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06/01/06 a.m. The astounding success of the book The Da Vinci Code (plus its release 12 days ago as a movie) suggests that there is interest by many in what actually happened to Christianity. To assist those who are interested, a few weeks ago my son developed the following timeline for me.
A Brief Timeline of the True Christian Church
Churches of Revelation 2 & 3: Approximate Timeline of Predominance
|135||450||1050||1585||1933||1986 to present|
Each of the above links is to a relatively new article on each of the seven churches of Revelation 2 & 3.
The true church of God believes that its history was somewhat foretold in, and could be followed by, locating the Churches of Revelation 2 & 3. Another article of interest might be Location of the Early Church: Another Look at Rome, Ephesus, and Smyrna.
For those with additional interest, we have also developed a page titled Timelines of Early Church History that provides timeline information related to Roman Emperors, claimed Roman bishops, claimed Orthodox bishops, and Church of God leaders.
By the way, I have been out of town the past week or so and this is why I have not responded to emails, etc. My son Michael has been posting information I put together prior to departure here, plus a couple of items I had him get on his own. I should be back later today.
05/31/06 a.m. Have you been to the Early Christianity page yet? If not, you really should visit it to find out about people, places, doctrines, and even heresies that impacted the true Christian church.
Here is a listing of doctrines linked from that page:
The complete Bible with the proper Old Testament and New Testament was relied on by the true Church in Asia Minor.
A Binitarian view was obviously held by the apostolic and post-apostolic true Christian leaders.
Birthdays were not celebrated by early Christians.
Celibacy for Bishops/Presbyters/Elders was not a requirement.
Christmas was not observed by any professing Christ prior to the third century, or ever by those holding to early teachings.
Duties of Elders/Pastors were pastoral and theological, not predominantly sacramental.
Easter was not observed by the apostolic church.
The Fall Holy Days were observed by true early Christians.
The Father was considered to be God by all early professing Christians.
Holy Spirit was not referred to as God or as a person by any early true Christians.
Hymns were mainly psalms, not praises to Christ.
Idols were taught against, including the use of the cross.
Immortality of the soul or humans was not taught.
Jesus was considered to be God by the true Christians.
The Kingdom of God was preached.
Military Service was not allowed for true early Christians.
Millenarianism (a literal thousand year reign of Christ on Earth) was taught by the early Christians.
Monasticism was unheard of in the early Christian church.
Passover was kept on the 14th of Nisan by apostolic and second century Christians in Asia Minor.
Pentecost was kept on the same day that the Jews observed it by all professing Christians.
The Resurrection of the dead was taught by all early Christians
The Sabbath was observed on Saturday by the apostolic and post-apostolic Church.
Salvation was believed to be offered to the chosen now by the early Church, with others being called later, though not all that taught that (or other doctrines) practiced "the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 3).
Sunday was not observed by the apostolic and true post-apostolic Christians.
The Ten Commandments were observed by the apostolic and true post-apostolic Christians.
Tradition had some impact on the second century Christians, but was never supposed to supercede the Bible.
The Trinity was not a word used to describe the Godhead by the apostolic or second century Christians.
The Virgin Birth was acknowledged by all true ante-Nicene Christians.
There is also additional information on the Early Christianity page.
05/30/06 a.m. Since The Da Vinci Code's biggest issue is about the so-called historical proof about Jesus allegedly being married and having children, perhaps I should share some information on that here.
The Da Vinci Code strongly teaches that Jesus must have been married to Mary Magdalene. It seems that the author, Dan Brown, may actually believe this inaccuracy. The book goes so far as to state:
Mary Magdalene..More specifically her marriage to Jesus Christ...It's a matter of historical record " (The Da Vinci Code, page 244).
Now this is not a matter of historical record, but simply the opinion of some of those who do not prefer not to believe the Bible.
One such support of this "historical record" in The Da Vinci Code was this claim:
...the social decorum during that time virtually forbid a Jewish man to be unmarried (The Da Vinci Code, page 245).
However, that "record" is not evidence.
The Bible shows that the Apostle Paul was unmarried (1 Corinthians 7:8). And the Bible shows that on many occasions was allowed to speak in Jewish synagogues (e.g. Acts 17:1-2,10,17)--thus Jewish social custom did not prevent single male religious leaders. Thus, The Da Vinci Code is in error on this "proof".
Another so-called proof from the "historical record" is that the Bible does not say that Jesus was unmarried:
If Jesus were not married, at least one of the Bible's gospels would have mentioned it (The Da Vinci Code, page 245).
The above statement is a logical error. Arguing from what is not said is rarely proof.
Actually, since the Bible DOES mention Mary Magdalene, it would make more sense that it would say or somehow imply that she was married to Jesus. Yet no relationship like that is at all hinted at in the New Testament. If she was married to Jesus, it is likely that Luke, when mentioning her, would not have had to explain that she was one who Jesus cast demons out of her (Luke 8:2-3), but could have somehow said she was married to Jesus. The fact that Luke had to do that, actually suggests that he felt that she was a relatively unknown figure when he penned his account of the gospel.
The "Gospel of Philip"
The other so-called historical proofs of Jesus' alleged marriage seem to be related to gnostic accounts. Yet, while claiming them as proof, The Da Vinci Code states:
The Gnostic Gospels...The earliest Christian records. Troublingly, they do not match up with the gospels in the Bible (The Da Vinci Code, pp.245-246).
