Last night my family and I arrived home after a long drive, and early this morning I had to drive my son to work. As we were driving through town it was eerie and calm. The “school zone” light was blinking, but there were no children and no cars on the road, and I said, “Wow, it’s creepy! Like some sort of ghost town.” He responded, “Yeah, I wonder why it’s like this?” We half-jokingly speculated that everyone knew something we didn’t, considering biohazard accidents and the rest.
Then it hit us: Oh, yeah! It’s Christmas!
Actually, the whole reason I was even taking him to work is because his employer is in our Church and he, too, was working. Today Boy #1 was apparently going to be helping to clean up after a little local flooding from some rains this weekend.
It aided our ignorance that we were on the road for ten hours last night, coming in a bit late. The fact that it was Christmas Eve meant that many of our potential stops for dinner were closed, but other than that the normal things associated with the evening (comments on TV, etc.) weren’t there, allowing us to wake up in our little bubble of no-Christmas reality.
Every year (or, perhaps, almost every year) I try to write a bit about why I don’t keep Christmas. I’ll try to keep it quick and simple this year: It is because of the fact of the birth of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, that I don’t keep Christmas.
I wholeheartedly do believe that more than 2000 years ago a child was born of a virgin in the “little town of Bethlehem.” That child was God Incarnate–He was the Living Word who had existed with the One we now call God the Father for all Eternity Past. The Word was with God and the Word was God. And then, all of a sudden, here He was, in mortal, vulnerable, human flesh: One of us. I believe that He lived a life in perfect obedience to God, that He taught of the coming Kingdom of God and that God commands repentance to be a part of that Kingdom, that He was executed unjustly, that His blood was shed for humanity’s sins, that He was raised from the grave, and that He is in Heaven now, at His Father’s right hand, interceding for the saints, living within converted Christians through His Spirit, and awaiting the moment when He will return to complete the work of destroying the works of the devil and bringing to complete fullness the Kingdom of God in the Creation.
I am a Christian, and I believe with my whole heart that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, my Lord and Savior, my High Priest, and my soon coming King.
Consequently, I do not celebrate Christmas.
The reason is simple: The Scriptures make it clear that Jesus Christ would not want me to do so. And if I seek to follow Him, I will not keep a tradition He would find displeasing.
That Christmas is a celebration of pagan origins is an undisputed fact of history. Even mainstream Christianity agrees. I’ve seen Dr. James Dobson agree. I’ve seen Dr. R. C. Sproul agree. What we now call “Christmas” was introduced into Christianity from pagan sources, well after the time when Christians were being warned to “contend earnestly for the faith once delivered” (Jude 3) due to the corrupting influences coming into that faith. From Christmas Trees to the gifts beneath them, from the wreath of holly on the door to the mistletoeabove it, from the burning Yule logs in the hearth to the ornaments that reflect its light–all of them are customs originating in pagan observances and worship traditions. Even some of the most conservative of mainstream Christian scholars agree on these facts.
The relevant question is whether or not Jesus Christ cares.
That really is the question: whether or not we keep such customs — whether or not we accept a day bearing His name that represents an observance born of the heathen worship days and customs of Saturnalia, Bruma, Dies Natalis Solis Invicti, and the rest — really comes down to whether or not our Lord and Savior wants us to do so.
And our means for knowing whether He would want us to is the Word He has left us with, the Bible, and how His Spirit confirms that word.
From the Bible’s perspective, the facts are simple. Jesus Christ condemned violating God’s laws and commandments in favor of our traditions, regardless of how “religious” those traditions might be (e.g., Mark 7:6-9). God clearly does not want us to adopt pagan customs to worship Him (e.g., Deut. 12:29-31, Jer. 10:1-2).
In the Scriptures we find clear condemnation of adopting the practices of heathen cultures and worship traditions for the sake of worshiping God. It doesn’t make a difference if we claim to be worshiping God instead of the false gods for which those practices were originally designed. Consider Deut. 12:31a, “You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way…” and Aaron’s comment in Exodus 32:5b, where Aaron declared time set aside to worship the golden calf idol a “feast to the LORD (YHVH).” Attaching God’s name to something He forbade and choosing to worship Him with those practices did not make them acceptable in God’s eyes.
Such commands stand between us and the Christmas celebration. And what did our living Lord and Savior tell us? Does He give us permission to set aside those commands so that they are no obstacle between us and the traditions we want? No, He did quite the opposite. He condemned such choices: “For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men…” (Mark 7:8). Jesus loved God’s commands, and He taught His followers not to lay those commands aside in order to keep traditions we think are better.
God commands not to worship Him through the practices of the pagans. Jesus condemns laying aside those commands for the sake of our traditions, however well-loved they may be.
Consequently, as a follower of Jesus Christ and a believer in the fact of His birth to a virgin so long ago, I cannot observe Christmas.
I know many who do, to be sure. My mother, until she died, kept Christmas. She didn’t understand what I and those who worship God in my Church have mercifully been shown. I know that she will have an opportunity in the future to learn, and I am thankful for that. I do not judge the sincerity of those who do keep these days — many of them do so with a passion and a zeal that I look at as an example to me, personally. But good intention does not excuse those who know better. And–through no wisdom or intelligence of my own, to be sure!–I know better.
I choose to worship Jesus Christ. I want Him to see in me, however imperfectly, someone He would see as a disciple–as a Christian. So I do not keep the day the world has attached His name to. I do not observe Christmas.
And I’m happy that way. Even if He had not provided other, biblical Holy Days to observe (and thankfully He has), I would still be happy. For although Christmas is generally understood and experienced as a day of joy for those who keep it, there is a profound joy I never would have accessed had I not learned the blessing of stepping away from Christmas and toward Christ. And in His mercy, He helped me to do that.
I know some who come across this post will find it offensive. It isn’t meant to be, and, yet, at the same time I would simply challenge you to make it a profitable offense and begin studying the matter. You might be surprised by what you find, but not all surprises are a bad thing. And it will be a more life changing surprise than anything you found under the tree this morning.
If you’ve got the courage, check out these magazine articles and explanatory booklets:
I see that the Church has kindly reposted a commentary I wrote on Easter! I really liked that one. I’m not always the biggest fan of my own writing, but I tried to make that one simple and straightforward, since I thought that would be the best way for it to have its intended impact. Here are the first few paragraphs:
Because He Is Risen, I Do Not Keep Easter
I believe in the risen Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior of mankind. I believe that after His crucifixion on Passover, He was three days and three nights in the heart of the earth—as He said He would be. I believe He was then resurrected by His Father, restored to the glory He had with His Father before the world was.
