Letter to the Brethren: June 6, 2019

Dear Brethren and Co-Workers in Christ:

Greetings again from the Five Cities region of California.

Pentecost is coming up this weekend–sunset June 8th through sunset June 9th. So, basically there will be double-Sabbaths this weekend.

Mexico

Louis Rubin flew to Villahermosa in the state of Tabasco in Mexico last week and met with the people there. He returned back a few days ago.

When he was there, I spoke with him over the telephone several times, as well as once with the group host, Ismael Jimenez.

Here are a couple of photos:


Louis Rubin speaking before group outside of Nacajuca, Mexico

Ismael Jimenez

Louis Rubin brought 35 pounds of booklets with him, and that does not count the probably more than 100 pounds of booklets, magazines, and hymnals in the Spanish language that we had sent to those in Mexico previously.

Louis Rubin sent me the following email yesterday:

Hello Dr. Thiel, I arrived in Villahermosa Mexico Thursday evening. Ismael was waiting for me at the airport. He took me to the hotel where I was supposed to stay and we ate and talked through translator app on his phone for a couple of hours. Friday about 2:30 after he saw his patients he picked me up at the hotel and we drove to his home town of Jalupa and saw his house and his doctor’s office and then saw the building where they gather on the Sabbath for church services. Then we drove through Nacahuca out into the country side to Lusbia Castillo’s place where she was laying down in a hammock under 2 large mango trees. We stayed there for a while then drove back to Villahermosa it was in the evening by that time.

The next day Ismael picked me up for Sabbath services out by Lusbia’s house under the 2 mango trees. The count was 32 people attended. It was a really nice day, hot and humid tropical environment but still nice under the heavily leafed and shaded mango trees. We ate Mexican BBQ (it was delicious) and then went back to the hotel. I believe that Ismael is and has taken the leadership role and put a lot of responsibility on his shoulders. There are 3 main families involved here, 2 of the patriarchs (one of them being Ismael) grew up in and during H.W. Armstrong and the WCG days and have been faithful to God’s ways and lifestyle ever since. Another man was born into 7th day Adventist group but at some point came to this group. As you know they want to be a part of our group and they appear to be like us. It appears that the trip was something that needed to happen and I think that we can see God moving us together with our brethren.

Thank you for this opportunity to play a part of this,
Louis

Ismael Jimenez sent me the following email about the visit, which I (and Louis Rubin) basically machine-translated into English (and it did not translate real well), below the actual Spanish email he sent:

Saludos hermano bob desde mexico.como te habta informado louis tuvimos un maravilloso e inspirador sabado y mas en su compañia.dios nos ha permitido que este dia llegara y estar a la mejor dispocicion de ustedes.todo lo que se ha hecho en esta pequeña obra es con la ayuda de dios.y no importa cuanto se invierte monetariamente ablando pero dios bendice espiritualmente y los hermanos estan gososos por eso.esperamos contar con su valioso apoyo para seguir la obra de dios en este lugar para mexico y latinoamerica.y estoy a su dispocicion y ala orden de dios.

Greetings brother Bob from Mexico. As you heard from Louis, we had a wonderful and inspiring Sabbath and more in his company. God has allowed us this day to come and be at your/our best. Everything that has been done in this little work, it is with the help of God. And it does not matter how much money is invested softening and the brothers are gloomy about it. But God blesses spiritually. We hope to count on your valuable assistance to support the work of God in this place for Mexico and Latin America. And I am at your disposal and at God’s command.

We are pleased that the trip went well.

We also discussed future matters that I hope to be able to report about soon.

Haiti

Herb Haddon informed me that he and his wife Gisele do intend to go to Haiti as soon as they can. They are hoping that this may be later this month or perhaps next, once Air Canada has resumed flights there and it is determined to be safe for Canadians to go there.

Malawi Conference

Last week, there was also a conference in Malawi intended to make plans to better serve Malawi and Mozambique.

Here is a report related to Malawi and Mozambique:

CONTINUING CHURCH OF GOD MALAWI, MOZAMBIQUE AND ZAMBIA JUNE 2019 REPORT.

