Letter to the Brethren: March 14, 2019

Dear Brethren and Co-Workers in Christ:

Greetings again from the Five Cities Region of California.

We hope and pray you all are successfully enduring and growing.

Haiti

Moise Nicholas sent the following photographs from Haiti:


Moise Nicholas


End of Sabbath services in Haiti

As mentioned before, there are problems with getting clean water to safely drink in Haiti.

While we do not have a massive solution for that, in this past week both Herb Haddon and I attempted (separately) to buy some filtration equipment to send to Haiti via Amazon. Yet, neither Amazon from Canada nor the USA would send it to Haiti, so we both were unable to place the orders we tried.

Instead of giving up, I changed the order to ship some items to our office in Grover Beach, California. The sample items arrived yesterday, and then we shipped them yesterday to Haiti. We tried first to ship via UPS, but after trying for a couple of hours, its online system would not allow it. Instead of giving up, we then filled out US government paperwork in order to be able to ship it via the Post Office.  We wanted to try to provide some immediate assistance as well as to see if what we are sending is a viable short-term aid. But it will probably take longer to get to those in need than we hope.

As far as projects like this, sometimes it can be helpful to keep in mind something that the Apostle John wrote:

17 But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?

18 My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. (1 John 3:17-18)

And while we do not have the financial resources to solve all the problems of poverty in Haiti or elsewhere around the world, that does not mean we do nothing. So, we have at least taken another step to assist in Haiti.

More Media Coverage

Last Saturday afternoon, the UK Express posted the following:

End of the world prophecy: Why Jerusalem Third Temple is NOT a sign of Great Tribulation

9  March 2019

END of the world prophecies about the Christian Apocalypse and Great Tribulation claim the building of a third Holy Temple in Jerusalem will signal the end times – but is this really the case?

Prominent doomsday preachers in America have astonishingly claimed apocalyptic signs of the end times are unfolding before their eyes. Evangelical preachers like Paul Begley of West Lafayette in Indiana or Irvine Baxter of the Endtime Ministries recognise the Third Temple as a prophetic sign. Other biblical scholars, however, disagree with the claim the Third Temple will rise from the ground as a precursor to the so-called Great Tribulation. Dr Bob Thiel, of the Continuing Church of God, told Express.co.uk peculiar events will certainly unfold in the days leading to Armageddon.

But the building of the Third Temple is not one of these prophetic signs and not one to stay on the lookout for.

The Bible expert said: “From a prophetic perspective, there is no need for a massive Jewish Temple in Jerusalem prior to the start of the Great Tribulation.

“After the execution of Jesus, the veil in the ‘Second’ Temple was miraculously torn and that building ceased to be the Temple of God as, from a  perspective, there was no longer a need for animal sacrifices.”

According to Dr Thiel, there are two distinct prophetic possibilities concerning the Third Temple of Jerusalem.

The first prophetic path concerns the return of animal sacrifices before the Great Tribulation and the second concerns a passage in 2 Thessalonians 2.

Biblical prophecies related to animal sacrifices are outlined in the prophetic Book of Daniel, in particular, 9:27, 11:31, and 12:11.

But Dr Thiel argued there is no real need for a temple in order to resume the ancient and religious practice of animal sacrifice.

He said: “According to Ezra 3:6, the Jews sacrificed after the First Temple was destroyed and before the foundation of the Second Temple was laid.

“Furthermore, I have personally confirmed with representatives of both the Nascent Sanhedrin and The Temple Institute that they do not believe that they need to have an actual temple to resume sacrifices.

“Basically, they told me that they will implement regular animal sacrifices once they get official government permission.

“So, no a temple is not needed for animal sacrifices.”

Instead, Dr Thiel said what is needed is a sacrificial altar like the one dedicated by the Jewish council of the Sanhedrin on December 10, 2018,

The Bible expert said: “They do not need a massive Third Temple.” …

Hopes of the temple’s reconstruction were sparked last year at the time of Hanukkah when the Sanhedrin made their offering, as mentioned by Dr Thiel.

The event was widely lauded by the Christian conspiracy movement, and in particular, those who anticipate the imminent return of Jesus Christ.

Dr Thiel, however, fears those who wait for the Third Temple risk missing the Great Tribulation entirely if they focus on misleading claims of prophecy.

The biblical scholar argued the New Testament itself states this, although confusion stemming from Greek mistranslations of the term temple could be to blame.

He said: “The New Testament itself basically uses two Greek terms for temple: they are hieron and naos.

“While the Greek term hieron always seems to refer to a physical temple in the New Testament – usually a Jewish one, but sometimes a pagan one, for example, Acts 19:27 – the term naos does not always do so.

“Some have been confused about that as both are usually translated as the same English word.

“However, Naos frequently is used in reference to Christians as the ‘temple’ of God.