He was the perfect Passover Lamb. He also became the perfect wave sheaf offering, accepted by His Father as the first of the firstfruits. In His resurrection, I see confirmation of the promise made to all those who truly follow Him that they, too, will one day be resurrected to live forever as He now does.
It was actually a commentary that was conceived as a post on my blog. That remains one of the benefits of this blog, which is the chance to write without the pressure of being as polished as I would strive to be for one of our Church publications or websites while still staying in a “writing mode” and being able to ruminate with pen and paper (well, keyboard and LCD screen) in such a way that I can explore some topics I might write about in the future. I’ve said before that I don’t have a “dog in the hunt”, as it were, concerning my blog, and if it interfered with the other work I have to do or was somehow unhelpful, I’d be content to stop doing it. But this is one way in which I’ve found it really helpful.
Just a brief note to wish all of you reading this a profitable Day of Atonement!
I won’t pretend: My children don’t necessarily consider the Day of Atonement their favorite Holy Day, and for obvious reasons (“I’m soooooo huuuuuuuungry…” plus seemingly infinite variations on that theme). They do say, though, that they very much look forward to what the Day of Atonement pictures: The removal of Satan from this world and the beginning of mankind’s being able to completely and fully experience “at-one-ment” with God on a global scale in a way that it has not been able to for 6,000 years.
I hope all of us can remember how special this day is, longing to be rid of this world’s tempter and tormentor, and longing for the freedom pictured by the jubilee God attaches to this day. As Mr. John Ogwyn used to say, there can be no Feast without the Fast. Removing Satan is an essential ingredient in all the wonderful things we enjoy meditating on and imagining during the Feast–that glorious world ahead, full of the wonder and delight that the Scriptures describe in sumptuous detail.
Jesus Christ truly did come to “destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8), and this Holy Day gives us the chance to meditate deeply on that and to thank God and glorify Him for such wonderful news. Have a marvelous, deeply profitable Day of Atonement!
Well, thank God for Roderick C. Meredith. His article in this month’s Living Church News, “Which ‘Armstrong’ Do You Follow?” not only made the same point I did back in my “Recreating Herbert W Armstrong in their own image” post, but he said it better. (Go figure!) More importantly, as someone who spent so much of his life working with Mr. Armstrong so intimately, he said it more authoritatively than I–or, really, anyone else–ever could.
God’s Word is incredibly clear. It is a lie that the gospel is simply a story about Christ’s life. That’s not the gospel of the Bible. Even secular resources recognize the vital and central position that the Kingdom of God had in the message of Jesus Christ and the apostles. For anyone actually reading the Bible, the Kingdom of God cannot be escaped in the teachings of Jesus, and it is a scandal that mainstream Christianity neglects it so. It is also a lie to say that salvation through Jesus Christ is not a part of that gospel of the Kingdom of God and is not to be preached to the nations. It is. Don’t believe me, believe your Bible. And it is also a great lie to say that Jesus taught nothing about Himself in the message He brought from God. He did. Again, just read your Bible. Really, try to read the book of John while skipping over all of the teaching Christ gave about who He was to the masses. He truly was going to be the King of that coming Kingdom. He didn’t walk around telling everyone stories about His birth, etc., yet He truly did explain His role as the King of the kingdom and His role as the Way to that Kingdom.
When one reads the Bible—actually paying attention to it the way Mr. Armstrong taught us to do instead of simply trying to grab from it what they already agree with and ignoring the rest—the gospel brought by Jesus Christ and taught by His disciples, and by His Church today, is one of the greatest subjects ever discussed, truly vast in its scope, implications, and power.
Really, the Bible is clear, and that should be enough for us. But there are those who are so enamored by their own version of Mr. Armstrong and how their version of him emboldens them in their own stances and pursuits that they fail to see the truth of the Bible that Mr. Armstrong taught us so much about. They fail to see the man through the caricature they’ve created.
But Mr. Armstrong was clear, too. He preached the whole gospel. Indeed, I wouldn’t understand any of the gospel at all save for what God taught me, and many of us, through the words of Mr. Herbert W Armstrong.
Did Mr. Armstrong recognize that the gospel taught by mainstream Christianity was disastrously off? Of course! If anyone reads anything Mr. Armstrong wrote and doesn’t pick that up, they haven’t read much at all! He recognized that the “gospel” being touted by most was simply a story about Christ—not the actual Divine Message that He preached at all! Most cut the very heart of the gospel right out: the coming Kingdom of God! And the part they tried to teach about salvation, he recognized was a counterfeit that didn’t explain salvation, at all!
Plenty of quotes could be provided from Mr. Armstrong demonstrating that he understood this—and many provide such quotes. That Mr. Armstrong recognized that the shallow “gospel” about Christ had replaced the actual gospel OF Christ is a given, as easily demonstrated by ample amounts of “quotable quotes.” Who disputes that? I don’t. No one I know in the Church does.
But what about the quotes that those who attack the gospel don’t give? What about the quotes that illustrate Mr. Armstrong understood the gospel more fully than those who attack his message (while claiming to believe in it) give him credit for? Why don’t they provide those quotes, as well? And in the rare case when they do provide one of them, why do they insert their own commentary into the middle of Mr. Armstrong’s words, making him out to be the world’s worst writer instead of the powerfully effective “plain truth” preacher that he really was?
Again, for the sake of emphasis: The Bible record is clear about the gospel brought by Jesus Christ, and I am humbled to be allowed to be a part of a Work that continues—just as Herbert Armstrong did—to preach that gospel. If anyone would like to prove to me that what we preach is not that gospel, they are free to open their Bibles and try. I’d rather be shown to be wrong and be right with God, than to be declared right but be wrong with God. Really: Show me. Put your Bible where your mouth is.
However, this post isn’t about that. It’s about the fact that many continue to, in effect, slander Herbert W Armstrong by saying that he preached an incomplete gospel—all while claiming to “stand for Herbert W Armstrong.” Some seem to do so with good intention, being honestly deceived by those skilled at quoting a lot without (wink, wink) quoting too much (nudge, nudge). Those who are self-deceived by their Jeremiah 17:9 hearts are another matter. It’s one matter to believe a lie out of confusion, but another entirely to continue in a lie because it serves one’s ego. As for which category one falls into, thankfully it is not my task to judge, but His. I’d rather assume the best until I have good reason to believe otherwise.
So, in the interest of serving those who can be served and of showing deception about a man many of us love and learned so much from for what it truly is, I provide the following far-from-exhaustive list of…
QUOTES THEY “FORGOT”
Mr. Armstrong’s emphasis on the coming Kingdom of God is legendary—he restored to the gospel what was lost or, worse, covered up. Quotes could be piled up forever to demonstrate that. But he also clarified and rectified that part of the gospel that others claimed to preach but corrupted and counterfeited. Here are some quotes a few seem to have forgotten and some self-appointed teachers seem to ignore. If you’ve never seen them before, perhaps they will help.