Dear Dr Bob.

In the first behalf let me pass our greetings from Malawi ,Mozambique and Zambia. We thank God that he is able to keep us safe under his shadow and he is leading us in his truth.

We send special thanks to you for the great support you always give us both spiritual and physically. May God bless you always together with mama for the great work you are doing to us.

I remained silent in reporting due to poor network in our area which has lasted long since the time Pastor Evans left Malawi I managed to visit the following new congregation namely  Kachingwe, Mwanza, Chileka and Tulo nkhondo in Malawi. The time I was visiting these brethren I visited them at the time when many houses of brethren and church structures collapsed due to heavy rainstorm which affected our brethren both Malawi and  Mozambique in the sense that most of our brethren were staying in school camps.  Pastor as am saying now the situation is calm in the way that some brethren has gone back home and has managed to built temporary house structures.

PASSOVER

We thank God for the wonderful  Passover we had in Malawi. Brethren from Mozambique come to Malawi to keep Passover together with us and after the Passover they slept in Malawi.

LEADERS MEETING

During  this period I was able to call all the leader to teach them what they can teach the brethren in their congregation. I was able to conduct  four meeting during this period of time. The meeting was very successful though some leaders couldn’t come due to lack of transport because their congregations are very small that can’t afford to sponsor them with transport. With the little funds I had I managed to sponsor some few leaders who attended these important meeting.

PENTECOST

About the Pentecost we have planned that brethren from Malawi will keep in Malawi the same with Mozambique. I have managed to teach all the leaders the real meaning of Pentecost not the way some churches do understand which they don’t take from the bibles but from the teachings that comes from men.

ZIMBABWE TRIP

Pastor Bob pray for me as I will be travelling to Zimbabwe after  Pentecost  in order to meet brethren  who has been writing to me since last year and I was able to send some of our booklets to them and they have been asking me so many question and I was able to answer them. Now they have sent me bus ticket for me to visit them. From Zimbabwe am planning to visit Zambia so that I can see the work there

Thanks for the booklet and magazine which you sent to me through post office. May God bless you as you are will continue doing that.

Pastor as I mentioned in my past letter that transportation is becoming a problem in the way that had it been that we had a motorcycle that could be of great important. I do fail to visit some congregation due to transportation challenge.

Best Regards.

Deacon Radson Mulozowa

Evangelist Evans Ochieng is looking at going to Malawi for the Feast of Tabernacles which I believe will help those there doctrinally.

Both Radson and Evans face transportation difficulties that we have not had the funding to resolve.

Pentecost

Most who profess Christ know something about Pentecost. Many properly consider it the start of the New Testament church.

After Jesus died, His disciples were told to wait to receive the power of the Holy Spirit:

4 And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, “which,” He said, “you have heard from Me; 5 for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” (Acts 1:4-5)

So they waited and:

1 When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place (Acts 2:1).

Notice that statement emphasizes that fact that the Day of Pentecost had fully come. The Bible is making it clear that the events that follow were directly related to the fact that the Day of Pentecost had fully come. And, it happened to the disciples because they were all observing it together.

Here is what happened then:

2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. …

38 Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.”

40 And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation.” 41 Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. 42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. …47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved. (Acts 2:2-4, 38-42, 47).

They received some of the power of Holy Spirit. And this is considered to be the start of the Christian church by the Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, most Protestants, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Church of God groups. So the Holy Spirit was given at a certain time (the same time that many of the Jews observed Pentecost) and that Jesus’ disciples were still observing it.

That was not a coincidence.

Yet, many do not realize that Pentecost represented more than the giving of the Holy Spirit and the start of the New Testament church.

Looking at passages in Old and New Testaments provides more information about this day and its meaning.

The term Pentecost is a Greek term meaning 50th. That term is derived from the following Hebrew description of calculating the date:

15 And you shall count for yourselves from the day after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering: seven Sabbaths shall be completed. 16Count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath (Leviticus 23:15-16).

