|Live Services||"The Second Time"|
|Q&A||Q: I have heard that Christ's miraculous birth was also a sign that He was the Messiah. If so, wouldn't this contradict Christ's statement in Matthew 12:39-40?|
"The Second Time"
Dave Harris will give the sermon this Sabbath, June 28, 2003. The title of the sermon is, “The Second Time.”
The services can be heard at www.cognetservices.org at the appropriate time, just click on “Connect to Live Stream.”
by Rene Messier (Canada)
We have just celebrated the Spring Festivals of Passover, Days of Unleavened Bread and Pentecost. We have the long hot summer to contend with until the arrival of the next group of Annual Festivals – the Autumn Festivals. It is imperative during this period of time that we stay focused on the task and job we have been called to do. It is so easy to get sidetracked and/or distracted to the point where we become ineffective – by going around in circles and not accomplishing much or not working to our full potential.
Two Scriptures effectively summarize the reason for our calling in this day and age. The first Scripture, 2 Peter 3:18, commands us to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” Just how do we grow in Christ’s grace and knowledge? For a plant to grow it must be watered. God’s Spirit must water us on a continual basis. To be watered most effectively, we must continue to pray, study the Bible, meditate and – as unpleasant as it may seem – fast occasionally. These are the tools we can use to GROW. A tree stops growing when it is cut down or dead. This example from nature contains a lesson for us. In order to attain our goal (which is, to enter the kingdom of God), we have to keep growing throughout our Christian lives until the day of our death or change, at the return of Christ. We just cannot afford to let down, get discouraged and quit. Matthew 24:13 tells us, “But he who endures to the end shall be saved.” That’s the standard we need to work towards achieving.
The second Scripture to focus on, when considering the reason for our present calling, is Matthew 24:14. It reads, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.” Notice it says, the gospel WILL be preached. It does NOT say, it might perhaps be preached. This job will get done. It has not been completed since the end has not yet come. The only question is, “Am I going to be involved in this process of preaching the gospel?”
As part and parcel of our calling, we have been invited to be involved in this work God is doing, in sending out a warning message and in preparing a people for Christ’s return. We should not get distracted in our task, during this period between the Spring and Fall Festivals, but remain focused and true to our calling. Remember the words of Christ, “He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much” (Luke 16:10). Neither should we despise the day of small things (Zechariah 4:10; compare, too, Haggai 2:3-4). The parable of the mustard seed, in Matthew 13:31-32, explains to us that God, when He works through man, generally starts small, but huge results often follow.
Dear Brethren, as we go through the summer months and the early fall season, let us remain focused on the task ahead of us, not neglecting to do our part in the work, nor letting down in our responsibilities, including personal prayer, Bible study, meditation and occasional fasting. If we do these things, we will stay focused and we will be effective tools in God’s hands.
This Week in the News
SUPREME COURT GOES ASTRAY
With this headline, USA Today announced on Thursday, June 26, 2003, the Supreme Court’s ruling that a Texas state law was an unconstitutional violation of privacy. The state law had prohibited “deviate sexual intercourse with another individual of the same sex.”
The article pointed out that in 1960, every state had such so-called “anti-sodomy laws.” In 37 states, the statutes had been repealed. “Of the 13 states with sodomy laws, four — Texas, Kansas, Oklahoma and Missouri — prohibit oral and anal sex between same-sex couples. The other nine ban consensual sodomy for everyone [including between husband and wife]: Alabama, Florida, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Utah and Virginia. Thursday’s ruling apparently invalidates those laws as well.”
Prior to the Supreme Court’s ruling on Thursday, other news related to the issue of homosexual conduct had made the headlines. In a web posted article from The Boston Globe of 6/11/2003, it was stated: “The city of Toronto issued North America’s first full marriage licenses to homosexual couples yesterday, after an Ontario court knocked down Canada’s legal definition of marriage, the union of a man and a woman, as a violation of the country’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In the landmark ruling, the Ontario Appeal Court declared prohibitions against homosexual marriage unconstitutional. ‘The restriction against same-sex marriage is an offense to the dignity of lesbians and gays, because it limits the range of relationship options open to them,’ the court said.”
However, as the article continues, this decision is not without objection among some in Canada: ” ‘Our newfound tolerance of hom[o]sexuality shows how completely secularism has displaced religion as the source of popular morality,’ said Joseph Heath, professor of ethics and political economy at the University of Montreal. ‘The Bible says, “You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination.” It takes an awful lot of massaging to interpret that as anything other than a condemnation of homosexuality.’ “
Nations such as The Netherlands, Belgium and Denmark already have laws that condone legal status and rights for same-sex relationships. England is also dealing with this hot-button topic, with homosexuals pushing for legal recognition.
It is important to frame these events against the powerful statements about such conduct as inspired in the Word of God:
“Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator… For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting” (Romans 1:24-28).
