"... how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God ... " (I Thessalonians 1:9)
Once every 10 years in the area of Goa in western India, the remains of the 16th Century Spanish Jesuit missionary, Francis Xavier are put on public display. In the next few weeks, hundreds of thousands of people are expected to travel to Goa to see the relics as once again this grisly ritual is enacted. But why? Why the need to see a corpse – very much the worse for wear after its initial burial in 1552 – when those who flock to see it also hold the misguided belief that his 'immortal soul' has long since gone elsewhere?
The answer is that human beings will always tend to concentrate on the physical things they can see before considering anything they perceive as intangible. And the problem is, this proclivity is not confined to Catholicism alone by any means but can be seen across the world in a myriad of different cultures and beliefs. It is very much a human condition — found within all of us — including those of us who are members of the True Church of God!
So great is this human inclination of needing something tangible to focus on, that the second commandment specifically addresses this problem. It is not just: "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth," (Exodus 20:4), as then art in any form would be in danger of breaking this commandment,.
Banning artistry and creativity is not what the second commandment is all about. From the account given in Exodus: "thou shalt make two cherubims of gold, of beaten work shalt thou make them, in the two ends of the mercy seat",(Exodus 25:18) it becomes clear that God is not banning making a likeness. Rather, it is a case of not having any representation — physical or even mental — to bow down to. The NIV puts it a little more clearly... "You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below"(Exodus 20:4) . Because "I the [Eternal] thy God am a jealous God." (Exodus 20:5) When you are bowing before and worshipping a graven image, you are bowing down to a 'limited image.' The image is nothing like the true God at all. Unlike the gods of the pagan nations, who were confined to the hills, the rivers or the plains, our God fills heaven and earth (Jeremiah 23:24). Only the true God do you bow down to, only the true God do you serve; and you serve Him only in the Way that He specifies.
So what 'limited thing' are idol worshippers actually bowing before? They will vehemently claim they are NOT worshipping the physical idol itself. They will claim to use the image merely as a representation of something higher. Catholics who bow before a statue of Mary for example, say they are thinking of 'the spirit of Mary' that they believe is up in heaven, and they very much claim to be focusing on that.
But this still remains paganism! We have all heard of the 'genie in the bottle', where you rub a bottle and out pops a genie that will grant you your three wishes! This concept comes from the pagan idea that associated with a certain object is a spirit that can be invoked to do your bidding. This is what Israel is warned against in the second commandment. Through absorbing the idolatry of the surrounding nations, Israel severely limited God. When they made an idol, believing there was a spirit behind it, they were immediately looking at a limited or restricted being — something that could not even come close to the Eternal God. Hence, "they turned back and tempted God, and limited the Holy One of Israel." (Psalm 78:41)
The true God is not a limited spirit. You cannot confine the true God into a bottle. Or even within our minds. He is not something that is behind an image, not merely a nebulous spirit essence. Yes, He is spirit. He is, in fact, THE Spirit who is "on High." He can do anything because He is God. Abraham was reminded that nothing is too hard for the Eternal. (Genesis 1814). And as God says in Isaiah;
Whatever He says is accomplished. "For he spake and it was ... he commanded and it stood fast" (Psalm 33:9) His Word defines and upholds everything. There cannot be any physical representation of The Source of all that is! To even try is an exercise in futility and would immediately be a mere shadow of the reality.
This problem of focusing on the physical is not confined merely to images and icons. We can also see the same principle clearly illustrated in the way Israel wanted a king. It was The Eternal who had led them out of Egypt in a spectacularly miraculous way, constantly showing His power and protection through multiple miracles and gave them the land promised to their fathers. Yet all this divine leadership was rejected simply because the nation decided it wanted a physical king to lead them — one that could be physically seen and heard
What God then gave them, to teach both them and us today a lesson, was a man after THEIR own heart — a man who was very physically attractive as a leader "whose name was Saul, a handsome young man. There was not a man among the people of Israel more handsome than he, from his shoulders upward he was taller than any of the people." (I Samuel 9:2 RSV) But what they really needed — as God eventually gave them in King David — was a man after GOD'S own heart. And the contrast between the two continues to speak lessons to us all, even today.