The last statement is is true, which is part of why they were rejected from being considered as part of the Bible. Yet, The Da Vinci Code fails to mention that the gnostic gospels do not agree among themselves either. The gnostic accounts do not read like the biblical accounts, nor do they have the harmony of the biblical accounts. The Da Vinci Code also fails to point out that nearly all of them were not written until well after the last book of the New Testament (Revelation, which was written towards the end of the life of the oldest of the original apostles) was written--hence they are not truly "The earliest Christian records".
The biggest single "proof" in The Da Vinci Code that Jesus was married is this passage from the so-called Gospel of Philip. The Gospel of Philip, however, was apparently not written until the end of the second century (and some scholars believe that it was not written until the third century), hence it was written AFTER the books of the New Testament were all known. Hence to call it part of "The earliest Christian records" is historically inaccurate.
Anyway, here is the passage from it cited in The Da Vinci Code to attempt to "prove" that Jesus was married:
There were three who always walked with the Lord: Mary, his mother, and her sister, and Magdalene, the one who was called his companion. His sister and his mother and his companion were each a Mary (The Gospel of Philip. Translated by Wesley W. Isenberg. THE GNOSTIC SOCIETY LIBRARY. James M. Robinson, ed., The Nag Hammadi Library, revised edition. HarperCollins, San Francisco, 1990, http://www.gnosis.org/naghamm/gop.html 5/10/06).
The Da Vinci Code suggests that the so-called Gospel of Philip was rejected for that passage.
The truth is that it was rejected because it was written over a century after the Apostle Philip died (thus Philip did not write it), and no one in or even affiliated with the true Church ever accepted it.
A related claim in the book was:
More than eighty gospels were considered for the New Testament, and yet only a relative few were chosen for inclusion--Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John (page 231).
The above may have some truth as far as the Roman and Orthodox Catholics are concerned (as they and many secular scholars prefer to believe in the late canonization theory, as they do not realize that the true COG knew them by the end of the first century), but not as far as the true Church is concerned. The true Church knew all the books of the Bible (including the gospels) by the time of the death of John. Almost none of those eighty gospels were even written by then.
Even Irenaeus recognized that there were only four gospel accounts, no more, no less by 180 A.D. (Adversus haereses. Book III, Chapter 11, Verse 8), and the so-called Gospel of Philip (which appears to have been written after Irenaeus wrote) was not among them (please see the article The New Testament Canon).
Notice that even this spurious account simply says that some CALLED Mary Magdalene His companion. That is simply not the same things as stating that this was Jesus' lawful spouse
Since the Bible, in Hebrews 4:15, records that Jesus did not sin, any sexual partner would have had to have been a lawful spouse. Jesus did not have some type of consort or concubine, nor a daughter (which The Da Vinci Code claims was named Sarah, page 255).
If Jesus did have a wife and daughter, it would have made more sense that He would have made provisions for them when He was dying--instead He only made provisions for His mother Mary (a photo at the location where it is believe Mary last lived is available at the Ephesus photo page), according to the Bible (see John 9:26-27).
My reading of the so-called Gospel of Philip suggests to me it is simply called the Gospel of Philip because it allegedly quotes the Apostle Philip in ONE passage:
Philip the apostle said, "Joseph the carpenter planted a garden because he needed wood for his trade. It was he who made the cross from the trees which he planted. His own offspring hung on that which he planted. His offspring was Jesus, and the planting was the cross."
There is nothing in the Bible to suggest, or even hint, that the above is true. Nor is there any indication in the Bible that Philip ever said anything about a cross.
The fact is that the Bible records that there was an apostle named Philip (John 1:45-48). In the late second century, Polycrates records that the Apostle Philip kept the Passover on the 14th, and he and the other followers of Christ, did what the scriptures said.
Furthermore, the so-called Gospel of Philip has virtually nothing in common with the canononical gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John). The so-called Gospel of Philip simply does not read like a gospel account. It does not have the narrative of Jesus' death and resurrection, does not discuss miracles, nor does it even much discuss His teachings.
It reads like a Gnostic account of mystic knowledge. Here is one such passage:
Light and Darkness, life and death, right and left, are brothers of one another. They are inseparable. Because of this neither are the good good, nor evil evil, nor is life life, nor death death. For this reason each one will dissolve into its earliest origin. But those who are exalted above the world are indissoluble, eternal.
Names given to the worldly are very deceptive, for they divert our thoughts from what is correct to what is incorrect. Thus one who hears the word "God" does not perceive what is correct, but perceives what is incorrect (The Gospel of Philip. Translated by Wesley W. Isenberg. THE GNOSTIC SOCIETY LIBRARY. James M. Robinson, ed., The Nag Hammadi Library, revised edition. HarperCollins, San Francisco, 1990, http://www.gnosis.org/naghamm/gop.html 5/10/06).
Another problem with the so-called Gospel of Philip is that it clearly contradicts the biblical accounts in various areas. Here is one such contradictory passage:
Some said, "Mary conceived by the Holy Spirit." They are in error (ibid).
Yet, the Bible itself teaches:
Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin's name was Mary. And having come in, the angel said to her, "Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!" But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was. Then the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end." Then Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I do not know a man?" And the angel answered and said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible." Then Mary said, "Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word." And the angel departed from her (Luke 1:26-38).
Hence it is clear that no one who professes Christ and believes in the virgin birth, as taught in the Bible, could possibly accept the claims in the Philip "gospel" account. Hence, there is no reason for any to consider that Jesus was married based upon someone's impressions of the so-called "Gospel of Philip".
