Letter to the Brethren: April 11, 2019

Dear Brethren and Co-Workers in Christ:

Greetings again from the Five Cities region of California.

Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread will be here soon.

We have been working on various preparations for them.

Tanzania

Evangelist Evans Ochieng sent in the following report:

Pastor Dr Bob,

My trip to Tanzania was very good. I got good time to share with brethren in Tanzania even though I met them in their various places.  Mostly I spent much time with Martin Wanga and Joash Okinyi. Joash was a longtime member of Worldwide Church of God. He is a man who long preached the gospel of the kingdom in East Africa. Most of the people {in Tanzania} knew truth from him. We discussed much more about the work in Tanzania. After that we talked about the Passover 2019.  I took a little video when Martin Wanga was talking about the work in Tanzania in Swahili.  …
Evans

Pastor Martin Wanga

Pastor Martin Wanga is an older man who I met the last time I was in Africa, when I took the photograph above (which did not come out as well as hoped).

Kiswahili, also known as Swahili, is the main language of Tanzania. We began producing literature in Kiswahili back in 2014. It was the first African language that we produced literature in (we have since also produced literature in Africans languages such as Dholuo, Chichewa (also known as Nyanja), and EkeGusii).

Anyway, I am pleased that we are having positive impact in Tanzania.

Passover 2019

The children of Israel were specifically told to observe the Passover in the Book of Exodus. Families took a lamb, without blemish (Exodus 12:5), for the sacrifice (Exodus 12:3-4). The lamb was sacrificed on the fourteenth at twilight (Exodus 12:6) and some of its blood was placed upon the door of the family’s home (Exodus 12:7).

Those who took the steps God instructed were ‘passed over’ from death, whereas the Egyptians who did not do this were not (Exodus 12:28-30).

As many realize, Jesus kept the Passover annually (Exodus 13:10) from the time of His youth (Luke 2:41-42) and throughout His entire life (Luke 22:15).

Passover was observed on the fourteenth day of the month of the first month (Leviticus 23:5; called Abib in Deuteronomy 16:1 or Nisan in Esther 3:7). It occurs in the Spring season of the year.

In 2019, it is to be observed after sunset on April 18th.

Although Jesus changed several practices associated with it (Luke 22:19-22; John 13:1-17), our Savior also told His disciples to keep it (Luke 22:7-13). Also the New Testament is clear, that because of Jesus’ sacrifice, killing sheep and putting blood on doorposts (Exodus 12:6-7) is not needed anymore (cf. Hebrews 7:12-13,26-27; 9:11-28).

The Apostle Paul specifically taught that Christians were to keep Passover in accordance with Jesus’ instructions (1 Corinthians 5:7-8; 11:23-26).

The Bible teaches that Jesus “was foreordained before the foundation of the world” (1 Peter 1:20) to be “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8). Thus, God’s plan of salvation through His Holy Days and festivals, including Jesus being the “Passover lamb,” was known before humans were placed on the planet. That is why some of the celestial bodies were placed in the heavens to be able to calculate them!

Pretty much all churches recognize that the Bible teaches that Jesus fulfilled something associated with Passover when He was killed.

The famous Passover in the days of Moses showed the deliverance of the children of Israel from Egypt (Exodus 12:1-38). Moses recorded God’s instructions about this as well as the calendar (Genesis 1:14; 2:1; Exodus 12:1) and His feasts (Leviticus 23). The Passover basically became the first of these events annually picturing to God’s children His great plan of salvation.

In the Old Testament, the Passover pictured deliverance from the bondage of Egypt and God’s intervention. But, prophetically, it was also looking towards the time that Jesus would come and be our Passover lamb (1 Corinthians 5:7). The Lamb of God who came to take away the sins of the world (John 1:29; cf. 3:16-17).

On Jesus’ last Passover as a human being, He continued to keep it at the time of the late evening and told His disciples to keep it (Luke 22:14-19; cf. John 13:2,12-15) and on the 14th of Nisan/Abib (cf. Luke 22:14; 23:52-54).

Jesus, however, changed several of the practices associated with its observance.  Jesus made the unleavened bread and wine an integral part of Passover (Matthew 26:18, 26-30) and added the practice of footwashing (John 13:12-17).