(Note: Where possible, I provide a link to the source, as well, so that you can also examine the quote in context. Many deceptively claim that the context changes the meaning of these quotes—I invite everyone to check the context for themselves to prove that this is not the case. In most cases, you can click on the title of the work or the date of the letters to see the whole file for yourself.)
In each case the emphasis is Mr. Armstrong’s except for any underlining I might use to draw attention to the parts relevant to the point at hand–which I will try to avoid, tempting as it may be!
“Now for centuries that Gospel has not been preached! It’s the ONLY true Gospel–the Message Jesus brought and preached–the one His first-century disciples DID carry to all the world of that day. Today that which is being preached around the world is a DIFFERENT gospel–a preaching which DENIES the GOSPEL OF THE KINGDOM. The Message of this KINGDOM is the Message of Christ as Saviour, but it’s MORE than that. It’s the Message of the coming KING, to establish GOD’S KINGDOM, which shall replace all present kingdoms and governments on earth, and rule over all peoples. The whole, pure Gospel OF THE KINGDOM is not being preached today to all the world for a witness to ALL NATIONS, and it has not been preached since Jesus’ first-century disciples carried it!”
Yes, the message preached by the world’s Christianity is, indeed, a “DIFFERENT gospel.” But does that mean that Christ’s role as Saviour is not a part of the message? Well, not according to Mr. Armstrong: “The Message of this KINGDOM is the Message of Christ as Saviour, but it’s MORE than that.” Wow. You’d think Mr. Meredith had written that very statement today. Those who erect a version of Mr. Armstrong in their own image try to make one part of the gospel replace the other, but—as Mr. Armstrong understood—they are part of the same gospel together! It’s not that “Christ as Saviour” is NOT part of the gospel (as some would say)—rather, there is so much more to the gospel!
Read it again if you didn’t get it the first time: “The Message of this KINGDOM is the Message of Christ as Saviour, but it’s MORE than that. It’s the Message of the coming KING, to establish GOD’S KINGDOM, which shall replace all present kingdoms and governments on earth, and rule over all peoples.” Note: “MORE than that,” not one instead of the other. This is exactly what we are saying, and it is exactly as Mr. Armstrong understood: we are to preach, in his words, not mine, “The whole, pure Gospel OF THE KINGDOM.” To completely leave out “Christ as Saviour” from the message would FAIL to be the “whole, pure” gospel just as leaving out the Kingdom of God. Why should we make EITHER error? The first century Church didn’t. Mr. Armstrong didn’t. And we won’t. Why won’t others preach the whole gospel? I don’t know, but they certainly can’t claim Mr. Armstrong as their reason (let alone the Bible).
(And in case someone claims that the context changes the meaning of the quote, please feel free to read the entire letter. It’s clickable there at the date under the quote.)
“The Message of this KINGDOM is the Message of Christ as Saviour, but it’s MORE than that.” Thanks, Mr. Armstrong—we couldn’t have said it better ourselves.
“THE TRUE GOSPEL
“Over 1900 years ago Jesus Christ came into this world with a Message direct from GOD. His Message was the GOOD NEWS (Gospel) of His coming WORLD GOVERNMENT to abolish all present governments, to rule the whole earth, and bring, at last, PEACE, PROSPERITY, HAPPINESS, JOY, to sin-cursed suffering humanity.
“He proclaimed Himself the future KING of that world-ruling Kingdom of God. He revealed plainly WHY we have no peace today–no real happiness or joy! The ways of God are the TRUE values. But men are living wrong. Jesus taught men how to live–revealed and taught the LAWS of His coming millennial Kingdom. He called on men everywhere to REPENT of the ways they live now, to live by the laws of God, to accept Him as Saviour, High Priest, and coming King, that we might be converted–CHANGED by the power of God from sinning mortal flesh into righteous immortal spirits.”
So, the “Message direct from GOD” that Jesus came into the world to give about the Kingdom of God included a lot of things, didn’t it! Mr. Armstrong says that Jesus “proclaimed Himself the future KING of that world-ruling Kingdom… revealed plainly WHY we have no peace today… called on men everywhere to REPENT… to live by the laws of God, to accept Him as Saviour, High Priest, and coming King, that we might be converted…”
Just to be clear, Mr. Armstrong says here that Jesus Christ’s message to those who heard Him included—among many things—that they should repent, live by God’s laws, and accept Him as Saviour. Don’t believe me, believe Mr. Armstrong! (Of course, believe your Bible, but notice how Mr. Armstrong’s message matches that Bible.) Those who claim that Mr. Armstrong denied part of the gospel or that he taught that teaching “men everywhere” Christ as our Savior has no part in the gospel brought by Christ really have no leg to stand on.
Some try to make this mean that Christ had two “good news” messages (despite Mr. Armstrong’s statement that “Christ Brought No Other Gospel” on p.13 of The Incredible Human Potential) or that salvation and Christ as Savior is only taught to those who’ve been called and have responded (despite his comment that Christ taught these things to “men everywhere” and despite the fact that our booklets included Mr. Armstrong’s wonderful “Just what do you mean… SALVATION” (linked to below) which was offered publically and which tied in the truth about salvation and the kingdom of God nicely).
In the event that this quote from that letter doesn’t do the trick, Mr. Armstrong makes it explicit later:
“THIS is the TRUE GOSPEL–the Good News of the Kingdom of God, its Message of the right way to live, its Message of redemption thru Christ, and God’s gift of eternal life! Yes, THIS is the KINGDOM OF GOD which Christ revealed over 1900 years ago–THIS is the true NEW TESTAMENT GOSPEL–the true GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST!”
(By the way, I’d like to see a certain self-appointed apostle stick some commentary into the middle of that sentence and changeits meaning.)
Who can read that sentence and claim that Mr. Armstrong thought that the “TRUE GOSPEL”—“the Good News of the Kingdom of God”—did not also include the “Message of redemption thru Christ, and God’s gift of eternal life”? Notice, he calls redemption through Christ and salvation “its Message of redemption thru Christ, and God’s gift of eternal life!” The “its” refers back to the “Good News of the Kingdom of God”! If it isn’t clear enough, after mentioning the Message about the right way to live, redemption through Christ, God’s gift of eternal life, Mr. Armstrong says immediately after: “Yes, THIS is the KINGDOM OF GOD which Christ revealed over 1900 years ago—THIS is the true NEW TESTAMENT GOSPEL—the true GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST!”