The Day of Pentecost has several names, and because of that, some have been confused about it. Its other biblical names include: the Feast of Harvest, the Feast of Weeks and the day of firstfruits.

Singing often accompanied the holy festivals of God, which started at sunset:

29 You shall have a song As in the night when a holy festival is kept, And gladness of heart as when one goes with a flute, To come into the mountain of the Lord, To the Mighty One of Israel. (Isaiah 30:29)

Modern Jews tend to call Pentecost by the term Shavuot.

Some have been confused when Pentecost is. Many Jews do not keep it on the same day that the Continuing Church of God keeps it.

The Jewish Sadducees correctly said “that Pentecost would always fall on Sunday,” however “[i]n post-Talmudic and geonic literature … Pentecost falls on the 6th of Siwan” (Pineles, “Darkeh shel Torah,” p. 212, Vienna, 1861; Pentecost. Jewish Encyclopedia of 1906). The date many Jews now use (which is in post-Talmudic literature which was put together after the Old Testament and is not scripture), is a later change and not the biblical date. We in the Continuing Church of God observe the biblical method.

Notice also the following from former Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks:

The Pharisees, who believed in the Oral Law as well as the Written one understood “the Sabbath” to mean, here, the first day of Pesach (15 Nisan). The Sadducees, who believed in the Written Law only, took the text literally. The day after the Sabbath is Sunday. Thus the count always begins on a Sunday, and Shavuot, fifty days later, also always falls on a Sunday. (Sacks L. Judaism: A Thought for Shavuot. Arutz Sheva, June 3, 2014.)

Christians should remember that Jesus condemned the Pharisees for relying too much on the oral law over the written law (Mark 7:5-13). Jesus told them they were “making the word of God of no effect through your tradition which you have handed down. And many such things you do” (Mark 7:13).

And, as shown below, Pentecost refers to the time of counting fifty as being associated with firstfruits:

16 Count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath; then you shall offer a new grain offering to the LORD. 17 You shall bring from your dwellings two wave loaves of two-tenths of an ephah. They shall be of fine flour; they shall be baked with leaven. They are the firstfruits to the LORD (Leviticus 23:16-17).

When you count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath, you find that Pentecost is always to come on a Sunday. Pentecost runs from sunset Saturday until sunset Sunday. Irenaeus, who claimed to have met Polycarp of Smyrna wrote that the apostles kept Pentecost on a Sunday (Fragments of Irenaeus, 7).

The use of the term “firstfruits” suggests a second harvest. And actually, this too is pointed out in the Old Testament:

16 …the Feast of Harvest, the firstfruits of your labors which you have sown in the field; 17 and the Feast of Ingathering at the end of the year, when you have gathered in the fruit of your labors from the field (Exodus 23:16-17).

22 And you shall observe the Feast of Weeks, of the firstfruits of wheat harvest, and the Feast of Ingathering at the year’s end (Exodus 34:22).

26 Also on the day of the firstfruits, when you bring a new grain offering to the LORD at your Feast of Weeks, you shall have a holy convocation (Numbers 28:26).

While some Protestant commentators refer to the wave sheaf offering as the feast of firstfruits (e.g. Radmacher E.D. ed. The Nelson Study Bible. Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, 1997, p. 213), this is a misnomer. While “a sheaf of firstfruits” was offered then (Leviticus 23:10-11), as shown above, the Bible refers to the Feast of Weeks as the time of firstfruits (not simply one sheaf).

How does the idea of firstfruits help us understand this day?

The Feast of Pentecost or Feast of Firstfruits (Exodus 34:22) reminds us that God is now calling only a small “firstfruits” spiritual harvest, with the Last Great Day coming which pictures a greater harvest later. The Spring harvest, in most areas, in much smaller than the greater Fall harvest, and this is consistent with God’s plan of salvation for humanity.

But what about Jesus? Wasn’t He a type of firstfruits?

Yes, He certainly was. Paul notes:

20 But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. 23 But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming. (1 Corinthians 15:20-23).