Unleavened Bread and Red Wine

Jesus in no way taught that it was not to be an annual Passover, nor did He change the time of day of its observation to a Sunday morning like those who follow Greco-Roman traditions do. Even Greek Orthodox scholars admit that 1st and 2nd century Christians kept Passover at night (Calivas, Alkiviadis C. The Origins of Pascha and Great Week – Part I. Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 1992) like we in the Continuing Church of God do in the 21st century. Passover is only to be taken by properly baptized Christians (cf. 1 Corinthians 11:27-29; Romans 6:3-10; Exodus 12:48; Numbers 9:14).

It probably should be added that the Church of Rome (as well as many of its Protestant descendants) officially teaches that it keeps Passover, though calling it something different in the English language and not keeping it as Jesus did (Catechism of the Catholic Church. Doubleday, NY 1995, p. 332).

Despite the fact that Jesus turned water into wine (John 2:3-10) and the Greek term used in the New Testament (oinos) refers to wine (cf. 1 Timothy 3:8), various ones have claimed that it was grape juice, and not wine, that was used for Passover. The Jews, themselves though, use wine at Passover (Hisrch EG, Eisenstein JD. Wine. Jewish Encyclopedia. 1907, pp. 532-535).

How do we know that grape juice was not possibly used by Jesus?

Grapes are normally harvested around September and Passover is usually in the Roman calendar month called April. In Jesus’ day, they did not have modern sterilization or refrigeration. Hence, grape juice would have spoiled between the time of harvest and Passover.

Others have noted that it was IMPOSSIBLE for Jews to have stored grape juice that long (Cf. Kennedy ARS. Hastings Bible Dictionary. C. Scribner Son’s, 1909 p. 974). Therefore, only wine, which can remain unspoiled for even many years would have been used.  (The use of alcohol, like wine, is endorsed the Feast of Tabernacles in Deuteronomy 26:14, but not required.)

Christians are not to be “drunk with wine, wherein is excess” as Paul wrote (Ephesians 5:18, KJV). Only a very small amount of wine is normally consumed at Passover (about a teaspoonful or less–and for sensitive individuals maybe only a drop or two–like some might take with an herbal tincture).

As far as the time before Passover goes, the Apostle Paul wrote this:

27 Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. 28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. (1 Corinthians 11:27-29)

Paul is clearly teaching that to take this bread and wine, one must examine oneself. The deleavening that is supposed to accompany Passover helps us focus on our faults and sins, and thus helps fulfill this command from Paul to examine ourselves. As deleavening can take lots of effort, this also supports the concept of an annual examination (people were not removing leaven every day or week).

The New Testament records that both Jesus and Paul taught to observe the Passover in the Christian manner.

And that was an annual observation.

We have an online video service for Passover for those in areas without a local minister. Here is a link: CCOG Passover Service.

Furthermore, some of you may wish to read the article: Keeping Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread.

Don’t just focus on going through a ceremony.

You should be examining your spiritual and physical life now as Passover is approaching.

Here is a link to a recent sermon: Really examine yourself before Passover.Passover for 2019 will be here soon.

Northern Midwest USA Counseling, Baptizing, and Visiting Trip

As a reminder, Deacon Richard Close is planning on a personal visit and counseling trip thru the upper mid-west starting from his home in Pennsylvania. He intends to be in Almont, Michigan April 13th for Sabbath services @ 2 PM  He would like to welcome all who wish to attend. If you wish to attend services there, please contact Terry LaFrance–his email address is terrylafrance22@gmail.com

Deacon Close plans to leave Michigan on Sunday April 14 to travel to Madison, Wisconsin and return back to Pennsylvania as late as April 17. If there is anyone located in the area of travel (which would also include northern Indiana, Illinois, and Ohio) that would like a personal visit (or perhaps drive to meet for a meal, etc.), please contact Richard Close via e-mail  Closesr@comcast.net  prior to April 13th so arrangements can be scheduled.

He has requested prayers from the brethren for God’s guidance, protection, and wisdom on this trip.

