Welle reported on May 16:

“US troops flew into eastern Syria and killed IS militant leader Abu Sayyaf in what Washington has called a ‘major blow’ to the terrorist group. Sayyaf is believed to have handled the IS’ oil and financial operations.

“Sayyaf was killed ‘during the course of the operation when he engaged US forces,’ White House National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said. The operation was carried out with the ‘full consent of Iraqi authorities’ and was ‘consistent with domestic and international law,’ she added.

“US authorities, however, did not coordinate with Syrian authorities, Meehan said, adding that Washington had ‘warned the Assad regime not to interfere with our ongoing efforts against ISIL [The Islamic State in Syria and the Levant] inside of Syria.’

US Special Operations Forces had been ordered to conduct an operation in al-Amr in eastern Syria to capture Sayyaf and his wife, Umm Sayyaf, Pentagon chief Ashton Carter said late Friday.”

Bild Online reported that the US forces had attempted to capture Sayyaf alive, but when he resisted, he “had to be” killed. However, Welt Online reported that according to the White House, the order to kill Sayyaf was given directly by President Obama at Camp David. The paper also claimed that Syria had NOT been informed ahead of time of the action.

To contribute to the confusion, The Associated Press added on May 16:

“Syrian state TV earlier reported that Syrian government forces killed at least 40 ISIS fighters, including a senior commander in charge of oil fields, in an attack Saturday on the country’s largest oil field — held by ISIS… It was not immediately clear why both Syria and the U.S. would claim a similar operation in the Omar oil field. The U.S. has said it is not cooperating with President Bashar Assad’s government in the battle against the Islamic State group. But it says it usually gives Damascus a heads-up on operations within its borders.

“… National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said the U.S. government did not coordinate with the Syrian government or advise it in advance of the operation…

“The extremist group controls much of northern and eastern Syria as well as northern and western Iraq. It has control of most of the oil fields in Syria, which are a key source of its funding… The special operation was announced as ISIS fighters were advancing in central and northeastern Syria. The militants are nearing the historic city of Palmyra, in the central province of Homs, and have seized [a] water facility and an oil field on the city’s eastern outskirts, activists said.

“The advances in the Palmyra countryside were coupled with an announcement Saturday by the Islamic State group that its fighters have seized full control of Saker Island in the Euphrates River north of Deir el-Zour, the northeastern province divided between areas held by the group and the government.”

Breitbart added on May 21:

“Just two days after Islamic State fighters were supposedly routed and driven into the desert by Syrian government troops, ISIS has reportedly taken the entire city of Palmyra, placing both its population and historical treasures in grave peril… 

CNN quotes one Palmyra resident saying of ISIS fighters, ‘They are everywhere.’  Many of the 70,000 people who lived in the city have fled, while others are huddled in their houses, hoping to escape the notice of the brutal occupation force. ‘After at least 100 Syrian soldiers died in fighting overnight, Syrian warplanes carried out airstrikes Thursday in and around Palmyra, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported. 

“But there’s no indication when, or if, Syrian ground forces will try to take back the city. Nor is there a sense that any of the others fighting ISIS, like the United States, will come to the rescue,’ writes CNN.”

The Financial Times added on May 21:

“Ever since the Islamist militants of Isis swept into northern Iraq from Syria last June, the Obama administration has had a consistent response: the Syrian conflict may be complex and uncertain, officials would argue, but the US had a clear plan for Iraq. The dramatic fall in recent days of Ramadi [in Iraq] has blown a hole in that confidence… 

“For an administration still struggling to come to terms with the rapid rise of Isis, which seized the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra on Thursday, the fall of Ramadi has had uncomfortable echoes of the takeover nearly a year ago of the northern city of Mosul, when Iraqi forces simply melted away.”

Deutsche Welle wrote on May 21:

“The Islamists are now thought to control more than half of Syria.”

