Charles Whitaker, focusing on Paul's admonition to the Ephesians that there be unity in the Body of Christ, suggests that, in the interests of preserving unity, God judges and then surgically separates hypocrites from real believers. This judgment-resulting-in-division model appears throughout Scripture in the episodes of the ones taken and the ones left behind, the wise and foolish virgins, the parable of the talents separating the productive from the indolent, and the good figs and bad figs in Jeremiah 24. In each of these cases, God divides the entire group into two parts, one blessed and one cursed. The archetype for this judgment-resulting-in-division pattern appears in Deuteronomy 27, where Moses directs that representatives from the twelve tribes of Israel publicly chant the Blessings from Mount Gerazim, a site without an altar, and the Curses from Mount Ebal, a site with an altar of rough stones and the Law written on plastered stones. The two venues prefigure future congregations, all of which acknowledge God's Law. The critical difference is that while the Gerizim group represents those who allow the law to be written on their hearts, the Ebal group represents those who, while giving lip service to the letter of the law, hypocritically practice sin secretly. Virtually all the curses focus on hidden sin. The hidden leavening of hypocrisy practiced by the Pharisees, using piety as a cloak for disgusting covert sins, has found its way into the Church of God. If God's Law has not been written in our hearts, completely altering our thoughts and behavior, the corporate entity in which we find ourselves will not save us from the wrong side of the judgmental cut.
Martin Collins, reflecting on the Creation account in Genesis, notices evidence of patterns suggesting an artist systematically filling a canvas, populating it according to a certain order of species equipped to multiply. Mankind, the highest rung of physical Creation, has always displayed a knack for genius-level intelligence, as is seen anciently in the invention of the Lycurgus cup, wherein colors in the cup indicate the presence of poison. Today, engineers develop optical materials from bird feathers, utilizing nano-structures of light rather than pigments to generate color. Automobile manufactures copy biomimetic structures, inspired by the impact-resistant skull, to make automobile frames stronger. Engineers have copied the nose-structure of the Kingfisher beak to make bullet-trains more aerodynamic and shock resistant. Other engineers have produced surveillance cameras based on the structure of Swift bird wings. Engineers have copied bat-sonar, enabling blind people to navigate more safely by means of ultra [sound] canes. The military has also employed this principle for its ComBat surveillance plane. Scientists and engineers often mimic God's patterns and structures when creating 'modern' technology.
Martin Collins, emphasizing that God does not do anything randomly, reveals that even scientists advancing the so-called chaos theory have discovered that disintegration and breakdown (entropy) proceed according to orderly laws. Dr. James Gleick, in his exposition of the Butterfly Effect, observes that even an apparently chaotic event like falling water is governed by predictable laws of physics. Amazingly, some deluded scientists, with all this substantiation of order, continue to advance the evolutionary hypothesis—an untenable position that order can somehow be the product of chaos. God is a God of order and not confusion; all He does follows a specific order—summarized by the adage, a time and a place for everything. One does not laugh and joke at a funeral nor weep uncontrollably at a wedding. Likewise, there is nothing inconsequential or out of place in God's Word, including 1.) the order of Noah's entering and leaving the ark, 2.) the order in which Jacob placed his servants and family in his meeting with Esau, 3.) the order in which Jacob and Moses blessed the tribes of Israel, 4.) the order in which Abraham and Lot separated their families and assets and 5.) the order in which Joshua dispatched the tribes into the Promised land. God made careful distinction between light and darkness, creating boundaries between clean and unclean, profane and holy, insisting that the time He has made holy be kept in a different manner from the rest of the time cycles. The Sabbath serves as the basic time-marker of the week, the year, and the Jubilee. To everything there is a season when the appropriate behavior is expected. God's called-out ones strive to yield to God's timing, realizing that the steps of a good man are ordered by God.
Mark Schindler, reflecting that God's Sabbaths or Holy Days are inestimable blessings which should not be squandered, cautions us of the need to tend and keep these blessings, avoiding the careless use of hallowed time. Relating a true story, Mark recalls a time when, attending a wedding which took place on the Sabbath, he and his wife were inadvertently drawn into non-holy activities when a wedding reception in downtown Chicago unexpectedly became a reviewing stand for a 200-unit nudist bicycle parade. Embarrassing incidents like this could be considered wake-up calls from God that this time should be spent more profitably in spiritual pursuits. In another recollection, Mark, in compiling a video memento of his romance with his wife Nancy, reflects that a loving and faithful wife is a blessing from God. The significance of this blessing was punctuated by the observation that his aging mother, suffering from Alzheimer's disease, excitedly recognized Nancy when she had practically lost memory of everyone else in the family circle. This miraculous observation reiterated the importance of treasuring, tending and keeping the many blessings God has bestowed to us. All the spiritual gifts God has given us should be carefully tended.
Richard Ritenbaugh reminds us that some prophecy buffs have concluded that the end of the world is on the horizon, citing the media's sniping at President Trump, North Korea's hydrogen bomb threats, and the succession of three destructive hurricanes. When analyzing the overblown coverage of the hurricanes, for example, one must factor in the motives of the Weather Channel , including the insidious political motive of fostering a belief in climate change, and the materialistic motive of boosting ratings by playing on people's fears. God's called-out ones should not look to the media when seeking truthful information. What God reveals in His Word is more reliable than the evening news. God's people do a disservice to the cause of truth when they allow the media-hype to trigger a false hope about Christ's imminent return. We have no absolute guarantee that Christ will come in our lifetime; studying numerology or secret biblical codes will not speed up the event. No one, not even Jesus Christ Himself, knows when He will return; the Father alone has this knowledge. Many of the signs of Jesus coming are perennial, such as deception, wars and rumors of wars, famines and natural disasters. To be sure, Christ averred that the both the density and the intensity of world events would increase before the end, but one cannot build a prophetic marker on a series of natural events, many of which have been over-hyped by irresponsible media outlets. When we are commanded to watch and pray, Christ expects the faithful servant to be watching the progress of his spiritual growth, regardless of whether His return is imminent or far off. The recent disasters should be a wake-up call not as a pin on a chart measuring prophetic fulfillment.
