Letter to the Brethren: March 22, 2018

Dear Brethren and Co-Workers in Christ:

Greetings again from the Five Cities region of California.

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

Now, since Passover will start before some of you receive next week’s Letter to the Brethren(Passover is right after sunset on March 29th this year), for those that need it, here is a link to CCOG Passover Service. Additionally, here is a link to an article some may find helpful Keeping Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread.

These links are also expected to be in next week’s Letter to the Brethren.

Days of Unleavened Bread

We Christians recognize that Jesus paid the penalty for our sins on Passover and that we are to try to live, as He did, without sin and hypocrisy, of which leaven symbolically can represent (Luke 12:1).

The late Herbert W. Armstrong wrote about this:

And, as the Israelites went out with a high hand (Numbers 33:3), in great exultation and elation over their deliverance from bondage, so does the newly begotten Christian start out his Christian life — up in the clouds of happiness and joy. But what happens?

The devil and sin immediately pursue after the newly begotten son of God — and soon the new and inexperienced Christian finds he is down in the depths of discouragement, and tempted to give up and quit.

Notice Exodus 14, beginning verse 10 — as soon as the Israelites saw this great army pursuing them, they lost their courage. Fear came over them. They began to grumble and complain. They saw it was impossible for them to get away from Pharaoh and his army, because he was too powerful for them. And they were helpless. So it is with us.

Our Strength Not Sufficient!

But notice the message of God to them through Moses: “Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord … for the Egyptians … ye shall see them again no more for ever. The Lord shall fight for you”! How wonderful!

Helpless, we are told to stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord. He shall fight for us. We cannot conquer Satan and sin, but He can. It is the risen Christ — our High Priest — who will cleanse us — sanctify us — deliver us — who said He would never leave us nor forsake us!

We cannot keep the Commandments in our own power and strength. But Christ IN US can keep them! We must rely on Him in faith. Armstrong HW.  God’s Holy Days-or Pagan Holidays-Which? Worldwide Church of God, 1976)

Purpose of Festival

But let us learn the full significance of this. WHY did God ordain these feast days? What was His great PURPOSE? Turn now to Exodus 13, verse 3: “…Moses said unto the people, Remember THIS DAY, in which ye CAME OUT from Egypt…” This was the 15th of Abib. Verse 6: “Seven days thou shalt eat unleavened bread, and the seventh day shall be a FEAST unto the Eternal… This is done BECAUSE of that which the Eternal did [a MEMORIAL]… and it shall be for a SIGN” — (miraculous PROOF of identity) — “unto thee upon thine hand, and for a MEMORIAL between thine eyes” — WHY? –”that the LORD’S LAW MA Y BE IN THY MOUTH… Thou shalt therefore KEEP this ordinance…”

Oh, beloved brethren, do you see the wonderful meaning? Do you grasp the true significance of it all? Do you see God’s PURPOSE? The PASSOVER pictures the DEATH OF CHRIST for the remission of sins that are past. The accepting of His BLOOD does not forgive sins we SHALL commit — it does not give LICENSE to continue in sin — therefore WHEN we accept it, our sins are forgiven only up to that time — PAST SINS.

But shall we stop there? Past sins forgiven. But we are still flesh beings. We still shall suffer temptations. Sin has held us in its clutch — we have been SLAVES to sin, in its power. And we are powerless to deliver ourselves from it! We have been in BONDAGE to sin. Let us understand the picture — the meaning. (Armstrong HW. What You Should Know About the Passover and Festival of Unleavened Bread. Good News, March 1979)

To what degree should Christians put away sin? Completely, as Jesus taught, “you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). Leaven symbolically can be a type of sin (cf. 1 Corinthians 5:7-8).  Like sin, leaven puffs up.

As seven is God’s number symbolizing completeness, Christians are to follow the Passover with seven days of unleavened bread.  The meaning and the symbolism is not complete with just Passover. Passover pictures the acceptance of Christ’s blood for the remission of past sins and the death of Jesus.

Should we leave Christ symbolically hanging on the tree of His death (cf. Galatians 3:13)? No. The seven days of unleavened bread following Passover help picture to us the complete putting away of sin, the keeping of the Commandments — after past sins are forgiven as the result of Jesus’ sacrifice.