Christ is the fulfillment of the wave sheaf offering in Leviticus 23:10-11. He is the sheaf of firstfruits. He also fulfilled that role when He ascended into heaven on the Sunday (the wave sheaf offering was on a Sunday) after He was resurrected (John 20:1,17). But neither He nor His true followers observed what is now called Easter.

Also, James notes that Jesus brought us forth to also be a type of firstfruit:

18 Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures (James 1:18).

So while Jesus was the original firstfruit to represent the wave sheaf offering, true Christians are a kind of firstfruits, represented by the Day of Pentecost. “Firstfruits” mean that only a few will be part of the harvest in this age (cf. Luke 12:32; Romans 9:27; 11:5)–but they also imply that there will be a greater harvest–a time where all who never had an opportunity for salvation will later have a true and real opportunity.

Notice what Peter stated on Pentecost:

29 “Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30 Therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, He would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne, 31 he, foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption. 32 This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses. 33Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear. (Acts 2:29-33)

Notice that Peter, on Pentecost, referred to Jesus as fruit and that He was raised. Pentecost shows that God blesses this small harvest by granting His Holy Spirit so that we can overcome, do His work and grow spiritually even though living in “this present evil age” (Galatians 1:4)

Now Jesus was not only the first of the firstfruits, He was also the firstborn among many brethren:

29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren (Romans 8:29).

5 Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead (Revelation 1:5).

Since Jesus is the firstborn, this certainly implies that there will become others who are to be like Him. Thus, becoming like Jesus Christ is also part of the message of Pentecost. Of course the idea of becoming like Christ is taught throughout the Bible and is not limited to Pentecost. Notice what John wrote:

2 …we shall be like Him (1 John 3:2).

Because it is a holy convocation, it is observed similar to a weekly Sabbath, but with offerings (Deuteronomy 16:16). In the Old Testament, the Feast of Weeks, involving firstfruits, was kept 50 days after the Sabbath after Passover.

After the death of Christ, the apostles gathered together on that date. And on that date, the Holy Spirit was poured out to provide Christians access to God as a kind of firstfruits. Jesus was the first of these firstfruits and Christians who are called in this age are also to be firstfruits as He is (those called later are also to be as Jesus is, but simply will not be firstfruits).

Some have improperly indicated that the biblical Holy Days cannot be kept now as they would require that everyone would go to Jerusalem.

But that was not the case historically, even with Jesus.

Towards the start of His ministry while in Nazareth, Jesus spoke on the “day of the sabbaths” (Luke 4:16). Pentecost is also called the Feast of Weeks/Sabbaths (Deuteronomy 16:10,16). That Luke meant the plural can be confirmed by looking at the actual Greek term. The actual word (not the Strong’s grouping of like words) for sabbaths, σαββάτων, is plural (σαββάτω, as in Luke 14:1, is singular). The passage is literally translated as follows:

16 And He came into Nazareth where He was brought up. And according to His custom, He went in on the days of the sabbaths, into the synagogue, and stood up to read. (Luke 4:16, Green)

So, this helps show that one could keep a Holy Day, as Jesus did, in a location other than Jerusalem. He also seemed to possibly keep another holy day in Galilee in Luke 6:1-2 (Green JP, Sr. Interlinear Greek-English New Testament, third edition. Baker Books, 2002).

Perhaps it should be mentioned that when the Samaritan woman indicated that worship should possibly be restricted to the Jerusalem area (John 4:19), Jesus said that there was not a Jerusalem worship restriction:

21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. 24 God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:21-24)

The New Testament clearly shows that Holy Day or other worship is not restricted to Jerusalem (see also Matthew 10:23; 23:24).

It should be noted that the Greco-Roman churches also recognize that Pentecost, sometimes referred to as the feast of weeks (Leviticus 23:15-16) or the day of firstfruits (Number 28:26) in the Old Testament, had Christian significance. And they do not restrict its observance to one city.