It is not as if God does not appreciate this human proclivity. Many times throughout God's dealings with Israel He was asked to provide a physical sign that His word was true — that He would back up His promises — and He did so. In Judges chapter 6, God patiently provided three miracles for Gideon. Hezekiah was granted the miracle of the shadow retreating ten degrees, when he petitioned God in II Kings 20. Multiple times He delivered Israel from their enemies by truly miraculous means, but in spite of these interventions and blessings, Israel it seemed could not stay faithful (Psalm 106). Even King David had his moment of weakness when he put his trust in the number of warriors in Israel, instead of Who really fought for them. (I Chronicles 21)
Yet, to an enquiring and logical mind, the evidence of a magnificent Creator is all around us, and each one of us can look back and clearly see His personal interventions in our individual lives. Hopefully we fall into the category Christ mentioned to Thomas....
When we look at today's leaders the preoccupation with the physical is even more pronounced. We live in the era of the soundbite and photo shoot where politicians will virtually clamber over one another in the quest to present themselves in the best possible light. It almost seems as if the real issues of the day are glossed over to be replaced by a superficial celebrity culture that bears no relation to the real problems we face. But the politicians know how to gain advantage. They know that — regardless of logic — the voters will tend to focus on the physical things they can see rather than grapple with trying to understand the more abstract real issues faced by the country.
This continual preoccupation with gaining votes from a populace with such a superficial morally-debased outlook on life has led to morally-bankrupt politicians promoting policies which are not only bizarre but utterly destructive. The irony is, this has now come to the point that even the president of Russia has been able to justifiably declare the following of us about a year ago:
“Many Euro-Atlantic countries have moved away from their roots, including Christian values,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said in a recent keynote speech. “Policies are being pursued that place on the same level a multi-child family and a same-sex partnership, a faith in God and a belief in Satan. This is the path to degradation.”
In his state of the nation address in mid-December, Mr. Putin also portrayed Russia as a staunch defender of “traditional values” against what he depicted as the morally bankrupt West. Social and religious conservatism, the former KGB officer insisted, is the only way to prevent the world from slipping into “chaotic darkness.”
As part of this defense of “Christian values,” Russia has adopted a law banning “homosexual propaganda” and another that makes it a criminal offense to “insult” the religious sensibilities of believers. (The Washington Times - January 28, 2014 )
The chaos that is happening today within the Western world his been repeated many times before. We live in a culture that is in its last stages of decline having lost its moral footing — largely due to a preoccupation with the physical. The existence of a Creator is rejected by a 'science' that refuses to consider anything outside of what can be touched, tasted, seen, smelt or tested — even though the physical evidence clearly points in a Creator's direction. Such a materialistic approach to everything has led to bizarre aspirations that progress little beyond becoming a more prolific consumer. In such an environment appearance and possessions are king. A very valid description of this end time condition is found in Isaiah:
As is the case for every great civilisation in history we have now passed the point of physical abundance and find a complacency and apathy within a large segment of the electorate that is rapidly accepting a mindless dependence on state handouts. As the following quote explains, this cascade has its roots in leaving the more abstract but very real spiritual values which once built the nation, to have them replaced with nothing more than self-centred physical greed.
A democracy is always temporary in nature; it simply cannot exist as a permanent form of government. A democracy will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover that they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that every democracy will finally collapse due to loose fiscal policy, which is always followed by a dictatorship.