Don’t read my commentary—read what Mr. Armstrong wrote! Don’t believe what I say that he said, read what he said! And don’t fall for the line that the quote is out of context—click on the date and read the entire letter. You tell me if the context changes anything. (Hint: It doesn’t.)
The letter explains how the false “gospel” of mainstream Christianity has rejected the Kingdom of God and perverted that portion of the gospel—“salvation”—which they claim to retain. Mr. Armstrong explains that “They [ministers today] have, thru deception and without knowing it in most instances, rejected the true way of salvation and entrance into that Kingdom!” He continues, explaining that they pervert “born again” and try to do way with God’s law. It’s good stuff! And stuff we preach, ourselves. To say that Mr. Armstrong’s condemnation of the world’s counterfeit “gospel” meant that he did not preach the whole gospel, himself, is to tell a lie. Or, at best, it is to mistake what he powerfully emphasized for the whole. (I may emphasize to my wife over wine and candlelight that she is beautiful, but that doesn’t mean that she isn’t a smart cookie, too. Don’t mistake emphasis for entirety—Mr. Armstrong didn’t. Many who boast of carrying his banner do.)
“Back in 1934 God began RESTORING the knowledge of THE KINGDOM of GOD to those who would listen. That knowledge–the true GOSPEL of Jesus Christ–is being thundered with constantly multiplied power over ever-increasing areas, now WORLD-WIDE. God is now pleading with people around the world, THRU PREACHING–by A MESSAGE OF LOVE–to REPENT, surrender and return to GOD in obedience thru Jesus Christ as Saviour and High Priest and soon-coming KING.”
So, preaching the “true GOSPEL of Jesus Christ” means preaching “A MESSAGE OF LOVE—to REPENT, surrender and return to GOD in obedience thru Jesus Christ as Saviour and High Priest and soon-coming KING.”
How does this differ from the gospel we are preaching? Not a bit. Why do some want to perform a “Saviorectomy” on the gospel—as if “soon-coming KING” is a part of the gospel, but “Jesus Christ as Saviour and High Priest” is not. Sure they have the right to claim that. But it’s not in the Bible. And it’s not in the writings of Herbert W Armstrong.
“Yes, what GOOD NEWS! A world filled with good, sound, vigorous HEALTH—beaming, happy faces—PEACE—prosperity—JOY—SALVATION! It is to be real UTOPIA. It’s not impossible! ALL things are possible with GOD, and this is the DOING OF GOD.
“The original apostles carried on GOD’S WORK thru their lifetime. They preached this GOOD NEWS. They preached OBEDIENCE to GOD! They preached, not only believing in Christ—not only believing He is the divine Saviour—but also BELIEVING CHRIST— that is, believing what He preached and taught.”
How crucial a “not only” can be, hmmm? Apparently, it has the ability to make certain words invisible to some people. “Not only” implies a “this too” not a “that instead.” Mr. Armstrong understood.
“Yes, JESUS CHRIST is opening doors–SPEEDING UP His powerful Message to a dying world. As world events hurl a helpless humanity faster and faster toward DESTRUCTION, so CHRIST hurls to a deceived world, faster and faster, His Message of PEACE, and SALVATION by God’s GRACE (those who try to deceive people into thinking we preach a gospel of salvation “by works” are deceived or deliberately misrepresenting to serve Satan)! The way is being prepared before CHRIST’S RETURN TO EARTH! Christ’s own Gospel is being RESTORED!”
So, Christ’s own Gospel, His Message, included “SALVATION by God’s GRACE.” For those who do not include it, as Christ’s gospel did, what does that say about their gospel?
“Christ’s new Message for this hour — His TRUE Gospel — is going to ALL THE WORLD, into all nations, where it HAS NOT GONE, and could go in NO OTHER WAY, than this way God has opened up — of giving me such providential FAVOR in the eyes of heads of state — of delivering the Message through the very TOP officials in these nations. It is the MESSAGE OF WORLD PEACE — for universal PROSPERITY — and of salvation and ETERNAL LIFE — the Message of THE KINGDOM OF GOD.
“NOBODY ELSE is carrying this Message to these nations! NOBODY!!!”
So the “Message of the KINGDOM OF GOD” that we are to preach to “ALL THE WORLD” is the Message of “salvation and ETERNAL LIFE” – pretty clear. They are a part of the Message about that coming Kingdom.
I could quote letters all day—the point would be the same. YES, Mr. Armstrong condemned the false gospel of his (and our) day. YES, he pointed out that the Gospel of the Kingdom of God was not being preached, and that he was restoring what so many had rejected or lost—and how thankful we should be that he did! YES, he illustrated that the “substitute” gospel about the person of Christ instead of the message of Christ was a deceptive slight-of-hand by Satan the devil! YES, he pointed out that the world’s version of “salvation” is corrupt and degraded and that the true Way to salvation is not truly taught, unlike the vibrant fullness of salvation as described in the Bible and the true Way revealed there!
But, YES, he also understood that true salvation and redemption through Christ by grace, acceptance of Jesus Christ as our perfect Savior, the gift of eternal life and the true WAY to eternal life were all a part of that Message, as well—the Message Christ brought of the coming Kingdom of God. No one can legitimately deny that Mr. Herbert Armstrong believed these things. And though he recognized, as we recognize, that not all would “get it”—that not all would understand in this age—he also recognized that the mission to preach these things is still our mission, and that the Gospel will go out as a witness to the entire world, whether believed or not!
Since the theme of this (long) post is the “Quotes They ‘Forgot’” let’s look at a few others from the literature Mr. Armstrong produced.
One I won’t quote from because it would be too much, but here is a link to it: “Just what do you mean… SALVATION?” In this booklet offered to the public, Mr. Armstrong explains the topic SO plainly and he ties it in with the Kingdom of God. Anyone who does not believe that preaching the gospel does not involve preaching forgiveness through Christ’s blood on repentance and the unearned gift of eternal life (including what both of those things actually MEAN) either haven’t read this booklet in too long or else are in denial. Feel free and read it for yourself.
Then there’s Herbert W Armstrong’s booklet “What Is the True Gospel?” In it, like Mr. Meredith does in our booklet “Do You Believe the True Gospel,” Mr. Armstrong makes the powerful case that the Message of Christ was the Message of the Kingdom of God! Makes sense to quote from this one, huh? But why is page 10 avoided?
“Conditions of Entering
“Now, HOW do we enter into that glorious KINGDOM? Jesus came preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom of God, and saying, ‘REPENT,’ and ‘BELIEVE THE GOSPEL.’
“Just TWO things we do – REPENT and BELIEVE. We must BELIEVE the Gospel, and that means also believing on JESUS CHRIST, the KING of the Kingdom of God, and coming KING of kings over all the families of the earth. It means believing in Him as personal SAVIOUR, as High Priest now, and as coming KING.”