In addition, the Huffington Post wrote on May 21:

“U.S.-led airstrikes against the Islamic State and other militants in Syria killed two young girls in November, the military confirmed Thursday. The announcement is the first American acknowledgement that the campaign, begun in September 2014, has killed civilians…

“The killing of civilians, even unintentionally, has serious ramifications for the U.S.-led fight against the Islamic State and Washington’s hopes to restore stability to Syria. Many Syrians — particularly non-extremists central to President Barack Obama’s vision for the country — are already highly skeptical of the international mission because they say it neglects the real problem in their country — the oppressive, bloody rule of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

“Scores of reports have questioned previous U.S. claims that no civilians have been killed. The most recent evidence of civilian deaths caused by the U.S.-led campaign emerged earlier this month as the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said an air raid hit a civilian village by mistake and claimed 52 lives — including those of seven children. 118 civilians appeared to have died in the overall campaign at that point…”

England on Its Way Out?

Daily Express wrote on May 16:

“During face-to-face talks with Mr Cameron in Edinburgh yesterday, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon called for a veto for Scotland, as well as for England, Wales and Northern Ireland [pertaining to a decision to leave the EU]. It would have meant that Britain could not leave the EU without the agreement of all four nations. But the Prime Minister said Britain will vote as one nation.

“His pledge is a key manifesto commitment and marks a giant leap forward for the Daily Express crusade for the UK to quit the EU. Ms Sturgeon has said if the UK votes to leave the EU in a referendum and a majority in Scotland back staying in, that could trigger a second Scottish referendum. [Mr Cameron rejected that possibility.]…

“Yesterday Foreign secretary Philip Hammond [was] raising the possibility of an in-or-out referendum vote a year early in 2016.”

US Worried About the UK

The EUObserver wrote on May 14:

“US policymakers are worried about the UK. The US’ closest and most capable ally is facing defence spending cuts that could lower the army to its smallest size in 250 years, inhibit its ability to run both its forthcoming aircraft carriers simultaneously, and drop its defence spending rate below the critical 2 percent of GDP threshold that Nato guidelines stipulate. The UK’s national elections last week did little to alleviate these concerns. The Conservatives’ victory raises international concerns over a ‘Brexit’ from the EU and a country fractured along political fault lines through the nascent UK Independence Party and Scottish National Party, which vehemently opposes the country’s nuclear triad…

“But beyond the numbers, these projected defence cuts manifests a larger existential debate on how the UK defines itself in the world. Cracks and fissures are appearing around the edges of the UK’s globalised foreign policy, from the bungled 2013 Parliament vote on intervention in Syria after Cameron convinced the US it was a done deal, to Cameron’s conspicuous absence from the ceasefire agreement his French and German counterparts brokered between Russia and Ukraine, to record-low public support for retaining the UK’s nuclear trident (the linchpin of its nuclear deterrence), to the unresolved ‘Brexit’ debate that continues to erode the UK’s standing in the EU.

“While the UK elections featured a swell of bold platforms from all factions, no political party seemed willing to tackle the uncomfortable question that underlies all these elements: Does the UK still have an appetite for a grander role and global presence, or does it want to close ranks and merely defend the realm? This question does not augur well for the US’ future reliance on the UK as its go-to ally for new military operations…

“The ink was barely dry on an Alliance-wide commitment to reverse defence cuts at the Nato Summit in the UK last September when it was revealed the summit’s host nation likely won’t uphold this pledge…”

What Does Cameron Mean?

The Independent wrote on May 13:

“Britain is too ‘passively tolerant’ and should not leave people to live their lives as they please just because they obey the law, David Cameron has said. At the National Security Council today Mr Cameron unveiled a series of measures that he said would crack down on people holding minority ‘extremist’ views that differed from Britain’s consensus. ‘For too long, we have been a passively tolerant society, saying to our citizens “as long as you obey the law, we will leave you alone”’, he said. ‘It’s often meant we have stood neutral between different values. And that’s helped foster a narrative of extremism and grievance.’”

These are potentially dangerous and explosive words. Would this include religious views being held by a small minority of people, while the majority believes differently? Would this lead to the enforcement of religious practices being upheld by the vast majority, but opposed by a small minority, based on biblical injunctions?

For instance, would this mean that everyone would have to observe Christmas, Easter or Sunday (“Christian” religious holidays which are derived from paganism), while being prevented from keeping the biblically mandated Sabbath and other annual biblical holidays which might be considered “extremist” by orthodox Christianity and the Church of England? One might think that this is far-fetched, but Great Britain’s past includes many cases of severe persecution of Sabbath-keepers—as is true for all European countries, the USA and of course other nations.