Mark Schindler, analyzing the philosophical profile of the man who dropped the bomb on Hiroshima, Paul Winfield Tibbetts, a focused and dedicated man with lofty standards, reveals that Tibbets, upon his death, had no regrets about the decision to drop the bomb because its detonation saved the lives of millions of Allied soldiers. Surviving residents of Hiroshima, injured and suffering the effects of radiation did not share the same lofty thoughts about the greater good. Wiping the terrorists out completely may seem clear-headed, but our decisions must be based on Micah 4:1-7, envisioning a time when peoples will beat their swords into plowshares. In the day God will gather the outcasts, the resurrected saints will have an opportunity to teach God's ways to humanity. In the meantime, God's called-out ones must extricate themselves from the world's solutions and prepare to take on the tasks of the Millennial rule of Christ, yielding to His specific plan for us. Realizing that the physical creation will burn up, we must soberly commit ourselves to the purpose of our calling.
David Grabbe, describing an incident where a zealous Pentecostal persisted in laying hands of healing on his wife, misapplying the 'command' in Mark 16:14 as her license, avers that this verse is not a command at all, and does not apply to all readers, God does not give every Christian the gift of healing, casting out of demons, interpreting tongues, and preaching. God gifted Peter with the authority to lay hands upon the sick, but this gift did not extend to all the saints, as is seen with the resurrection of Tabitha. The saints waited for Peter to arrive and did not presume to lay hands on her themselves. There is a diversity of gifts in I Corinthians 12, but not everyone in the Body has the same gifts. The references in scripture to Elders in the congregation do not apply to the hoary head, but to those whom God has ordained to function as overseers of the flock. It is unwise for anyone in the flock to presumptuously attempt to use gifts he has not received from God.
John Ritenbaugh, reacting to the mantra of the evangelicals on the conservative right wing of the political spectrum that America was founded as a Christian nation, provides a comprehensive summary disproving this claim. Even though several of the Founding Fathers drew upon the Bible for the laws in the Constitution, they were still reacting to the aftermath of the Protestant Reformation, and not to the religion practiced by Abraham, Moses, and Jesus Christ. The following seven points refute the unsubstantiated claim that America ever was, or continues to be a Christian nation: (1) The Founding Fathers did not accept the covenant with the "I will" promises as had Abraham and Moses. (2) None of the ceremonial trappings in order to take a promised land had occurred. God did not come to Boston as He had on Mount Sinai. (3) No leader of the stature of Moses or Abraham appeared among the Founding Fathers. (4) No existing package of laws came from on high. (5) No single religion was established to which colonists were commanded to adhere. (6) The terms of the covenant were not explained and not agreed upon by those allegedly making the covenant. Those following "The Way" knew exactly what was required of them and how they were to worship God. Much of counterfeit 'mainstream' Christianity has turned grace into license and lewdness. (7) The majority of American citizens, from the time of the founding until today, have not practiced Christianity. America is indeed a physical Israelitish nation, under the same curse as our forbearers in I Samuel 8 who asked for a king to be like every other nation around them. Sadly, the precautions given to the kings and leaders of Israel in Deuteronomy 17:14-20 have been either ignored or rejected, especially during the last 75 years. As had our parents Adam and Eve, our people continue to reject God, preferring to do things their way.
Charles Whitaker, reflecting on God's practice of working in patterns, points out that God has wired our minds to think in patterns, such as circles. Gestalt psychologists have demonstrated that, given a set of dots that suggest a circle, our minds are prone to automatically fill in the pattern. Other ubiquitous patterns that God has created take the form of dichotomies, such as day-night, land-sea, male-female and Jew-Gentile. The members of true dichotomies must be mutually exclusive and jointly exhaustive. Hence, day and night are mutually exclusive, and there is no other alternative outside of the two genders God created, male and female—attempts of mankind aside. God's dichotomies are firmly fixed in this under-the-sun order of things. While God can manipulate these dichotomies, mankind is unable to alter the parameters established by God's dichotomies. Mankind, however, often attempts to change God's dichotomies, as feminists in the matter of gender. Likewise, the world's false religions have built a dichotomy of faith and works, while the Scriptures clearly show that no such dichotomy exists. We need to be thankful for all God's patterns, and be careful that we don't misuse them.
John Ritenbaugh asserts that. despite recent claims from the Evangelical conservatives, America was never established as a Christian nation. God called out Abraham, specifically blessing him, and through him, blessed the nations of the entire earth. The early European settlers of the North American Continent consisted of Israelitish immigrants from Europe—descendants of the immigrants who came from Ur of the Chaldees to the Promised Land millennia earlier. God guided these descendants of Jacob to a virtually empty land. God brought the Israelitish people to certain lands in order to prepare them for the return of Christ. God follows patterns so that His converted children can see His invisible work, including immigration patterns. No one leader among America's Founding Fathers approached the stature of Moses, nor did any feel inclined to implement God's Holy Laws or Covenant. The founders established no single religion to ensure the sanctity of the Sabbath and the Holy Days. If they had established such a religion, it was, and remains, highly fractured. The founders made no covenant between the People of the United States and God. American citizenry never practiced true Christianity, America is still laboring under the curse of I Samuel 8, where Israel asked for a king to be like the nations around them. A human leader seemed more 'real' to them than an invisible God requiring faith to follow. Human governments are nothing but raw force, grasping for control in order to benefit the leaders. Human governments have no faith in God and they do not fear God. Even with the mandates Moses gave to a future king, Israel would always suffer from the rule of a human leader, The faith of physical Israel has been eroded through evil philosophers.