The average age of the world's greatest civilizations from the beginning of history has been about 200 years. During those 200 years, these nations always progressed through the following sequence:
The problem for us within God's church is that we have to live within this world and are therefore inexorably affected by it. As the world moves from apathy to dependence so too the final era of God's church is described as lukewarm and apathetic. We should not be surprised therefore to find the same mindless materialistic attitude within the church – a church described as claiming to be: "rich and increased with goods and having need of nothing" (Revelation 3:17 paraphrased)
But what about us? Are we guilty of putting our faith in physical things? Is the mindless greed behind the chaotic looting currently seen in the town of Ferguson in the US also present — to some degree — within our own hearts? Are we relying on Obamacare or the National Health Service to heal us? Do we look to our bank balance for safety? Our house; our job; our car; our pension? If we do – and in today's society it would be very unusual indeed if we were entirely immune – then we need to listen carefully to what God says to us in Isaiah:
As Mr Armstrong repeatedly pointed out; what we have today is not real Life – but merely a frail temporary physical chemical existence. Whatever we may regard as important in this world is going to pass. "For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind." (Isaiah 65:17) If the analogy that God has given us holds true even to that time, we will remember as much then of today as we remember now of our time in the womb. It's almost as if it never existed.
So why the focus on physical things? Why place importance on what are nothing more than crumbling physical relics? Old bones of an existence that is passing? The answer if we are honest has to be that we too are being affected by this present evil age. We too are merely doing what the world is doing and failing to listen fully to what Jesus Christ reminds us:
In this frenetic and materialistic society, it is vital we take the time to think deeply on our calling and our future. In Hebrews 11 we are given example after example of those who by faith accomplished the will of God in their physical lives. Each of them doing as Moses did – who "endured as seeing him who is invisible", each confessing that they "were strangers and pilgrims on the earth" (Hebrews 11:27,13) and in so doing declaring plainly that they sought the kingdom of God. This frame of mind didn't come by osmosis! They must have meditated, and talked over with others the marvellous goal up ahead. This we too must do, having our focus firmly fixed on the eternity that is to come rather than on the mindless relics of this present evil age, being well aware that not one of us is immune to being overcome by the cares of this life!
As brought out above in the quote attributed to Alexander Fraser Tytler, a society once based on spiritual faith and great courage eventually degenerates over time into apathy and dependence. But God's kingdom is to last for eternity. There will be no degeneracy for "of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end" (Isaiah 9:7) So what will be different? How will the degeneracy found within every known civilisation on this earth be kept at bay for eternity within the kingdom of God?
The answer is that its citizens will be different! So WE must be different — if we are to be there! There will be an entirely different character and focus found within every one of the subjects of God's Kingdom as compared with anything seen today. Each will be a spirit-born child of God with the same mind, outlook and character as his Father and Elder Brother. They will have shown within this life their uncompromising desire to live by God's spiritual law – hungering and thirsting after God's righteousness.
As the apostle Paul tells us, "they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace." (Romans 8:5-6). Truly abundant Life and peace are Spiritual products — vastly different from the preoccupation with the physical found in today's world. It is from the individually converted hearts of God's Sons that undoubtedly a large part of "the increase of his government and peace" will flow — which is why it is important that we keep our focus on the spiritual, as opposed to any crumbling physical relic, and continue to "endure, as seeing him who is invisible".
In December 1969, Mr Armstrong, writing in his ‘Personal’ article in the Plain Truth Magazine, stated:
“I know this may sound incredible, but it’s true. And it’s time the facts were understood! Editors, news-casters, foreign correspondents and reporters do not understand the real meaning of the world news they report, analyse and discuss”
Equally incredible – heads of governments are utterly unaware of the true significance of the world shaking events with which they deal. They have no conception of where these events are leading.” (The Plain Truth - Dec 1969 – Personal)
In October 1978, an article entitled ‘News vs Reality — Reading between the headlines’ was published in the ‘Plain Truth Magazine. This article points out that the Media creates a false reality due to this lack of understanding.
