Letter to the Brethren: May 17, 2018

Dear Brethren and Co-Workers in Christ:

Greetings again from the Five Cities region of California.

We hope and pray that you have had a spiritually productive week.

And that you will grown in grace and knowledge this week as you observe both the weekly Sabbath and Pentecost this weekend.

Pentecost

Pentecost is May 20, 2018.

Most who profess Christ know something about Pentecost. Many properly consider it the start of the New Testament church.

After Jesus died, His disciples were told to wait to receive the power of the Holy Spirit:

4 And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, “which,” He said, “you have heard from Me; 5 for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” (Acts 1:4-5)

So they waited and:

1 When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place (Acts 2:1).

Notice that statement emphasizes that fact that the Day of Pentecost had fully come. The Bible is making it clear that the events that follow were directly related to the fact that the Day of Pentecost had fully come. And, it happened to the disciples because they were all observing it together.

Here is what happened then:

2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. …

38 Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.”

40 And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation.” 41 Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. 42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. …47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved. (Acts 2:2-4, 38-42, 47).

They received some of the power of Holy Spirit. And this is considered to be the start of the Christian church by the Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, most Protestants, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Church of God groups. So the Holy Spirit was given at a certain time (the same time that many of the Jews observed Pentecost) and that Jesus’ disciples were still observing it.

That was not a coincidence.

Many do not realize that Pentecost represented more than the giving of the Holy Spirit and the start of the New Testament church.

Looking at passages in Old and New Testaments provides more information about this day and its meaning.

The Feast of Pentecost was kept by Christians after the initial one, but with no mention of speaking in tongues. The Apostle Paul continued to keep Pentecost decades after the Pentecost mentioned in the second chapter of the Book of Acts. Notice what he wrote, about 56 A.D.:

8 For I do not wish to see you now on the way; but I hope to stay a while with you, if the Lord permits. But I will tarry in Ephesus until Pentecost (1 Corinthians 16:8).

This shows that Paul knew when Pentecost was, that he felt that the Corinthians must know when Pentecost was, and that the Ephesians would have known when Pentecost was. Thus, it apparently was being observed by Paul and the Gentiles in Ephesus and Corinth.

In another year, the Apostle Paul also wished to be in Jerusalem for Pentecost, around 60 A.D.:

16 For Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus, so that he would not have to spend time in Asia; for he was hurrying to be at Jerusalem, if possible, on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 20:16).

Thus, Christians in Jerusalem were still observing Pentecost and Paul was observing it too. Otherwise, there would be no obvious reason why Paul wanted to be in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost.

The term Pentecost is a Greek term meaning 50th. That term is derived from the following Hebrew description of calculating the date:

15 And you shall count for yourselves from the day after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering: seven Sabbaths shall be completed. 16 Count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath (Leviticus 23:15-16).

The Day of Pentecost has several names, and because of that, some have been confused about it. Its other biblical names include: the Feast of Harvest, the Feast of Weeks and the day of firstfruits.

Singing often accompanied the holy festivals of God, which started at sunset:

29 You shall have a song As in the night when a holy festival is kept, And gladness of heart as when one goes with a flute, To come into the mountain of the Lord, To the Mighty One of Israel.  (Isaiah 30:29)

Modern Jews tend to call Pentecost by the term Shavuot.

Some have been confused when Pentecost is. Many Jews do not keep it on the same day that the Continuing Church of God keeps it.

The Jewish Sadducees correctly said “that Pentecost would always fall on Sunday,” however “[i]n post-Talmudic and geonic literature … Pentecost falls on the 6th of Siwan” (Pineles, “Darkeh shel Torah,” p. 212, Vienna, 1861; Pentecost. Jewish Encyclopedia of 1906). The date many Jews now use (which is in post-Talmudic literature which was put together after the Old Testament and is not scripture), is a later change and not the biblical date. We in the Continuing Church of God observe the biblical method.

Notice also the following from former Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks:

The Pharisees, who believed in the Oral Law as well as the Written one understood “the Sabbath” to mean, here, the first day of Pesach (15 Nisan). The Sadducees, who believed in the Written Law only, took the text literally. The day after the Sabbath is Sunday. Thus the count always begins on a Sunday, and Shavuot, fifty days later, also always falls on a Sunday. (Sacks L. Judaism: A Thought for Shavuot. Arutz Sheva, June 3, 2014.)