“Hence, 2 Thessalonians 2:4 seems to be pointing to a current or former Christian building or gathering place.

“And when Jesus returns, he comes to the Mount of Olives per Zechariah 14:3-4, which is not a place that a Jewish temple has ever stood.”

None of this is to say a Third Temple, or any sacrificial gathering place, cannot be built.

But Dr Thiel argued scripture itself does not teach or support the apocalyptic claim the Third Temple is a precursor to the Tribulation.

He said: “Scripture most certainly does not teach that some type of massive Third Temple, like various ones have proposed, will be built in Jerusalem prior to the start of the Great Tribulation.

“Those who insist on that will not realise that the Great Tribulation is about to start until it is too late.”

Dr Thiel said his interpretation of the Third Temple is supported by the likes of Stephen Sizer, the former Anglican vicar of Christ Church, Virginia Water, in Surrey, England.

Other contemporary biblical scholars such Roman Catholic writer Thomas Nash have agreed the Third Temple will never even be rebuilt.

Dr Thiel said: “Jesus listed the signs to look for prior to the start of the Great Tribulation in the 24th chapter of the Gospel of Matthew.

“That is the only place in the Gospels that actually has the expression ‘great tribulation’ and that chapter does not list the construction of a Third Temple in Jerusalem is a sign to watch for.

“People should not insist that a Third Temple must be rebuilt prior to the start of the Great Tribulation but instead should study what Jesus actually said would happen first.

“And that includes identifying the abomination spoken of by the prophet Daniel as well supporting getting the ‘gospel of the kingdom to the world as a witness’.

“Those are in Matthew 24 prior to the start of the Great Tribulation, building a massive Third Temple is not.” https://www.express.co.uk/news/weird/1097932/End-of-the-world-prophecy-Jerusalem-third-temple-israel-bible-great-tribulation

While I did not mention Armageddon, I did point to the fact that a massive Third Temple did not need to be built prior to the start of the Great Tribulation.

Related to others who agree with that, I told the Express:

Because of the political situation between Israel and its Arab neighbors, various others religious writers like Anglican curate Stephen Sizer and the late WCG Pastor General Herbert W. Armstrong also have felt that rebuilding a massive Third Temple would not happen prior to the start of the Great Tribulation, and that the Bible backed them up on that.

Furthermore, Roman Catholic writer, Thomas J. Nash has insisted that “the Temple in Jerusalem will never be rebuilt.”

Anyway, we expect media coverage, both proper and improper (including harsh attacks) will be tools that God will use to fulfill Matthew 24:14.

Oscar Mediavilla Funeral

As reported last week, CCOG pioneer in the Philippines, Oscar Mediavilla died. Jay Chiang flew there from China to conduct the funeral service. He sent in the following:

The flight from Shanghai at 105pm was on schedule and smooth, and arriving in the Philippines, Manila, for the 1st time ever had a slight hiccup as I missed getting my connecting flight boarding pass at Arrivals level and had to finagle my way up at Departures to get the pass, then got thru security and waited for the next flight.  The next flight was delayed 30mins but arrived without incident, and then caught a cheap shuttle (<$3) downtown to the hotel with 13 other passengers in a small van.  Checked in, then waited for Keith Mediavilla to show up which she did just after 1025, and we met at 1030 with her friend Angelo, who was the main driver for the ceremony today.
We went to have lunch and we talked about the day to come, which turned out to be a much larger event than first envisioned.  Originally it was thought that there would only be Oscar’s 2 daughters for the whole service, but actually it turned out that around 30-40 ppl from Oscar’s entire community relations (family and friends) were going to attend the funeral service at his sister’s home an hour’s drive away from the city, followed by a walk to the final resting place about 2 km away.  So it was going to be a big family affair, and also a chance to be a witness to all present…
Now this is the 1st-ever funeral service that I’ve hosted, and naturally I almost had no clue to what to do, coupled with the changes and additions and unexpected, so me and Keith had to talk it out over lunch, and Hans, the other sister, was not there as she is in Dubai working, but their brother was there.  Anthony Flavell and Jose Lumpuy could not attend as well due to personal reasons.  So, having done some preparation beforehand, reading from Dr. Thiel’s info on how to conduct a funeral service sourced from HWA, I decided to just use HWA’s script for the funeral service.
We drove to the house where upon arrival near 1pm I met the friends and family of Oscar, and then I saw Oscar’s casket with Oscar embalmed inside.  After a quick setup with the living room where around 15 sat inside, and the rest were outside, we started the service.  I opened and then sang two hymns, then read HWA’s funeral service script.
I was, during this whole time from the time I left China to this moment at the service, calm and oddly ‘restful’, certain despite all the things that were ‘off’, and when I started singing and speaking, I felt the Holy Spirit helping me and giving me strength, as I spoke the words of truth to those present, and they heard the words.  If you want to know what they are, click this link: http://www.cogwriter.com/funeral.pdf
Finally, I closed the service with a hymn, then stood up next to the casket to say a few more words, then we all moved out to bring Oscar to his final resting place at the municipal cemetery.  A long procession, led by Keith’s boyfriend who works in the parapolice department, escorted the hearse to the site, and the many guests walked under the hot sun to the site (I rode in the lead truck) to the site, then got out and walked the final paces to his final resting site, which is a bit different from we expect as a burial site.
After gathering all around, I said my final few words about Oscar and closed with a final prayer …
Please continue to pray for me as I’ll be here until next Monday, and pray for Keith and her entire Mediavilla family, as Keith has taken the loss of her father particularly hard, in some of what she shared with me after we returned to her aunt’s house for refreshments, how she missed talking with her father and didn’t expect that he would go so soon…
We may not have Sabbath services together this Saturday as she has said she still has many things to wrapup regarding her late father’s affairs, and what they have here (the general environment) is more limited than I had expected, but there is faith and belief here.  I’ve spoken one-on-one with a Baptist, a Seventh-Day Adventist, and I believe several other Protestants, Catholics, and atheists in the whole audience during the service.  Thank God, the message of the gospel is going out here in the small corner of the Philippines, and may those seeds that have been spread, perhaps land on fertile soil and grow…