So believing the Gospel includes “believing on JESUS CHRIST” and “believing in Him as personal SAVIOUR” (Mr. Armstrong’s emphasis, not mine). This makes no sense whatsoever if Christ’s role as our personal Savior were not a part of the Gospel.
Feel free to read the entire booklet. Get all the context you want. Nowhere does it contradict the idea that Christ’s role as our Savior, yours and mine, is, indeed, a part of the Gospel.
Mr. Armstrong makes the inclusion of these things even more explicit in his article “Seven Keys to Understanding the Bible”—published no less than FIVE TIMES while he was alive (July 1949, July 1953, July 1959, January 1971, January 1980) [Note: The one I link to is the original July 1949 publication, but feel free to look any of them up that you like in various resources on the Internet. If anyone claims that one of them says something different, I will happily post it here, too.]
Read what Mr. Armstrong says so clearly in the section titled “The True Gospel”—I will quote a large section partially because some say that we’ve taken his statement out of context and partially because some have inserted their own commentary into Mr. Armstrong’s plain words so as to twist what he says. Read it for yourself—no twists, just the facts:
“What is Christ’s Gospel? What is the Message God sent to mankind by Jesus Christ? It is the GOOD NEWS of the KINGDOM OF GOD! ‘Kingdom’ means GOVERNMENT! It is the Message of Divine Government–government by GOD’S LAWS!
“It is the prophetic proclamation of the coming WORLD GOVERNMENT to rule all nations and bring today’s confused, chaotic, war-weary earth PEACE, and JOY! It is the vital, dynamic, powerful living Message of GOD’S GOVERNMENT, first in individual hearts now in this world, later over all nations internationally in The WORLD TOMORROW!
“Of course that power-filled Message includes the knowledge about the Saviour, High Priest and coming King! Of course it includes the true way of salvation, which the churches seem to have lost! And it includes also knowledge of the location of the TERRITORY to be ruled over by the King of the coming Kingdom–the fact it is this earth, and not heaven! But there can be no GOVERNMENT without LAWS, and so the TRUE GOSPEL also must proclaim the LAW of God, which alone can bring peace to the world and success, happiness and joy to the individual!”
Again, if you don’t trust the context, read the whole article. Nothing in that context changes the simple truth of what Mr. Armstrong says. And, just as importantly, the actual context completely disproves the silly commentary that certain pretenders have inserted themselves, as if Mr. Armstrong couldn’t carry a coherent thought through a handful of paragraphs. Unbelievable.
Reading the whole helps to shine light on the deception in some who claim that somehow in that entire passage, “Message” means Gospel except for the one sentence where Mr. Armstrong says that the Message includes “the knowledge about the Saviour” and “the true way of salvation.” Look at the VERY NEXT SENTENCE: “And it includes also knowledge of the location of the TERRITORY to be ruled over by the King of the coming Kingdom…” The “it” refers to the Message just discussed—you know, the one that “of course” includes the knowledge of the Savior and the true way to salvation. Was Mr. Armstrong truly the worst writer in the world, or did he actually mean what he said? Did he actually write an entire section about the “Message” of the Gospel, but—in one, single, weird non sequitur sentence—change “Message” to mean something else, and then CHANGE RIGHT BACK to meaning the Gospel, again?!? In the very next sentence?!? Did Mr. Armstrong use “Message” five times in one small section of an article and mean “Gospel” in four of them and “Not Gospel” in one of them—and changing the meaning without notifying the reader that he had done so, and then changing it back, all in the space of two or three sentences?
One who claims this is either a deceiver or self-deceived (cf. 2 Tim 3:13). Regardless, they insult Mr. Herbert W Armstrong.
The fact is, those things—“knowledge about the Saviour” and “the true way of salvation” are so obviously a part of the Gospel that Mr. Armstrong prefaces each statement with an “Of course”: “Of course that power-filled Message includes the knowledge about the Saviour, High Priest and coming King! Of course it includes the true way of salvation, which the churches seem to have lost!”
No wonder particular deceivers have to insert commentary into Mr. Armstrong’s words and fail to quote the entire passage. Mr. Armstrong really did write the plain truth. Why are we criticized for including something in the Gospel that Mr. Armstrong said was included “of course”?
Again, the Bible is clear. But, for the record, so is Mr. Armstrong.
I know this has been a long post, and I do beg your forgiveness, but given the way a tiny few desire to twist and pervert Mr. Armstrong’s words, this topic gets me rather riled up. While we could swim in quotes forever, let me just give you one more reference: the first two chapters of Mr. Armstrong’s amazing book The Incredible Human Potential, both of which cover the Gospel.
There is WAY too much to quote from this source, and I encourage the reader to obtain a copy of this magnificent book. You can find it on Amazon or Ebay at times. My copy is the orange-covered “Special Commemorative Edition” from the 1978 Feast of Tabernacles. Rather than link to the entire book (though I do encourage you to read the entire book!), let me provide a link to a copy of the first two chapters.
Read the whole thing, but here are some highlights that put the lie to the idea of a narrow Gospel that has no room for salvation, and Jesus Christ as our Saviour and the true way to salvation…
“I must call the reader’s attention again at this point to the fact that a full and complete understanding of the message sent by God to all mankind, by His Divine Messenger Jesus Christ, involves a vast comprehension of God’s great purpose, and of events prehistoric, historic, present and future.
“I might say that it means an overall understanding of everything!”
Interesting that it somehow isn’t supposed to include the meaning of or need for Christ’s sacrifice for us, huh? I suppose that “everything” doesn’t include those things. (I hope you note that my tongue is in my cheek.)
Please note this passage on p.16. Those who believe that preaching the truth about Jesus Christ or about salvation or about a right understanding of grace (which Mr. Armstrong explained thoroughly) need to understand the real problem Mr. Armstrong saw in the world’s “gospel”! The following passage has his usual emphases (with full caps for small caps, though), but the underlining is mine to highlight what so many seem to miss:
“I have said that you hear many gospel programs today. One uses the slogan, ‘Preaching Christ to the Nations.’ One might ask, ‘Well what’s WRONG about preaching ABOUT Christ?’ Or, ‘Well what’s wrong about preaching a gospel of grace?’ Or, ‘What’s wrong about proclaiming a message about salvation?’
“I have shown you the scriptures showing they started, even in the first century, preaching about a DIFFERENT Jesus – a Jesus supposed to have abolished His Father’s commandments – who turned ‘grace’ into license to disobey (II Cor. 11:4, 13-15 and Jude 4). They do not today preach the REAL Jesus, who said, ‘I have kept My Father’s commandments,’ setting us an example that we should keep them also.