The “Biggest Scandal of Our Times”

Der Spiegel wrote on May 15:

The NSA scandal first morphed into a BND intelligence scandal and eventually into a German government scandal. The biggest scandal of our times. A US intelligence agency, thrown into panic by the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, gathered every last scrap of data it could, presumably (if this qualifier is even necessary at the point), breaking American, German and international law in the process, conducting itself like a secret society inside an open one.

“This breach of law was justified as being in the interests of security… the NSA’s spying activities, carried out with the help of the BND and the failure of the German government, amount to an attack on our freedom, our values and our way of life…”

Annual Charlemagne Prize for Martin Schulz, President of the European Parliament

Deutsche Welle reported on May 14:

“At a ceremony in the Germany city of Aachen on Thursday, European Parliament President Martin Schulz was presented with the International Charlemagne Prize of Aachen. The prize is awarded for ‘work done in the service of European unification’…

“German President Joachim Gauck, French President Francois Hollande, Jordan’s King Abdullah II and other European and German dignitaries were on hand for the ceremony… In his keynote address, Gauck began on ‘a dark note,’ as he put it, quoting Schulz himself: ‘For the first time in the post-World War II period, the failure of the European Union is a realistic scenario.’ Gauck was referring to problems facing Europe, from the conflict in Ukraine to the divisive, nationalist tendencies in countries such as Greece.

“He said these conflicts showed that many Europeans harbored doubts about the European Union, looking instead to go it alone as nation states in setting policies and crafting foreign relationships. Gauck said Schulz was a man… who saw the need to restore trust in the European Union, implying that this was his biggest contribution to Europe…

“Schulz is German and originally from the town of Würselen, near Aachen in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia… he became a member of the European Parliament in 1994. The Social Democrat is serving his second consecutive stint as president of the European Parliament, a role he first assumed in January 2012…”

First Same-Sex Marriage of a EU Leader

The New York Times wrote on May 15:

“The prime minister of Luxembourg on Friday wed his partner of several years in the first same-sex marriage of a European Union leader. Prime Minister Xavier Bettel married Gauthier Destenay, a Belgian architect, less than a year after lawmakers in Luxembourg overwhelmingly legalized same-sex marriage, a sign of shifting attitudes in the predominantly Roman Catholic duchy…

“Mr. Bettel, a 42-year-old lawyer, is the head of the center-right Democratic Party and was elected prime minister in 2013 after having served as mayor of the capital, the city of Luxembourg. He replaced Jean-Claude Juncker, now head of the European Commission, who had been in power for nearly 19 years.

“Johanna Sigurdardottir, the former prime minister of Iceland, which is not a European Union member, married her female partner in 2010, while still in office… Stéphane Bern, a French journalist, noted how Luxembourg, often seen as more conservative than its European neighbors, had surprised even the president of France, where same-sex marriage was legalized in 2013 after months of tumultuous and angry debate…”

How times have changed. Note the next article.

UK Holds the Crown on LGBTI Rights, but Sweden Not Far Behind…

The Local wrote on May 12:

“After looking at how well 48 different nations ranked on issues such as marriage equality, employment, adoption and medical treatment, the ILGA (European Region of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association) gave Sweden a score of 72 percent on its annual Rainbow Map. The result puts Sweden above all other Nordic countries for LGBTI rights and in fourth place overall…

“The other Scandinavian countries weren’t far behind, with Denmark and Norway also reaching the top ten and Finland coming in 13th place. The UK held on to its crown at the head of the table while Malta jumped eight places to come third. Armenia, Russia and Azerbaijan remained the bottom three nations…

“In Sweden it was agreed that the gender-neutral pronoun ‘hen’ would enter the dictionary, a promise that was fulfilled earlier this year. The move coincided with a number of local initiatives including gender-neutral toilets in several municipalities.

“Denmark was also praised in the report for ‘great steps forward’ in the shape of its ‘progressive legal gender recognition law’ designed to make it easier for transgender people to have their gender identity legally recognised.