The Days of Unleavened Bread picture the life and work of the risen Jesus. Jesus ascended to the throne of God where He is now actively at work in our behalf as our High Priest, cleansing us of sin (Hebrews 2:17-18) delivering us completely from its power!

Here is some of what the Hebrew scriptures say about the Days of Unleavened Bread:

15 Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. On the first day you shall remove leaven from your houses. For whoever eats leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel. 16 On the first day there shall be a holy convocation, and on the seventh day there shall be a holy convocation for you. No manner of work shall be done on them; but that which everyone must eat — that only may be prepared by you. 17 So you shall observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread, for on this same day I will have brought your armies out of the land of Egypt. Therefore you shall observe this day throughout your generations as an everlasting ordinance. 18 In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at evening, you shall eat unleavened bread, until the twenty-first day of the month at evening. 19 For seven days no leaven shall be found in your houses, since whoever eats what is leavened, that same person shall be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether he is a stranger or a native of the land. 20 You shall eat nothing leavened; in all your dwellings you shall eat unleavened bread.’” (Exodus 12:15-20)

Leviticus 23:6-8 teaches about it as well. And Deuteronomy 16:16 shows that offerings were expected to be given on the Days of Unleavened Bread, Pentecost, and the Fall Holy Days.

Originally, there were no “burnt offerings or sacrifices” when God “brought them out of the land of Egypt” (Jeremiah 7:22).  They were added because of disobedience (Jeremiah 7:21-27) and the New Testament is clear that we do not need to have burnt offerings or animal sacrifices now (Hebrews 9:11-15).

As we eat unleavened bread each of the days, we realize that we have to avoid sin that is so prevalent in the world around us.

Were the Days of Unleavened Bread done away?

No.

Early Christians did not believe that the Days of Unleavened Bread were done away. The Apostle Paul endorsed properly keeping the Feast with unleavened bread (1 Corinthians 5:7).  He and others still marked/observed it and observed it outside of Judea:

6 But we sailed away from Philippi after the Days of Unleavened Bread, and in five days joined them at Troas, where we stayed seven days. (Acts 20:6)

If Christians were not keeping the Days of Unleavened Bread, the Holy Spirit would not have inspired this to be recorded like this. Now Philippi was a Gentile town in Macedonia. It was ruled by the Romans–thus keeping these days was NOT limited to a place like Jerusalem. In at least two places in the New Testament, we see that the Days of Unleavened Bread were to be kept in Gentile areas (1 Corinthians 5:7; Acts 20:6).

Consider also the statement “it was during the Days of Unleavened Bread” in Acts 12:3. Since the Gentile author Luke addressed the Book of Acts to another Gentile (Acts 1:1), why would he have mentioned these days if they were unknown to the Gentile Christians and had ceased to exist?

Perhaps it should be added that the spurious 3rd century Epistula Apostolorum claims Jesus taught His followers should keep the Days of Unleavened Bread until He returns. While we cannot rely on that document, it does indicate that some were keeping those days into the 3rd century.

Information from outside the Bible reports that the Apostles Paul, John, and Philip, along with Polycarp of Smyrna and other early Christians, kept the Days of Unleavened bread (Pionius. Life of Polycarp, Chapter 2).

Despite this, Canon 38 of the Council of Laodicea of the fourth century (c. 363-364) prohibited the observation of the Days of Unleavened bread. Those in the Church of God could not comply with many decrees of this Council which went against the Bible and the early traditions of the faithful.

Therefore, various Sabbath-keepers continued to keep the Days of Unleavened bread afterwards (Pritz. Nazarene Jewish Christianity.  Magnas, Jerusalem, 1988, p. 35; Jerome as cited in Pritz, pp. 58,62,63; Ephiphanius. The Panarion of Ephiphanius of Salamis: Book II (sects 1-46) Section 1, Chapter 19, 7-9. BRILL, 1987, p. 117-119) and into the Middle Ages and beyond (Liechty D. Sabbatarianism in the Sixteenth Century. Andrews University Press, Berrien Springs (MI), 1993, pp. 61-62; Falconer John. A Breife Refutation of John Traskes Judaical and Novel Fantyces, pp. 57-58, as cited in Ball B.  Seventh Day Men: Sabbatarians and Sabbatarianism in England and Wales, 1600-1800, 2nd edition.  James Clark & Co., 2009, pp. 49-50).