Richard Ritenbaugh, realizing that although some people regard approaching the Bible as literature to be demeaning or perhaps even heretical, contends that the literary approach can be a powerful tool to understanding and appreciating it more fully. A good story does not lay itself, but it takes a lot of work on the part of the narrator to make it impelling, memorable, or riveting. A successful play, a short story, a novel, or a poem unfolds as a three-part formula of (1) setting up the structure, (2) providing an intense complication, escalating the conflict between hero and villain until the situation appears hopeless, and (3) resolving the tensions, a process called the denouement. The book of Esther can certainly be dissected into these three elements, but because it follows the Oriental tradition rather than the Western tradition, the chiastic "X" structure provides a better paradigm of the plot. This structure can be seen in Psalm 64, in which the first five verses set the situation, reaching a massively disturbing complication at the middle, only to be overturned by the last five verses, which provide a corresponding set of positive circumstances cancelling out all the negative circumstances in the first five verses. Each verse in the second set of five verses systematically annuls a corresponding verse in the first set of five verses—6 overturns 1, 7 overturns 2, etc. The structure in the Book of Esther shows a similar pattern, with the negative events moving to a high point of tension when Esther decides to enter the King's presence uninvited, followed by a turning around and cancellation of all Haman's evil plans for the Jews and the restoration of Mordecai's honor, a truly dramatic reversal. The invisible God evidently loves a cliff-hanger.
John Ritenbaugh, reflecting upon the episode of God's rescuing of Noah and his family from the devastating flood, marvels about the perennial biblical patterns that never change, serving as an unambiguous teaching device. That rescue indicates God has never saved anybody by works. Everything, the physical and spiritual creation, begins with God, including the establishment of a family line from Seth to Noah to Abraham to Moses to David to Christ. Paradoxically God writes comparatively little about the first, and perhaps the greatest hero of faith, the father of all mankind after the rest of the world disappears, save for the evaluation that he did according to all God commanded him. What Noah built became the means of salvation of his family. Genesis 8-9 could be considered an overview of the entire plan of salvation. The time preceding the great flood parallels the time we are living through right now. The narrative demonstrates that clearing out an entire population of troublemakers did not solve the endemic and recurring problem of the deceptive, evil human heart. Only God's calling to each of us individually, followed by repentance and a rigorous conversion/sanctification process, will safeguard us from the fiery holocaust which will envelope this entire world. As God demonstrated grace by motivating Noah to build an ark to transport his family to safety, God has similarly provided a protective ark for His called-out ones today, namely His Church. Just as Noah's family had to help build the ark, we have been placed in the church with specific spiritual gifts, just as Noah had received, to help build up and edify the body or our place in the ark. Are we going to help build the ark or watch others build it? As Noah never forgot the Source of grace, we also should never forget that everything depends on God's generosity. We must emulate father Noah's humility, rejecting Satan's puffed up pride, remembering that just as God gifted Noah, He will also gift us for the specific task we have to do.
John Ritenbaugh observes that, in every biblical covenant, God gives responsibilities in order to be in alignment with Him. If we fail to meet the responsibilities He has given to us, God will penalize us. Every covenant we find in Scripture outlines promises, responsibilities, and penalties. As members of the Body of Christ, we have been given specific tasks to carry out, placed in that Body where we can be the most productive. God is currently at work producing leadership in an organization which will follow Him, calling people into His family one by one, meticulously crafting it into a perfect organism. God is showing the same precision in His spiritual creation as He did in the physical creation. God did not create the universe and then just walk away, paying less attention to us than the earth (as magnificent as it is). Everything God made works (including our ultimate spiritual creation) perfectly. Jesus Christ, seated at the right hand of the Father, upholds and tends His spiritual creation right now. As God used Noah to build an ark (Noah perhaps had no idea as to what an ark was and what rain was), God has also called us to complete a project to which we are totally oblivious. Though we are in much ignorance as to how the end project will emerge, God has provided us tools to finish what He has called us to do. By reviewing God's patterns, we can see that we are part of the same project to which Noah and his family, progenitors of Christ, had been called. The ark, a protective enclosure or place of sanctuary, recurs perennially in Scripture, as the basket, protecting Moses, another Christ figure. Joseph, another Christ figure, was transported in a kind of ark (a coffin) into the Promised Land. The Ark of the Covenant is a protective enclosure, shielding God's treasures. The church metaphorically is an ark, a structure protecting God's called-out ones until the time of resurrection into His family. As Noah could not see God, but still did what He commanded, walking by faith, trusting Him totally, we, as
John Ritenbaugh, warning that, as culture deteriorates, the church will be 'exposed' as the enemy, encourages us to make sure that the foundations of what we believe are secure. Consequently, we need to take notice of the law of first mention in Genesis to pick up the pattern of God's dealing with His creation. The great worldwide Flood has to be looked at through God's perspective, a merciful intervention preventing humankind from becoming hopelessly conditioned by Satanic orientation, to the point of no return. At the time of the Flood, all of mankind's thoughts were continuously evil. We are reaching that point again. Sin in exponentially compounding and every intent of the heart is evil continually, contaminating the outer behavior, fashioning millions and millions of beings in Satan's image. With the Flood, God rescued these hapless beings from becoming irretrievably depraved. There will be no more floods to wipe out the entire population of the earth, but the future cleansing and purging will be by unquenchable fire, when all evil will be dissolved to make way for new heavens and a new earth. The first use of the word grace in Scripture is in context with the rescuing of Noah, a preacher of righteousness from the line of Seth, including Lamech and Methuselah (whose name means "when he is gone, then he will come"). None of the line of preachers of righteousness (all converted people) perished in the flood. After Methuselah had died, Noah, the tenth in the line of the preachers of righteousness, whose name means comfort, provided physical deliverance for mankind, enabling it to survive the flood. When we realize that everything God has done from the creation of the earth (with its habitable environment and its resources) to the present time is a demonstration of His grace, we realize that salvation is His ultimate gift. As Noah's family was saved from the destruction of water, those living in the post-flood epoch, when they receive and answer God's calling, can escape the horrible holocaust (that is
David Maas recounts a recent experience in which he was able to appreciate the beauty and construction of a previously enigmatic symphonic work by spontaneously discovering its leitmotif (recurring musical pattern), which had eluded him for over 4 2 years. God's signature, the repeatable pattern of the recurring number seven, can be seen in astronomy, geology, physics, chemistry, genetics, and all other sciences, which are merely alternate expositions of the mind of God eternally present before the foundation of the world. God's perennial leitmotif, the recurring 7, analogized by the ascending 7 note musical scale, is embedded throughout Scripture, beginning with the seven days of creation (with a 24/7 cycle beginning in Genesis 1;14) and the weekly Sabbath, the appointed times outlined in Leviticus 23, including the Passover, Days of Unleavened Bread, the counting for Pentecost, the Feast of Trumpets, Atonement, the Feast of Tabernacles and the last Great Day, as well as the embedded patterns of seven revealed in the gematria of the Hebrew and Greek texts. The Bible itself has a seven- part division with 22 books (using the Jewish numbering) in the Old Testament, containing the Law, Prophets, and Writings) and 27 books in the New Testament, containing the Gospels, History, Letters, and Prophecy, adding up to 49, or 7 times 7. God's called-out ones, by keeping the seventh say Sabbath, have been metaphorically plucking a harp of seven strings on a weekly basis since their calling, every year rehearsing God's appointed Holy Days, spiraling and ascending continually to a higher level of understanding. The new song sung by the 144,000 will likely be based on existing spiritual motifs and scales practiced throughout the sanctification process, motifs to which the rest of the world is oblivious.
