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Letter to the Brethren: July 20, 2017

Letter to the Brethren: July 20, 2017

Dear Brethren and Co-Workers in Christ:

Greetings again from Grover Beach in California.

We have been working on matters with people across North America, Africa, and the South Pacific.

Speaking of people, we now seem to have at least 2,800 people who are part of CCOG. If I count all that I have been told about, the number exceeds 3,000.

Two weeks ago, I mentioned that I thought we might be taking a risk of offense by putting the long sermonette, False Conversion, up at the Bible News Prophecy channel. Well, it is unclear if we lost any subscribers because of that as our total number of subscribers has increased slightly since that was uploaded. So, that is good news.

Feast of Tabernacles

As a reminder, services for the Feast of Tabernacles will begin the evening of October 4th and continue until the Last Great Day which is October 12th in 2017. Since this will involved travel for many, please start making your plans if you have not done so already.

We received the following information from Anthony Flavell in the Philippines regarding the Feast of Tabernacles:

Hello Dr Thiel,
Its Anthony, I just want to update you with the details and arrangements we are making for FOT this Oct 2017 in Bacolod.
We have secured a Meeting Room at a Hotel called 11th Street Bed & Breakfast: 11 Lacson St,Bacolod at favorable terms.The Room is booked from opening Nite on 4th Oct to the Last Great Day on Oct 12th. …
Anthony Flavell

For further details, contact Oscar Mediavilla via email or Anthony Flavell via email

By the way, if you are in North America and have not made your Feast of Tabernacles’ plan for this year, please consider your priorities (cf. Matthew 6:33) and do so.

If you wish to come to the site in San Diego, California, USA please email me at

If you wish to come to the limited site in Wichita, Kansas, USA, please contact Richard Close via email

If you wish to come to the site in Kingston, Ontario, Canada, please contact Herb Haddon via email

For information on these and other festival sites around the world, you can go to the following link: Feast of Tabernacles’ Sites for 2017.

Growth Continues in Africa

Evangelist Evans Ochieng sent me the following report yesterday:

Pastor Dr Bob,
Greetings from Kenya.
I am back from Kisii. I met our congregations in kisii. On sabbath I was in the area called Nyasembe where I met a new congregation led by Geoffrey. It was my first time to meet this congregation after a long communication with Geoffrey. I was very happy because I found very good people who like to learn the truth. It forced me to touch many topics from morning to evening. They wanted to know more about the kingdom of God, calendar, God’s ordained feasts, true repentance and family life. I touched a little bit about the end time prophesies.
This congregation also had a problem because they are many that they can’t in ones house. So they are just keeping sabbath and doing services under the tree. That is where they put a shade and during rainy season they are having a total problem. So I had a meeting with them after sabbath to see way forward how they can get a hall. We negotiated that since they have a large plantation of trees, they can provide timbers and I can donate iron sheets for the hall so that they can have a meeting hall. I hope that will help them so much. I am sending you their pictures. This congregation came out from SDA reform who are against flesh eating. I met 27 people that sabbath.
I am happy that this year, the great work has been done not only in Kenya but in Africa. Recently when I was in Nakuru County in Rift Valley I met four new congregations from seventh day church of God who joined CONTINUING CHURCH OF GOD. This congregations were happy and after my visit, I am now getting calls and massages which are supporting our teachings.
There is another congregation near Migori that were formerly associated with COGIW. After thorough meeting with Granton and discuss a lot things concerning the program in CCOG. They joined CCOG.

The work in Malawi and Mozambique has extended to Zambia. I am receiving very good reports from this three countries and Ghana is also doing well. I got good reports from Molozowa, our representative in Malawi and another pastor called Salima in Malawi how they visited the northern part of Malawi. Sosten is also back in the church after meeting them during my last trip in Malawi. We talked much about repentance and forgiveness.
The conference in Nairobi is still producing a lot of strength in this work not only in Kenya but Africa at large.
I am still having  visitation in Kenya and after that I will visit Uganda again and Zambia. The members of CCOG in Kenya is now approaching 2000.
Pray for the work in Africa.

The growth we have had in Africa is fantastic. Africa, and the work there, remains in my prayers, and is hopefully in all of yours as well.

Evangelist Ochieng is being assisted by many leaders in Kenya, as well as other parts of Africa. We long have prayed for more laborers for the harvest, and ordaining those that we did at the conference in Nairobi this past February (see Letter to the Brethren: February 9, 2017) has been a blessing.


I am scheduled to be on the Republic Broadcasting Network (RBN) at 1:00 pm Central Daylight Time (11:00 am PDT) today. The host claims statistics demonstrate that he reaches millions each week. Dr. Deagle (the host) and I are expected to talk about various prophecies and other religious matters.


