Volume 14, Number 2, November-December 2010
“Thief on Cross” not in Heaven
Letter: July 22, 2010
Hello to all the Friends and thanks for sharing your knowledge on new discoveries from the Bible that you make. I’ve got a new one about the thief on the “cross” or stake as we know it. He couldn’t be in paradise [on the same day he died] back then, three days ahead of our Savior, as that would have him preempting Christ who was the official first born of many brethren.
— T.M., Clay, Alabama
Response: That is an excellent point! You are certainly referring to this verse:
And Jesus said to him, "Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise" (Luke 23:43 ).
To many people, this means that the man “went to heaven” that day. But as you point out, Christ was not in heaven until he rose three days later (John 20:1, 17). And He is the firstborn among many brethren (Acts 26:23; Rom 8:29; Col 1:18).
Punctuation is not in the original Greek text and must be added by translators, so the above verse should have its comma one word later: “...I say to you today, you will be with Me in Paradise....” There are many other scriptures that show that even the most faithful to God are dead, awaiting a resurrection (Matt 22:23-33; John 5:28-29; Acts 2:34; Heb 11:13, 39-40; 1Thes 4:16-17).
Write this Man Childless
Letter: March, 2010
Could you explain this difficult scripture? Jeremiah is given a prophecy about Jehoiachin [also “Jeconiah” or “Coniah”], to “write this man childless” (Jer 22:28-30). But 1Chronicles 3:16-24 gives lots of descendants of Jehoiakim. How can this be?
Response: In chapters 22 and 36 the book Jeremiah records the Eternal's Word concerning three kings of Judah, two sons and a grandson of righteous Josiah. These kings were not righteous and the Eternal pronounced various evil judgments on each of them. According to Jeremiah 22:11-12 Shallum (or Jehoahaz) would be taken captive to a foreign land, never to see the land of Judah again, and die there. Jehoahaz had reigned only three months after his father Josiah was killed at Megiddo when Pharaoh Neco took him in chains to Egypt where he died. (2Kngs 23:28-34)
Jehoiakim (or Eliakim), another son of Josiah, was appointed by Neco and ruled for 11 years. He was to be unmourned at his death and apparently his dead body was simply dragged outside Jerusalem and not buried for at least a few days, and even then not given an honorable burial. (2Kngs 23:34-24:6) But also according to Jeremiah 36:30, "He shall have no one to sit on the throne of David."
Apparently the people did not know this prophecy or ignored it, because Jehoiakim's son, Jehoiachin became king after him. Perhaps Jeremiah delivered this prophecy concerning Jehoiakim, just before Nebuchadnezzar came up against Jerusalem the second time. But only three months after Jehoiakim died, the Eternal sent the army of Nebuchadnezzar to besiege Jerusalem and Jehoiachin surrendered to the king of Babylon. Jehoiachin and the whole royal household and many more Judeans were taken captive to Babylon in March of 597 B.C. (2Kngs 24:6-16).
Jeremiah 22:26-27 says Jehoiachin would never return to Judah. He did eventually die in Babylon, but after many years Evil-Merodach, king of Babylon did release him from prison and gave him a daily ration for the remainder of his life. (2Kngs 25:27-30) Concerning Jehoiachin Jeremiah says
“Thus says the LORD: ‘Write this man down as childless, A man who shall not prosper in his days; For none of his descendants shall prosper, Sitting on the throne of David, And ruling anymore in Judah’” (Jer 22:30, NKJV).
This verse does not say Jehoiachin would have no children, but that none of them would ever sit on David's throne in Judah. I Chronicles 3:17-24 records Jehoiachin's descendants for several generations. No descendant of Jehoiakim or Jehoiachin has ever ruled over Judah on the throne of David since that time. There was one more king of Judah before Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Jerusalem in 586 B.C.; but he was Jehoiachin's uncle, Zedekiah (or Mattaniah). (2Kngs 24:34-37) When one considers that the line of Judah was unbroken all the way back to King David, that is a significant prophecy!
But that is not quite the end of the story. Jehoiachin became an ancestor of Joseph the husband of Miriam (Mary) the mother of Christ (Matt 1:12-16). Yahshua, of course, was prophesied to become the king of the house of Judah and sit on David's throne, but Joseph was not His literal father so the prophecy concerning Jehoiachin was not broken. Mary was impregnated with Yahshua by His heavenly Father through Holy Spirit.