Richard Ritenbaugh reiterates that I and II Chronicles (the last books to be canonized in the Old Testament) were post-exilic documents, created for the sole purpose of analyzing the cumulative thematic lessons Judah and Israel had experienced, namely that God has clearly declared what He would do, and that He has proved true to His Word in every circumstance. There is a high probability that Ezra penned the Chronicles, but also some indication that Nehemiah (who had amassed a sizable library of historical records) or other assistants to Ezra or Nehemiah could have carried the work to completion. Perhaps the most righteous of Judah's kings was Josiah, having fewer personal foibles than David, but having equivalent leadership skills to David, coupled with an ardent love for God's law and a single -minded purpose to walk in the Law of God—all this supporting a fervor and energy to carry out reforms which ultimately extirpated the trappings of idolatry which had accumulated during the tenures of Josiah's predecessors for several generations. Beginning his rule at the age of 8-years old, he ruled successfully for 31 years, turning neither to the right or the left, doggedly conforming to God's Law. During his tenure, Judah and Israel were purged of the scourge of idolatry brought about by his reprobate forbears; Josiah destroyed altars, shrines, carvings, wooden images, and high places of pagan gods, and executed the priests and mediums of these pagan religions, spearheading the attack himself. When the book of the Law (Deuteronomy) was discovered in the temple, Josiah led his people into implementing its commands. Though Josiah's heart was tender (with God's Law written on it), his people sadly did not share their King's total commitment to his reforms. Josiah was like a good fig in a basket of rotten figs. Josiah's reforms, though significant, did not enjoy the widespread support of his subjects. For that, they did delay for a little while the consequences of Judah's transgressions against God's covenant. Thou
Richard Ritenbaugh posits that the thesis of the books of Chronicles is that, if one follows the terms of God's Covenant, blessings will accrue, and that, if one does not, curses will ensue. God sternly warned ancient Israel never to make covenants with the people whom He had dispossessed, nor to have anything to do with their sensual gods, but instead they were to destroy and tear down their idols and remove their high places. If Israel would honor the covenant, the people could be absolutely assured that God would richly bless them. God desires to bless and prosper His people. Decidedly, the worst king Judah ever had was Manasseh, the restorer of all the pagan religions, erecting altars to Baal, all the gods of the Zodiac, making groves to Ashera, worshiping the sun, moon, and stars, sacrificing several of his sons to Milchom, seducing Judah to compromise for the sake of political advantage to make alliances with the enemies of God. Traditionally, he is the person responsible for the death of Isaiah. Even though Manasseh was absolutely the worst king ever to lead Judah, shedding more innocent blood than any of his predecessors, leading to the captivity of his people, and of his own humiliating capture, being led around by hooks in his nose, Manasseh finally got the message that God only is God, and sincerely repented. As a result of this repentance, God restored him to his place on the throne of David. Manasseh is testimony that God's grace is astounding in magnanimity; even the worst of sinners can repent and receive God's forgiveness.
Richard Ritenbaugh, pointing to I and II Chronicles as the most overlooked and most infrequently cited book, a document the Greeks referred to as a miscellaneous compilation of 'things omitted' from I and II Samuel and I and II Kings, maintains that Chronicles looks upon history with a different perspective, a different take on the subject matter, on how Judah's successes corresponded to the degree the people submitted themselves to God. The facts, compiled by a writer having the complete Old Testament documents in hand, living in the volatile Intertestamental period, seven or eight generations after Zerubbabel, reached some powerful theological conclusions never broached by the writers of Samuel or Kings. His mode of delivery resembles more of a thesis paper with theological conclusions, an extended commentary on blessings and curses, containing inspiring examples of answered prayers in examples like Jabez, whose mother had apparently cursed his future by giving him an uncomplimentary name, and in the dramatic turn-around in Rehoboam's military exploits when he humbled himself before God. The thesis of the entire book seems to be that when God's people seek Him in repentance and humility, God comes to their aid; if they keep the terms of the covenant, they succeed; if not, they fail. God responds to those who seek Him and helps those who stay in alignment with His will. The themes of Chronicles are calling upon the Lord, seeking Him, and remembering His works.
