Letter to the Brethren: October 12, 2017

Dear Brethren and Co-Workers in Christ:

Greetings from San Diego, California.

We arrived back to the USA Sunday, after giving a sermon on Sunday in New Zealand (you essentially arrive “before you leave” when you cross the international date line).

The Feast of Tabernacles went well in New Zealand and San Diego.

We have received mainly positive reports from other areas as well, such as Ethiopia, Wichita (Kansas), Canada, and the Philippines. We expect to report on these and other sites later this month.

Last Great Day

Today is the Last Great Day (LGD) which runs until sunset this evening. By the time most of you see this, it will no longer be that day.

But I thought I would include some information about this Last Day, eighth day, in this Letter to the Brethren.

First, here is a link to a LGD Holy Day Offertory.

Second, here is a link to a sermon LGD: Does God have a plan to offer salvation to everyone?

This eighth day, the day which immediately follows the seven days of the Feast of Tabernacles, pictures the completion of the plan of redemption.

The “Book of Life” — typifying salvation — will be opened (Revelation 20:12). This is just prior to the new heaven and the new earth (Revelation 21:1). The Jews call this festival Shemini ‘Azeret, which means “eighth day of assembly” (also implying that the previous seven days of the Feast of Tabernacles were days of assembly).

Here is more on the eighth day from the Bible:

34 … ‘The fifteenth day of this seventh month shall be the Feast of Tabernacles for seven days to the Lord. … 36 On the eighth day you shall have a holy convocation. … It is a sacred assembly, and you shall do no customary work on it. (Leviticus 23:34,36)

This day is often referred to in Church of God circles as the Last Great Day, because of what the New Testament states about it:

37 On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.  38 He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”  (John 7:37-38)

So Jesus kept this day that comes immediately after the festival picturing the millennium, and taught on it.

After the millennium, what happens?

A resurrection (Revelation 20:5).

The dead stand before God. This wouldn’t include true Christians today, as they are resurrected when Jesus returns. Those in this resurrection must be those who died in ignorance of God’s true plan in past ages. This is that judgment day Jesus repeatedly mentioned:

7 And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’  …  14 And whoever will not receive you nor hear your words, when you depart from that house or city, shake off the dust from your feet.  15 Assuredly, I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city! (Matthew 10:7,14-15)

23 And you, Capernaum, who are exalted to heaven, will be brought down to Hades; for if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.  24 But I say to you that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for you. (Matthew 11:23-24)

Notice that it is more tolerable in the day of judgment for those God destroyed in Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19:24) than for those who knowingly rejected Christ and the message of His kingdom.

Jesus also taught that “ALL SINS WOULD BE FORGIVEN” (Mark 3:28), except the ‘unpardonable sin’ (Mark 3:29). It is with the fulfillment of the Last Great Day that all who have not had an opportunity for salvation will truly have that opportunity, and nearly all will accept that offer.

Nearly all humans who ever lived will be saved!

In the 2nd century, Polycarp of Smyrna reportedly taught about the Feast of Tabernacles and the Last Great Day (Life of Polycarp, Chapter 19).

The biblical truth is that, because of God’s love, Jesus came to DIE FOR ALL:

16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.  17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. (John 3:16-17)

So did the loving God send His Son to die for a relative few or the world?

Protestants, who often quote John 3:16, tend to teach that the world could be saved but that the vast majority who ever lived will suffer in torment forever. They also seem to overlook that Jesus came to die for all (John 3:17). Is that the type of plan of salvation that a God who is all-knowing and is love would come up with? Does the Bible support the idea that everyone can be saved now? If not, is that fair?

Since God is all knowing and all powerful and is love (1 John 4:8,16), would God have predestined most who ever lived to eternal torment?

No.

Certainly God is wise enough to have a plan that actually works.

Romans 9:14-15 states:

14 What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? Certainly not! 15 For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.”

We know that God chose part of Israel in the Old Testament, and few others. How is that love if the rest are condemned to eternal torture?