More information is in the article titled The Da Vinci Code: Some Good and Lots Bad. Unlike most of the commentary floating around now, this article (of course) comes from a COG perspective of the book.
05/29/06 a.m. Speaking of the Sabbath, did you know that it was kept early in the Americas?
Although it is not commonly taught, the Puritans kept the Sabbath.
In a book by Dr. Samuel Kohn, chief Rabbi of Budapest, Hungary, in the late 1800s provided this information:
Already around the year 1530 Sabbatarians emerged in Bohemia...Sabbatarians (Subbotniki), or Judaizers also arose soon thereafter in Silesia, Poland and Russia; in the latter, where they were frequently confused with the Jews in the second half of this century, remain until today. We meet similar sects around 1545 among the Quakers in England. Several leaders and preacher of the Puritans, imbued with the Old Testament spirit, likewise raised the issue of reinstating the day of rest from Sunday to Saturday (Kohn S. Translated by T. McElwain and B. Rook. Sabbatarians in Transylvania. Christian Churches of God, Wooden (Australia), 1998, p.10-11).
Here is another report which also reports that once in America, there were Sabbatarians among the Puritans (as well as the position against Christmas, which is also a COG position):
Strange as it may seem, in the early history of America there was an attempt at suppression of Christmas spirit. The stern Puritans at Plymouth, imbued with the rigorous fervor of the Old Testament, abhorred the celebration of the orthodox holidays. Their worship was on the Sabbath (Saturday), rather than Sunday, and Christmas in particular they considered a pagan celebration. Later immigrants attempted to observe Christmas as a time of joy, but were suppressed. Governor Bradford, Elder Brewster, Miles Standish and other leaders were firm against the yuletide spirit as we know it today (Sprague H. Letter from the editor. St. Joseph, Mo., Daily Gazette, December 1934 as cited in Dugger AN, Dodd CO. A History of True Religion, 3rd ed. Jerusalem, 1972 (Church of God, 7th Day). 1990 reprint, p. 265).
In addition, they even had the native Americans do so as well:
... adopt the Puritan pace and mode of work, which meant long days of agricultural labor. Insisting upon the gendered division of labor favored by the English, the missionaries urged the Indian men to forsake hunting and fishing in favor of farming. The Indian women were supposed to withdraw ... had to rest and worship on the seventh day, the Sabbath. Praying towns did not appeal to those Indians who belonged to the largest and most autonomous bands, principally the Narragansett (Taylor A. American Colonies : The Settling of North America; The Penguin History of the United States, Volume1, Hist of the USA. (Paperback) Penguin, New York; Reprint edition, July 30, 2002).
That some of the Puritans kept the seventh-day Sabbath should not be a surprise as the Church of God includes in its ancestory (see articles The Churches of Revelation 2 & 3 and The Pergamos Church Era), people who were called the Cathari (from the Greek word, katharoi, meaning pure).
The Catholic Encyclopedia even though it has a mix of truth and error (I will leave out most of the error here and let xCG dwell on that), interestingly states:
Cathari (From the Greek katharos, pure), literally "puritans", a name specifically applied to, or used by, several sects at various periods...To their geographical distribution they owed the names of "Cathari of Desenzano" or "Albanenses" (from Desenzano, between Brescia and Verona, or from Alba in Piedmont, Albano, or perhaps from the provinces of Albania); "Bajolenses" or "Bagnolenses" (from Bagnolo in Italy); "Concorrezenses" (probably from Concorrezo in Lombardy); "Tolosani" (from Toulouse); and especially "Albigenses" (from Albi). The designations "Pauliciani", of which "Publicani", "Poplicani", were probably corruptions, and "Bulgari", "Bugri", "Bougres", point to their probable Oriental origin.
However attractive it may be to trace the origin of the Cathari to the first centuries of Christianity, we must be cautious not to accept as a certain historical fact what, up to the present, is only a probable conclusion (Weber N.A. Transcribed by Paul-Dominique Masiclat, O.P. Cathari. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume III. Copyright © 1908 by Robert Appleton Company. Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight. Nihil Obstat, November 1, 1908. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).
From the above, we glean that the name Puritan apparently did come from Cathari. They are related to the Paulicians, and hence part of The Pergamos Church Era. And that even though Catholic scholars prefer to believe that it is only a probable conclusion, the Cathari can be traced to the first centuries of Christianity!
05/28/06 a.m. The Roman Catholic Church lists the following as bishops of Rome. The following list contains links to articles containing much of the known truth about each of them.
1. PETER... No dates were listed, but Roman Catholic scholars realize that Peter probably did not spend enough time to be "bishop of Rome".
2. LINUS (67-76)...He is claimed to be the first to take up the inheritance from Peter, but he is omitted from Tertullian's list. There is a Linus mentioned in the Bible.
3. CLETUS OR ANACLETUS (76-88)...Various lists have him in a different order or as two different people, though there probably was just one.
4. CLEMENT I (88-97)...He is claimed to have turned down the successor role from Peter, and is claimed to be the first Roman leader to abdicate. There was a Clement mentioned in the Bible.
5. EVARISTUS (97-105)...He, like his predecessors, was allegedly in charge while the Apostle John was still alive, but John makes no mention of him or his authority.