Christians should remember that Jesus condemned the Pharisees for relying too much on the oral law over the written law (Mark 7:5-13). Jesus told them they were “making the word of God of no effect through your tradition which you have handed down. And many such things you do” (Mark 7:13).

And, as shown below, Pentecost refers to the time of counting fifty as being associated with firstfruits:

16 Count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath; then you shall offer a new grain offering to the LORD. 17 You shall bring from your dwellings two wave loaves of two-tenths of an ephah. They shall be of fine flour; they shall be baked with leaven. They are the firstfruits to the LORD (Leviticus 23:16-17).

When you count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath, you find that Pentecost is always to come on a Sunday. Pentecost runs from sunset Saturday until sunset Sunday.  Irenaeus, who claimed to have met Polycarp of Smyrna wrote that the apostles kept Pentecost on a Sunday (Fragments of Irenaeus, 7).

The use of the term “firstfruits” suggests a second harvest. And actually, this too is pointed out in the Old Testament:

16 …the Feast of Harvest, the firstfruits of your labors which you have sown in the field; 17and the Feast of Ingathering at the end of the year, when you have gathered in the fruit of your labors from the field (Exodus 23:16-17).

22 And you shall observe the Feast of Weeks, of the firstfruits of wheat harvest, and the Feast of Ingathering at the year’s end (Exodus 34:22).

26 Also on the day of the firstfruits, when you bring a new grain offering to the LORD at your Feast of Weeks, you shall have a holy convocation (Numbers 28:26).

While some Protestant commentators refer to the wave sheaf offering as the feast of firstfruits (e.g. Radmacher E.D. ed. The Nelson Study Bible. Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, 1997, p. 213), this is a misnomer. While “a sheaf of firstfruits” was offered then (Leviticus 23:10-11), as shown above, the Bible refers to the Feast of Weeks as the time of firstfruits (not simply one sheaf).

How does the idea of firstfruits help us understand this day?

The Feast of Pentecost or Feast of Firstfruits (Exodus 34:22) reminds us that God is now calling only a small “firstfruits” spiritual harvest, with the Last Great Day coming which pictures a greater harvest later. The Spring harvest, in most areas, is much smaller than the greater Fall harvest, and this is consistent with God’s plan of salvation for humanity.

But what about Jesus? Wasn’t He a type of firstfruits?

Yes, He certainly was. Paul notes:

20 But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. 23 But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming. (1 Corinthians 15:20-23).

Christ is the fulfillment of the wave sheaf offering in Leviticus 23:10-11. He is the sheaf of firstfruits. He also fulfilled that role when He ascended into heaven on the Sunday (the wave sheaf offering was on a Sunday) after He was resurrected (John 20:1,17). But neither He nor His true followers observed what is now called Easter.

Also, James notes that Jesus brought us forth to also be a type of firstfruit:

18 Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures (James 1:18).

So while Jesus was the original firstfruit to represent the wave sheaf offering, true Christians are a kind of firstfruits, represented by the Day of Pentecost. “Firstfruits” mean that only a few will be part of the harvest in this age (cf. Luke 12:32; Romans 9:27; 11:5)–but they also imply that there will be a greater harvest–a time where all who never had an opportunity for salvation will later have a true and real opportunity.

Notice what Peter stated on Pentecost:

29 “Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30 Therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, He would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne, 31 he, foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption. 32 This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses. 33 Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear. (Acts 2:29-33)

Notice that Peter, on Pentecost, referred to Jesus as fruit and that He was raised. Pentecost shows that God blesses this small harvest by granting His Holy Spirit so that we can overcome, do His work and grow spiritually even though living in “this present evil age” (Galatians 1:4)

Now Jesus was not only the first of the firstfruits, He was also the firstborn among many brethren:

29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren (Romans 8:29).

5 Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead (Revelation 1:5).

Since Jesus is the firstborn, this certainly implies that there will become others who are to be like Him. Thus, becoming like Jesus Christ is also part of the message of Pentecost. Of course the idea of becoming like Christ is taught throughout the Bible and is not limited to Pentecost. Notice what John wrote:

2 …we shall be like Him (1 John 3:2).

Because it is a holy convocation, it is observed similar to a weekly Sabbath, but with offerings (Deuteronomy 16:16). In the Old Testament, the Feast of Weeks, involving firstfruits, was kept 50 days after the Sabbath after Passover.

