Letter to the Brethren: March 15, 2018

Dear Brethren and Co-Workers in Christ:

Greetings again from Grover Beach, California.

We have been continuing our sermon series on the Book of Exodus and we are getting closer to the Passover and Days of Unleavened Bread for 2018.

Passover

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 2018, it is to be observed after sunset on March 29th.

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 made a new video service for Passover this year.  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.

Report from Evangelist Ochieng

Evangelist Evans Ochieng sent the following report from Kenya:

Pastor Dr Bob

Greetings from Kenya.
It is a very busy week with me. On Sabbath I was in Migori. I kept Sabbath with our congregation in Migori. It was a hàppy Sabbath when I ordained our representative Granton Otieno to be a deacon in God’s church. I ordained Granton Otieno a deacon and gave him a certificate. So he is now one of our deacons in the church.
CHARLES OSUTWA
This morning I and Bartholomayo Otieno, are going to pray for our brother Charles Osutwa who is sick. We also ask for brethren’s prayer. Our brother is having cancer on his right leg .Charles is having a lot of pain and needs more prayers.  Please tell brethren to join us in prayer.
Evans.

I met Grantone Otieno twice. He translates some of our materials. Bartholomayo Otieno, who I met last year, is also a deacon. I do not recall meeting Charles Osutwa, but he, and others like Wedison Matiya of Mozambique, need our prayers.

CreateSpace

Amazon’s CreateSpace put the next edition of our BibleNewsProphecy magazine on hold a few days ago. They had a publishing rights issue regarding items that were also available on the internet. They have never raised this issue before.

The fact is that many of the articles and booklets I have written are online, and much of the literature from old Radio Church of God and Worldwide Church of God is also online as well. As many of you are aware, sometimes we use ‘public domain’ articles that were abandoned by the original publisher in our magazine.

Because of this ‘hold’ by CreateSpace, the April-June 2018 edition of the magazine has been delayed a bit. An email I got yesterday says that the hold is being released, but CreateSpace has still not let us order that magazine yet–but we expect that to be resolved in the next day or so.

Criticism in Advance

As many of you are aware, certain anti-Church of God often bloggers mislead and improperly criticize us.

Last week, I announced that the Continuing Church of God plans to use animation as a means to reach people that we otherwise may not be able to reach (see Letter to the Brethren: March 8, 2018).

Even though we have not yet made any animation publicly available, notice parts of something that was written and posted against that project today:

Last week, the Church of God’s most perfect end-time leader (sorry Dave Pack, it’s not you) announced he is writing a new booklet on dating.  Dreamy Bob Thiel is its author.  …

Thiel is going to present this new booklet in an awe-inspiring new way on the Internet.  He is going to have ANIMATED videos! …

The Internet will have a field day when he starts posting these.  then watch, he will start screaming PERSECUTION when they are mocked. …

Apostate Thiel believes that these animated videos have the potential to start the persecution of his improperly named “continuing” Church of God.  YouTube may pull them for being too controversial. PERSECUTION I SAY! PERSECUTION!

Satan is the accuser of the brethren (Revelation 12:10), and many unwittingly do his bidding. We tend to be criticized daily, but I rarely report about it in the Letter to the Brethren.

In this case, we are being told our animations will be mocked before we have even finished any (cf. Proverbs 18:13). Expect more negative comments on this and other doors we work to go through to as we strive to fulfill Matthew 24:14 and Matthew 28:19-20.

Apostates are those who turned against the true faith, which is not something I did, but is something that the author of that post has done (he was once part of the old Worldwide Church of God–but now is opposed to practically all COG teachings, and seemingly cannot accept that God answers our prayers).

Jesus said:

10 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. 12 Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you (Matthew 5:10-12).

Anyway, expect that we will have to endure more improper and unfair criticism.

World News Items

Last Friday, the Temple Institute discussed the reading of passages in the Old Testament regarding a female cow called a red heifer. It said that it is monitoring various candidates (see Temple Institute reports about red heifers to prepare for animal sacrifices in Jerusalem). It erroneously claims that ‘the fate of the world’ depends on the red heifer. Well, the fate of the world depends on God intervening to stop humanity from destroying itself (cf. Mark 13:19-20). That being said, the sermonette recommended for this Sabbath is related to this: Red Heifers and the Fate of the World.