John Ritenbaugh, cuing in on three scriptures, Psalm 11:3-5, Luke 12:7, and Philippians 4:19, reflects on a frightening earthquake in 1971, in which he realized that he was in no way in control of the alarming situation, a relentless shaking that threatened to destroy the entire foundation. This earthquake has grounds of comparison to the devastating earthquake which destroyed the very foundation of the Worldwide Church of God (WCG), sending the frightened members scrambling for safety. In the demise of our previous fellowship, we are to realize that, as God has His eye on the sparrow, the most timid of all birds, He has had His eye on us through this entire process of scattering, intending that the tests we have endured and weathered have been intended to bring about the best fruit possible. The breaking apart of the WCG has produced many splinter groups which collectively carry on a far greater work than Herbert W. Armstrong ever was able to do, and at a fraction of the cost. The intriguing story of the development of fledging Church of the Great God, a small insignificant splinter group, which has grown to be a major resource site for all the other scattered churches, is just a part of the entire picture. We are admonished to get our attention away from the activities of human beings and onto the activities of God as He neutralizes and destroys Satan's plans and the human surrogates in government, religion, and education who are currently carrying out his plans. The WCG was destroyed because it abandoned its covenant with God, committing spiritual adultery (in point of fact, idolatry) by bringing in poisonous doctrines from the world's religions, denigrating God's Holy Laws, which are a reciprocal expression of love between God and His people. Regardless of the magnitude of the aftershocks of the demise of WCG, God has not abandoned His church and His plans are right on schedule. As God watches over the sparrow, He can protect His people in the midst of any upheaval.
Martin Collins, characterizing the scoffer as a dangerous mixture of pride, malice, ignorance, and shallowness with a high degree of combativeness, suggests that scoffers will increase exponentially as we approach the time of Jacob's trouble, the dreadful day of the Lord, the return of Jesus Christ and the judgment upon mankind when evil will be utterly expunged forever. Peter warned of scoffers in the church, apostate tares, devoid of God's spirit, ridiculing the doctrine that Christ would return or doctrines of judgment, treating lightly those things we should take seriously. Apostates want to be able to live comfortably in their own sins. Peter assures us that God's Word is true, God's Word is consistent (the world is being reserved for fire as it was previously reserved for a cataclysmic flood following creation), and God's Word is consistent all the way through, focusing on a future day of judgment. God's good creation has been turned into a groaning creation, polluted and desecrated by man's horrific sins. The only reason God has not brought the destructive antics of mankind to an end earlier is that He is merciful and longsuffering, desiring all to repent and embrace salvation. In Peter's sermon on Pentecost, he explains Joel's prophecy of God's Spirit poured out on His saints, given to those who repent, with the expectation that this spiritual gift would be used to edify the Body of Christ—the Church. Peter encourages us with the assurance that, though the elements will burn with fervent heat, we will be given protection if we yield to God, allowing Him to carry out His will for our lives.
Richard Ritenbaugh, continuing his exposition of Book One of the Psalms, focusing on themes pertinent to the spring holy days, demonstrates that God orchestrated all of the events of the Exodus, making Pharaoh's pitiful plans irrelevant. God led Israel to the spot they felt they were trapped in order to demonstrate His absolute sovereignty, His ability to save, and His ability to totally annihilate all opposition. The Song of Moses, recorded in Exodus 15, indicates that ancient Israel finally got the point—at least momentarily. Psalm 1 and Psalm 2 amplify the themes of the Song of Moses, with the first Psalm concentrating on the Torah, or instruction itself, but the second focusing on the Son; we must come to know both His instruction and Him personally. The Son will have the final say; only a fool would attempt to test His sovereignty. The first stanza of Psalm 1 expresses astonishment that anyone would try to plot against God. Because God controls the whole universe, He laughs in mockery and derision at anyone who would even contemplate rebellion. Because Jesus Christ is God's begotten Son, we can avoid the rod of His anger by paying respect with worshipful fear and awe.
Joseph Baity observes that God's thought patterns demonstrate perfection, while man's thought patterns are seriously flawed and corrupted by sin. One of the most egregious of man's twisted thought patterns has two parts: (1) We seek to elevate ourselves above God, and (2) we lie to ourselves in relation to the first pattern. The human mind is the most deceitful of all things. The deadly pattern was followed by Eve, the builders of the Tower of Babel, Nadab and Abihu, Miriam, Korah, Moses as he struck the rock in anger, the mob who crucified our Creator, and Gnostic infiltrators. This pernicious thought pattern can be found within all of us. We must recognize our own limitations and submit to God, realizing that God has the correct pattern to life and salvation.
Most long-time members of the church of God have Matthew 24:14 indeliably etched on their memories: "This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world. . . ." David Grabbe contends that many have failed to understand this verse as a prophecy, and have instead loaded it with meanings that the plain words do not contain. We should be encouraged that, by it, God guarantees that He will finish His work!
Richard Ritenbaugh, cuing in on Matthew 23 and 24, suggests that Matthew is in the habit of presenting Jesus' teachings on a given topic all in one place in the Bible, presenting the teachings from a decidedly Jewish point of view, demonstrating the ability of Jesus to thwart the insidious challenges of the Pharisees, as well as offering proofs of His Messiahship. The parables of the two sons, the wedding feast, and the wicked vine dressers all castigate Israel for rejecting God's messengers and the Messiah, calling for eight woes, rendering physical Israel and the Temple (symbol of Israel's splendor) totally desolate and uninhabited. In short, the nation of Israel would fall. We must be sure, as Christians and members of the Israel of God, not to miss the object lesson to us. God is no respecter of persons; He is a God of equity and fairness. God is not a soft-headed pushover who will accept us, sins and all; He does not budge one inch for sin. As God dealt with our disobedient forbears, He will deal with us in the exact same way if we stray from the truth, breaking His commandments. God is not mocked; what we sow is what we will reap. God's patience is long, but He will reach a boiling point when He will clean the slate, including disobedient members of His own church. God is a God of mercy, but He has a stiff core of justice which will not be placated unless we repent. To whom much has been given, much will be required.
Over the last two decades, we have witnessed the scattering of the church of God from one corporate organization into hundreds. ...