This week, the Supreme Court in Russia ruled against the right of the Jehovah’s Witnesses to publicly function in Russia. Furthermore, they ordered the closure of the group’s Russian headquarters, its local chapters, and the seizure of its property by the state (see ‘EU Criticizes Russia Over Jehovah’s Witnesses Ban’). The Jehovah’s Witnesses were determined to be an “extremist organization,” not for violence or terrorism, but basically because of their religious beliefs.

The day after I wrote a post about this, the following appeared in the news:

July 19, 2017

Russia’s definition of extremism was modified in 2006 to add “incitement of … religious discord” to acts of violence or hatred. This sounds amazingly like the justification used today to prevent conservatives from speaking on U.S. college campuses.

Though the Jehovah’s Witnesses might be unpopular with some, being unpopular is not grounds for being banned, at least not yet in the United States. The First Amendment to the Constitution forbids Congress from enacting any law “prohibiting the free exercise of religion.” It could even be said that it is such “unpopular” views that need protection from government interference more so than “popular” ones.

In Russia, however, the New World Translation (the version of the Bible used by the Jehovah’s Witnesses) has been banned, and even possession of Witness literature has been cause for incarceration. One Witness leader was jailed for two years in 2010 on this charge alone. There is some speculation that the reason for the crackdown could be that Russian President Vladimir Putin enjoys the support of the Russian Orthodox Church and he wants to keep it. Forty-one percent of the Russian population are members of that church.

Baroness Joyce Anelay, a British Conservative Party politician, speaking for the British government, stated that the ruling “effectively criminalizes the peaceful worship of 175,000 Russian citizens,” noting that religious liberty is in Russia’s constitution. “The UK calls on the Russian government to uphold its international commitment to freedom of religion,” she declared.

Officials in the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom expressed similar condemnation of the ban, charging that the Russian government is “equating … peaceful religious freedom practice to extremism.”

No doubt what the Russian government has done with the Jehovah’s Witnesses is a violation of religious liberty, and should be roundly condemned. While their religious views are outside of what many Christians consider correct doctrine, it is not the business of any government to determine what is or is not correct religious doctrine.

But it is peculiar that the United States and the U.K. have chosen to condemn the infringement of religious liberty in Russia, but have little to say about the much more severe curtailment of such rights in Saudi Arabia. Only Muslims who conform to what is allowed by the Saudi royal family may freely practice their religion in Saudi Arabia. No Christians are allowed to practice their religion openly there. Neither may Muslims with beliefs differing from those of the royal familly, nor those of any other religion.

For that matter, Christians in both the U.K. and the United States have seen their own religious liberty restricted in recent years. While Christians may still believe what they want about such topics as same-sex marriage, they may no more freely practice that belief in some American states than can the Witnesses practice their religion in Russia. A U.S. Christian baker or florist may believe (so far) that same-sex marriage is sinful, but if they actually practice that belief by refusing to help celebrate a same-sex union, they can be heavily fined in some states.

During the last presidential campaign, the nominee of the Libertarian Party, Gary Johnson, even dismissed religious liberty as a “black hole” that should not protect a Christian in such cases.

Christians in the United States and in Europe certainly do not face the severity of persecution inflicted upon the Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia; however, the ringing condemnation of Russia’s actions by these Western countries brings to mind the words of Jesus, who said, “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:5, ESV.)

July 19, 2017

On Monday, July 17, the Russian Supreme Court rejected an appeal of an earlier rulingsanctioning Jehovah’s Witnesses as an extremist group. As a last ditch effort, Russian Jehovah’s Witnesses intend to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights. But, as of now, Jehovah’s Witness gatherings and preaching are criminal offenses in Russia. The Russian government also has the legal authority to liquidate any property held by Jehovah’s Witnesses as an organization.Who are Jehovah’s Witnesses, and why would the Russian, or any, government consider them to be a threat? …

Early history

The story of Jehovah’s Witnesses begins in the late 19th century near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, with a group of students studying the Bible. The group was led by Charles Taze Russell, a religious seeker from a Presbyterian background. These students understood “Jehovah,” a version of the Hebrew “Yaweh,” to be the name of God the Father himself.

Russell and his followers looked forward to Jesus Christ establishing a “millennium” or a thousand-year period of peace on Earth. This “Golden Age” would see the Earth transformed to its original purity, with a “righteous” social system that would not have poverty or inequality.

Russell died in 1916 without witnessing the return of Jesus Christ.

But his group endured and grew. The name “Jehovah’s Witnesses” was formally adopted in the 1930s.

Early Jehovah’s Witnesses believed 1914 to be the beginning of the end of worldly governments that would culminate with the Battle of Armageddon. Armageddon specifically refers to Mount Megiddo in Israel where some Christians believe the final conflict between good and evil will take place. Jehovah’s Witnesses, however, expected that the Battle of Armageddon would be worldwide with Jesus leading a “heavenly army” to defeat the enemies of God.