After the death of Christ, the apostles gathered together on that date. And on that date, the Holy Spirit was poured out to provide Christians access to God as a kind of firstfruits. Jesus was the first of these firstfruits and Christians who are called in this age are also to be firstfruits as He is (those called later are also to be as Jesus is, but simply will not be firstfruits).

Consider also that the idea of Christians being firstfruits is confirmed in the New Testament (James 1:18).  In ancient Israel, there was a smaller harvest in the Spring and a larger harvest in the Fall. The Spring Holy Day Pentecost, when properly understood, helps picture that God is only calling some now for salvation (John 6:44; 1 Corinthians 1:26; Romans 11:15) with a larger harvest coming later (John 7:37-38).Many Greco-Roman churches observe some version of Pentecost. Yet, partially because they do not observe certain other biblical holy days, they fail to understand why God is only calling some now, and that He does have a plan to offer all salvation (Luke 3:6; Isaiah 52:10).  Mercy triumphs over judgment” (James 2:13).

Information on all of God’s Holy Days can be found in the free online booklet: Should You Keep God’s Holy Days or Demonic Holidays?

Pentecost Activities

With Pentecost immediately following the weekly Sabbath, some may wonder if there are some activities that they can do on these Sabbaths.

Well, in addition to prayer, regular services, and Bible study, some may find some biblical games of interest.

Here are some links that may be of interest:

Pentecost Quiz This is a Pentecost quiz based upon the Old and New Testaments in the Bible.
Who Wants to be a Biblical Millionaire? A sophisticated quiz. Now with over 1,000 questions to help challenge and build your knowledge of the Bible. Developed by Michael Thiel.
Self Grading Bible Quiz 15 questions and a report card when you finish.
The Good Samaritan A public domain claymation for younger people.
Paul in Damascus Not a quiz, but a Lego-animation.
John 21 Not a quiz, but (other than a Lego suggesting a long-haired Jesus) a biblical story for young people.
David vs. Goliath A higher level animation for older young people.
Solomon’s Temple This is a a 5 minute animated film that shows one artist’s understanding of the details about Solomon’s temple.
Nehemiah Animation A four minute, sometimes silly, Lego-animation related to Nehemiah and rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem.
Bible Crossword Puzzle You need Java for this to work (but it is free and on most PCs).
The Antichrist Quiz Do you really know much about the Antichrist?
Michael’s Feasts and Fasts Quiz 15 questions, amusing wrong answer screens.
The Ten Commandments Quiz Developed by Michael.
Michael’s Day of Atonement Quiz Another free on-line Bible quiz by Michael.
Bible Hangman Michael’s most interactive Bible game to date. Another one of his free online Bible games.
Michael’s Sabbath Quiz Test and learn a little more about the Sabbath.

Furthermore, we have just uploaded our second animation (which we plan to put in this year’s Behind the Work video this year):

13:48

Big Bang: Nothing or Creator?

Colleges and universities teach variations of a godless ‘Big Bang theory’ as science. But is it scientific or simply the musing of scientists? The late Dr. Stephen Hawking stated that there was nothing before the Big Bang. Is it logical that nothing became everything? What should have happened then according to scientists? What happens to radioactive materials like uranium? What does the Bible teach about errors called science? Is God’s existence more logical than a godless ‘Big Bang’? Which has more actual proof? In this animation, a university student asks a professor questions and provides information that students and those out of school should know. A free online booklet of related interest is also available titled “Is God’s Existence Logical?” URL: http://www.cogwriter.com/GodLogical.pdf

Again, here a link to the animation: Big Bang: Nothing or Creator?

We are working on other animations as well.

Muhuru, Kenya

Deacon Grantone Otieno sent the following last week:


Muhuru Congregation
I am happy to inform you that I visited Muhuru congregation  on last sabbath and had a service with them. Since they don’t have a meeting hall, We met under a tree. where they usually meet. They were 7 Adults and 10 children.
 May you remember them in your prayers for the Lord to intervene and help them in their difficulties.
Yours, Affectionately,
 Mr. Otieno G.

Radio

Ended up with a last minute radio interview with Dr. Bill Deagle on Thursday May 10th starting at 12:00 pm PDT on the Republic Broadcasting Network. We discussed prophetic matters related to Israel, Iran, and Syria.