6. ALEXANDER I (105-115)... Little is known about him, though it is falsely alleged that "He modified and enlarged the mass, instituted the use of holy water in sacred places and houses".
7. SIXTUS 1 (115-125)...There is a claim, that he wrote two letters about the Godhead, but there is no actual evidence. He may have been involved in the institution of a Sunday Passover.
8. TELESPHORUS (125-136)...It is inaccurately claimed that he "established that on Christmas eve priests could say three masses and he introduced the Gloria in excelsis Deo, which he himself may have composed, at the beginning of the mass", yet Christmas was not observed in Rome until over 200 years after his death. He may have been involved in the institution of a Sunday Passover.
9. HYGINUS (136-140)...He is claimed to have come up with the idea of "godparents". He may have been involved in the institution of a Sunday Passover. The heretic Valentinus appeared by his time.
10. PIUS I (140-155) He was inspired by the ideas of the heretic Justin expressed in the "Dialogo con Trifone". He did observe a Sunday Passover. He was ineffective in stopping the heretic Valentinus.
11. ANICETUS (155-166) Bishop Anicetus (perhaps the first clear "bishop of Rome") was a collaborator with the heretic Justin, and ineffective against the heretics Marcion and Valentinus until Polycarp of Smyrna confronted them. Another heresy, Montanism flourished at his time. He refused to change Passover back to Nisan 14--this was a clear difference between the Roman Church and the church in Asia Minor.
12. SOTER(166-175) Bishop Soter is claimed to have called marriage a sacrament. He is supposedly the one to fix the Sunday date of Passover (though others have been cited for this as well).
13. ELEUTHERIUS (175-189) He allegedly dispensed with the obligations of Christians to follow several dietary laws of biblical origin. He went along with the Sunday date of Passover and decided against publicly opposing the Montanists.
14. VICTOR I(189-199) He was the first Roman bishop to attempt to act like a pope, but was somewhat unsuccessful. He attempted to force those in Asia Minor to accept Roman Passover Sunday tradition over the Bible and the teachings of the apostles. Polycrates, in response, told him "those greater than I have said 'We ought to obey God rather than man'".
15. ZEPHYRINUS (199-217) He was the first bishop publicly accused of accepting bribes (and this was by one now recognized as a saint by Roman Catholics). He refused to condemn the Montanists and seemed to have had a confused view of the Godhead.
16. CALLISTUS (217-222) He is the first bishop known to have been a criminal prior to his election. He was also accused of a variety of corrupt acts, including allowing indulgences and infanticide. He condemned the binitarian view. He only became a Catholic saint after he was later reconciled to that Church (he abdicated his office as well). He died 235 A.D. (almost all the others died on the last year listed past their name).
Source of the Dates: Lopes A. The Popes: The lives of the pontiffs through 2000 years of history. Futura Edizoni, Roma, 1997, pp. 1-6.
It needs to be pointed out that there are many variations in the timeframe of the "reigns" (a Roman Catholic term) of the early listed Roman leaders. Additional information on Rome and its claimed leaders can be found in the article What Does Rome Actually Teach About Early Church History?
The Roman Church (as well as the Orthodox Church) make a big deal about what they term Apostolic Succession. But do they or the properly understand apostolic succession. Here is a new article Apostolic Succession.
05/27/06 a.m. Do you know much about many of the early leaders in the Christian church? The following shows a listing of early male Church leaders who worked and/or lived in Asia Minor and the links are articles about them. Note the dates listed are when they died, not the entire time they were leaders:
Paul through death circa 64-68 (mainly oversaw churches from Asia Minor and Jerusalem, though Paul was imprisoned in Rome)
John through death circa 95-100 (oversaw churches from Ephesus of Asia Minor)
Papias through death circa 135 (oversaw churches from Hierapolis, Polycarp was also in Smyrna at the same time)
Polycarp through death circa 155-156 (oversaw churches from Smyrna of Asia Minor)
Thraseas through death circa 160 (oversaw the churches from Eumenia, but died in Smyrna)
Sagaris through death circa 166-167 (died in Laodicea of Asia Minor)
Papirius through death circa 170 (oversaw churches from Smyrna of Asia Minor)
Melito through death circa 177-180 (oversaw churches from Sardis of Asia Minor)
Polycrates through death circa 200 (oversaw churches from Ephesus of Asia Minor)
Apollonius of Ephesus through death circa 210 (oversaw churches from Ephesus of Asia Minor).
Also here are some related to those who worked and/or lived in Antioch:
Peter Probably the most well known of the apostles.
Ignatius and the Sabbath Many claim he argued against the Sabbath, but did he really?
Theophilus of Antioch Many claim he taught the trinity, but did he
Serapion of Antioch Many claim he held views held by the Orthodox Church, but did he?
What about women? While they did not hold the same type of leadership positions, they did make important contributions to the early church. Here are two articles of possible interest:
Priscilla and Aquila Priscilla knew Paul. And she and her husband served in many ways.
Women and the New Testament Church Many women made many contributions. Early Christianity treated women differently than contemporary Jewish society did.
05/26/06 a.m. Will everyone have an opportunity for salvation?
The Bible clearly shows that everyone will have a chance--one real chance. Those who truly already had their opportunity will be destroyed without this later opportunity (Hebrews 2:3;6:4-5). The only ones who truly had their opportunity in this life and discarded it, have blasphemed the Holy Spirit, the one thing Jesus said would not be forgiven.
Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come (Matthew 12:31-32, see also Hebrews 6:4-6).