“SUPREME COURT OVERTURNS LAW REVIVING OLD SEX CRIME PROSECUTIONS”
This was another headline of an article run by USA Today on Thursday, June 26. The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that the government cannot retroactively erase statutes of limitations, striking down a California law that allowed prosecutions for old sex crimes. “This case [Stogner v. California, 01-1757] was closely watched because of sex abuse problems in the Roman Catholic Church, but it also has implications for terrorism and other crimes,” the article pointed out. “The Bush administration had argued that a ruling against California would threaten the USA Patriot Act, which retroactively withdrew statutes of limitations in terrorism cases involving hijackings, kidnappings, bombings and biological weapons.”
“ICH BIN EIN BERLINER”
As Der Stern Online reported on June 26, 40 years ago, on Thursday, June 26, 1963, President John F. Kennedy gave his historical speech at the Schoeneberg town hall in Berlin, uttering the above-quoted words. More than 300,000 Germans — some say, 400,000 — responded with spontaneous applause. Kennedy was the first U.S. president who visited Berlin after Germany’s division. Russia’s leader, President Nikita Khrushchev, traveled to East Berlin and stated two days later, “I love the wall.” Following John F. Kennedy, five more U.S. presidents visited Berlin, including Richard Nixon in 1969 and Bill Clinton in 1994. Only one additional Berlin-speech was recorded in the pages of history, however: In 1987, Ronald Reagan exclaimed at the Brandenburg Gate, “Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, tear this wall down.” Two years later, Mr. Reagan’s wish had become reality.
As Bild Online reported, in light of the historical events 40 years ago, German President Johannes Rau wrote a letter to President Bush. He called President Kennedy’s speech “a milestone of German history,” “a stable anchor of German-American friendship,” and “one of the great symbols for Berlin’s freedom.” He continued, “In light of the 40th year of that speech, I would like to thank you, Mr. President, and the American people that you have given us the hand of friendship — a friendship for which Kennedy created a lasting symbol 40 years ago, and which has endured even in difficult times.”
Sadly, the friendship between the two nations will not endure in the challenging times ahead of us.
EUROPE AND CHRISTIANITY
The Foreign Minister of Italy, Franco Frattini, announced on Tuesday, June 24, that he will “insist that the preamble of the European Constitution make reference to Christianity,” according to Zenit of June 26. Italy will assume the European Union’s rotating presidency next semester, on July 1, 2003. The preamble presently makes no reference to God or to the role of Christianity, “despite the fact that this was requested by representatives of Italy, Poland, The Netherlands and Spain,” according to Zenit of June 22.
Zenit also ran an interesting article on June 20, titled, “De-Christianized Europe is Easy Prey for Peaceful Muslim Invasion.” The article featured Piero Gheddo, Italian Missionary of the Pontifical Institute of Foreign Missions. He stated, “‘The modern world — television, consumerism, feminism, etc. — disturbs faith and the Muslim communities. Muslims regard us as atheist and immoral peoples; we conquer them with technology, they conquer with faith… Hatred and terrorism are the reaction when feeling impotent before the modern world that has come from the West, which marginalizes religion in the life of these peoples.'”
He continued, “‘We must return to Jesus Christ if, as Europeans, we want to have the precise identity and religious-moral strength. A de-Christianized Europe is easy prey for a peaceful Muslim invasion; they have the strength of faith; we have a civilization devoid of content. If Christianity is taken from us, Europeans, what will we have left? Why do intellectuals and journalists, prepared to debate on any topic, ignore this tragedy of Europe?… Where a void is created, there is always someone ready to fill it.'”
The void WILL be filled — but in a different way than presently anticipated by most observers.
THE USA AND EUROPE vs IRAN?
“President Bush and European leaders demanded Wednesday [June 25] that Iran live up to its promises not to develop nuclear weapons. ‘And if they don’t, we’ll deal with that when they don’t,’ the president said,” according to USA Today of June 26. Romano Prodi, president of the European Commission, uttered the following words, which might turn out to have prophetic significance: “When Europe and United States are united, no problem and no enemy can stand against us. If we fail to unite, every problem may become a crisis and every enemy a gigantic monster.”
ONGOING ATTACKS IN IRAQ
This week brought to light evidence that Saddam Hussein was planning to reconstitute a program with hidden material to enrich uranium to make a nuclear weapon, once sanctions against Iraq ended. The Bush administration clarified, however, that this hidden material did not constitute proof that Iraq had an active program to develop a nuclear weapon (USA Today, June 26).
This week has also seen continued Iraqi attacks on American and British forces. “The Arab satellite station Al-Jazeera reported,” on Thursday, “that it received a statement and videotape from an alleged Iraqi resistance group claiming responsibility for the violence and threatening more,” according to USA Today of June 26. “The latest killings raised the American death toll to 196 since the start of the war on March 20. At least 20 U.S. soldiers have died as the result of hostile fire since the major combat was declared over in May.”