This past Tuesday was Pope Francis’ 5th anniversary as the Roman pontiff. During his pontificate, he has pushed a worldly ecumenical/interfaith agenda and is helping to set up conditions for the final Antichrist (see After five years, Pope Francis acts like an antipope and is setting the stage for the final Antichrist). He, himself, appears to be too old to fill that role. However, it probably should be mentioned that Catholic prophecies have pointed to the successor of Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI to be a candidate for that role. We will see. And of course, Benedict XVI is still alive. The next pontiff may be the final Antichrist. Note: I call the term “final Antichrist” as the Apostle John wrote that there was not only an Antichrist coming, but many antichrists even in his day (1 John 2:18).

As far as the interfaith agenda goes, Saudi Arabian Crown Prince made statements supportive of that agenda (see Saudi Crown Prince ‘commits to interfaith tolerance’). As far as Saudi Arabia goes, the Crown Prince also said it would develop a nuclear bomb if Iran gets one (see ). The Bible shows that a King of the South will form (Daniel 11:40-43) which will include Arabs. Because of prophecies like Daniel 11:40 and Ezekiel 30:2-8, it is likely that the King of the South confederation will have some weapons of mass destruction, possibly including nuclear ones.

A Russian political leader, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, has stated that one day Russia would make Europe tremble (see Russian politician warns, ‘Europe, you shall tremble.’ Did you know the Bible teaches that?). Sometime AFTER the USA, UK, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and parts of the Middle East and North Africa are conquered by the European Beast power (Daniel 11:39-43), Russia and various Asian ‘kings’ will cause Europe to fear and tremble (Daniel 11:44-45; Jeremiah 50:41-43).

Yet, before that, Europe will cause places like the UK to be conquered. On Tuesday, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker stated that the UK would regret its decision to leave the European Union (see Brexit: Jean-Claude Juncker tells UK that the time will come when it ‘will your regret decision’). The UK will be shocked when it is taken over (cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:3). France’s President Macron has told India that, at least partially because of Brexit, India should consider France, and not the UK as the gateway to Europe (see Emmanuel Macron wants France to replace Britain as India’s ‘gateway to Europe’). Things are happening in Europe that the UK (and others like the USA) will not like.

Also, over in Europe, we are seeing more legislation implemented related to Sunday laws. Poland just began to implement one that is to get more and more restrictive in the next couple of years (see Poland implementing Sunday shopping ban). The Church of Rome, which correctly claims it did not get Sunday from the Bible, but from its own ecclesiastical traditions (see The Christian Sabbath) was pleased with the Polish move (see Poland implementing Sunday shopping ban). Commandment breaking, including choosing Sunday over Saturday, will be a mark of the Beast (see also Mark of the Beast).

We continue to see world events align with our biblical views on prophecy.

Suggested Sabbath Service

Here is a suggested Sabbath service for this week:

  • 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: Red Heifers and the Fate of the World. Other sermonettes are available at the Bible News Prophecy channel.
  • 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 10-12: The Last Plagues & 21st Century Prophecies. 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 (as my home one is) 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 new 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 ContinuingCOG channel AND MANY SERMONETTE MESSAGES ON THE BibleNewsProphecy channel. There are also some messages at the CCOGAfrica channel.

Concluding Comments

The Book of Proverbs teaches:

5 Get wisdom! Get understanding!
Do not forget, nor turn away from the words of my mouth.
6 Do not forsake her, and she will preserve you;
Love her, and she will keep you.
7 Wisdom is the principal thing;
Therefore get wisdom.
And in all your getting, get understanding.
8 Exalt her, and she will promote you;
She will bring you honor, when you embrace her.
9 She will place on your head an ornament of grace;
A crown of glory she will deliver to you. (Proverbs 4:5-9)

Brethren, it is wise to believe the truth, practice the truth, and live according to the truth. Do not think that you cannot be wise, because of your education or lack thereof.

The Apostle James was inspired to write:

5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. 6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. (James 1:5-8)

Have faith in God when you pray.

Sincerely,

Bob Thiel
Pastor and Overseer