“Meanwhile Estonia became the first former USSR country to officially recognise same sex unions by passing an historic cohabitation act and future marriage equality was approved in Finland and enacted in England, Wales and Scotland, the report noted…

“In 2013, the Spartacus International Gay Guide ranked Sweden the most gay-friendly nation in the world.”

Israelite nations excel in their sad reputation of being highly supportive of “alternative life styles,” which the Bible condemns as abominations.

Legalization of Same-Sex Marriages by Popular Vote in Catholic Ireland?

The Washington Post wrote on May 16:

“Catholic and deeply conservative, Ireland was long known as one of the toughest places in the Western world to be gay. Homosexuality was only decriminalized here in 1993, following years of pressure from European authorities. But now Ireland may be preparing for its coming-out party, with a referendum on Friday [May 22] that could make it the world’s first country to approve same-sex marriage in a popular vote.

“That such a momentous event in the gay rights struggle could happen here, of all places, reflects the breathtaking social change that has swept Ireland in recent years and the weakening hold of the scandal-scarred Catholic Church. The church has come out firmly against the referendum. But in a country where priests once held unquestioned sway and where 85 percent of the nation still identifies as Catholic, a large majority of Ireland appears ready to defy church teachings and vote to give same-sex partners the same right to marry as heterosexual couples…

“The change to Ireland’s constitution could reverberate well beyond this island nation’s borders at a time when other countries, the United States among them, are wrestling with the issue in legislation and in the courts. Unlike in the United States, where nine Supreme Court justices will soon give their ruling, Ireland has placed the choice in the hands of its 4.5 million people — leading to a passionate and colorful campaign that has made a once-taboo subject the focus of a national debate…

“Abortion is still prohibited in Ireland. But same-sex marriage is seen by traditionalists as perhaps the ultimate concession to cultural relativism in a country where divorce was illegal and the sale of condoms was tightly regulated until the mid-1990s…

“The government backs a yes vote, as do all the significant political parties, the major media organizations, unions and business groups. The yes campaign has also won support from sports stars and even some dissident clerics. In January, a Dublin priest announced during a Saturday night mass that he supported the referendum and that he is gay. His congregants gave him a standing ovation. The church hierarchy has been notably quiet — releasing letters and preaching sermons against the measure but hardly putting its full weight behind the referendum’s defeat. In a country where the wounds of the church’s child sex abuse scandal are still raw, it’s unclear whether Catholic leaders could influence voters even if they tried…

“Polls have shown that same-sex marriage is favored by a significant majority of Irish voters. But the contest is expected to tighten as the campaign enters its final days…”

 Mandatory Vaccination Bill Passes California Senate

The Huffington Post wrote on May 14:

“A bill that would make vaccines mandatory for nearly every child in California passed the state Senate on Thursday morning. The controversial bill ensures that parents enrolling their children in California schools will be allowed to opt them out of immunizations only for medical reasons and may no longer cite religious or personal belief exemptions as reasons not to vaccinate. It passed 25-10 in the Senate, The Associated Press reported…

“The bill now advances to the state Assembly and, if passed by that chamber, to Democrat Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk for final approval. While the governor has not taken a stance on whether vaccines should be mandatory, a spokesman told the Los Angeles Times that Brown ‘believes that vaccinations are profoundly important and a major public health benefit, and any bill that reaches his desk will be closely considered.’

“If the measure becomes law, California will join Mississippi and West Virginia as the only states with such strict vaccine requirements. Bills aimed at limiting non-medical exemptions to vaccines failed in Washington state and Oregon in March.

“Since the bill was introduced, the state’s vocal anti-vaccination community has staged protests outside lawmakers’ offices throughout the state. Pan’s office has received so many phone calls that it had to open a second phone line, ABC 7 reported.”

This is just another example as to how antagonistic and ignorant law makers in some of our most liberal states are really trying to suppress and abandon religious freedom and liberty in this country—for the sake of the “greater good” (i.e., the “outbreak” of just a very few (!) cases of measles in one of California’s amusement parks, allegedly due to unvaccinated children—a claim which has been highly disputed and which is really without merit).