“If those who claim to preach a gospel of SALVATION understood and proclaimed WHAT salvation really is – whether it is going to a PLACE, being changed into a different CONDITION, or WHAT – or WHERE – and HOW it may be obtained, it might be a part of the true gospel. But today’s ‘gospel’ programs do not teach what salvation really is or how one may receive it. Then the blind lead the blind, they all fall into the ditch.”
How much plainer can Mr. Armstrong make it? In fact, if you’ve actually read his booklet on Salvation, linked to above, then you know this is EXACTLY WHAT HE DID PREACH ABOUT SALVATION! By his own words, if the TRUTH about salvation—what it really is, what it truly means, and how it is truly obtained—were taught, then it could be—according to Mr. Armstrong—a part of the true gospel! Did he teach correctly about these things? Yes, he did! Then they were a part of the true gospel!
He didn’t take issue with the fact that Jesus and salvation were being talked about, in and of themselves. Rather, that a DIFFERENT Jesus and a COUNTERFEIT salvation were being preached! Not only were these things, alone, insufficient to encompass the Kingdom of God, they were counterfeits of the truth! And he showed repeatedly the plain truth of this in his own writings.
For anyone to say that teaching biblically and accurately who Jesus Christ was and what salvation truly means and how salvation may truly be received is somehow NOT part of the gospel, they disagree with Mr. Armstrong. Again (again, again, again,), the most important thing is whether or not the BIBLE says these things! But for those who are smearing Mr. Armstrong by claiming that he preached otherwise, it’s important to know that he preached them, too.
Really, read both of those chapters from The Incredible Human Potential—if not the whole book.
For those who are simply confused about how salvation through Jesus Christ relates to the Kingdom of God, Mr. Armstrong touches on this in his last section of Chapter 2 (pp.18-19):
“What Christ’s Gospel Was All About
“I say Christ’s gospel – the message He brought from God – as the advance good news of the establishment of the Kingdom of God.
“But just what does that include?
“And why is the Kingdom of God necessary?
“Just how does it affect and relate directly to your personal and individual life?
“Actually, Christ’s message of God’s coming Kingdom is directly concerned with world origins as they are – with human nature – its source and origin – with world evils, suffering, unhappiness – with world peace. It’s concerned with government – with the reason present human governments fail to be the benefactors of their peoples they are supposed to be.
“His message hits directly at the very roots of individual personal happiness and at the awesome transcendent potential of each human life. It is concerned with the CAUSES of present conditions that affect every human and with the WAY that will solve all problems.
“But it is concerned with far, far more.
“It is concerned with God’s tremendous, overwhelming, overall purpose a Creator of the entire universe. It’s concerned with the entire vast universe, filled with its uncountable galaxies, nebulae, suns, stars, planets, and with God’s purpose for them. It’s concerned with all the angels – with the fact that one third of all God’s created angels turned to SIN from which there can be no redemption, and God’s great purpose and plan to prevent such a catastrophe happening to the other two thirds.
“Most of these things are never remotely considered in religious teachings in this world. God’s message is concerned with overall truth.
“What has been covered so far should be considered as merely the introduction to the entire story of Christ’s gospel message.”
Wow. The purpose of man, his whole history, the way he has failed and the Way to succeed—the universe in all its created majesty and all it contains… All of this, “merely the introduction to the entire story of Christ’s gospel message.”
Those who claim—against all evidence—that the sacrifice of Christ, His living in us, and the way of salvation are no part of the gospel should be ashamed. The Bible shows them to be wrong. Mr. Armstrong’s words show them to be wrong. The Gospel that Jesus Christ brought to mankind and asks us to proclaim really is, as Mr. Armstrong described it, “all-encompassing subject that can enter the mind of man.”
For those who’ve too quickly taken the word of confused individuals concerning what Mr. Herbert Armstrong said about these things, I hope this is a help.
There are so many more quotes we could go through, but this post is gigantic as it is.
Thank God for Mr. Roderick Meredith and his willingness to be faithful to the Bible, which just so happens to mean being faithful to Mr. Armstrong in this vital issue, as well. Thank God for his friendship with Mr. Armstrong, and for living long enough to provide a living link to the man instead of the false images of the man crafted by others.
Thank God that Mr. Herbert Armstrong did not match any of the caricatures his supposed, self-appointed “standard bearers” make of him.
Thank God for the truth about what Mr. Armstrong called “the whole, pure gospel.”
Don’t let anyone slander Mr. Herbert W Armstrong by saying he only preached part of the gospel—waving their hands like a magician and trying to turn what he powerfully emphasized in the gospel into the “only” thing he taught of the gospel.
Don’t let anyone perform any similar “hand waving” to make you think that Mr. Armstrong said something other than what he actually said. Don’t take their word for it—read the original in context and without their inserted commentary.
Don’t let anyone take advantage of your love for Mr. Armstrong and what God did through him in such a way that they ironically pull you away from the very gospel he, himself, preached.
If anyone can prove to me from God’s Word that the gospel is somehow different than what we are proclaiming, they are free to do so. I’m all ears. Until then, we’ll preach the same biblical message Mr. Armstrong believed and preached in. Thanks.
And, as always, don’t believe me—believe your Bible.
I do believe that Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong was used as an Apostle by Jesus Christ. It is a shame to those who would twist his words today while professing some sort of weird faithfulness to him.
Wow, what an amazing Feast of Tabernacles this has been — one of the most spiritually satisfying and encouraging Feasts in my memory. The Last Great Day has begun this evening, and tomorrow night it is over for another year.
I wanted to put on record somewhere that Mr. Karl Beyersdorfer’s sermon today on the Millennial Temple prophesied in Ezekiel (sometimes called “Ezekiel’s Temple”) held a special fascination for me. During the Feast last year in Branson, I had decided that wherever we were the next year, I was going to do a sermon on Ezekiel’s Temple. I find it fascinating and wanted to discuss the temple, the restoration of the Levitical priesthood (to be under Christ and His saints at that time) and associated sacrifices, et al. Over the course of the next year leading up to this Feast, that study got rather involved and I never reached a point before the Feast began where my studies congealed in such a way that I felt comfortable with doing a full sermon on that one topic that would say what I really wanted to say. Actually, I can say that I wanted to do even more “homework” before I committed to speaking on any particular aspect of Ezekiel’s vision of the Millennial Temple, at all, as it was such a beautifully large topic. I was disappointed, too, since, as I said, it had been my goal since the previous Feast and something I was looking forward to covering. I did touch on it near the end of my first sermon this year about “Restoring All Things” but it wasn’t the “Temple sermon” I had originally planned. (Hopefully the sermon I did give was still profitable!)