John Ritenbaugh observes that although each of God's festivals depicts increasingly larger numbers of people being drawn to God, the counter pulls emanating from sinful carnal human nature war against the prompts of God's Holy Spirit, producing continual conflict. Choosing between these two opposite poles is something we have to contend with daily. If we choose the spiritual pole, moving toward unity with God, we will become unified with others who similarly strive for these same spiritual goals. Without this spiritual contact, we subject ourselves to the second law of thermodynamics: entropy, chaos, and disorganization, but with God's Holy Spirit, we do not have to succumb. According to Lamentations 2, God scattered Judah for their sins. Likewise, God scattered the Worldwide Church of God (possibly using Satan as His agent) mercifully administering painful chastening for our own safety and protection, putting us in venues where we actively have to love and forbear one another. Pride condemned Satan to a fate of using or manipulating rather than serving. This presumptuous self-centered trait belonging to Hillel (later Satan or adversary) creates disunity and ultimate destruction. Unfortunately, several leaders of church groups have adopted these presumptuous competitive traits, arrogantly and disdainfully looking down on other groups within the greater Church of God, completely antithetical to the behavior of John the Baptist, the Apostle Paul, and Jesus Christ. We must follow the example of Abel, humbly doing things on God's terms, rather than the example of Cain, presumptuously doing things on his own terms. Likewise, when we have nothing acceptable to offer to God (Exodus 23:16, Leviticus 22:25, Joshua 5), we cannot presumptuously make an offering.
David C. Grabbe: As a new year dawns on most of the nations of the earth, people's thoughts often turn to what lies ahead. ...
Far more than on any other hero of faith in Hebrews 11, the apostle Paul concentrates on Abraham as the father of the faithful, the Bible's premier example of a human being's walk with God. John Ritenbaugh illustrates how Abraham's faithfulness to God sets a clear pattern for us to follow.
John Ritenbaugh reiterates that the real cradle of civilization is not Mesopotamia, but Jerusalem, a venue where God started His physical creation and where He will bring it to spiritual fruition. The world's corrupt civilization did begin in Mesopotamia, between the rivers, but God called Abraham and his descendents out of this corruption back to the region of the promised land - probably within the geographical region of the Garden of Eden, the location of Abraham's abortive sacrifice of Isaac (renamed Yahweh Yirah) Mount Moriah - the site of Solomon's Temple, the Lord's Mount, and the most probable site of the Garden of Eden) in the current Jerusalem area - the Temple Mount, Mount Zion, and the Mount of Olives. Both Moses in his instructions for building of the tabernacle and David in his instructions for building the temple were obligated to follow the pattern that God explicitly gave them. Like the temple and tabernacle, the Garden of Eden was probably an enclosed place with a single entrance on the east side, all replicas of heavenly originals, designed specifically to give us understanding and faith. The sacrifice of the red heifer on the Miphkad Altar displayed many differences from the sacrifices on the Brazen Altar. The midst of the Garden of Eden and the Holy of Holies (typifying God's throne room in Heaven - surrounded by Cherubim) were evidently in the same location. When Cain sinned, God admonished him to provide a sacrifice on what would be the location of the Miphad Altar.
John Ritenbaugh, reflecting upon geography and place names of the Bible, asserts that God has often allowed different groups of people to use different names for the same geographical location (i.e. Mount Hermon and Mount Zion describe the same location). A major perennial theme throughout the Bible involves copies, shadows, symbols, and patterns, with the original pattern residing in the heavens and the copies made on the earth. The objects in the tabernacle derive their original form and pattern from God's pattern in Heaven. In the same respect, God is the original and we are copies. The river flowing eastward out of Eden (God's personal residence on this earth) and the river flowing from God's throne (Revelation 22:1) are both symbolic of God's Holy Spirit. Cain, the real progenitor of Babylon, wandered eastward, systematically away from God. Conversely, Abraham's descendents migrated west and northwest, eventually occupying the western-most countries. Jerusalem (the location of Mount Zion as well as the Gihon Water Course and underground spring - a virtual never-ending aquifer of water) occupying the centermost position among the nations becomes the likely location of the Garden of Eden and the likely location for the Heavenly Jerusalem. Mesopotamia is ruled out as the locale of the Garden of Eden.
David C. Grabbe: The subject of God's sovereignty has sparked endless thoughts, conversations, debates, and commentary. Most professing Christians will at least agree that God is sovereign, but there is a wide range of beliefs with regard to just how involved God is in their lives. ...
John Ritenbaugh asserts that belief or faith is difficult enough to maintain if the doctrines are put in proper order, but greatly confused when the pastor dilutes correct doctrine with "benign" false doctrine derived from the belief systems of the world's cultures under the sway of Satan's manipulation. Seemingly minor changes affect major trajectories in direction. A person's cosmology (his understanding of the nature of the world) largely determines his belief system and attendant behavior. If evolution determines his cosmology, man becomes his own God. Until our cosmology is synchronized with God's (as we think as God's thinks), our spiritual well-being will be in continuous deadly peril. What a person believes shapes his views and behavior. The Axial Period (deriving from sixth- and seventh-century BC Hellenistic thought) has largely shaped the dominant cosmology of today's world.
John Ritenbaugh admonishes that amidst the erosion of doctrine in truth from the Gentile culture of moral relativism, we must, after the manner of Jeremiah and Nehemiah, build a wall, be a wall, and summon the courage to stand in the gap. We must stay focused in our thinking, girding up the loins of our minds, submitting to the will of God, realizing that in these perilous times we will be hated by the many. Conforming to God will set us apart, sanctify us, separating us from the world, making us a virtual wall. Our determination will determine the strength or the durability of this wall. Building a wall requires standing, holding firm, showing alertness and a readiness for action- even if it requires self-denial and unpleasant dirty work, ultimately aspiring to know God, living as He lives, cleansing ourselves from filth and becoming holy.