They also believed that after Armageddon, Jesus would rule the world from heaven with 144,000 “faithful Christians,” as specified in the Book of Revelation. Other faithful Christians would be reunited with dead loved ones and live on a renewed Earth.

Over the years, Jehovah’s Witnesses have reinterpreted elements of this timeline and have abandoned setting specific dates for the return of Jesus Christ. But they still look forward to the Golden Age that Russell and his Bible students expected.

Given the group’s belief in a literal thousand-year earthly reign of Christ, scholars of religion classify Jehovah’s Witnesses as a “millennarian movement.”

What are their beliefs?

Jehovah’s Witnesses deny the Trinity. For most Christians, God is a union of three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Instead, Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that Jesus is distinct from God—not united as one person with him. The “Holy Spirit,” then, refers to God’s active power. Such doctrinesdistinguish Jehovah’s Witnesses from mainline Christian denominations, all of which hold that God is “triune” in nature.

But like other Christian denominations, Jehovah’s Witnesses praise God through worship and song. Their gathering places are called “Kingdom Halls,” which are ordinary-looking buildings – like small conference centers—that have the advantage of being easily built. Inside are rows of chairs and a podium for speakers, but little special adornment. Jehovah’s Witnesses are best known for devoting a substantial amount of time to Bible study and door-to-door evangelizing.

Their biblical interpretations and missionary work certainly have critics. But it is the political neutrality of the group that has attracted the most suspicion.

Jehovah’s Witnesses accept the legitimate authority of government in many matters. For example, they pay taxes, following Jesus’ admonition in Mark 12:17 “to render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s.”

But they do not vote in elections, serve in the military or salute the flag. Such acts, they believe, compromise their primary loyalty to God.

A history of persecution

Jehovah’s Witnesses have no political affiliations, and they renounce violence. However, they make an easy target for governments looking for internal enemies, as they refuse to bow down to government symbols. Many nationalists call them “enemies of the state.”

I realize that we normally do not share so much of a story from the press related to world events. But this should tells us how governments view religious minorities or religious views that do not go along with some political thinking.

Brethren, we are also pacifists, do not vote, are not trinitarian, and believe in the millennial reign of Jesus.

Banning one church can lead to the banning of others. Hopefully, the Russian government will change its laws to truly allow open freedom of religion.

Intense persecution is coming and affect those of us truly in the Church of God (Daniel 11:29-35; Revelation 12:14-17; 13:10).

Yet, Matthew 24:14 will be fulfilled before the coming ‘famine of the word’ (Amos 8:11-12), so we will not face an ‘effective’ total proclamation ban until around when Matthew 24:14 is fulfilled. But we may face various forms of persecution until then, and some of us have endured a variety of forms of persecution already.

Google Campaign

Google reported that our campaign with them reached 2,329,172 computers last month. That is down significantly from the previous month (partially because of electronic billing issues), but we are still reaching many as we are working to fulfill Matthew 24:14 and Matthew 28:19-20.

World News Items

French President Macron is calling for ‘peace talks’ in the Middle East (see New European pressure for peace talks in the Middle East). The Bible indicates that the time will come when a fledgling European leader will confirm some type of deal in that region (cf. Daniel 11:26b-27). While this is not that deal, this again shows that Europe has interest in setting the stage for such a deal.

Speaking of deals, the Europeans and UK are again conducting Brexit negotiations (see Brexit talks begin, and Tony Blair supposedly embarrassed). This will be a difficult process for those involved, and ultimately will not turn out well for the UK (cf. Daniel 8:24-25). It has been over a year since the UK voted to leave the European Union,. Little has been negotiated since then, and a lot needs to be covered (and probably will not be covered well) before the UK is to be out of the EU (which is March 29, 2019).

Over in Asia, Japan has decided to work more with China regarding its ‘Silk Road’ project (see China’s ‘silk road’ progressing: Japan wants to participate). Japan had been reticent to be involved, but as it sees China’s influence growing, at the same time it perceives less USA influence in Asia, it has concluded it is better off working with China. The time will come when the “kings of the sunrise” (Revelation 16:12, literal translation) will agree to a type of military confederation–this will include China and Japan, and they are likely to use one of more of the proposed roads to basically fulfill certain biblical prophecies (watch also Is China paving roads to Armageddon?).

Suggested Sabbath Service

Here is a suggested Sabbath service for this week:

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 prophet Isaiah was inspired to write:

6 Seek the Lord while He may be found,
Call upon Him while He is near.
7 Let the wicked forsake his way,
And the unrighteous man his thoughts;
Let him return to the Lord,
And He will have mercy on him;
And to our God,
For He will abundantly pardon.

8 “For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord.
9 “For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways,
And My thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:6-9)

Brethren, now is the time to seek God. We may not always understand why we face certain situations and difficulties in this life, but we realize that God does have a plan that will work out for us (Romans 8:28; Philippians 1:6).


Bob Thiel
Pastor and Overseer