“Oh, well. Maybe next year,” I thought.
Then, Mr. Beyersdorfer gets up today (well, yesterday at this late hour, I suppose) and not only gives a fantastic sermon on that very topic — the Millennial Temple — but (I must be honest) he also gives it so much better than what I would have given on the same subject! Incredibly profitable and powerfully moving.
So, my joy in hearing the sermon today was doubled! I was delighted to hear the topic I wanted to speak on, myself, addressed so solidly and powerfully, but I also got to hear it expounded in a manner so much more profitable than I think I would have had I covered it. And, really, the joy was tripled: It was a reminder that the real “Coordinator” in the Living Church of God of the Feast of Tabernacles is God, Himself, with Jesus Christ at His right hand. It is, indeed, Their Feast (Lev. 23:2), and I am so thankful that it is.
Time to get some sleep! I’m looking forward to the sermon tomorrow on the meaning of the day by Mr. Phil Sena and the “Farewell” send off video message to be delivered by Mr. Meredith, which is always so stirring. Wherever some of you reading this might be keeping the Feast where God has placed His name, I pray that your Last Great Day is profitable and uplifting!
Greetings to all out there who are keeping the Day of Atonement tomorrow! Are you motivated to drink a little extra water today? Subconsciously? I freely admit that I feel that urge. I feel that way before every fast, except for those emergency fasts that sort of sneak up on you the day before.
What a remarkable day tomorrow is. It’s often easy to overlook the significance of the Day of Atonement, with the Feast coming so quickly on its heels, but the Feast could not happen without the Fast! That remarkable Millennial rule of Jesus Christ and the glorified saints and all the beautiful things the Scriptures say in describing that reign and that time would not be possible without the binding of Satan the devil during that time, as described in Revelation 20:1-3.
I remember when I was first studying the Holy Days as a teenager, and of all of them it was the Day of Atonement that fascinated me the most — chiefly because the ceremony of that day, depicted in Leviticus 16, pictures the removal of Satan by a “suitable man” so perfectly, showing, too, that even though man may have no excuse for his choices, the devil will bear his guilt for the part he has played. I read those passages in awe back then. For the first time, I began to get a glimpse of a God who had lovingly woven the details of His incredible plan into the religion of ancient Israel thousands of years before those events would happen. I know this is just as obvious in other days, such as Passover, Pentecost, and Trumpets, but it hit me in a way the others didn’t as I studied the Day of Atonement and its fulfillment. The reality of God’s plan came into sharper view — and, perhaps more importantly, the reality that He really did have a plan, at all.
God has a plan. It is a plan that has been in place since before the foundation of the world (1 Peter 1:20). And it is a plan in which you and I have a part.
It’s hard to overstate just how amazing that realization was to me. And when I begin to slip and think of God’s Holy Days as just part of the annual “routine” it does me good to remember those days of discovery, when the spark of that first love began to be blown and fed into flame. After all, first loves are important (Rev. 2:4).
No, the Millennium, the thousand-year reign of Jesus Christ and the Children of God in peace, truth, and abundant blessings for the entire world would not be possible if the roaring lion that is Satan the devil were allowed to continue roaming among the nations — deceiving, lying, poisoning, and seeking to devour all he can. No, that lion will be replaced by the Lion of Judah, and He will ensure that…
“The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.
“The cow and the bear shall graze; their young ones shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play by the cobra’s hole, and the weaned child shall put his hand in the viper’s den.
“They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain, for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.”
As the next verse says, “And in that day there shall be a Root of Jesse, Who shall stand as a banner to the people; for the Gentiles shall seek Him, and His resting place shall be glorious.”
Amen to that.
What a world it will be with the predator, the deceiver of the nations locked away. So, bring on the Fast! — and thank God for the beautiful truth it represents.
As a follow up to my post from earlier this week about Osama bin Laden and Hell, I thought I would make sure it’s clear that there is, indeed, judgment ahead.
The more polished (thanks, again, Editorial!) online commentary “Welcome to Hell, bin Laden” published on the the Tomorrow’s World (and on the Living Church of God website, here) does include that element, though I didn’t bring it out in my blog post. Here’s what was said there:
Yes, in God’s time, all will stand before the judgment seat of Jesus Christ, having had a genuine opportunity to learn His truth and to repent of their evil ways (Romans 14:10; 2 Corinthians 5:10). Osama bin Laden will face God’s future judgment. “‘Vengeance is Mine; I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Hebrews 10:30). Some evil people will perish forever in a lake of fire (Revelation 21:8). But God is not some cruel tyrant who will condemn spiritually blinded people to Hell simply because of a blindness He did not remove (2 Corinthians 4:4)!
Against that beautifully concise paragraph (Again, did I say thanks, Editorial? I appreciate you! 🙂 ), let me add some less-than-concise additional thoughts.
Those in the world who truly believe in an ever-burning, torturous, spiritual concentration camp that endures throughout eternity pervert God’s justice in monstrous ways. And as much as they try to remove God from the picture (“they are in that state only because they chose it for themselves,” etc.), I’ve never seen an argument that doesn’t fall flat. The doctrine of a fiery annihilation of the wicked (eternal punishment instead of eternal punishing) is too sound scripturally to be so easily assaulted and overcome, and — as a bonus! — it just plain makes sense.
Yet, just as some pervert God’s justice to justify their belief in that doctrine, others pervert God’s mercy in the other direction, essentially saying that there is no fiery judgment to come, at all.
Yes, those who are called now are being judged now in a way that the rest of the world is not (though it is not to say that the rest of the world is not being judged in any way at all, but it is different, à la Luke 12:47-48). Peter makes it clear: “For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (1 Peter 4:17). For those whose minds have been open and who have had the privilege of receiving the Holy Spirit that the Father and Christ might dwell with us — that Jesus Christ might live His life over in us (Gal. 2:20) — this is our opportunity. And, yes, that opportunity can be discarded in these days: “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame” (Heb. 6:4-6).
Again, “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. Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace?” (Heb. 10:26-29).
The people of God are being judged now, not later. As the next verse in Hebrews stresses: “For we know Him who said, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord. And again, ‘The Lord will judge His people’” (Heb. 10:30).
There very well may be those who, in this life, with willful purpose and clear knowledge of what they were doing will have “counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the spirit of grace.” Having done so, forgiveness will no longer be available to them, since, having a seared conscience (cf. 1 Tim 4:2), repentance is no longer an option for them (re: Hebrews 6:4-6). With no less an authority than Jesus Christ to back us up, we can say that this sin is not only not forgiven in this age, but it will also not be forgiven in the age to come next (Matt. 12:32). To say that it is impossible to commit such a sin in this age is to make Jesus’ warnings nothing but “silly talk.”