God “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). The reason that not all were called in this age was because He knew most would not respond and endure with the truth to the end to be saved (cf. Mark 13:13; Luke 8:5-15). But that does not mean that those not called now were all cut off and lost.

The Bible teaches that many have been intentionally blinded in this age (John 12:37-40; Isaiah 44:18). Those who were blinded in this age still have an opportunity (cf. John 9:41; Isaiah 42:16-18).  Notice also:

14 I will again do a marvelous work among this people…24 These also who erred in spirit will come to understanding, And those who complained will learn doctrine. (Isaiah 29:14,24)

There is no partiality with God (Romans 2:11). There will be an opportunity for all as “all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God” (Isaiah 52:10).

Those not part of this first resurrection, called “the rest of the dead” (Revelation 20:5), are resurrected after the millennium is over. This is a physical resurrection and will involve those who feel that their hope has been cut off (Ezekiel 37:1-14).

Though they will be judged guilty of sin (Revelation 20:12; Romans 3:23; cf. 1 Peter 4:17), “Mercy triumphs over judgment” (James 2:13). God will plead with all flesh (Jeremiah 25:31; Isaiah 3:13) and many will respond (Isaiah 65:24). Although not all will accept His offer, and this is not a second chance (those who truly had a chance and fully rejected God’s Holy Spirit will not get that opportunity to be forgiven per Mark 3:29), many will repent. The Last Great Day helps show this.

Consider also the following:

19 O Lord, my strength and my fortress, My refuge in the day of affliction, The Gentiles shall come to You From the ends of the earth and say, “Surely our fathers have inherited lies, Worthlessness and unprofitable things.” 20 Will a man make gods for himself, Which are not gods?  21 “Therefore behold, I will this once cause them to know, I will cause them to know My hand and My might; And they shall know that My name is the Lord. (Jeremiah 16:19-21)

17 And the rest of it he makes into a god, His carved image. He falls down before it and worships it, Prays to it and says, “Deliver me, for you are my god!” 18 They do not know nor understand; For He has shut their eyes, so that they cannot see, And their hearts, so that they cannot understand. …22 I have blotted out, like a thick cloud, your transgressions, And like a cloud, your sins. Return to Me, for I have redeemed you. (Isaiah 44:17,18,22)

Even those who accepted false traditions, including those that were idolaters (Isaiah 44:17-18), will have their first real opportunity for salvation (Isaiah 44:22). Billions throughout the ages in Africa, Europe, Asia, the Americas, and the islands never heard of Jesus and the true gospel of the kingdom—and God foreknew this and had a plan (Romans 11:2).

We in the Continuing Church of God agree that “Our God is the God of salvation” (Psalm 68:20) and teach that He has a plan of salvation that actually works for more than just a relative few.

There is only one name under heaven by which humans can be saved (Acts 4:12; cf. Isaiah 43:11) and that is Jesus Christ (Acts 4:10; John 3:18). Since most of humanity has never heard the truth about Jesus and the gospel of the Kingdom of God (For details, see our free booklet The Gospel of the Kingdom of God at www.ccog.org), and “all flesh shall see the salvation of God” (Luke 3:6), there will be an opportunity for all to attain salvation—either in this age or the age to come (cf. Matthew 12:31-32; Luke 13:29-30).

The future age to come arrives after the second resurrection (as the true Christians at the time are raised at the first resurrection per Revelation 20:5-6) and includes the time of the white throne judgment (Revelation 20:11-12). Isaiah (Isaiah 65:20), as well as the Roman and Orthodox Catholic saint Irenaeus (Adversus haereses, Book V, Chapter 34, Verses 2-3,4), indicated that this particular age to come would be about one hundred years long.

This idea was still held in the Middle Ages by those that the Church of Rome persecuted as reported by the inquisitor bishop Bernard Guidonis (BERNARD GUI: INQUISITOR’S MANUAL, Chapter 5).

This doctrine was taught by the Radio/Worldwide Church of God in the 20th century and it still taught by the Continuing Church of God.