Notice that Jesus said that speaking against Him would be forgiven in the age to come--hence hearing the name of Christ and not responding to it IS NOT AN UNPARDONABLE SIN. But blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (who is NOT the third person of a trinity--see article Binitarian View) will not be forgiven.
What would constitute blasphemy against the Holy Spirit?
Hebrew 10:26-27 teaches,
For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries.
So one way would be to become a true Christian and reject that way. Peter noted,
For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them (2 Peter 2:21).
Another way would be truly knowing better, but not acting on it as Jesus noted, "Jesus said to them, "If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you say, 'We see.' Therefore your sin remains" (John 9:41). Note that any sin that remains is NOT sin that is forgiven. And the only sin that is not forgiven is "blasphemy against the Spirit".
Only those who have truly blasphemed the Holy Spirit have had their chance.
It is Not a Second Chance
The Bible is clear that some are called now, and others to be called later--in the age to come (Matthew 12:32). This is the hope of not just physical Israel, but also those who will be called later and to be part of spiritual Israel (Romans 9:6-8). While there may be more than one way to interpret various scriptures, I believe that overall, what Churches of God teach on this subject is consistent with the Bible. Since God is love and intentionally has not called or chosen everyone in this age, then it is clear that He does have a plan for all.
And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made by God to our fathers. To this promise our twelve tribes, earnestly serving God night and day, hope to attain. For this hope's sake, King Agrippa, I am accused by the Jews. Why should it be thought incredible by you that God raises the dead? (Acts 26:6-8).
Or why should it be incredible that God truly has a plan for salvation? There are probably around 350,000,000 nominal Protestants currently alive; and perhaps 10% of those are devout. If one takes the Protestant view to its logical conclusion, then around 6,000,000,000 people currently alive are doomed to burn forever, as well as countless billions throughout history. The Protestant view seems to lead to the conclusion that God will show His love by saving a relatively few Protestants while tormenting the greatest majority of humankind forever. Surely, any thinking Protestant can see the gross error in the traditional Protestant view (interestingly, the Orthodox Church has a position closer to that of the Church of God on this subject).
But I have not ever seen any logical explanation from Protestant scholars on what Jesus meant on these matters, especially related to the expression in the age to come (Matthew 12:32). The Wycliffe Bible Commentary, for example, ignores the expression (see The Wycliffe Bible Commentary, Electronic Database, Matthew 12:31-32. Copyright (c) 1962 by Moody Press), while Matthew Henry's Commentary states:
[2.] What the sentence is that is passed upon it; It shall not be forgiven, neither in this world, nor in the world to come. As in the then present state of the Jewish church, there was no sacrifice of expiation for the soul that sinned presumptuously; so neither under the dispensation of gospel grace, which is often in scripture called the world to come, shall there be any pardon to such as tread underfoot the blood of the covenant, and do despite to the Spirit of grace: there is no cure for a sin so directly against the remedy. It was a rule in our old law, No sanctuary for sacrilege. Or, It shall be forgiven neither now, in the sinner's own conscience, nor in the great day, when the pardon shall be published. Or, this is a sin that exposes the sinner both to temporal and eternal punishment, both to present wrath and the wrath to come (Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible: New Modern Edition, Electronic Database, Matthew 12:22-37. Copyright (c) 1991 by Hendrickson Publishers, Inc.).
The above commentary seems to basically ignore what Jesus was saying. Somewhat like it would rather discuss other portions of the verse.
Catholic scholars, however, believe this expression, which they translate into English as "the World to come" refers to a future time, such as Purgatory:
32. Nor in the World to come.] St. Augustine and other Holy Doctors gather hereupon, that some sins may be remitted in the next life, and consequently prove Purgatory thereby. De Civit. Dei li. 21. c. 18. D. Gregor, Dial. li. 4. c. 19 (Annotations on Matthew 12 in the Rheims New Testament of 1582).
Although we in the Churches of God would disagree with the Roman Catholic concept of Purgatory (and have done so throughout history), this does show that there are biblical scholars who recognize that Jesus was clearly referring to a time in the future where sins can be forgiven. The Eastern Orthodox Church seems to have a similar view.
The above is included in the article Hope of Salvation: How the Church of God Differs from Protestantism.
05/25/06 a.m. The Utah Desert Morning News had this interesting article:
The "Second Coming of Jesus Christ" is a subject often discussed in Christianity. Less often explored, however, are beliefs regarding the period after Christ's return — the "millennium." Webster's Dictionary defines the millennium as "the period of a thousand years during which Satan will be bound and Christ will reign on the earth (Revelation 20:1-5)."
As with many topics, different Christian faiths have separate interpretations on what these 10 centuries following Christ's return to Earth will be like, or if they will exist at all.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a very extensive and explicit belief in the millennium.
Here is a sampling of beliefs from six Christian faiths and one other church on millennial beliefs:
According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, Catholics believe these main points about the millennium:
• "The early return of Christ in all His power and glory.
• The establishment of an earthly kingdom with the just.
• The resuscitation of the deceased saints and their participation in the glorious reign.
• The destruction of the powers hostile to God, and at the end of the kingdom, the universal resurrection with the final judgment, after which the just will enter heaven, while the wicked will be consigned to the eternal fire of hell."
Catholics also believe, according to their Encyclopedia, "The duration of this glorious reign of Christ and His saints on earth is frequently given as one thousand years. Hence it is commonly known as the 'millennium.'
