November 2019 Member Letter
November 7, 2019
I truly hope you had a wonderful Feast! From all the reports I have received, it was an outstanding year. When all the attendance numbers are tabulated, I believe it will be our highest-attended Feast since COGWA began in December of 2010. In the U.S. the two holy day offerings during the Feast and the Last Great Day were very encouraging, with a substantial increase of 12 percent over 2018.
Leaving the world behind for eight days was a wonderful experience, especially when we consider the state of the world today. The prophecy of “wars and rumors of wars” (Matthew 24:6) has never been more applicable in our lifetime than it is today. And when we combine this with horrendous storms, fires and earthquakes, we continually witness the loss of many innocent lives. The political division that exists in so many countries around the world is disheartening, casting doubt on the future of even some of the wealthiest nations on earth. The situation in the Middle East continues to heat up and will no doubt boil over into more violence in the weeks and months ahead. All of this points to the time referred to in prophecy as the end of the age (verse 3).
While the world is becoming a dark place, filled with violence and chaos, we do not believe that we should be setting dates for the return of Jesus Christ and the fulfillment of the final four festivals that we recently experienced (Trumpets, Atonement, Tabernacles and the Last Great Day). Instead, we are told to “watch” these world events as they unfold (Matthew 24:42; 25:13; Mark 13:33, 37; Luke 21:36). We must do this, so we are not taken by surprise.
On a regular basis I receive messages from self-proclaimed prophets announcing a date for the return of Christ. I received one right after the Feast this year. This “prophet” predicted that Christ will return in 2026. He based that date on a convoluted calculation using 19-year time cycles and a period of 40 years since the death of Herbert Armstrong. While I am sure it made sense to him, I could find no logic or biblical support for his reasoning. It is true that 19-year time cycles exist and are used in calendar calculations, and it is also true that 2026 will mark 40 years since Mr. Armstrong died in 1986, but there is no scriptural evidence tying any of these time periods to the return of Jesus Christ.
Spending our time speculating endlessly about the date for the return of Christ can be distracting and can cause us to lose sight of what is truly important and the real lessons from this year’s Feast. The Feast of Tabernacles and the Last Great Day should reset our focus to our No. 1 priority—seeking “first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33). The date of Christ’s return is in God’s hands; the focus of our time and attention is in our hands.
In the world today there are 2.3 billion people who profess Christianity (but are deeply divided in their beliefs), 1.8 billion who follow Islam, and over 1 billion who are Hindus. These are the world’s three major religions, and none has a real answer for the billions of human beings who have lived since the time of Adam and never knew the true God. Are they lost? Will they be given some sort of special dispensation, only being required to be “good” people? Can one be a good person and worship an idol or a false Jesus and still be given eternal life in the Kingdom of God? If that is true, then it surely cheapens the truth of God. It makes one ask, what value is the truth if one only needs to be a good person and have “good works”?
Good works are certainly important for every Christian, but so is the truth, which is revealed in God’s Word and includes a knowledge of His plan for mankind. I believe that one of our greatest challenges going forward, one on which we must focus, is holding fast to the truth that has been delivered to us. We read as much in the book of Jude: “Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3). Faith is described as both a fruit of God’s Holy Spirit and a body of beliefs.
The Bible is clear that it is the truth that separates us from the world. Notice the following: We must worship God in spirit and in truth (John 4:23-24); the truth shall make us free (John 8:32); Christ said He was the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6); the Holy Spirit is called the Spirit of truth (John 14:17); we are sanctified (set apart) by the truth (John 17:17); Paul admonished the Corinthians to keep the feast in sincerity and truth (1 Corinthians 5:8); we cannot be saved without a love for the truth (2 Thessalonians 2:10); God desires all men to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4); and John writes that he had no greater joy than knowing his children walked in the truth (3 John 1:4). These are only a few of the admonitions emphasizing the importance of the truth.
Each year as I begin my Foundation Institute classes on the fundamental beliefs of the Church, I ask a basic question: Which is more important, what you believe or how you act? Of course, this is really a trick question. The true answer is that both are equally important. It is possible both to be a good person but not know the truth and to know the truth but not be a good person. Neither, by itself, is complete according to Scripture. We must worship God in spirit (sincerely) and in truth. The word used here is “must.” God expects nothing less from us.
Our challenge as Christians is to hold to the truth that we have been given by God. While human beings are used as instruments to introduce us to the truth, God the Father is the One who calls us to the truth (John 6:44) and sanctifies us in the truth (John 17:17). The Feast of Tabernacles and the Last Great Day remind us each year of God’s great plan for all mankind. We must always be willing to grow in our understanding of the truth, but that does not include abandoning any part of the truth.
We were all reminded of this once again this year as we rehearsed the meaning of the Last Great Day. What an encouraging and powerful statement it makes! I hope we all felt the same way and have returned from the Feast rejuvenated to live the truth in our personal lives, to support the preaching of that truth to the entire world, and to focus our attention on the Kingdom of God and His righteousness!
Sincerely, your brother in Christ,