This slogan has led to the violation and “sacrifice” of individual liberties, while it has caused many atrocities through the years… one may only think of Nazi Germany or Stalin’s dictatorship. This liberal way of thinking justifies the killing of innocent civilians in war, labeling their death as necessary casualties—or it tolerates or even advocates the murder of unborn children through abortion, as it is allegedly within the right of the mother to rule over her body. None of the liberal advocates (including many Catholics and Protestants) seem to care about the right of the innocent and helpless child.

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How to Count Pentecost?

In our free booklet, “The Meaning of God’s Spring Holy Days,” we explained the following:

“The Church of God and the Orthodox Catholic and Protestant world may… at times observe Pentecost on the same Sunday. But this is merely coincidental. There are many years when the Church of God and the Orthodox Christian world celebrate Pentecost on different days. Why? Because the Church of God determines the correct date for Pentecost by counting 50 days from the Sunday [after the weekly Sabbath], which falls within the annual Holy Days of Unleavened Bread, as instructed in the Bible (Leviticus 23:11).

“The wave sheaf was offered on the Sunday during the Days of Unleavened Bread. The wave sheaf pictures Jesus Christ, who ascended to heaven on a Sunday, even though He was resurrected on Saturday evening, just around sunset. Exactly 50 days later, He poured out the Holy Spirit from God the Father on His New Testament Church. This was the Day of Pentecost.

“In other words, we are not to count 50 days from the weekly Sabbath that falls within the seven Days of Unleavened Bread, but from the SUNDAY on which the wave sheaf was offered—and it is that SUNDAY, that must fall within the seven Days of Unleavened Bread (compare Leviticus 23:14-15; Joshua 5:11). [This will be explained below in more detail.]

“Orthodox Christianity determines the date of ‘Pentecost’ by using Easter as a starting point for counting 50 days. Easter, however, is not the correct starting point, as it is a pagan festival. It is not even mentioned in the Bible, and it is not a feast to be kept by true Christians… There are other obvious distinctions between the Biblical Pentecost, which IS to be kept by true Christians, and the Pentecost of this world, which was designed by the Roman Catholic Church and includes numerous pagan customs… [God] does not accept syncretism—which… is the combining of different forms of belief or thought, such as, mixing paganism and Christianity. Christ said that we worship Him in vain when we teach as doctrines the commandments of men, and when we follow man’s traditions in an attempt to worship God (compare Mark 7:6-9).”

In this Q&A, we want to further address the reasons as to why the Church of God celebrates the biblical Pentecost by counting 50 days from the SUNDAY within the days of Unleavened Bread, which follows the weekly Sabbath. Apart from the confusion created by Orthodox Christianity to count “Pentecost” 50 days from Easter, there is also utter confusion within Judaism as to how to count the biblical Pentecost.

The following article from the website of karaite-korner.org/shavuot.shtml gives interesting information as to why many Jews are incorrect on the issue:

“Shavuot (Feast of Weeks/Pentecost) is the Biblical harvest-festival celebrated 50 days after the Sunday which falls out during Passover [i.e., the entire Passover “season,” including the seven Days of Unleavened Bread]. These fifty days are called the Counting of the Omer. The Rabbis incorrectly celebrate Shavuoth on the 6th of Sivan. In late Second Temple times a debate arose between the Boethusians and the Pharisees about whether the ‘morrow after the Sabbath’ [Heb. Mimohorat Ha-Shabbat; compare Leviticus 23:15, Authorized Version] refers to the Sunday during Hag HaMatzot [Feast of Unleavened Bread] or the second day of Hag HaMatzot (i.e. the 16th of Nissan). Like the Boethusians and Ancient Israelites before them [including the Sadducees], the Karaites [a movement within Judaism] count the 50 days of the Omer from the Sunday during Hag HaMatzot and consequentially always celebrate Shavuot on a Sunday.