Dr. Deagle also said he would put a link up to last week’s recommended sermonette: Iran & Syria vs. Israel? Russia?

World News Items

The US Embassy in Jerusalem opened and there were protests and dozens of protesters were killed (see US Embassy and Israel’s 70 years and Nakba Day: Many upset because of Donald Trump’s decision). Contrary to statements made by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (see Nakba Day: Many upset because of Donald Trump’s decision), Jerusalem will NOT remain “the eternal undivided capital of Israel” (cf. Luke 21:2024; Zechariah 14:1-2).

In addition to being the one to order the move of the US Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, US President Trump also upset Mexicans this week with some comments he made (see Vicente Fox blasts Donald Trump after he blasts Mexico: This will not end well for the USA). As I wrote after his election, but before he took office, there will be many “unintended consequences” from President Trump’s various statements and decisions.

We see more and more leaders in Europe are upset with the USA and its President Donald Trump. So much so, that more are calling for a separation of the European Union from the USA (see  Der Spiegel says Europe needs to employ ‘clever resistance’ as it works towards a post-USA world and  Foreign Affairs: ‘Why Trump Can Safely Ignore Europe’ COGwriter: ‘Europe will reorganize and destroy the USA’ and  USA and China still ‘very far apart’ on trade; Europe wants to keep trading with Iran; China making Eurasian Union deal). European leaders are calling for Europe to realize that it needs to defend itself and no longer rely on the USA (see, for example, More are seeing Donald Trump causing problems between the USA and Europe: ‘with friends like that (the USA) who needs enemies’).

We are also seeing more secular European leaders cozening up to the Vatican (see Angela Merkel and Pope Francis speak at Muenster Conference: What are the prophetic ramifications for the USA and the world? and Angela Merkel receives the Catholic ‘Lamp of Peace’ award and says Europe needs a soul and France’s President Macron receives the Charlemagne Prize and Germany’s Chancellor says Europe cannot rely on USA military — What are the prophetic ramifications?). The prophesied temporary church-state alliance is in process of being formed (cf. Revelation 17:1-13).

Europe is separating from the USA and getting closer to the Vatican as we have been saying would happen. Biblical prophecies are in the process of be fulfilled.

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. The one suggested for this week is: Major Kabbalist Says Messiah is Imminent. 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: The Most Violated Commandment and Priorities. 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.

Suggested Pentecost Services

Here is our suggested format for Pentecost services this Sunday:

For those who wish two services, here is a second suggested service:

Concluding Comments

Some have indicated that the biblical Holy Days cannot be kept now as they would require that everyone would go to Jerusalem.

But that was not the case historically, even with Jesus.

Towards the start of His ministry while in Nazareth, Jesus spoke on the “day of the sabbaths” (Luke 4:16). Pentecost is also called the Feast of Weeks/Sabbaths (Deuteronomy 16:10,16). Luke meant the plural–Sabbaths– as can be confirmed by looking at the actual Greek term. The actual word (not the Strong’s grouping of like words) for sabbaths, σαββάτων, is plural (σαββάτω, as in Luke 14:1, is singular). The passage is literally translated as follows:

16 And He came into Nazareth where He was brought up. And according to His custom, He went in on the days of the sabbaths, into the synagogue, and stood up to read. (Luke 4:16, Green)

So, this helps show that one could keep a Holy Day, as Jesus did, in a location other than Jerusalem. He also seemed to possibly keep another holy day in Galilee in Luke 6:1-2 (Green JP, Sr. Interlinear Greek-English New Testament, third edition. Baker Books, 2002).

Perhaps it should be mentioned that when the Samaritan woman indicated that worship should possibly be restricted to the Jerusalem area (John 4:19), Jesus said that there was not a Jerusalem worship restriction:

21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father.  22 You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews.  23 But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him.  24 God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:21-24)

The New Testament clearly shows that Holy Day or other worship is not restricted to Jerusalem (see also Matthew 10:23; 23:24).

It should be noted that the Greco-Roman churches also recognize that Pentecost, sometimes referred to as the feast of weeks (Leviticus 23:15-16) or the day of firstfruits (Number 28:26) in the Old Testament, had Christian significance.  And they do not restrict its observance to one city.

Anyway, brethren, we should all keep the Day of Pentecost and the Sabbath this weekend and learn.

Sincerely,

Bob Thiel
Pastor and Overseer