(At the same time, to say of every infraction and disagreement that one has committed the unpardonable sin is to trivialize His words in the other direction–to fall into the other ditch. Those who have used the threat of the Lake of Fire to keep people imprisoned within their cult of personality, instead of simply using the fact of it to encourage those people to seek their God more fully will have a difficult day coming, to say the least.)
But has Osama bin Laden committed this sin? Thankfully I am not the ultimate judge of such things, nor do I wish to be in this life with my horribly imperfect knowledge, but I can say that there is no evidence that bin Laden had any more knowledge of the true God than an iguana might have. In fact, an iguana might have more, given that at least the iguana follows the design of its Creator through instinct, whereas man seems to be able to lose even the little knowledge that seems to be given to Him naturally (e.g., Rom. 1:26, 2:14; 1 Cor. 11:14).
And if he has a date coming in the general resurrection, then I can scarcely imagine what it will be like to be him when his eyes begin to be open to the truth about the atrocities he has committed. What shape would a path to repentance take for such a person? Speculation, only, reigns here, but could it involve being aided by a teacher (cf. Isa. 30:20-21) in such a way that you get a real, visceral sense for the suffering you caused, one life at a time? Would it involve meeting the people — resurrected, as well, themselves — and completely comprehending what it was like when their bodies were torn apart at your command? And then to be face-to-face with the living proof — the eternally living proof, all around you — that all of your multiple thousands of acts of horror and destruction enacted upon man, woman, and child were done in the name of a meaningless ideology, and a religious deception crafted by Satan the devil that you had swallowed whole? I don’t know, but that might be one difficult path to walk.
It won’t be an impossible path to walk — with God, all things are possible (Matt. 19:26), and there will be a lot of “impossible” repentances in that day, I believe. I suspect that the grief caused by various acts of history will be nothing like the grief then felt by those who caused those acts. But I also believe that it will be a godly grief, a godly sorrow in the manner of 2 Cor. 7:10, and one that fertilizes the soil in which a heart seeking salvation can grow.
Though for some, it will not be. We have every reason to believe that there will be those who will choose annihilation over obedience. Perhaps, instead of repenting, Osama bin Laden will be one of those, though I hope not. Perhaps he will be too fundamentally proud to bear the thought of submitting to this “Jewish” God. Again, I don’t know. But if so, then he will be around when those who threw away their opportunity in this life are resurrected at the end to stand next to him and to be tossed into the Lake of Fire with him, and his fate will be the same as theirs. There will be no pride in those final moments, but a fearful understanding that God really is God, and that to Him every knee must bow, whether at the beginning of our glorious eternity or at the end of our willful life, before our ignominious destruction — our past life a literal nothing, not even a shadow, against the span of infinity.
Again, I don’t know. But I do have hope. And, like all of you, I will simply have to wait and see.
Interesting choice for the third hymn at the royal wedding of Prince William and (now) Duchess Catherine today:
Jerusalem (from William Blake’s “And did those feet in ancient time”)
And did those feet in ancient time walk upon England’s mountains green? And was the holy Lamb of God on England’s pleasant pastures seen? And did the countenance divine shine forth upon our clouded hills? And was Jerusalem builded here among those dark satanic mills?
Bring me my bow of burning gold! Bring me my arrows of desire! Bring me my spear! O clouds, unfold! Bring me my chariot of fire! I will not cease from mental ﬁght, nor shall my sword sleep in my hand, till we have built Jerusalem in England’s green and pleasant land.
For those unfamiliar with the hymn or poem, it was inspired, at least partly, by the legend that Jesus had visited the land we now England, traveling, as a boy, with Joseph of Arimathea, who is presumed in the legend to be Jesus’ uncle. While I wholeheartedly believe in the identification of England with Ephraim, I am a “foot dragger” and natural skeptic when it comes to legends such as this one (that is, Jesus’ being Joseph’s nephew and visiting England), as intriguing as they may be.
Just caught my eye, today, and thought I would pass it along. And, no, I did not watch all the proceedings on the news. I was too busy reading my latest copies of “People” and “Tiger Beat” magazine. Ha! No, seriously, I was sleeping. But I do wish the happy couple all the best.
The title may sound strange to some, and, while it is not intended to be, the following content may be offensive. But I hope it is at least clear, and I will try to make it brief (which, for me, is quite a challenge).
I believe in the risen Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior of mankind. I believe that after His crucifixion on Passover, He was three days and three nights in the heart of the earth as He said He would be. Then I believe He was resurrected by His Father, restored to the glory He had with Him before the world was. He was the perfect Passover Lamb. He also became the perfect wave sheaf offering, accepted by His Father as the first of the firstfruits. And in His resurrection, I see confirmation of the promise made to all those who truly follow Him that they, too, will one day be resurrected to live forever as He now does.
Consequently, I do not keep Easter.
This probably seems contradictory, given that Easter is ostensibly about celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ. However, any unbiased look through the history of the day, accentuated by its current customs, demonstrates that it is a custom of pagan origin, introduced into “Christian” worship long ago as more and more began failing to “contend earnestly for the faith once delivered” (Jude 3).
From the Bible’s perspective, the facts are simple. Jesus Christ condemned violating God’s laws and commandments in favor of our traditions, regardless of how “religious” those traditions might be (e.g., Mark 7:6-9). God clearly does not want us to adopt pagan customs to worship Him (e.g., Deut. 12:29-31, Jer. 10:1-2). Consequently, as a follower of Jesus Christ and a believer in the power and truth of His resurrection, I cannot observe Easter.
There is certainly much more that could be said. We could speak of ancient Polycarp and Anicetus, of Polycrates and Victor, and of how the churches of the East strove to maintain the Christian keeping of Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread and the teachings of the apostles (as Polycrates wrote, concerning the apostles Philip and John and others who “always observed the day when the people put away the leaven”) versus the corruption of Rome and those who wished to introduce blends of Christian doctrine with heathen practice. The history of it all is fascinating reading, to be sure.
But history isn’t Scripture. And it is the Bible and the word of Jesus Christ that compels me not to keep Easter. My human mind comes up with lots of reasons to ignore the scriptures and to discount the scriptures (Jeremiah 17:9 has a lot to say about that), but every argument I have ever heard–whether from others or my own imagination–is always rooted fundamentally in human reasoning that, ultimately, contradicts God’s Word. And I am told that “the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:4-5). I cannot honor Christ by disobeying Him.
So, it may seem contradictory given popular “Christian” culture and practices, but I see no alternative. I do passionately believe in the risen Christ. Therefore, I cannot keep Easter.