Letter to the Brethren: September 13, 2018

Dear Brethren and Co-Workers in Christ:

Greetings again from the Five Cities region of California.

We had a fine Feast of Trumpets here and the reports we have received from areas around the world were positive.

Here is a photograph that Deacon Koang Deng sent from Ethiopia from services on the Feast of Trumpets:


Gambella, Ethiopia

Evangelist Ochieng spent the Feast of Trumpets in Malawi, but plans to spend the Feast of Tabernacles in Kenya.

Our funds are being strained right now as we have needed to send funds to several African countries to support them to travel to, and keep, the upcoming Feast of Tabernacles. We also sent additional funds to Malawi for the purchase of Bibles in the Chichewa language.


Bible in Chichewa

Tomorrow is my last expected day at the office until after I return from the Feast of Tabernacles. So, there will be no one available at the church telephone until a few days past the Last Great Day.

The Day of Atonement is coming up soon beginning with sunset September 18th. So if need to, you should arrange to be off work and/or school from sunset September 18th to sunset September 19th.

Day of Atonement

The next holy day this autumn is the Day of Atonement.

Here is some information about it:

26 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: 27 “Also the tenth day of this seventh month shall be the Day of Atonement. It shall be a holy convocation for you; you shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire to the Lord. 28 And you shall do no work on that same day, for it is the Day of Atonement, to make atonement for you before the Lord your God. 29 For any person who is not afflicted in soul on that same day shall be cut off from his people. 30 And any person who does any work on that same day, that person I will destroy from among his people. 31 You shall do no manner of work; it shall be a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings. 32 It shall be to you a sabbath of solemn rest, and you shall afflict your souls; on the ninth day of the month at evening, from evening to evening, you shall celebrate your sabbath.” (Leviticus 23:26-32).

7 ‘On the tenth day of this seventh month you shall have a holy convocation. You shall afflict your souls; you shall not do any work. (Numbers 29:7)

Fasting is historically mainly how the phrase “afflict your souls” has been interpreted by the Jewish and Church of God communities (this is also verified by such passages as Psalm 35:13; 69:10 and Isaiah 58:5) to mean fasting, unless one is somehow ill, and thus is already afflicted. Evening to evening means from sunset to sunset.

The New Testament itself calls the Day of Atonement, “the Fast” (Acts 27:9), which not only indicates that the Apostle Paul was keeping it (which he would be per statements in Acts 21:18-24; 28:17), but that Greek-named Theophilus (the Christian which the Book of Acts was addressed to in Acts 1:1), also must have been or another term would have been substituted.

Observant individuals affiliated with the Churches of God will fast from sunset this night until sunset the next night (if they are physically able–nursing mothers, small children, pregnant women, and various afflicted others are not expected to fast–this is consistent with Jewish practices in this area as well). In this fast we go without food or drink.

Oddly, one Protestant report claims that one reason Christians do not need to keep the Day of Atonement is because there is no Jewish temple today (Cocherell BL. SHOULD THE FOLLOWERS OF CHRIST FAST ON THE DAY OF ATONEMENT?). Yet, the biblical reality is that the children of Israel kept the Day of Atonement for centuries before there was a temple and the other reality is that the New Testament shows that Christians are now the temple of God (1 Corinthians 3:16-17).

In the Old Testament, the Day of Atonement included a ceremony where the Azazel goat was sent to the wilderness (Leviticus 16:1-10). Christians see this sending of the Azazel goat away as picturing the time during the millennium when Satan will be bound and sent away for a thousand years in the bottomless pit (Revelation 20:1-4). This means that Satan will not be able to tempt and deceive during that time. The Azazal goat was not slain, nor is Satan pictured being slain.

Because of the sacrifice of Jesus, a goat is not sacrificed by Christians to observe this day (cf. Hebrews 10:1-10).

Yet, although Jesus was our Passover lamb sacrificed for us (1 Corinthians 5:7-8) and He was slain only once (Hebrews 9:28), we also see a time other than Passover where Jesus is ceremonially slain.

Why?

Many have speculated, but there could be clues along with the fact that this sacrifice happens before the release of the second goat.

The original Passover only resulted in the children of Israel being passed over for their sins. In this age, those who are true Christians claim the sacrifice of Jesus on His final earthly Passover for paying the penalty for our sins. But real Christians are a small minority of the population of the world (Luke 12:32; Romans 11:5).