Richard Ritenbaugh reiterates that the Two Witnesses seem to have carte blanche authority from God to annihilate those who interfere with their work as well as power over weather patterns and natural elements in the spirit, power, and manner of Elijah and Moses. These miracles dramatize just how far mankind has turned from God. The lack or pollution of water signifies the lack or the defilement of God's Holy Spirit. The pattern of two witnesses (God often works in pairs) was established as a precedent from the very beginning (Genesis 1:26; Deuteronomy 19:15), and is repeated many times throughout the scriptures.
Having shown that God is involved in world affairs, John Ritenbaugh concludes by showing that God's hand was definitely involved in the scattering of the church. Our reaction needs to be positive: that, if He felt it needed to be done, we should respond by growing and preparing ourselves for His Kingdom.
John Ritenbaugh analyzes the five-point warning message given to the scattered Hebrews by Jesus Christ. The writer of Hebrews does not identify a single flagrant violation of law, but instead delivers a general castigation for incremental, continuous, disrespectful, and forgetful neglect—a failure to esteem what should have been thought precious, their calling and salvation, while esteeming inferior things like wealth or status. Hebrews expounds four other warnings, all designed to wake the church member up and motivate him toward greater devotion to God. Similarly, the modern church of God stands in danger of allowing salvation to slip away from pure neglect. By these warnings, we should know how to turn our lives around so we do not fall short and lose salvation.
John Ritenbaugh, cautioning against the danger of presumption, warns against assigning biblical types (like Joshua and Zerubbabel) to any contemporary ministers, pointing out that, except for a few superficial similarities, there are not enough parallels or grounds of comparison to make such an inferential leap. Two major assumptions made by calendar changers are that: (1) the calendar is too complicated and (2) the Jews are guilty of deliberate manipulation in order to create a calendar that is more convenient in actual usage. The Bible nowhere says that the calendar should be simple; everything God has created, including life Bible, the calendar, as well as life itself, is complex. God, totally faithful and reliable, gave us a calendar, assigning the responsibility for its maintenance to the nation of Israel, not to the church or private individuals, guaranteeing order, stability, and unity within the culture. The Anti-Christ inspires tampering with times.
John Ritenbaugh reiterates that if God had accepted the calendar for 1600 years, it would be presumptuous for one living at the end of days to call it flawed. This calendar issue had surfaced during the tenure of Herbert W. Armstrong's apostleship and was thoroughly studied and systematically resolved. God assigned the tribe of Judah to be the caretakers of the calendar (as part of the oracles; Romans 3:2) The real issue in this controversy is faith in God's sovereignty and His faithfulness. The church does not exist in a vacuum, but as a subset of, subject to the ordinances of the Commonwealth of Israel (and Judah), with whom the Covenants were made. The need for precision, consistency and predictability censures any misguided attempts at establishing home made calendars.
John Ritenbaugh, focusing on the processes of developing faith and hope, indicates that the rules for making the calendar, a very complex activity, are not contained in the Bible. To put ones efforts into such a project (especially with limited or elementary knowledge of astronomy or mathematics) constitutes foolish, misguided zeal. Using errant human assumption, some in the greater church of God have concocted no less than nine conflicting calendars. The preservation of the oracles (including the keeping of the calendar) has not been entrusted to the church but to the tribe of Judah (Romans 3:2). Some of the anti-Jewish bias in the would-be calendar makers smacks of anti-Semitism. We need to have faith in God's ability to preserve a working calendar, believing Him unconditionally as Abraham did.
John Ritenbaugh reiterates that the real issue in the calendar controversy is not mathematical or astronomical computations, but faith in God's sovereignty, His providence, His right to assign responsibility, and His capability of maintaining an oversight over this responsibility. God has been faithful in providing a reliable calendar for over 1600 years. God remains consistent with His purpose, maintaining oversight and control. Like our ancient forbears, we dare not stray from things given or entrusted to us. We must hold fast, guarding the truth, honoring our father in the faith, refusing to forage after pernicious false doctrine. The preservation of the calendar was entrusted to the Jews, and specifically the Levites. No church group or private individual should presumptuously arrogate this responsibility to himself or herself.
John Ritenbaugh, insisting that God is not the author of confusion, affirms that God, throughout the scriptures, has used a consistent pattern of appointing leaders over His called-out ones. God has invariably chosen one individual, working with him until it becomes obvious through his fruits that God had intended him to lead. After choosing the leader, God brings the people to him, placing within them an inclination to voluntarily submit to him. Rather than a cacophony of discordant voices, God designates one individual (Abraham,Moses, Peter,etc.) to serve as a representative, taking a pre-eminent role as spokesman.
John Ritenbaugh emphasizes that the biblical instructions (found in both the Old and new Testaments) pertaining to Sabbath keeping apply far more to the Israel of God, the church, than to the physical descendents of Israel, who did not have the fullness of scriptural counsel. Because the Bible has both a physical/national and a spiritual/church level, certain truths, remaining invariant under transformation, will become increasingly and uniquely relevant to God's spiritual children. The Sabbath, a major tenet of the Royal Law, kept faithfully by the prophets, apostles, and our Elder Brother Jesus Christ, is a commanded period of time to develop an intimate relationship with God, allowing us to incrementally transform into His image.
John Ritenbaugh takes issue with the popularly held notion that preaching the Gospel to the world as a witness is the sole identifying mark of God's church. There is a vast difference between "preaching the Gospel to the world" and "making disciples"- the major focus in Matthew 28:20. The largest portion of the great commission demands that the lion's share of time, money, or energy ought to be invested in feeding the flock. With the present scattering of the church, engineered by Almighty God (not Satan) in response to our sick, rebellious, and unsound condition, our major obligation at this time should be to heal its wounds and to point it in the direction of repentance, overcoming, and growth. God indeed wants unity, but it has to be on His terms.