As we in the Continuing Church of God do not accept that the Council of Laodicea spoke for the true Christian church, we still keep the Days of Unleavened Bread. We eat some unleavened bread for each of the seven days as the Bible admonishes (Exodus 12:15; 13:6; 23:15; 34:18). This bread can be made of different grains/nuts—the use of wheat is not biblically-required.

(It perhaps should be mentioned that one can eat foods other than only unleavened bread during this Feast, it is just that no leavened breads are to be eaten. Also, unlike Passover, the first and last Day of Unleavened Bread are days, like the weekly Sabbath, that one is not to work.)

The Apostle Paul wrote:

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 (removing all the leaven) 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).

While some like to allegorize away many portions of the Bible, although there certainly is a spiritual understanding to the Holy Days, there is also a physical one. And the physical observance helps us to better understand the spiritual lessons.

The Days of Unleavened Bread help picture that we Christians are to strive to put sin and hypocrisy out of our lives (cf. Matthew 16:6-12; 23:28; Luke 12:1). By keeping them physically, it helps us to better learn the spiritual lessons that God intended.

The Days of Unleavened Bread run from sunset March 30 – sunset April 6, 2018. April 6th will also be a holy day, and it is on a Friday this year.

Google Campaign

Google reported that our campaign with them reached 1,572,138 computers last month. That is down from the previous month, mainly because there are less days in February.

A witness to the good news of the gospel of the kingdom of God is going forth as we are working to fulfill Matthew 24:14 and Matthew 28:19-20.

CreateSpace

It took much longer than usual, but Amazon’s CreateSpace finally approved the production of the April-June 2018 edition of our BibleNewsProphecy. So, we ordered copies for our English-speaking subscribers for most of the world (except parts of Africa, which received the edition printed in Kenya).

World News Items

Last Sabbath, Xi Jinping was reappointed Saturday as China’s president with no limit on the number of terms he can serve (see China’s Xi Jinping: A king of the east of Revelation?). Some have wondered if he may literally be one of the kings of the east/kings of the sunrise of Revelation 16:12–and he could be. Our recommended sermonette for the week is: China: A King of the East.

US national debt officially topped $21 trillion last Friday (see US debt over $21 trillion, Fed raises interest rates, debt to continue to climb). Debt will be a factor in the taking over of the US per Habakkuk 2:6-8.

Despite being upbeat about the economy, US business leaders are concerned about trade wars, as are the Europeans (see ‘Trade war threat is now Wall Street’s top economic fear, survey says’). As most of you are aware, the current edition of our Bible News Prophecy magazinewarned about trade wars. And in the sermon recommended for the first Sabbath of 2018 ( 18 items to prophetically watch in 2018), trade conflicts was one of 18 items I said to watch for during this calendar year.

While Facebook has been in the news regarding data and the 2016 US presidential election, there are growing concerns that 1) ‘social media’ companies like Facebook are in essence, ‘surveillance companies’ as well as censors, and 2) because of digital technology news can more easily be faked and that videos can be made making it look and sound like people have said things that they have not actually said (see The Guardian: An information apocalypse is coming. How can we protect ourselves?).

I fully expect that false statements will digitally be attributed to me and perhaps others in CCOG. Although this has been done in a sense by liars on the internet already (they have claimed that I or Evangelist Evans Ochieng lied, said, and/or did things we did not lie about, say, or do), expect more sophisticated lies in the future.

The Bible teaches:

13 But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived (2 Timothy 3:13, KJV)

While the above does not require the use of digital technology, misuse of modern technology will also be used to partially fulfill that 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: China: A King of the East. 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 13-15: Passover Protection and Armageddon. 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 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 Book of Proverbs teaches:

16 He who keeps the commandment keeps his soul, But he who is careless of his ways will die. (Proverbs 19:16)

Brethren, during this pre-Passover time, do not be careless. Physically deleaven your dwellings and spiritually deleaven your lives.

Sincerely,

Bob Thiel
Pastor and Overseer