“The Rabbanites claim that in the phrase ‘the morrow after the Sabbath’ the ‘Sabbath’ referred to is the first day of Hag HaMatzot [i.e., the First Day of Unleavened Bread, on the 15th of Nisan]. In the Rabbanite reckoning the 50th day of the Omer (=Shavuot) would NOT be on ‘the morrow after the seventh Sabbath’ as commanded in Lev[iticus] 23:16. Instead it would be on the morrow after the 7th Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday or whatever day it happened to fall out after. The only way for the 49th day of the Omer to be a Sabbath, thereby making the 50th day ‘the morrow after the Sabbath’ as commanded in Lev[iticus] 23:16, is if the 1st day of the Omer is on a Sunday.”

In regard to the last comments in the above-stated article, please note Luke 6:1. We read that “it happened on the second Sabbath after the first that He went through the grainfields.” Some translators, unsure as to what the phrase means, omit it altogether and just say that it happened on a Sabbath. Others give numerous interpretations, but Luke 6 seems to be referring to the second Sabbath—the weekly Sabbath—after the first Sabbath—the annual Holy Day of the First Day of Unleavened Bread, showing that there were two Sabbaths in that week.

The One Volume commentary by Dummelow explains that it was the custom to number the Sabbaths from Passover to Pentecost from the day when the wave sheaf offering had been given.  As Leviticus 23:16 commands to count fifty days to the day AFTER the SEVENTH Sabbath, the Scripture in Luke 6 seems to confirm that the counting has to occur, beginning with the Sunday following the weekly Sabbath as, otherwise, we would not reach Sunday as the 50th day, being the day after the SEVENTH Sabbath.

The above-quoted article explains correctly that the “day” or the “morrow (morning) after the Sabbath” must refer to Sunday morning, following the WEEKLY Sabbath within the Days of Unleavened Bread. It does NOT and CANNOT refer to the annual Sabbath of the First Day of Unleavened Bread. There was a controversy, according to the Jewish historian Josephus of the first century, between the Pharisees and the Sadducees. While the Sadducees counted the 50 days correctly from the Sunday which falls within the Days of Unleavened Bread and which follows the WEEKLY Sabbath, the Pharisees counted it from the day after the ANNUAL Sabbath—the first day of Unleavened Bread. But we should note, as will be explained below, that the Temple service was entrusted to the Sadducees, not the Pharisees. Their determination as to when to celebrate Pentecost was conclusive and decisive for the public celebration, as long as the Second Temple existed.

However, modern Judaism has adopted the view of the Pharisees, thereby celebrating Pentecost ALWAYS on the SIXTH DAY OF SIVAN (which could fall on any day of the week).  In passing, we should notice as well that most modern Jews have also adopted the view of the Pharisees (contrary to the view of the Sadducees) that one must observe Passover on the 15th of Nisan, which is the wrong day and one day too late, erroneously claiming that the Passover lamb was sacrificed at the end of the 14th day of Nisan, while it was actually sacrificed at the beginning of the 14th day of Nisan, “between the two evenings”—the time span between sunset and nightfall.

In an article written by Herbert W. Armstrong and Herman L. Hoeh in 1974, the following is stated:

“The New Testament shows the Pharisees had considerable power among the people…  On the other hand, they had no official function in either the temple or the judicial system. Their power was through influence rather than direct office…  The Sadducees were most influential among the priests and those in charge of the temple…  the Sadducees (Boethusians) were firmly in control of the temple and the ritual until shortly before the 66-70 war, and… the wave sheaf was always offered on Sunday and Pentecost counted from then… Acts 5:17ff shows the Sadducees in charge of the temple. About a quarter of a century later, the Sanhedrin is divided between the Pharisees and Sadducees (Acts 23:6ff). But even then the Sadducees have their way in keeping Paul in prison although the Pharisees wanted to release him (23:9)…

“The Encyclopedia Judaica has this significant comment to make: ‘The Sadducees (and later the Karaites) understood the term “Sabbath” in these verses literally, hence, for them Shavuot [Pentecost] always falls on a Sunday’ (Ency. Judaica, 1971 ed., Vol. 14).

