Letter to the Brethren: September 27, 2017

Dear Brethren and Co-Workers in Christ:

Greetings from the Five Cities region of California.

The Feast of Trumpets went well here and in other places we have received reports from.

On a somewhat personal note, my wife Joyce and I were given a discount coupon for the restaurant at the Santa Maria Inn. So we had dinner there Sunday while going over plans related to the Feast of Tabernacles this year. Some of you may know that the first CCOG Feast of Tabernacles’ site in the USA was at the Santa Maria Inn. This was the first time Joyce and I have been there since the Feast of Tabernacles in 2013. In 2013, we started the Feast of Tabernacles in New Zealand and finished the last half in Santa Maria, California. This year, we ate at the Santa Maria Inn a few days before we are planning to leave once again for the Feast of Tabernacles in New Zealand–sort of a reverse coincidence.

As mentioned last week, this Letter to the Brethren is being sent out a day early, because we expect  to leave for the airport this afternoon to fly to New Zealand for the Day of Atonement and the Feast of Tabernacles.

Because of the distance and crossing the international date line, we are not scheduled to arrive in New Zealand until Friday of this week, hence bypassing Thursday (the normal date for sending out this weekly Letter).

Bible News Prophecy magazine

We have been working on magazines.

The Bible News Prophecy magazine edition for October-December 2017 was been formatted, printed, and uploaded in English and Spanish.

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We were able to mail the English edition to subscribers outside of Kenya (the Kenyan versions are printed and distributed there separately) this week. The Spanish edition was ordered and has been printed and should be mailed within the next week.

Here is an online link to the English edition: BibleNewsProphecy October-December 2017: Repackaged Demonic Holidays? Is this acceptable worship for Christians?

Here is an online link to the Spanish edition: Noticias de Profecía de la Biblia octubre-diciembre 2017.

Day of Atonement

The Day of Atonement runs from sunset September 29th through sunset September 30th this year. This is the second time that my family plans to keep it in New Zealand. Observant individuals affiliated with the Churches of God will fast from sunset the 29th 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. Those afflicted in ways that fasting is inappropriate for them may well be why God’s used the expression for “afflict your souls” that day as opposed to mandating that all MUST fast then.

Here is something about the Day of Atonement from the Bible:

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. 30And 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.

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). Certain Christians saw this sending of the Azazel goat away as picturing the time during the millennium when Satan would be bound for a thousand years in the bottomless pit (Revelation 20:1-4). This means that he will not be able to tempt and deceive during that time. Because of the sacrifice of Jesus, a goat is not sacrificed to observe this day (cf. Hebrews 10:1-10).

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-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.

Feast of Tabernacles

As a reminder, services for the Feast of Tabernacles are to begin the evening of October 4th and continue until through Last Great Day which is October 12th this year.

A listing of those sites is in the article: Feast of Tabernacles’ Sites for 2017.

San Diego and Wichita Festival Sites

If you are going to either the San Diego or Wichita festival sites, please bring your own copy of The Bible Hymnal if you have one.

Sing to the Lord (Psalm 13:6)!

World News Items

Many are having problems associated with the recent hurricanes and earthquakes (e.g. Puerto Rico and Dominica are in very bad shape from Hurricane Maria). Yesterday, US President Trump suggested that Puerto Rico’s “massive debt” would be a problem in recovery (see CBS: As humanitarian crisis unfolds in Puerto Rico, Trump tweets about island’s “massive debt”). The USA itself is the most massively indebted nation of all times and debt will be a factor in its final downfall (Habakkuk 2:6-8).

The drumbeat of war keep occurring between North Korea and the USA (e.g. VOA: North Korea threatens hydrogen bomb test over Pacific ocean that could cause electromagnetic damage). While few seem to realize it, North Korea could cause the USA damage. There will be multiple factors that will weaken the USA so that, one day, it will be taken over by a Germanic-European power (cf. Daniel 11:39; Isaiah 10:5-12; see also Germany’s Sigmar Gabriel blasts Donald Trump’s UN comments and another Polish leader wants Germany to lead Europe).

The elections in Germany were a surprise to some. The election resulted in the AfD party (translated as “Alternative for Germany”) getting 12.6% of the vote and 94 parliamentary seats (see AfD gets 12.6% of German vote: Jews are concerned.). While 12.6% of the vote does not seem like much, consider that Adolf Hitler’s NSDAP (Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei) rose from obscurity to win 18.3% of the vote and 107 parliamentary seats in the 1930 election when Germany had major economic problems. Some believe, correctly, that this points to Germany being more comfortable in becoming a warring nation (see Why Germans voted for the AfD and what the real danger is; France’s Macron calls for more European integration).

In other news, India signed a deal with Belarus today (see India makes a deal with Belarus as it inches towards the Eurasian Union). The Bible tells of a confederation with a northern power and nations from the ends of the earth that will concern the power that will arise in Europe (Jeremiah 50:41-43). We continue to see more movement towards a confederation in Eurasia.

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.
  • Offertory, which for most who receive this letter via email will be a recorded one: Atonement Offerings?
  • 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: God’s Atonement and Fasting Plan. 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:

  • 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: Pride.
  • Announcements (if any) and one hymn.
  • Sermon, which for most who receive this letter via email will be a recorded one. The one suggested for a second sermon would be: Christians, the Day of Atonement, and Fasting. 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 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

Brethren, those who can fast, need to fast with the right attitude:

1″Cry aloud, spare not; Lift up your voice like a trumpet; Tell My people their transgression,And the house of Jacob their sins. 2 Yet they seek Me daily, And delight to know My ways, As a nation that did righteousness, And did not forsake the ordinance of their God. They ask of Me the ordinances of justice; They take delight in approaching God. 3 ‘Why have we fasted,’ they say, ‘and You have not seen? Why have we afflicted our souls, and You take no notice?’

“In fact, in the day of your fast you find pleasure, And exploit all your laborers. 4 Indeed you fast for strife and debate, And to strike with the fist of wickedness. You will not fast as you do this day, To make your voice heard on high. 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 58:1-14)

Brethren, the Day of Atonement is also the Sabbath. Keep it as God wants you to.

Sincerely,

Bob Thiel
Pastor and Overseer

 

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