Matthew 1:16 states that the name of Joseph's father was Jacob, however Luke 23:23 says Joseph was the son of Heli. Were Heli and Jacob the same person? Probably not, since the two genealogies are entirely different from David to Joseph. Some scholar's believe Luke records Mary's line and therefore Joseph was Heli's son-in-law. The ESV Study Bible in a footnote to Luke's genealogy adds the possibility “that there were no male heirs in the family [Mary's], so Heli adopted Joseph as his ‘son’ when Mary and Joseph were married.” All the Eternal’s prophesies through Jeremiah concerning these three Kings of Judah have been fulfilled.
—William A Buckman for SN
Admonishment on Debt and Asking for Money
Letter: Jan 10, 2009
In the last 4 or 5 years we received two Servants’ News, both asking for financial support for realizing your personal dream concerning PABC ahead of your primary responsibility for your family.
If your situation had occurred in Biblical times, which you refer to frequently to support your views, you and your family would have been sold into slavery until the debt was paid.
You are sounding more and more like your mentor H.W.A. who had the uncanny knack for making people feel guilty and condemning them for not supporting “God’s work“. Also, for using and abusing scriptures which support your dream and ignoring many scriptures admonishing your actions. I believe you should put your name on the top of the list of people who met with serious trials after refusing your request for financial support (page 52 July-Aug. 08). And you have the audacity to imply that if they are not willing to give up all they have to “you”, they can’t be Christ’s disciples. This smacks of all offshoot ministries of WWCG as well as proclivity to label their every endeavor to be “of God”.
We enclose a check payable to Marleen for the support of the family as she sees fit, but definitely not to be put in the black hole of PABC.
We hope you will be able to get yourself out of this mess and get your family back together.
— [withheld], Canada
Response: Thank you very much for writing this letter. Several others have written or called expressing similar views. Many others have simply stopped talking to us. “Better is open rebuke than hidden love” (Prov 27:5).
There are many things in regard to the PABC ministry that I would do differently now. Other things I am still not sure about. I believe that the Eternal has a purpose for me here, and that it would have been wrong to give up and leave when others opposed the project. However, I did not seek a clear revelation from the Eternal that he wanted me to go into debt to keep going. If I had trust and close contact with Him, He may have done it another way. I am actually looking forward to the Judgment in regard to this point. Even if I find out I was all wrong, I want to know His answer!
Let me briefly respond to some of the points in your letter:
Prioritizing one’s ministry and family is a complex issue that requires seeking God with fasting and prayer. There are scriptures on both sides of the issue. Here are just two:
But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever (1Tim 5:8).
"If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:26-27).
I believe God has blessed us in that our four children have all been supporting themselves for years . My wife has been able to work, as well as receive additional support from kind individuals like yourselves. She is in complete control of everything she receives, I do not even know what it is. We still want to end our debt as quickly as possible, but we are now at peace with each other in this trial.
The Bible certainly teaches that a man or his family can be sold as a slave for their debts (Ex 21:7; 22:3; Lev 25:39). But I am amazed at how many people apply the Scriptures designed to hold the poor accountable while ignoring the scriptures that help the poor and hold the rich accountable. To say that in Bible times I could be sold for my debt is true, but to say I would be sold into slavery until the debt is paid is false for several reasons.
1) The sale was not automatic, the creditor could decide to have mercy (Matt 18:22-35). As it is now, there are people who could foreclose on the PABC property, but they have decided not to do so.
2) All debts are forgiven and slaves set free in the Year of Release, every seven years (Ex 21:2; Deut 15:1-12). If a debt was too large to pay, they go free anyway. There would have been a year of release sometime between 2004, when this started, and now. Our country’s equivalent of this law is to file for bankruptcy or wait for statutes of limitation to run on debts, but I am amazed at how many Christians think that it is wrong to use these laws that are somewhat close to what God decreed.
3) If the land of our nation were equally divided among the people (Num 26:55; Ezk 45:1; 47:22; 48:29) and redivided every Jubilee year (Lev 25), I would have received a substantial inheritance when my parents passed away in 2009, which could have easily paid my debts. But our nation does not do this, and 2% of our nation owns over 80% of the land.
4) In biblical times, I might have been able to obtain a fair hearing with the other men who at one time promised to help then turned against me on the project. This may have avoided the debts.
While I intellectually stopped considering HWA a mentor over 17 years ago, I agree with you that there are still things that I learned from his Church organization inside me. I read over some of my old writings, and I agree that I was trying to stir people up in a human way to take action, which, as you say, is trying to make them feel guilty. Others have pointed this out to me as well. I do not believe I said anything untrue or claimed that people need to “give everything to me”. The issue you refer to clearly says:
This does not mean that God is requiring anyone to give anything to this ministry. But everyone who calls themselves His disciple needs to think about what they are willing to give up for Him, and how much they are trusting him to satisfy their needs (Phil 4:19).