“The Universal Jewish Encylopedia says: ‘The Torah provides that the seven weeks up to Shabuoth be counted “from the morrow after the day of rest” (mimohorath hashabbath) of the Passover festival (Lev. 23:l5). The interpretation of this passage became one of the outstanding points at issue between the Pharisees and the Sadducees. According to the Pharisaic point of view, supported by the Septuagint and later universally accepted in the Talmud, the shabbath in question was the first day of Passover [the first Day of Unleavened Bread]; hence Shabuoth [Pentecost] would always fall fifty days later, on the 6th of Sivan. The Sadducees, however, and later the Karaites, supported by the Samaritans, took the word to mean literally the Sabbath after the beginning of the Passover festival: thus Shabuoth [Pentecost] would always fall on a Sunday and might vary in date…’ (The Universal Jewish Ency., 1943 ed., Vol. 9).

“Notice that the Sadducees’ way of reckoning Pentecost is referred to as ‘the old Biblical view.’ ‘They (the Sadducees) contended that the seven weeks from the first barley-sheaf-offering (‘omer’) to Pentecost should, according to Lev. xxiii. 15-16, be counted from ‘the day after Sabbath,’ and, consequently, that Pentecost should always be celebrated on the first day of the week (Meg, Ta’an l.; Men. 65a). In this they obviously followed the old Biblical view…’ (The Jewish Ency., 1907 ed., Vol. X)… ‘The Boethuseans (a sect of the Sadducees), interpreting the Sabbath as the ordinary Sabbath that fell during the week of the massot between the 15th and 21st day of Nisan, kept Pentecost on the Sunday following the 7th Sabbath’ (New Cath. Ency., 1966 ed., Vol. XI)…

“Notice how, according to history, the Sadducees were in control of the Temple until well beyond 31 A.D. They, therefore, controlled the religious ceremonies and ritual, rather than the Pharisees. ‘The Sadducees celebrated it [Pentecost] on the fiftieth day (inclusive reckoning) from the first Sunday after Passover (taking the ‘sabbath’ of Lv. xxiii.15 to be the weekly sabbath): their reckoning regulated the public observance so long as the Temple stood, and the [Christian] Church is therefore justified in commemorating the first Christian Pentecost on a Sunday… The Pharisees, however, interpreted the ‘sabbath’ of Lv. xxiii.15 as the Festival of Unleavened Bread (cf. Lv. xxiii. 7), and their reckoning became normative in Judaism after AD 70, so that in the Jewish calendar Pentecost now falls on various days of the week’ (The New Bible Dictionary, 1962 ed., by J.C. Douglas)…”

We need to consider the clear instructions in the Old Testament to establish that the Sadducees—and not the Pharisees—were correct in their determination as to when to keep Pentecost.

In Leviticus 23:10-14, we are told that after the Israelites had entered the Promised Land, they had to bring first a wave sheaf offering “on the day [better: “morrow” or morning, compare Authorized Version] after the Sabbath” (verse 11), and only afterwards were they allowed to eat “bread” or “parched grain” or “fresh grain” (verse 14).

In Joshua 5:10-12, we read what happened when they did enter the Promised Land: “Now the children of Israel camped in Gilgal, and kept the Passover on the fourteenth day of the month at twilight [in Hebrew: “between the two evenings”—the time span between sunset and nightfall] on the plains of Jericho. And they ate of the produce of the land ON THE DAY [“on the MORROW,” Authorized Version] AFTER the Passover, unleavened bread and parched grain, on the very same day. Then the manna ceased on the day [“morrow,” Authorized Version] after they had eaten the produce of the land; and the children of Israel no longer had manna, but they ate the food of the land of Canaan that year.”

According to the view point of the Pharisees, the wave sheaf offering had to be brought on the day following the ANNUAL Sabbath; that is, on the day following the first Day of Unleavened Bread. The first Day of Unleavened Bread is always on the 15th of Nisan (Leviticus 23:6). So, the Pharisees hold that the wave sheaf must be brought one day later, on the 16th of Nisan. However, this is NOT what happened under Joshua. We read that the wave sheaf offering was brought under Joshua on the day after the Passover (the Passover is to be kept at the beginning of the 14th of Nisan, Leviticus 23:5); that is, the wave sheaf offering was brought that year on the 15th of Nisan—NOT on the 16th of Nisan. The Sadducees’ viewpoint is correct in that the sheaf must be waived on the day after the WEEKLY Sabbath; in other words, on Sunday, which fell that year under Joshua on the 15th of Nisan. This means that Pentecost (the Feast of Weeks) would be celebrated 50 days later—on a Sunday.