Please pray that God will provide comfort to the Mediavilla family during their time of grief.

World News Items

The president of the Mormon church, Russell Nelson met with Pope Francis in the Vatican and referred to Pope Francis as “His Holiness” (see LDS President Nelson dedicates Mormon Temple in Rome and calls Pope Francis ‘His Holiness’). Italy’s representative of the Mormons, Alessandro Dini-Ciacci, stated “Rome is the centre of Christianity” (see LDS President Nelson dedicates Mormon Temple in Rome and calls Pope Francis ‘His Holiness’). So, even often separatist Mormons are promoting the ecumenical agenda.

A week ago, Lutheran World Federation General Secretary Martin Junge urged “faith-based organizations” to support the United Nations 2030 Agenda (which essentially were also approved as the Paris Climate Accords, that US President Donald Trump said the USA does not wish to be part of), while he also praised Pope Francis for making that happen (see “Faith-based organizations ‘uniquely placed to support’ UN’s 2030 Agenda says global Lutheran leader” as part of push for one world religion and one world government). Despite biblical warnings against it (cf. Revelation 17 & 18), the push for the interfaith/ecumenical one world government agenda continues.

In other European news, some are concerned that Europe is turning more towards “right-wing” political parties and that they are expected to increase their representation after the European elections in May (see DW: Far-right parties poised to double seats in EU Parliament: poll). Europe will one day get fed up with Islamic immigrants and will reorganize and grant power to a “strong man” (cf. Revelation 17:12-13). While we some increased European sentiment for that, I expect Europe to have more unrest and/or financial problems before that happens. But the groundwork seems to be being laid today (and that includes European views towards the USA).

Over in the UK, its Parliament rejected another Brexit deal on Tuesday, voted against a no-deal Brexit Wednesday, and is supposed to vote on possibly asking for another extension today (see Brexit: Parliament turns down PM May’s plan: Some say ‘chaos,’ while Europeans are not pleased). The EU leader are not pleased. Ultimately, this will not end well for the UK (cf. Daniel 8:24-25).

Over in the Middle East, Syria threatened to attack Israel if it does not leave the Golan Heights (see Damascus To Become A “Ruinous Heap”?: Syria Threatens To Attack The Golan Heights And Israel Prepares For War). The Bible teaches that “Damascus will cease from being a city, And it will be a ruinous heap” (Isaiah 17:1)–this is a prophesy yet to be fulfilled and I expect this to be fulfilled in our generation.

On other matters, Deacon Radson Mulozowa reported there was a lot of flooding and rain damage in Malawi. Deacon Koang Deng emailed about the Ethiopian airline crash that has made the international news. Please pray for those affected by these matters.

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: China’s Silk Road and Babylon the Great.
  • 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: The Man of Sin will deceive most ‘Christians’. 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 stated:

6 And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made by God to our fathers. 7 To this promise our twelve tribes, earnestly serving God night and day, hope to attain. For this hope’s sake, King Agrippa, I am accused by the Jews. 8 Why should it be thought incredible by you that God raises the dead? (Acts 26:6-8).

The Apostle Paul wrote:

13 But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. 15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words. (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18)

Brethren, despite tests, trials, and other difficulties, we have hope in the resurrection and the return of Jesus. Comfort yourselves with these words.

Sincerely,

Bob Thiel
Pastor and Overseer