"This term of one thousand years, however, is by no means an essential element of the millennium as conceived by its adherents. The extent, details of the realization, conditions, the place of the millennium were variously described."
The Seventh-day Adventist Church has a different slant of the millennium. Its Web site (www.sdacc.org) says:
"The Millennium and the end of sin: The millennium is the thousand-year reign of Christ with his saints in heaven between the first and second resurrections. During this time the wicked dead will be judged; the earth will be utterly desolate, without living human inhabitants, but occupied by Satan and his angels. At its close Christ with his saints the Holy city will descend from heaven to earth. The unrighteous dead will then be resurrected, and with Satan and his angels will surround the city; but fire from God will consume them and cleanse the earth. The universe will thus be freed of sin and sinners forever."
Jehovah's Witnesses believe that Adam and Eve should not have sinned, that God's plan was for the Garden of Eden state to continue forever. They believe "a new world" is at hand in the millennium.
• Wickedness, warfare, crime and violence will be gone.
• Jehovah's worshippers will live in security.
• Food shortages will not exist.
• The whole earth will become a paradise.
• There will be peace between animals and humans.
• Sickness and disease will vanish.
• Dead loved ones will be restored to life with the prospect of never dying.
The Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod, rejects the idea of a millennium. Since 1932, this Lutheran church has believed this statement from its Web site:
"We reject every type of millennialism, or Chiliasm, the opinions that Christ will return visibly to this earth a thousand years before the end of the world and establish a dominion of the Church over the world; or that before the end of the world the church is to enjoy a season of special prosperity; or that before a general resurrection on Judgment Day a number of departed Christians or martyrs are to be raised again to reign in glory in this world; or that before the end of the world a universal conversion of the Jewish nation (of Israel according to the flesh) will take place.
"Over against this, Scripture clearly teaches, and we teach accordingly, that the kingdom of Christ on earth will remain under the cross until the end of the world . . . that the second visible coming of the Lord will be His final advent, His coming to judge the quick and the dead . . . that there will be but one resurrection of the dead. . . that the time of the Last Day is, and will remain, unknown . . . which would not be the case if the Last Day were to come a thousand years after the beginning of a millennium; and that there will be no general conversion, a conversion en masse, of the Jewish nation."
"United Methodists have varied interpretations and understandings of the second coming of Christ as referenced in scripture," according to beliefs listed on their Web site. "While you would find many who take a literal approach to belief in the second coming, most United Methodists would be uncertain about the meaning of the second coming."
Pastor Steve Goodier of Salt Lake's Christ United Methodist Church said his faith has no official stand on the millennium.
"We tend to focus on the here and now," he said. That means finding love, reconciliation and forgiveness now and not worrying about the future. "Any talk of a 1,000-year rule of Christ on earth in a so-called millennium is pure speculation," Pastor Goodier said.
Still, he said there's room for a diversity of opinion among United Methodist members and they will hold a variety of personal beliefs on subjects such as the millennium or second coming.
For members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the millennium is a return to the earth's paradisiacal glory. In other words, the earth will return to how it was during the Garden of Eden, before the fall of Adam and Eve.
From The Encyclopedia of Mormonism, "Mormon Doctrine" and "Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith," here's a summary of some LDS teachings regarding the millennium:
• The second coming of Jesus Christ will not usher in "the end of the world," but rather "the end of the wicked," as all persons not living at least a terrestrial law will be swept away.
(The "terrestrial" kingdom is the middle of the "Three Degrees of Glory" of LDS doctrine. "Telestial" is lowest and "celestial" is the highest kingdom.)
This means good people of all churches will be left on the earth during the millennium, though everyone must eventually join Christ's true faith or vanish.
• Satan will be bound and will not have to power to tempt.
• Life goes on for those on earth. People will build houses, plant gardens and eat of the fruit of them. However, the "First Resurrection" (of righteous Saints) ushers in the millennium.
• The number of temples will expand. Temple work will be the main activity on earth.
• There will be no weeds, thistles or sickness. All the world's land mass will be joined to one large continent
• Christ and resurrected Saints will govern the earth. However, they will probably not live here, as they are of a celestial order, but will visit often.
• Death as we know it will be gone. People will live to the age of a tree and then be changed from mortality to immortality in the twinkling of an eye.
• Animals will be changed. There will be no more meat-eating and the lamb and lion shall lie down together.
• The "Lost Ten Tribes" and the City of Enoch will return.
• Satan will be loosed at the end of the millennium. He will gather his armies and some men will again deny God before Satan and his hosts are cast out forever.
In contrast, Unitarians believe there will be no millennium http://deseretnews.com/dn/view/0,1249,635204718,00.html
Of course, the true church accepts the biblical teachings about the millennium. An article of related interest may be Did the Early Church Teach Millenarianism?
05/24/06 a.m. In his current newsletter, CBCG's Fred Coulter writes:
Gnosticism Creeps Into the Churches of God. Satan is busy deceiving the whole world, but his primary goal is to deceive the ministers and brethren of Jesus Christ—to cause them to reject the truth of God’s Word, thereby jeopardizing their salvation. One of Satan’s main false doctrines that a number of ministers and brethren have fallen victim to is the belief that there is only “one God” in number. Adherents of this idea proclaim that Jesus was not God before He became the Son of God in the flesh. Satan has used this point of attack since the beginning of the Church in 30 AD—continuing it even into our time. The apostle John countered this false idea by repeatedly declaring the truth about Jesus Christ—Who He was, where He came from and where He was returning to. Refuting the deceivers of his day, John begins his gospel: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and not even one thing that was created came into being without Him. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men…. The true light was that which enlightens everyone who comes into the world. He was in the world, and the world came into being through Him, but the world did not know Him…. And the Word became flesh, and tabernacled among us (and we ourselves beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten with the Father), full of grace and truth” (John 1:1-4, 9-10, 14).