World News Items

The Trump Administration is threatening Europe with more tariffs that the EU is not happy about (see Trade war? Europe slams ‘exaggerated’ US tariff threat and prepares to retaliate). Furthermore, because of Brexit concerns and other factors, the Germany economy already seems to be wobbling (see Germany’s declining exports: Could this be a reorganization trigger?). Yet even if Europe’s economy gets much worse, we know biblically it will reorganize (Revelation 17:12-13)–and there are anti-migrant parties in Europe that hope to cause a reorganization after EU wide elections next month (see ‘Euroskeptic, anti-immigrant parties team up for EU election’). While the reorganization of Revelation 17:13 will NOT happen in 2019, one day Europe will rise up to temporarily dominate the world economy (cf. Revelation 13, 17, 18). I expect that USA factors as well as means such as technology will be involved in its eventual economic rise (see also European Technology and the Beast of Revelation).

As far as the USA goes, one study came out finding its residents are becoming more Godless, while another found that more Americans see the USA in decline (see As America becomes more Godless, more see it declining). Without national repentance, the USA is doomed (cf. Habakkuk 2:6-8), and Europe will be the power God uses to eliminate it (cf. Isaiah 10:5-11; Daniel 11:39).

The UK arrested Wikileaks co-founder Julian Assange today on behalf of the USA and the EU has granted the UK an extension of Brexit until October 31, 2019. Wikileaks highlighted US espionage on the EU, Vatican power manipulations, and emails related to the 2016 presidential elections that upset various ones (see ‘WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange Arrested in London;’ Plus Brexit extended). Brexit, of course, has also upset the EU. These matters will not end well for the UK nor USA (cf. Daniel 8:24-25, 11:39).

Over in Israel, there have been a couple of developments. The first is that the Temple Institute announced the birth of two additional ‘red heifer candidates’ (see Temple Institute excited to announce the birth of two red heifer candidates). The Temple Institute believes it needs one to purify/cleanse the temple/sanctuary area prior to the reinstitution of daily sacrifices, which biblically we know will happen (cf. Daniel 9:27; 11:31; 12:11).

The other development in Israel was a national election. At this instant, it looks like Benjamin Netanyahu was re-elected for a record 5th term as prime minister (see ‘Israeli Election Puts Netanyahu on Track for Fifth Term’). This, and certain other recent developments related to Israel, have further inflamed Iran, Syria, and the Palestinians. We should expect to see more violence before we see the type of deal prophesied in Daniel 9:27.

Suggested Sabbath Service

Here is a suggested Sabbath service for this week for our scattered brethren:

  • 2-3 hymns (our songbook, The Bible Hymnal, contains the materials from the 1974 Bible Hymnal from the old WCG with new covers, plus ten additional hymns; there is also some Choral Accompaniment online).
  • Opening prayer.
  • Sermonette, which for most who receive this letter via email will be a recorded one. The one suggested for this week is: How many genders did God create?
  • Announcements (if any; though for many it will be this letter) and one hymn.
  • Sermon, which for most who receive this letter via email will be a recorded one. The one suggested for this week is: Exodus 25: Ark of the Covenant and the Mercy Seat. Other sermons are also available at the ContinuingCOG channel. Other sermons are also available at the ContinuingCOG channel.
  • Final hymn.
  • Closing prayer.

Note: If you have a slow internet connection, you can watch these by starting the video, then below it (and towards the right) look for an outline of a gear–if you click on that, it will allow the YouTube video to be played with lower video quality, but at least it will not stop often–you can select a quality as low as 144p. If your internet connection is still too slow and/or you prefer audio messages to audio-visuals ones, go to the YouTube link for the message, click on SHOW MORE related to the description. You will then see something that says, “Download MP3.” Below that is a link to an MP3 file. Most computers (and even some cellular telephones) will allow MP3 files to be downloaded and played. This is an option we have made available (but we are also looking into ways to improve that as well)–and, of course, we have written article options. Some people have found that if their internet connections are not fast enough, that they can simply listen to the messages that are found at the Bible News Prophecy online radio channel.

IN CASE YOU DO NOT RECEIVE A ‘LETTER TO THE BRETHREN’ FOR ANY WEEK, REMEMBER THAT THERE ARE MANY SERMON MESSAGES ON THE ContinuingCOGchannel AND MANY SERMONETTE MESSAGES ON THE Bible News Prophecy channel. There are also some messages at the CCOGAfrica channel.

Concluding Comments

The Apostle Paul wrote:

2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. 3 For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4 But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. 5 For each one shall bear his own load. (Galatians 6:2-5)

Brethren, examine yourself and be concerned about helping others.

Sincerely,

Bob Thiel
Pastor and Overseer