“Our concept of reality is often determined by what someone else says reality is. Nowhere is this more true than in the world of mass-media print and broadcast news journalism. The bulk of our news comes to us secondhand, neatly packaged on the pages of our morning newspapers or from TV. The news that makes it into the public consciousness often does so because somebody determined it was ‘fit to print.’ Only when we understand the message behind the medium can we appreciate that news and reality are often two distinctly different things.” (The Plain Truth - Oct/Nov 1978)
The problem today is that ‘news’ is everywhere. If you ‘Google’ “News” – you get the message: “About 1,040,000,000 results!” Over one billion websites claiming to be sources of news.
Over one billion opinions!
Many differing versions of ‘reality’!
Just 6 gigantic corporations collectively own most of the major mainstream media outlets in the USA – and in much of the rest of the world. News has now been labelled ‘info-tainment’! The people in Britain and America are ‘fed the news’ that the Media owners – and the governments, want them to hear. It would seem that the truth is totally irrelevant!
This becomes very obvious when we look at the situation in the Middle East in general, and the State of Israel in particular. Many leading nations are focused on creating a Palestinian State.
Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu ripped into the French legislature for its upcoming vote on recognizing ‘Palestine’. He asked. “This is what they have to do now when the world is exploding?” (israelnationalnews.com)
Another recent article asked more pertinent questions: ‘Who are the Palestinians?’ and… ‘What and Where is Palestine?’ The truth will surprise many!
“There is a preliminary historical fact that must be established now. There has never been a civilization or a nation referred to as ‘Palestine’ and the very notion of a ‘Palestinian Arab nation’ having ancient attachments to the Holy Land going back to time immemorial is one of the biggest hoaxes ever perpetrated upon the world!
There is not, nor has there ever been, a distinct ‘Palestinian’ culture or language. Further, there has never been a Palestinian state governed BY Arab Palestinians in history, nor was there ever a serious Arab-Palestinian national movement until 1964… three years before the Arabs of ‘Palestine’ lost the ‘West Bank’ and Gaza as a result of losing the 1967 Six-Day War (which the Arabs started).
Before the 1967 war, the Palestine Liberation Organization’s primary goal was to destroy Israel. Post-1967, their goal became two-tracked: Either (1) destroy Israel outright (the same pre-1967 goal) or (2) the creation of an Arab-Palestinian state to be used as a launching pad from which to destroy Israel.
Different strategies - same ultimate goal… a State not along side Israel, but in place of Israel. It’s really that simple!” (newswithviews.com)
“This myth of Jerusalem as Islam’s third holiest city based upon the mythical ascension of Mohammed from Al-Aksa to Heaven has grown exponentially in the recent telling since 1967. When you tell a Big Lie and repeat it often, it achieves credibility and legs of its own. In Islam, telling a lie to infidels for the sake of enlarging your own believers’ faith or defeating the infidel is acceptable, even desirable.” (emetnews.org)
A quick trip through history reveals some startling truths which, if reported correctly by the media, would totally destroy the connection between Islam and Jerusalem, and Islam and the Temple Mount!
Today, the Muslims claim that the Jewish Temple did not exist. Yet in a 16-page 1925 booklet in English published by the "Supreme Moslem Council" and titled A Brief Guide to Al-Haram Al-Sharif, Jerusalem contains a passage that directly endorses the Jewish connection to the Temple Mount. On page 4, the guide discusses the location of the Temple Mount:
“The site is one of the oldest in the world. Its sanctity dates from the earliest (perhaps from pre-historic) times. Its identity with the site of Solomon’s temple is beyond dispute. This, too, is the spot, according to the universal belief, on which ‘David built there an altar unto the Lord, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings’.” (emetnews.org)
“Despite Arafat’s claim that there was no Jewish Temple, the Romans memorialized their capture of the Jews and their Temple in 70 C.E. by carving it in stone .” (eretzyisroel.org)
Here are a few reports from people who visited Jerusalem – from 1611–1867. They report little evidence of Muslim occupation.
“Innumerable reports during these centuries from Western pilgrims, tourists, and diplomats in Jerusalem told of the city’s execrable condition.