While the willingness to give everything to Christ is a true statement repeated often in Scripture, writing the above statements, just after an emotional story of suffering and difficulty can be considered an effort to manipulate people. I will try not to do this again.
Rereading that SN issue, I see I was more panicky then—worried about all the debt and how it would be taken care of. I think I have grown in faith now, and realize that if God wants this work done, He will provide the means. And if He does not, then we can leave it to somewhere else and be done with this.
I also realize that I should provide accurate information about this ministry, but not try to convince others that this work is of God. If God does not make that clear to them, then they should not be involved in it anyway.
The Bible teaches a person to ask for help if he is poor (Deut 15:7-11), as I certainly am now. But does that mean I should only ask for myself, and give up the efforts to help others? Maybe so. David was leading 400 men one time who were “in distress or in debt or discontented” (1Sam 22:2). They were so poor that they had to ask Nabal for food (1Sam 25). Nabal thought David should just go back to Saul (1Sam 25:10). But David continued his mission. David probably relied on help from others, because when he finally received the major spoil of Ziklag, he sent some of it to his friends where he had stayed in 13 different cities (1Sam 30:26-31).
We are, as you suggest, getting out of the mess. We have been gradually paying off debt, finding ways to reduce expenses, and developing a broader base of funding..
I want to apologize for the mistakes and causing guilt in the past, and continue this ministry in a Godly manner. Thank you again for helping my family.
CoG’s and Divine Revelation
The Church (or whoever is doing the Work at that time) is almost certainly going to need inspired dreams or visions to know what it must do before the tribulation.
Response: I agree. That was the way in the New Testament. Prophets still spoke things, the Holy Spirit spoke to people. I wrote about this in How Does the Eternal Govern Through Humans? in 1995, updated 3 more times since then:
Letter: I don’t see God moving decisively in any church organizations today. That is not to say miracles aren’t occurring at the level of individuals.
Response: II agree there. The big church groups do not seek dreams, visions or miraculous intervention, and are indeed very suspicious of anyone who does seek it or claim it. As far as I know, the LCG still teaches that they will have divine miracles to show them when it is time to flee to a place of safety. (I know of one sporadically attending member who was told that they might not receive the phone call to go if they don’t attend more regularly.) The leaders and members ought to wonder about why they are so sure that they would have divine revelation then when they do not seem to have any now.|
I do think that individuals receive miracles. I will e-mail you a copy of the dream that helped me understand what to do when all these problems became clear to me.
Letter: You may have heard of another so-called “crisis” in UCG (there’s a Facebook page). Clyde Kilough, Jim Franks, and Larry Salyer were recently forced out of their positions of leadership.
It’s hard to know who are the bad guys, if any, in this but the cause—I believe— is a sense of drift, that the church isn’t doing enough to preach the gospel. It’s hard to see the finger of God in much of what United has done the last few years.
Some are content to rely on the internet, while there are many who want to see a return to radio and TV.
Response: II read the UCG facebook page and it is difficult to figure out good/bad guys. Sometimes it seems both are trying to do good, but disagree on how. Other times, some people are clearly looking out for their own interests (promote the church action most likely to give them nice, long-lasting jobs). And other times, it seems like there are no good guys.
Letter: The problem is, that UCG’s income is limited, and they really can’t afford, in my opinion, to divide their forces, so to speak. A half-hearted, under-funded effort in tv is just going to take money away from literature and the internet.
Response: II actually don’t think the problem is limited income, but the lack of faith and dedication to serve God first and wait for him to provide (Matt ). The NT has no example of a work that was not done for lack of funds, but it does have examples of where people started it with nothing (Matt 10:9; Luke 10; Acts 8:26-27,40). When HWA started his radio and TV ministries, he often spent everything he had to get one program on the air and relied on God to bless it to pay for the next one. The UCG could take a grow-our-own-asking-for-God’s-blessing approach, rather than a big money approach. They have people like Howard Davis and Jamie Schreiber who have skill and a passion for doing it. In my mind, the question is, can they do a job that God wants done? I somehow do not think money is the main issue. But to get a snazzy TV program without God’s inspiration, yes it will probably take lots of money.
Letter: Most infamously (and this occurred before the so-called “stalemate” caused by Kilough, Franks, and Salyer), UCG tendered an agreement- and forking over a considerable amount of cash - for a new headquarters property in the Dallas area, then decided to let the GCE vote on the matter. The GCE of course voted against relocating headquarters.
Where was God in all this?