Consider also that the idea of Christians being firstfruits is confirmed in the New Testament (James 1:18). In ancient Israel, there was a smaller harvest in the Spring and a larger harvest in the Fall. The Spring Holy Day Pentecost, when properly understood, helps picture that God is only calling some now for salvation (John 6:44; 1 Corinthians 1:26; Romans 11:15) with a larger harvest coming later (John 7:37-38).

Many Greco-Roman churches observe some version of Pentecost. Yet, partially because they do not observe certain other biblical holy days, they fail to understand why God is only calling some now, and that He does have a plan to offer all salvation (Luke 3:6; Isaiah 52:10). Mercy triumphs over judgment” (James 2:13).

As far as the Day of Pentecost in 2019, it runs from sunset June 8th through sunset June 9th this year.

World News Items

US President Trump has been in the news a lot. He threatened Mexico with tariffs that start next week if Mexico does not prevent more migrants from reaching US borders (see Donald Trump tweets his intent to impose tariffs on Mexico in his effort to reduce migrants). He spent a few days in the United Kingdom and his Administration wants the UK to leave the European Union (see Donald Trump heading to UK and ‘Trump administration wants UK to leave EU’). He and/or his Administration made various statements and took various actions against the EU, Mexico, and India (see Donald Trump pushing Brexit, pushing Mexico, and pushing against India and ‘Trump: ‘Not Nearly Enough’ Progress in US-Mexico Migrant Talks’)–as well others.

UK leaders as well as Donald Trump hope for a major trade deal between the USA and UK (see Boris Johnson: Brexit, October 31st, deal or no deal. Donald Trump in UK. Special relationship?).

Many are hoping that the US Federal Reserve will cut interest rates to support growth in the USA’s economy (see MI: ‘The Fed Has No Choice But to Return to Ultra-Low Interest Rates’). Ultimately, high inflation will hit the USA and these interest rate and other financial games many have been playing will end. Speaking of financial ends, Russia and China announced yesterday that they intend to bypass the USA dollar in their cross-border trade (see ‘Russia, China Prepare To Dump Dollar, Agree To Bilateral Trade In National Currencies’). The USA benefits from the use of its dollar for international trade and the more countries that bypass it, the more that others will decide to stop using the USA dollar as their reserve currency. This will have a major effect on the USA in the future.

There are some concerns about the Chinese efforts to produce genetically-edited human babies and the USA and Canada’s efforts to produce genetically-modified salmon (see China has CRISPR humans, whereas USA approves GMO salmon–this is driven by greed, not data!). Humans are messing around with things that they do not understand–and the sin of greed is a factor.

Suggested Sabbath Service

Here is a suggested Sabbath service for this week for our scattered brethren:

  • 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: The ‘Experts’ Have No Clothes! Other sermonettes are also available at the BibleNewsProphecy 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: Alien Beliefs and the Return of Jesus. 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 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.

Suggested Pentecost Service

Here is a suggested Pentecost service for our scattered brethren:

For those who wish two services, here is a second suggested service:

Concluding Comments

The Feast of Pentecost was kept by Christians after the initial one in Acts 2, but with no mention of speaking in tongues. The Apostle Paul continued to keep Pentecost decades after that. Notice what he wrote, about 56 A.D.:

8 For I do not wish to see you now on the way; but I hope to stay a while with you, if the Lord permits. But I will tarry in Ephesus until Pentecost (1 Corinthians 16:8).

This shows that Paul knew when Pentecost was, that he felt that the Corinthians must know when Pentecost was, and that the Ephesians would have known when Pentecost was. Thus, it apparently was being observed by Paul and the Gentiles in Ephesus and Corinth.

In another year, the Apostle Paul also wished to be in Jerusalem for Pentecost, around 60 A.D.:

16 For Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus, so that he would not have to spend time in Asia; for he was hurrying to be at Jerusalem, if possible, on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 20:16).

Thus, Christians in Jerusalem were still observing Pentecost and Paul was observing it too. Otherwise, there would be no obvious reason why Paul wanted to be in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost.

Brethren, this weekend, observe both the seventh-day Sabbath and then Pentecost. Continue to follow the practices of the original Christian church.

Sincerely,

Bob Thiel
Pastor and Overseer