What John wrote is clear and easy to understand. He tells us exactly who Jesus was and is—God and Creator! But deceived men—even supposed ministers of God and brethren of Jesus Christ—refuse to believe these simple, but powerful truths that God inspired John to write. Throughout his gospel, John makes it clear that Jesus came from heaven—and if He came from heaven and existed before the beginning, then Jesus was and is God! Notice John’s emphasis:
• John 3:13. (And no one has ascended into heaven, except He Who came down from heaven, even the Son of man, Who is in heaven.)
• John 3:31. He Who comes from above is above all. The one who is of the earth is earthy, and speaks of the earth. He Who comes from heaven is above all.
• John 6:32-33. Then Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly I say to you, Moses did not give you the bread from heaven; but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is He Who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
• John 6:38. For I did not come down from heaven to do My own will, but the will of Him Who sent Me.
• John 6:41-42. I am the bread that came down from heaven…. Why then does He say, “I came down from heaven”?
• John 6:51. I am the living bread, which came down from heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he shall live forever.
• John 6:57-58. As the living Father has sent Me, and I live by the Father; so also the one who eats Me shall live by Me. This is the bread which came down from heaven.
• John 6:62. What if you shall see the Son of man ascending up where He was before?
• John 8:23-25. And He said to them, “You are from beneath; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. That is why I said to you that you shall die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I AM, you shall die in your sins.” Then they said to Him, “Who are You?” And Jesus said to them, “The one that I said to you from the beginning.”
• John 8:58. Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly I say to you, before Abraham was born, I AM.”
• John 17:4-5. I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work that You gave Me to do. And now, Father, glorify Me with Your own self, with the glory that I had with You before the world existed.
The apostle Paul also made it clear that Jesus was God, Creator of all things, before He became human:
• Phil. 2:5-8. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus; Who, although He existed in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but emptied Himself, and was made in the likeness of men, and took the form of a servant; and being found in the manner of man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
• Col. 1:16-17. Because by Him were all things created, the things in heaven and the things on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether they be thrones, or lordships, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by Him and for Him. And He is before all, and by Him all things subsist.
• I Cor. 15:47. The first man is of the earth—made of dust. The second man is the Lord from heaven.
• I Tim. 3:16. And undeniably, great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh.
• Heb. 1:8-9. Of the Son He says, “Your throne, O God, is into the ages of eternity; a scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom. You loved righteousness and hated lawlessness; because of this, God, even Your God, has anointed You with the oil of gladness above Your companions.”
Again John writes, describing Who Jesus was and is:
• Rev. 1:8. “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the Ending,” says the Lord, “Who is, and Who was, and Who is to come—the Almighty.”
From what John and Paul wrote in these scriptures, there is no question that Jesus was God, Creator of all things. Jesus was with the Father, Who is also God, before He came to the earth. Because some ministers and brethren are not grounded in the Truth of God’s Word as they should be, they have unfortunately fallen victim to clever, Satan-inspired arguments—such as the idea that Jesus did not exist before He was begotten in the womb of the virgin Mary.
The form of "gnosticism" that he is referring to is the tendency of some who were once part of the COG to become unitarian. Several articles of interest may be:
Binitarian View: One God, Two Beings Before the Beginning Is binitarianism the correct position? What about unitarianism or trinitarianism?
Did Early Christians Think the Holy Spirit Was A Separate Person in a Trinity? Or did they have a different view?
Did the True Church Ever Teach a Trinity? Most act like this is so, but is it?
Was Unitarianism the Teaching of the Bible or Early Church? Many, including Jehovah's Witnesses, claim it was, but was it?
Binitarianism: One God, Two Beings Before the Beginning This is a shorter article than the Binitarian View article, but has a little more information on binitarianism.
05/23/06 a.m. The movie version of The Da Vinci Code has been somewhat of a hit at the box office and somewhat of a disappointment for some of its viewers. The movie, of course, was based on the best selling book of the same name.
Here are some interesting comments related to The Da Vinci Code:
The Da Vinci Code: A novel
Factually untrue or highly speculative statements regarding Christian historyPage 232-3: Not factual: "...Constantine shifted [the Christian Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday] to coincide with the pagan's veneration day of the sun." In reality, Constantine merely declared that Sunday was to be a day of rest throughout the entire Roman Empire. Sunday did not formally become the Christian Sabbath until the Church Council of Laodicea circa 364 CE ordered that religious observances were to be conducted on Sunday, not Saturday. Their motivation was largely anti-Judaic. They ruled: "Christians shall not Judaize and be idle on Saturday, but shall work on that day." http://www.religioustolerance.org/davinci3.htm
Sadly, even the above "correction" contains errors. Constantine did more than declare Sunday as a day of rest, he put forth the first Sunday law AND later put out a decree against heretics (which included Christians who continued to observe Saturday). Also, the Council of Laodicea was not even attended by Rome, hence even many in the mainstream would not consider that that Council formally made Sunday the "Christian Sabbath".