George Sandys in 1611 found that ‘Much lies waste; the old buildings (except a few) all ruined, the new contemptible.’
Constantin Volney, one of the most scientific of observers, noted in 1784 Jerusalem’s ‘destroyed walls, its debris-filled moat, its city circuit choked with ruins.’
‘What desolation and misery!’ wrote Chateaubriand.
Gustav Flaubert of Madame Bovary fame visited in 1850 and found ‘ Ruins everywhere, and everywhere the odour of graves. It seems as if the Lord’s curse hovers over the city. The Holy City of three religions is rotting away from boredom, desertion, and neglect. ’
‘Hapless are the favorites of heaven,’ commented Herman Melville in 1857.
Mark Twain in 1867 found that Jerusalem ‘has lost all its ancient grandeur, and is become a pauper village.’
The British government recognized the minimal Muslim interest in Jerusalem during World War I. In negotiations with Sharif Husayn of Mecca in 1915-16 over the terms of the Arab revolt against the Ottomans, London decided not to include Jerusalem in territories to be assigned to the Arabs because, as the chief British negotiator, Henry McMahon, put it, ‘there was no place … of sufficient importance … further south’ of Damascus ‘to which the Arabs attached vital importance’.” (danielpipes.org)
Dr Manfred R Lehmann wrote the following article in August, 1994.
“Jerusalem’s role as ‘The Third Holiest Site in Islam’ in mainstream Islamic writings does not precede the 1930s. It was created by the Grand Mufti, Haj Amin al Husseini. The Mufti knew that nationalist slogans alone would not succeed in uniting the masses against arriving Jewish refugees. He therefore turned the struggle into a religious conflict. He addressed the masses clearly, calling for a holy war.
“Interestingly, Islamic sources from the first 50 years or so after Muhammad’s death make clear that Jerusalem had absolutely no holy status for Muslims.” (gatestoneinstitute.org)
His battle cry was simple and comprehensive: ‘Down with the Infidels!’ From the time Herbert Samuel appointed him to the position of Mufti, Haj Amin worked vigorously to raise Jerusalem’s status as an Islamic holy center. He renovated the mosques on the Temple Mount, while conducting an unceasing campaign regarding the imminent Jewish ‘threat’ to Moslem holy sites.
In the days of Mohammed, who died in 632 of the Common Era, Jerusalem was a Christian city within the Byzantine Empire. Jerusalem was captured by Khalif Omar only in 638, six years after Mohammed’s death. Throughout all this time there were only churches in Jerusalem, and a church stood on the Temple Mount, called the Church of Saint Mary of Justinian, built in the Byzantine architectural style.
The Aksa Mosque was built 20 years after the Dome of the Rock, which was built in 691-692 by Khalif Abd El Malik. The name ‘Omar Mosque’ is therefore false. In or around 711, or about 80 years after Mohammed died, Malik’s son, Abd El-Wahd - who ruled from 705-715 - reconstructed the Christian Byzantine Church of St Mary and converted it into a mosque.
He left the structure as it was, a typical Byzantine ‘basilica’ structure with a row of pillars on either side of the rectangular ‘ship’ in the center. All he added was an onion-like dome on top of the building to make it look like a mosque. He then named it el-Aksa, so it would sound like the one mentioned in the Koran.
Therefore it is crystal clear that Mohammed could never have had this mosque in mind when he compiled the Koran, since it did not exist for another three generations after his death.
Rather, as many scholars long ago established, it is logical that Mohammed intended the mosque in Mecca as the ‘Sacred Mosque,’ and the mosque in Medina as the ‘Furthest Mosque.’ So much for the Moslim claim based on the Aksa mosque.” (eretzyisroel.org)
News and reality ARE often two distinctly different things’ – and this is a real problem for those searching for the truth. The Media does not understand what is going on in the world… they have no real understanding of where these events are leading. The reality which they have created is totally false!