Six British soldiers were also killed on Tuesday, June 24. “The deaths represent the heaviest loss under fire for British troops in a single day since the 1991 Gulf War and take the British death toll during the latest Iraqi conflict to 42.”
The article continued, “British forces in Iraq have been reduced to 15,500 from 45,000 during the war; two-thirds of them are ground forces. The United States has brought home some 130,000 troops from the region; 146,000 American forces remain in Iraq.”
Q: I have heard that Christ's miraculous birth was also a sign that He was the Messiah. If so, wouldn't this contradict Christ's statement in Matthew 12:39-40?
A: Matthew 12:38-40 reads as follows:
“Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered, saying, ‘Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.’ But He answered and said to them, ‘An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.””
Note that Christ talked to the scribes and Pharisees, describing them as an “evil and adulterous generation.” He said that the only sign that would be given to IT was the sign of the prophet Jonah. As Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so Christ would be three days and three nights — 72 hours — in the grave. Christ’s statement goes further, however. He made clear that He would not stay in the grave for less than three days and three nights, and, that He would not stay longer in the grave than 72 hours. As the sea monster vomited Jonah alive onto dry land, so Christ would be brought back to life and leave the grave after three days and three nights.
Scripture tells us that Christ did indeed fulfill this sign. The angel of the Lord told the women, “‘He is risen, as He said'” (Matthew 28:6). This means, Christ could not have been crucified on a Friday and resurrected on a Sunday, as this would not fulfill the sign of being in the grave for three days and three nights. Rather, Christ was killed on a Wednesday and placed in the grave on Wednesday afternoon, just before sunset. He was brought back to life three days and three nights later, leaving the grave on Saturday afternoon, just before sunset, as He said.
The Romans witnessed that the angel came down from heaven and rolled away the stone from Christ’s grave. They told the chief priests about it, but were bribed with money in order to conceal the truth (Matthew 28:11-15). The chief priests and elders willfully suppressed and denied the only sign for Christ’s Messiahship.
After His resurrection, Christ appeared to many, proving that He was the Messiah. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 the numerous occasions when Christ appeared to His apostles and disciples. In that passage, Paul did not even list all of Christ’s manifestations (compare, for example, Matthew 28:9-10; Luke 24:13-35).
Christ, when a human being, did many signs and wonders. John said that He performed so many miracles that they could not even all be written down (John 21:25). However, none of these signs proved His Messiahship to the people. They might have recognized Him as a prophet, who was able to perform miracles, but those signs did not prove to them that He was THE Christ. His true disciples recognized Him as the Son of God, but this knowledge had to be revealed to them by God the Father (compare Matthew 16:13-17).
On the other hand, Christ’s resurrection from the dead as a glorified God being proved His Messiahship. The proof lies in the fact that He was DEAD, and that He would come back to life. He could not raise Himself up or bring Himself back to life. He said that “I can of Myself do nothing” (John 5:30). Only God the Father could resurrect Him (compare Acts 2:24; 3:13-15). THAT FACT was the sign of His Messiahship. In other words, Christ said to the people, “If I die and if I am buried for three days and three nights, and afterward come back to life, THEN you will know that I am the Christ.”
We should be able to see clearly that this sign totally negates the false concept that Christ was killed on “Good Friday” and resurrected on “Easter Sunday” — as He would not have been in the grave for 72 hours. This sign also totally disproves the false teaching that Christ, when here on earth, was “fully God and fully man”; that only the “man part” died, but not the “God part”; and that the “God part” resurrected the “man part” — in other words, that Christ resurrected Himself. This false teaching of orthodox Christianity (commonly referred to as the “two natures of Christ”) denies the ONLY sign that Christ gave to “an evil and adulterous generation,” proving His Messiahship: He was dead and buried for 72 hours, and afterwards, God the Father brought Him back to life as a glorified God being.
Christ’s supernatural birth was not a sign to the “evil and adulterous generation” of His time, either, as they did not believe that He had been supernaturally conceived by Mary. They believed that Mary had committed fornication (compare John 8:41). The miraculous events at the time of Christ’s birth were, however, a sign to the shepherds in the field (Luke 2:12), as well as to Mary (Luke 2:19). Mary, of course, had already been prepared for Christ’s supernatural birth by the prior appearance and pronouncements of God’s angel (Luke 1:26-38).
For us who believe, Christ’s supernatural birth is a most important fundamental tenet — but to those who don’t believe, it can hardly be considered a sign. It is sad, however, that even many of those calling themselves Christians doubt that Christ was actually conceived in the way as described in Scripture. If they believe, however, that Christ was and is the Messiah, they MUST believe in Christ’s supernatural birth — AND in His existence as a God being, full of glory, PRIOR TO His birth as a human being (compare John 17:5) .
Our free booklet, GOD IS A FAMILY, explains these and other questions in much more detail.
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