Of course, Sunday never was the CHRISTIAN Sabbath, but the day of worship that those who practiced a non-biblical form of religion preferred. Notice though that the above article admits that Sunday motivation was largely anti-Judaic; however The Da Vinci Code is correct that it also had to do with Sun worship (any other day than Saturday would have been fine if this was entirely a change due to antisemetism). Two articles of related interest may be Sabbath and the Early Church and Sunday and Christianity.
UCG's Good News magazine states the following about The Da Vinci Code:
The Da Vinci Code makes many false and outrageous claims. Among them are:
• The world has made a huge mistake in rejecting Mother Earth in favor of Father God.
• The early Christians did not believe Jesus Christ was divine—only that He was merely a great preacher and prophet.
• After the supposed conversion of Roman Emperor Constantine to Christianity, he invented the idea of the deity of Christ to achieve male dominance and the suppression of women.
• It was the Council of Nicaea, which Constantine convened in A.D. 325, that determined which books were to be included in the New Testament.
• This council rejected as many as 80 gnostic gospel accounts of Jesus to suppress the knowledge that Jesus was a feminist, merely mortal and had a sexual partner.
Please be aware that the Bible teaches that there are only two members of the divine God family—God the Father and Jesus Christ—and they are always referred to with the masculine gender. There are no goddesses. One must not make assumptions based on paganism, such as if there is a Father God there must also be a Mother Goddess.
However, The Da Vinci Code does correctly teach that what now passes for mainstream Christianity is NOT the same as true early Christianity. That Sunday, Christmas, and halos are pagan, even if some of the specifics (such as too much credit to Constantine) are somewhat fictionalized. Here are a couple of passages from the book that I found of interest:
In Constantine's day, Rome's official religion was sun worship--the cult of Sol Invictus, or the Invincible Sun--and Constantine was its high priest...By fusing pagan symbols, dates, and rituals into the growing Christian tradition, he created a kind of hybrid religion...
Nothing in Christianity is original. The pre-Christian God Mithras – called the Son of God and the Light of the World – was born on December 25, died, was buried in a rock tomb, and then resurrected in three days. By the way, December 25 is also the birthday of Osiris, Adonis, and Dionysus. The newborn Krishna (of Hinduism) was presented with gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Even Christianity’s weekly holy day was stolen from the pagans...Originally...Christianity honored the Jewish Sabbath of Saturday, but Constantine shifted it to coincide with the pagan’s veneration day of the sun...To this day, most churchgoers attend services on Sunday morning with no idea that they are there on account of the pagan sun god’s weekly tribute – Sunday. (The Da Vinci Code, pages 232-233).
A hybrid of paganism and Christianity, is still pagan. And while The Da Vinci Code contains error, the message that what now passes for Christianity is not the original Christianity as Jesus taught, is correct.
Also I would like to add that The Da Vinci Code does correctly teach (on page 31) that Jesus taught a message of non-violence, yet supporters of the Roman Catholic Church have long used violence to try to suppress the teachings of those they disapprove of. An article of related interest might be Military Service and the COGs.
Speaking of The Da Vinci Code, I do have an article on it titled The Da Vinci Code: Some Good and Lots Bad. Unlike most of the commentary floating around now, this article (of course) comes from a COG perspective of the book.
I originally planned on seeing the movie until I read the book (it is possible that some day I'll see the movie).
05/22/06 a.m. There is a new search engine for the COGwriter website. It is better and faster than the previous one. It will be available at the COGwriter home page and it is also here below:
The COGwriter search currently has a total of 343 indexed pages and more than 30,400 unique and counted keywords. You'll be able to search previous news items and many new articles. Another new feature that you may have noticed is that many of the newer articles will automatically highlight the keywords you searched for using the COGwriter search.
05/21/06 a.m. This an interesting account out of Spain regarding Italy and the movie version of The Da Vinci Code:
"The Da Vinci Code" has broken box office records in Roman Catholic Italy as tens of thousands of Italians ignored Vatican calls to boycott the film. http://www.eitb24.com/portal/eitb24/noticia/en/entertainment/dan-browns-bestseller--da-vinci-code-breaks-italian-box-office-re?itemId=D32339&cl=%2Feitb24%2Fcultura&idioma=en
Over time, however, the Vatican will get the attention of the Italians.
Although he makes a variety of mistakes, the following portions from TPM's W. Dankenbring are correct:
Many people today believe that Herbert W. Armstrong, the founder of the Worldwide Church of God, was the “Elijah” prophesied by Malachi to come in the “last days.” Could this be true? Of course, he died in 1986, some twenty years ago. Much has occurred in the world since that time. His own church has broken up, gone into apostasy, and been divided into hundreds of small groups, churches, cults, and splinter groups...
Many remnants of the Worldwide Church of God think Herbert Armstrong was the end-time “Elijah.” The so-called “Philadelphia Church of God” under Gerald Flurry makes this belief a condition for baptism!
Those truly interested in this subject should read the article The Elijah Heresies. Sadly, though the TPM article spends time on gossip of no real value (attacks HWA on many fronts). W. Dankenbring may wish to read the article 15 Accusations and Truthful Responses About Herbert Armstrong as it dispells many of these rumors. Those wanting to know more about TPM can read the article Teachings of Triumph Prophetic Ministries.
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Volume 10, issue 8 COG writer B. Thiel (c) 2006