“Arab/Muslim claims on the ‘Holy Land’ is ‘one of the biggest hoaxes ever perpetrated upon the world!’”
“There is not, nor has there ever been, a distinct ‘Palestinian’ culture or language.”
“Jerusalem’s role as ‘The Third Holiest Site in Islam’ in mainstream Islamic writings does not precede the 1930s.”
“Mohammed could never have had this mosque in mind when he compiled the Koran, since it did not exist for another three generations after his death.”
The Media totally ignore the historical facts because the facts do not agree with the reality which they have created.
With the understanding of the Knowledge of God which God’s people have, these facts confirm the scripture. In Revelation 12:9 we are told that Satan has deceived the whole world. What we see happening in the world today is the fruit of that deception.
To show that the message to God’s people has not changed, what follows is another part of the article from the Plain Truth Magazine, published over 35 years ago.
“The problem with news analysis today is that it ignores the revealed truth of God’s Word. The really important events of our time are often ignored or misinterpreted. Real understanding of what is going on in the world is lacking.
Jesus Christ once sternly told the Pharisees: ‘0 ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times?’ (Matt. 16:3.) How like our news reports today which concentrate on weather forecasting, or celebrities, but provide precious little in the way of coherent, orderly understanding of world events.
Real understanding of trends and events demands that we look at things from God’s viewpoint. That viewpoint is revealed in the Bible, and it systematically shows how God is working out His great purpose for mankind. The record of how God intends to do that is contained in Bible prophecy. Since the plan of God means everything to your eternal future, events which bear on that plan are the most important of events. But they are woefully neglected in the secular news media.
In terms of His plan for mankind, the thing uppermost in God’s mind is the restoration of the government of God to the earth. That government will be restored after a series of prophesied events, which are laid out in general time order in certain key chapters of the Bible. Thus everything which we report in The Plain Truth seeks to relate current world conditions with prophesied events of the Bible. In fact, The Plain Truth is like the watchman of Ezekiel 33, whose God-given duty it was to warn the people of approaching trouble when he saw it coming.
As our Editor, Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong, has directed, it is the charge of The Plain Truth to ‘cull out from the vast labyrinths of world news, and from the Bible, the real meaning behind these happenings — sifting out from the flood of nonessential, nonsensical and irrelevant so-called news of murders, divorces, scandals, politics, and social happenings, the significant items bearing on fulfilled prophecy.’
Those items are important because they signify both approaching trouble and the eventual restoration of the government of God. Furthermore, by watching world news with an eye to how events fit Bible prophecy, we get our minds off the petty, mundane, trivial everyday events which take up so much space in the modern media, and onto the things of God.
Unless we remain alert, the traumatic events foretold in Bible prophecy may catch us unprepared. We do not know the day or the hour of Christ’s return (Matthew 24:42-44). Therefore we must have our minds on the coming of Christ and the prophesied events leading up to that coming. Unless we are alert to the potential for fulfilled prophecy, there is a danger of neglecting the things of God altogether.
Christ put it plainly when He said, after enumerating a grisly series of events to befall the world: ‘And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares … Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man’ (Luke 21:34-36).” (The Plain Truth - Oct/Nov 1978)
See also After 2,550 Years… Jews Are A Nation Again! …Prophecy Fulfilled? for more details.
by Mr Armstrong
World Government - part 3
broadcast 1980s - played UK 22 Nov 2014
|"... and once again I do mean GOOD news - because we are going to have utopia believe it or not. We're going to have a Millennium. We're going to have world peace ..." (4.2 Mb)|
by Jon Bowles
Sex and Violence
given Wales UK 22 Nov 2014
|Martin Luther called James "an epistle of straw" yet when read correctly the book of James is exceedingly profound. It applies God's Law in three ways: physically, spiritually and religiously - including its treatment of adultery and murder: more aptly described in today's media as sex and violence! (10.2 Mb)|