Letter to the Brethren: September 26, 2018

Dear Brethren and Co-Workers in Christ:

Greetings again from Serbia.

This report is going out a day earlier than usual as we have about 20 hours of travel tomorrow to get to Alexandria, Virginia.

The Feast of Tabernacles has gone well in Serbia and those here send their greetings.

The reports I have received from a few areas suggests, that with some surmountable issues, the Feast of Tabernacles has been going well at our sites.

Evangelist Ochieng, for example, sent a positive report from Kenya, but mentioned that he personally had been ill.

The Feast of Tabernacles runs through sunset September 30, 2018 and is immediately followed by the Last Great Day, which runs until sunset on October 1, 2018.

Feast in Serbia

This may be the first time ever that there was a Feast of Tabernacles’ site in Novi Sad, Serbia.

Here is a photograph of our group after opening night services having a snack:

We also had a group activity yesterday:

This activity involved going underground in what seems to have been the largest fortress in Europe.

Laptops for Africa

Dozens of used laptop computers have been sent to Africa over the past few years in these shipments, along with Bibles, songbooks, office supplies, and other items.

Bill Wedekind sent me the following email:

Anyway, this … note {is} just to confirm that Kenya has just received the shipment that contained two boxes (because of size). … They just got another 10 laptops so hopefully that will speed up more translations and Matthew 24:14. That is laptops 61-70

The laptops tend to be used for education, communication, and translation of our materials into African languages.

Last Great Day

The Last Great Day is also known as the eighth day of the Feast of Tabernacles.

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).

The entire seven-day Feast of Tabernacles combined with its associated eighth day are referred to as the “Feast of Ingathering” in the Old Testament:

16 … 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)

This ‘ingathering’ is a larger harvest than the firstfruits associated with the Feast of Weeks. It is a greater harvest.

Here is a reference to the eighth day Feast association in 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.

God’s Plan of Salvation

Keeping the biblical holy days reminds true Christians of God’s true plan of salvation. The Continuing Church of God understands how God’s plan regarding this 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.

Young Singles Activity: Alexandria site

As mentioned before, 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 are scheduled to be at service there on September 28th).

World News Items

A US Rear Admiral has pointed out the the US risks losing its military prowess because of its rising debt (see US debt balloons: This bubble will one day pop loudly). According to scriptures, it will lose more than that (cf. Habakkuk 2:6-8).

Trade issues remain in the news as the ‘trade war’ between the USA and China has escalated (see ‘US and China exchange new trade war blows as latest round of tariffs takes effect’). US trade positions are driving many nations away from it and towards Europe. That is consistent with various prophecies (cf. Revelation 18).

Speaking of China, it has gotten the Vatican to agree to a deal that many Catholics consider to be a betrayal (see Vatican announces deal with China on bishop appointments). But, compromise with world leaders is something Revelation 17 prophesied about the church of the city of seven hills.

Over in the UK, there have been various proposals for a Brexit agreement, but so far there is not one the the EU has been willing to accept (see More UK Brexit options and confusion: This will not end well). Europe will not forget Brexit and will one day make the UK pay a high price for leaving.

Suggested Sabbath Service

Here is a suggested Sabbath service for this week for those not at a festival site:

  • 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: Are You in Enmity with God? 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: Behind the Work 2018: New Door and More! 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.

Last Great Day Service

Here is a suggested Sabbath service for the Last Great Day, the ‘eighth day’ which follows the Feast of Tabernacles 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 from Terry Nelson: Offertory for the Last Great Day.
    For those not at a site in person, who wishing to send offerings in accordance with biblical commands, there are several options listed at the following link: Donating to the Continuing Church of God.
  • 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. One suggested for today is: The Mystery of the White Throne Judgment. Other sermons are also available at the ContinuingCOG channel, especially if you wish two services today.
  • Final hymn.
  • Closing prayer.

Concluding Comments

Jesus taught on the Last Great Day:

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 7:37-39)

Jesus kept God’s Feasts (Luke 22:8,14-16) and traveled to do so (John 7:11-39).

Jesus wants all to keep the Last Great Day and to learn from it.

Brethren, let’s all do so.

Sincerely,

Bob Thiel
Pastor and Overseer