In addition, the view point of the Pharisees (and of the modern Jews) that Pentecost always falls on a fixed day—the 6th of Sivan—makes no sense in that the day of Pentecost has to be determined by counting. While each particular day for all the other annual Holy Days has been specifically given in the Bible, this is not the case for the day of Pentecost. It can only be determined by counting each year 50 days from the Sunday within the Days of Unleavened Bread, which follows the weekly Sabbath. If the Pharisees were correct in that Pentecost always falls on Sivan 6, then the injunction to determine the day by counting 50 from the day after the Sabbath would be meaningless and superfluous.

We might also want to point out again that Jesus was the fulfillment of the wave sheaf offering, in that, following His resurrection from the dead on Saturday, just before sunset (having been dead in the grave for three days and three nights, after His crucifixion on Wednesday), He ascended Sunday morning to the Father in heaven. According to the view point of the Pharisees, He would have had to ascend to the Father in heaven on Friday, since the First Day of Unleavened Bread fell in the crucifixion week on Thursday. But Christ was dead and in the grave on Friday. Again, we see that the view point of the Pharisees was incorrect, and that the view point of the Sadducees was correct, in that the wave sheaf offering was brought on the day after the WEEKLY Sabbath—and Jesus fulfilled that ritual at the prescribed time as the spiritual wave sheaf offering.

A passage in the New Testament might shed further light on the controversy between the Sadducees and the Pharisees. The Holy Spirit was given to the New Testament Church on Pentecost, June 17, 31 AD. Acts 2:1 states that when the Day of Pentecost had “fully” come, the disciples were all with one accord in one place. Some translators had difficulty with this phrase and chose to omit the word “fully” or say that Pentecost was “fulfilled” on that day. Even though the Day of Pentecost was filled with most significant meaning, due to the giving of the Holy Spirit, the Bible does not tell us that the disciples ceased from keeping the Day of Pentecost. The opposite is revealed in Acts 20:16 and in 1 Corinthians 16:8, showing that Paul continued to observe that annual Holy Day. (Another indirect reference to the keeping of Pentecost can be found in Acts 16:13, where we read that Paul and others went “on the Sabbath day” to the riverside where prayer was customarily made. In the Greek, the word for “Sabbath” is in the plural, indicating that reference is made to both the weekly Sabbath and an annual Sabbath or Holy Day—in this case, Pentecost.)

Rather, Acts 2:1 seems to hint at the controversy between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and it seems to emphasize that the Sadducees were correct in that Pentecost had to be kept on that particular day—a Sunday. The J.B. Phillips translation states: “Then when the actual day of Pentecost came…” The reason for this statement could refer to the fact that the Pharisees had preached that the day of Pentecost had already come in that year, i.e. on the previous Friday (since they counted 50 days from the day after the ANNUAL Sabbath or Holy Day of the First Day of Unleavened Bread which was observed that year on a Thursday; that is, they began counting on Friday, not on Sunday, and would have kept “Pentecost” 50 days later, on a Friday). But the correct day to begin counting was Sunday, following the WEEKLY Sabbath, and it was 50 days later, on Sunday, when the Day of Pentecost had “actually” and “fully” come.

We therefore hold that the day of Pentecost is to be observed 50 days after that Sunday within the Days of Unleavened Bread, which follows the WEEKLY Sabbath. This means, that Pentecost always falls on a Sunday. This year (2015), it is to be observed on May 24 (counting 50 days from the Sunday (i.e. April 5, 2015) within the Days of Unleavened Bread, which followed the weekly Sabbath of April 4, 2015). Since the annual Sabbath of the First Day of Unleavened Bread fell this year on a weekly Sabbath, Saturday, April 4, 2015, the Pharisaical view point (counting 50 days from the day after the ANNUAL Sabbath) comes to the same result for THIS year in keeping Pentecost on May 24, 2015). And since Easter Sunday fell this year on April 5, 2015, orthodox Christianity also keeps “Pentecost” this year on May 24, 2015.

Lead Writer: Norbert Link

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