Since the Bible calls Satan “the god of this age” who has “blinded” the world (2 Corinthians 4:4), most have been blinded and have not yet been covered by the sacrifice of Jesus. Yet this will happen for nearly all who will be called–either in this age or the age to come (Matthew 12:32). Showing the sacrifice, ceremonially after the church age ends, helps demonstrate that the sacrifice of Jesus was not just for those called in the church age, as God’s plan includes offering salvation to all, and not just today’s elect.

By showing the sacrifice prior to the other goat being released, this shows that Jesus was not taking away the sins of Satan.

Jesus took the penalty of all human beings. But it doesn’t apply to humans until after God calls us and grants us repentance (John 6:44) and we come to be willing to repent and we come to believe. Not only in Jesus, but we believe the Son and we believe the Father, that is, we believe what They say.  Also, we prove it by repenting, being baptized, being granted the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38) and actually trying to live as They would have us live (cf. 1 John 2:6).

The Day of Atonement was kept in the 4th century according to John Chrysostom who preached against it (John Chrysostom. Homily I Against the Jews I:5;VI:5;VII:2).

This can also be seen in Canon 69/70 of the Syrian Apostolic Canons near this time which tried to ban it (Seaver JE.  Persecution of the Jews in the Roman Empire (300-438), Issue 30 of University of Kansas publications: Humanistic studies. University of Kansas Publications, 1952, pp. 34-35).

A Muslim document, dated from the period of the fifth to tenth century, states that Jesus and His disciples kept the fast on the same days as the Jews. It indicates that Judeo-Christians were still keeping the Day of Atonement while the Greco-Romans came up with a 50 day Lenten-fasting period that Jesus did not keep (Tomson P. Lambers-Petry L. The Image of the Judaeo-Christians in Ancient Jewish and Christian Literature, Volume 158, 2003, pp. 70-72; Stern SM. Quotations from Apocryphal Gospels in ‘Abd Al-Jabbar. Journal of Theological Studies, NS. Vol. XVIII, (1) April 1967: 34-57).  Reports from other historians support this view (e.g. Pines, pp. 32-34). Furthermore, we see historical reports that it was still being kept in Transylvania in the 16thcentury (Liechty, pp. 61-62).

The old Radio Church of God observed the Day of Atonement (and the other Holy Days) throughout the 20th century. We in the Continuing Church of God continue to observe it today.

Day of Atonement in Belgrade, Serbia

As mentioned last week, my family is scheduled to be in Belgrade on the Day of Atonement and the Saturday Sabbath afterwards. If anyone wishes to attend services that day (September 19th) and/or the Sabbath after Atonement (September 22nd), please let me know via email so we can email you the precise location. My email address remains: COGwriter@aol.com

Singles Activity: Alexandria site

Our son Brian has come up with a couple of possible ideas for a singles’ activity for Sunday afternoon, September 30th for those attending the Feast of Tabernacles site in Alexandria, Virginia. Singles can speak with him after he (and the rest of our family) arrives at that site (we should be there on September 28th).

Prayers Requests-Storms

There is a major storm, Typhoon Mangkhut, that is expected to hit the Philippines.

In North America, I have received two prayer requests related to Hurricane Florence. One yesterday, was for protection, from a supporter in North Carolina. The other, I just received this morning from Tabasco, Mexico:

Greetings from this place. here it is fine but there are rains and affection some people that their homes were flooded, god through us will continue to protect us, and we ask for your prayers
 with love his brother in Christ ismael

So, please pray that God’s people will be properly protected.

Expect more severe storms in the future (cf. Mark 13:8).

World News Items

In Europe, we continue to see steps to control the Internet. The EU passed a bill that could greatly affect websites that report news, like the COGwriter.com site (see EU debating an ‘Internet Extinction-Level’ event?). While we could ‘work around’ some of the possible rules, it would make doing the work more difficult. Furthermore, the EU also declared yesterday that “extremist content”  needs to be removed from the Internet within one hour. Please realize that teaching the millennium and standing for the true gospel of the kingdom of God is already considered to be “extremist” by some. Ultimately, the time of the ‘famine of the word’ (Amos 8:11-12) will hit, and I believe this will involve booting off COGwriter.com and the various CCOG websites from the Internet.

EU Commission President Jean Claude Juncker gave his “State of the Union” speech yesterday. He wants the EU to be a bigger global player, be able to handle its own defense, work more with Africa, push its currency to essentially replace the US dollar as the world’s reserve currency, and increase border guards seven-fold (see Juncker’s ‘State of the European Union’ address: Wants EU to be a real global player, including in Africa).