Response: Yes, very similar to the GCG vote-out their former leader then the LCB needing to rewrite all their booklets and redo all their programs. I would hope that the members would wake up and realize that they certainly are not in “the one” or “the privileged” group that God is using. I would hope that ministry and member alike would realize that we will all stand before the judgment seat of Christ individually (Rom ; 2Cor ). It will not be enough to say, “I was a member of the good church.”
Letter: You might have heard that UCG has been considering instituting the taking of lots to decide some matters. But to rely on lots takes absolute faith that God is behind such a potentially random outcome, and Christ did ask if He would find faith on this earth when He returns.
Response: II did not know that, but I wrote about it in the attached paper. I think it does show faith, but as the paper says, if you are going to do that, one should be willing to live with any possible outcome. I have done this a couple of times over less important issues. One time, when I was praying for direction, I numbered 30 pennies and put them in a bottle, then wrote about 30 things down that I thought I should do. One of them was “stop casting lots”. I and my son Josh prayed for God to guide the casting, and the first lot out of the bottle was the number for “stop casting lots”. I did not let any more lots out of the bottle. I have only cast lots for very minor things since.
Letter: What would God be saying to UCG right now about how they should spend their money? I wish someone, male or female, minister or ordinary member, would have some inspired dreams and make them known. That would be great, wouldn’t it?
Response: Yes, and maybe not as much as you think. The people of the Old Testament knew who God’s prophets were and believed they represented God, but they did not want to listen to them (1Ki 22). I would guess that if we had clear prophecy of God from someone, the religious leaders of today (in nearly all church organizations) would resist it much like the Pharisees and other leaders of Jesus’ day. It was not a Jewish problem they had, but a “religious leaders think they own God” problem. People simply find something that Jesus (or his followers) did that they think is wrong, and use that to condemn them (Matt 7:5; ; 26:65; John 8:41; Acts 16:20-21; 17:6).
After 15 years of living on offerings, as well as consuming all my other assets in the process, most objective people who have heard major parts of the story consider it miraculous. God has sent the people I needed, even when I didn’t know I needed them. There have been dozens of times when I had hundreds or thousands of dollars due in a few days—even tomorrow—and did not know where it was going to come from but it did. We survived a fire set in our home, multiple lawsuits, and other difficulties. I have received dreams which guided my life, and others have reasonably agreed that they came to pass as interpreted. But many of the people who know these things still find something else they don’t think God would do (not a sin) and decide that God must not be working here.
I do not say these things because I think I am a prophet or some great one—I think my role in God’s plan effects only a few hundred people greatly and maybe a few thousand people to a limited degree. I would say to the big groups that the apparent lack of miraculous guidance is not an unwillingness on God’s part—I feel I have sought it and received it—and I know others who have as well. I just think that if the UCG received divine guidance from God, it would be so different than what many are expecting that they would reject it. I think God leaves people blind to what He is doing so that they will not have as much sin attributed to them (John 9:41).
Letter: Of course, God may not have anything to say to UCG. This organization has been adrift, in my opinion, from its formative days. It has fulfilled one purpose, acting as a refugee camp for thousands of disheartened former members of WCG, something none of the other ex-CoGs have been able to do.
I think it has done a good job of that—though I think people have also been
happy with that in the LCG, CGI, Church of God Outreach Ministries and even
Letter: If God is more pleased with what David Hulme or Meredith is doing, revealing it via dreams / visions would be a galvanizing event.
Response: It would be wonderful for people like you who are really seeking God. But I am not sure how many of the leaders would find it galvanizing if the dreams did not point to them. I hope many would accept it, but I don’t know. I think God does answer individuals who seek him, though. The promises of His direction and Spirit are to all believers, not to just leaders. The New Testament contains no statements forbidding a believer to do something because he was not “ordained” or of some specific rank or spiritual gift. When Apollos started preaching, he did not even understand baptism, but a husband and wife pair did not tell him to get credentialed from the apostles first, but gave him more understanding and sent him on his way (Acts 18:24-26). God doesn’t always answer right away, but certainly does over time (Jer 29:13).
Letter: The problem with all these organizations is that one way or the other they are functioning like churches run by men, and not God.
Letter: Did you know that members of UCG are not welcome at Hulme’s church services, and that the word has come down that family members of his church should limit correspondence with those who are not members? This despite the fact there is virtually no difference in the doctrines that are taught.
[personal section deleted]
Response: Not surprising. Flurry was encouraging his followers to divorce spouses that don’t believe—and I know at least one who did—it devastated the family. It seems that much of organized religion involves people paying money and pledging their loyalty in exchange for church leaders telling them they are the people who will go into the Kingdom, place of Safety, Heaven or wherever.
I need to go now. I have enjoyed writing this. I hope you will share your thoughts on it. May God bless you in the decisions you are making.
by Norman Edwards
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