World News Items

While we have been observing God’s Holy Days, the State of California has been changing laws to move further away from biblical morality.

Notice the following headline:

California To Have Harsher Penalty For Pronoun Violations Than For Knowingly Spreading HIV

Thus in California, if one KNOWINGLY exposes someone to the potentially deadly AIDS virus, one gets less punishment than if a worker calls someone by their biological gender who does not wish to accept the truth of that!

This is absurd.

Basically, the rationale for the HIV penalty reduction is that people with HIV allegedly are overly ‘stigmatized,’ and by reducing the penalty for them to expose others to the disease, they will be less stigmatized. Well, most get HIV via sin and that is something that they should repent of. They need to be encouraged to no longer sin–not unrepentantly be freed from a stigma.

Sin is something that the world does not want discussed. Sin is the transgression of God’s law (1 John 3:4, KJV) and most do not want to be reminded of this.

The Bible also teaches:

20 Woe unto them that call evil good, And good evil; That change darkness into light, And light into darkness; That change bitter into sweet, And sweet into bitter! (Isaiah 5:20, JPS Tanakh 1917)

It is evil to promote the LGBTQ agenda, and it is evil to tell people that they cannot identify men or women in the true gender.

This will NOT end well (cf. Romans 1:22-32).

In other world news, I saw the following headline last night:

North Korea: “U.S. Will Pay With Hail Of Fire” After Trump Lit “Wick Of War”

We will see if the matters involving the USA and North Korea, as well as unrest in Catalonia and elsewhere, are related to the red horse of war in Revelation 6.

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: Donald Trump, Warmongering, and the Red Horse of War.
  • 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 Work per HWA and the Bible.  Other sermons are also available at the ContinuingCOG channel, especially if you wish two services today.
  • 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 Continuing Church of God understands how God’s plan regarding salvation is laid out by the observance of His Feasts (Leviticus 23:37).

God clearly teaches that He does NOT want pagan practices used to worship Him:

29 When the Lord your God cuts off from before you the nations which you go to dispossess, and you displace them and dwell in their land, 30 take heed to yourself that you are not ensnared to follow them, after they are destroyed from before you, and that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, ‘How did these nations serve their gods? I also will do likewise.’ 31 You shall not worship the Lord your God in that way; for every abomination to the Lord which He hates they have done to their gods; for they burn even their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods. 32 Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it. (Deuteronomy 12:29-32)

Those who combine pagan worship practices with biblical ones obscure God’s plan of salvation and generally do not understand it.

The New Testament shows that the Apostle Paul observed biblical holy days (e.g. Acts 18:21; 20:6,16; 27:9; 1 Corinthians 5:7-8, 16:8) as he kept the law and customs of his people.

Paul specifically condemned incorporating pagan practices with biblical observances (1 Corinthians 10:20-23). Paul himself stated near the end of his life that he kept all the practices Jews needed to keep (Acts 28:17-19; cf. Acts 21:18-24) and that would have had to include all the holy days listed in Leviticus 23.

As a rule, the Greco-Roman churches do not follow the Apostle Paul’s admonition to imitate him as he imitated Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1) nor the Apostle John’s admonition to continue to walk as he and Jesus walked (1 John 2:6, 18-19), since they do not keep all the biblical holy days. Also, those churches normally combine heathen practices in their worship calendars, which the apostles opposed (1 Corinthians 10:20-23; 2 Corinthians 6:14-18; Jude 3-4, 12; 1 John 2:6).

By not keeping God’s Holy Days, but instead non-biblical substitutes, many do not realize that sin needs to be truly out of our lives, that God is only calling some now, that all will have an opportunity for salvation in this age or the age to come, and nearly all who ever lived will be saved in the later harvest.

God’s Holy Days lay out parts of His plan of salvation that most do not understand. It is a marvelous and loving plan.

Keeping the biblical holy days reminds true Christians of God’s true plan of salvation. This helps us in our daily walk.

Sincerely,

Bob Thiel
Pastor and Overseer

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