Many in Europe are getting concerned about migrants coming in. So much so, this has caused concerns even in Sweden as its recent election results show (see ‘Sweden Election Results See Surge In Support For Anti-Immigrant Party’).

Something else is brewing in Europe. Italy once again plans to implement a ban on certain shopping on Sunday (see ‘Italy to introduce ban on Sunday shopping’). Some other nations in Europe already have limited shopping bans. This Italian move is backed by the Roman Catholic Church, but is basically is being promoted as a way to help families by certain politicians. Expect more Sunday laws, as well as more European political promotion of some Roman Catholic positions.

The Temple Institute announced that a red heifer candidate calf was born (see Temple Institute announces the birth of a red heifer candidate: Prelude to the return of Jesus?). It is still considered as a ‘candidate’ and is to be re-examined in about three months to determine whether or not it is a completely ‘red’ heifer.  Some Jews believe that a ‘red heifer’ is needed to purify the Temple or Temple Mount and/or an altar for regular sacrifices to be resumed. A red heifer is supposed to be at least three years old and then slaughtered for such purification.

While Jesus DID NOT specifically mention a ‘red heifer’ as a sign to look for in Matthew 24, He did refer to the Book of Daniel, which discusses sacrifices being stopped (Daniel 9:27; 11:31). In order for them to be stopped, they first must be started. And if the Jews who want to re-institute animal sacrifices do not believe that they can without a red heifer, then having one would seem to be of prophetic significance.

On other matters, Pope Francis had a meeting today, and also called for a conference in February 2019 to deal with the sexual abuse scandals by Catholic clergy (see German priest pedophilia, Pope Francis calls for conference, ‘Civil war,’ and Francis pushes for salvation with Mary). Some hope to use the scandals and the allegations of coverup to encourage Pope Francis to resign. If he does, that could have certain Catholic prophetic ramifications.

Day of Atonement Service

Here is a suggested Sabbath service for the Day of Atonement this year:

  • 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.
  • Offertory, which for most who receive this letter via email will be a recorded one: Atoning and Fasting Offertory.
  • 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: Christians and the Day of Atonement. Other sermons are also available at the ContinuingCOG channel, especially if you wish two services today.
  • Final hymn.
  • Closing prayer.

For those wishing a second service for the Day of Atonement, here is another possibility:

The next annual holy day will be the Feast of Tabernacles, which begins at sunset on September 23rd this year.

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: Ezekiel 38 Gog and Magog War: Is it Soon? 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: Gap Theory: Doctrine or Modern Heresy? 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 prophet Isaiah recorded:

5 Is it a fast that I have chosen, A day for a man to afflict his soul? Is it to bow down his head like a bulrush, And to spread out sackcloth and ashes? Would you call this a fast, And an acceptable day to the Lord?

6 “Is this not the fast that I have chosen: To loose the bonds of wickedness, To undo the heavy burdens, To let the oppressed go free, And that you break every yoke? 7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, And that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out; When you see the naked, that you cover him, And not hide yourself from your own flesh? 8 Then your light shall break forth like the morning, Your healing shall spring forth speedily, And your righteousness shall go before you; The glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. 9 Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;You shall cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’

“If you take away the yoke from your midst, The pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness, 10 If you extend your soul to the hungry And satisfy the afflicted soul, Then your light shall dawn in the darkness, And your darkness shall be as the noonday. 11 The Lord will guide you continually, And satisfy your soul in drought,And strengthen your bones; You shall be like a watered garden, And like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail. 12 Those from among you Shall build the old waste places; You shall raise up the foundations of many generations; And you shall be called the Repairer of the Breach, The Restorer of Streets to Dwell In.

13 “If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath,From doing your pleasure on My holy day, And call the Sabbath a delight, The holy day of the Lord honorable,And shall honor Him, not doing your own ways, Nor finding your own pleasure, Nor speaking your own words, 14 Then you shall delight yourself in the Lord; And I will cause you to ride on the high hills of the earth, And feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father. The mouth of the Lord has spoken.” (Isaiah 58:5-14)

Brethren, as you fast, consider that there are hungry people in the world as well as in the CCOG.

The Apostle Paul admonished Christians:

7 Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. 8 For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. 9 And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. 10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith. (Galatians 6:7-10)

22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. (James 1:22)

15 If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? 17 Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

18 But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. (James 2:15-18)

This is part of why we send funds to support the brethren in Africa and elsewhere.

Properly keep the Day of Atonement and learn from it.

Sincerely,

Bob Thiel
Pastor and Overseer