John Ritenbaugh suggests that the preaching the gospel to the world, held by some to be the only identifying mark of the church, is at best the beginning of a long, complex process of creating disciples and godly offspring through steady feeding and encouragement to overcome (feeding the flock). God, as a responsible parent, is not one-dimensional in assigning responsibilities to His children, but frequently shifts gears, changing circumstances, giving His begotten children a well-rounded education. God - not Satan or an incompetent ministry - engineered the massive scattering of the church of God to move it away from pernicious and fatal Laodiceanism. We need to adjust to the new situation, realizing that God has engineered these events with the real work of God in mind: making man in His image and reproducing Himself.
A Statement of Purpose and Beliefs of the Church of the Great God
John Ritenbaugh reiterates that the easiest part of God's work is the preaching the Gospel to the world- a task mechanically carried out as the church deteriorated from within. Much more demanding is the feeding of the flock, producing the kind of faith and trust to transform formerly carnal individuals into glorified members of His family. The work of the church varies from time to time, with different functions performed as different needs arise. God determines when, where, and the direction He wants His work to go. At this time, God has purposed to "blow the church apart" for our own spiritual safety. Our current focus should be upon the factors that caused the deterioration within the body, determining to respond to God, fixing the problems (the cracked foundations of faith emanating from a counterfeit gospel) that led to our implosion and scattering.
John Ritenbaugh affirms that the New Covenant of Hebrews 8:8 was given to Israel and Judah, not to the Gentiles. God does not deviate from this pattern; Israel is still involved with the New Covenant. It is not the physical nation, but the spiritual remnant (partly composed of grafted-in Gentiles- Romans 11:17-25 and the church or Israel of God- Galatians 6:16) with whom God is working, circumcising their hearts and writing His laws in the recesses of their hearts and minds (Jeremiah 31:33; Hebrews 8:10; 10:16)
John Ritenbaugh reiterates that the problem with the Old Covenant was with the people, not with the Law, as some have alleged. Paul uses the term "covenant" to describe an agreement made by two consenting parties and "testament" to describe the unilateral, one-sided commitment made by God to improve the promises (eternal life) and the means to keep the commandments (God's Holy Spirit). The New Covenant will be consumated at Christ's return during the marriage of the Lamb when God's Law will have been permanently assimilated into His bride during an engagement (sanctification) process.
John Ritenbaugh focuses upon our future responsibilities as a priest in God's Kingdom, asking us if we are really preparing for this role. If we are not practicing being a priest right now,we will not be prepared. During the Millennium, the priest will be required to make a large number of mediating sacrifices on behalf of the people, mediating, reconciling, teaching, judging, and saving the remnant of Israel. The primary function of a priest is to assist people in accessing God- so that there can be unity with God. A priest is a bridge-builder between man and God. The sacrifice that God demands is a total sacrifice of time, energy, and service (in short, ones whole life) to that end. Nothing will prepare us to become a priest more than to commit our entire lives as a total living sacrifice.
John Ritenbaugh reminds us that under both the Old and New Covenants, refusal to keep to keep God's Law severs our relationship with Him. Like loving parents who give rules to their children to protect them from danger, our Loving Father has given us His Spiritual Law to protect us and bring us quality life. In the manner of Satan the Devil, who convinced Adam and Eve that God's commands restricted freedom, the misguided proponents of the anti-law bias or mentality have convinced many in our former fellowship that the Sabbath, the Holy Days, tithing, and food laws are harsh and restrictive elements of Old Covenant bondage. New Covenant justification does not do away with God's Laws (nor with human nature or carnality for that matter) but creates the circumstances through which faith is enhanced, producing sanctification and purification, bringing God's purpose (to restore all things) to perfection.
John Ritenbaugh reiterates that when the Worldwide Church of God adopted the concept of the Godhead as a closed trinity, spiritualizing God into a vague, incomprehensible hazy essence, they destroyed the vision or goal that God set before mankind: to create man in His image. These misguided individuals, assuming that incorporeal is an antonym for shape or form and that spiritual things cannot have form, glibly state that all the scriptural references to God's characteristics are figures of speech. Jesus, the second Adam, the express image of God, did not take on a different shape or form when He was transfigured before the disciples. Taking on the image of the heavenly does not vaporize one into shapeless essence. Along with the eyewitness accounts of men who saw God - like Abraham, Jacob, and Moses - we also have the promise that we will see Him face to face when glorified as a member of the God Family.
John Ritenbaugh shows that God has set a pattern of separating people from the world, making a covenant with them, and enabling them to be a blessing to others as an example of faithfulness and obedience to the covenant. Because of Israel's unfaithfulness and disobedience, God scattered them among the nations, causing them to forget who they were, and they blended in with the world. Like Nehemiah, our worldview must be shaped by a fear of God, a love and concern for His people, and a hatred for the world's practices that destroy our intimate relationship with God. As God's called-out church (Abraham's spiritual offspring, the Israel of God), we have the sobering responsibility of staying loyal to the New Covenant, keeping the spiritual Temple free from the world's defilement — or lose our spiritual identity as ancient Israel lost its physical identity.
The story of building the Tabernacle serves as an encouraging example for us today as we colaborate with God in building His church. God will provide what we need to finish the job to His specifications!
John Ritenbaugh continues to reflect on Stephen's incendiary message to fellow Hellenistic Jews (ostensibly given in hopes of their repentance), chastising them for their perennial rejection of prophets and deliverers, including the greatest Deliverer ever sent (namely Jesus Christ), clinging instead superstitiously to the land, the law, and the temple. Stephen's 'untimely' martyrdom and his compassion on his persecutors, followed by the protest reaction against his brutal murder (all part of God's divine plan) resulted in a rapid spreading of the Gospel. The study then focuses upon the influence of Simon Magus, a noted practitioner of sorcery or magic who became impressed with the power of God's Holy Spirit, presumptuously offering Peter money to purchase this power for selfish purposes to control others rather than to serve them. Peter recognized the hypocritical, deceitful, impure motives of this request and responded appropriately.