May 14, 2017
From all the letters, cards, e-mails, phone calls, and personal conversions, it is evident that everyone had a wonderful and deeply meaningful Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread. These two feasts combined demonstrate God’s perfect plan and purpose for all of His begotten sons and daughters—truly awesome, indeed. Think about the tremendous love that the Father has for us! Jesus divested Himself of His spirit existence to become a man in order to redeem us from Satan and his world (Phil. 2:5-11). As the Shepherd of the sheep, He willingly laid down His life in order to be our Savior and High Priest: “I am the good Shepherd, and I know those who are Mine, and am known of those who are Mine. Just as the Father knows Me, I also know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep…. On account of this, the Father loves Me: because I lay down My life, that I may receive it back again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have authority to lay it down and authority to receive it back again. This commandment I received from My Father” (John 10:14-18).
While we continue to live in this world, we are not of this world and its ways. The following passage summarizes God’s entire plan for those who are the “called, chosen, and faithful.” Notice: “But now [Father] I am coming to You; and these things I am speaking while yet in the world, that they may have My joy fulfilled in them. I have given them Your words, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.
“I do not pray that You would take them out of the world, but that You would keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in Your truth; Your Word is the truth.
“Even as You did send Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, so that they also may be sanctified in Your truth. I do not pray for these only, but also for those who shall believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, even as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, in order that the world may believe that You did send Me. And I have given them the glory that You gave to Me, in order that they may be one, in the same way that We are one: I in them, and You in Me, that they may be perfected into one; and that the world may know that You did send Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me” (John 17:13-23).
In the apostle Paul’s second epistle to the Corinthians, he exhorted the brethren to not be a part of this world by participating in its sins and lifestyles. “We then, working together with Him, are also exhorting you not to receive the grace of God in vain…. Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and lawlessness have in common? And what fellowship does light have with darkness? And what union does Christ have with Belial? Or what part does a believer have with an unbeliever?
“And what agreement is there between a temple of God and idols? For you are a temple of the living God, exactly as God said: ‘I will dwell in them and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. Therefore, come out from the midst of them and be separate,’ says the Lord, ‘and touch not the unclean, and I will receive you. And I shall be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters,’ says the Lord Almighty. Now then, beloved, since we have these promises, we should purge ourselves from every defilement of the flesh and the spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God’ ” (II Cor. 6:1, 14-18; 7:1).
This is why God has given us these deeply spiritual festivals—to teach and encourage us to remain separate from this world, and to look to God to deliver us from the “wicked one.”
The World Today: The world is filled with conflict, chaos, terror strikes, bombings, wars, and threats of more war—even nuclear war between North Korea and the United States. In all of the Middle East, stretching from Pakistan to the Mediterranean Sea, and most of North Africa, including Egypt, Darfur, Somalia, Kenya, Zimbabwe, and Nigeria, there is fighting, killing, and warring against men, women, and children. Nearly all of Western Europe is overwhelmed by millions of Middle Eastern war refugees and plagued by radical Islamic terrorist attacks.
In South America, Venezuela is on the verge of total collapse. It now faces 537 percent inflation and shortages of everything—including food. Famine is imminent. Mass riots occur daily as people try to survive—all because of the failure of their communist government. Indeed, nearly all nations of Central and South America are facing potentially disastrous crises.
Meanwhile, the Trump administration is rushing to bring America back from the throes of deep-rooted problems caused by government corruption and negligence, a massive welfare system, and illegal immigration. The inner-city violence, racial tension, hatred of the police, and political corruption left behind by the Obama regime all threaten to destroy our nation!
Indeed, as we view the world today, it is exactly as Jesus prophesied: “Now as it was in the days of Noah, so shall it also be at the coming of the Son of man. For as in the days that were before the Flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark; and they were not aware until the Flood came and took them all away; so shall it also be at the coming of the Son of man” (Matt. 24:37-39). We are experiencing a mixture of satanic chaos and destruction in the midst of seemly “normal” times. But the world does not know that mankind is rapidly heading into the prophesied “Great Tribulation.”
One Major Event to Watch For: Where are we in prophecy? What is a key prophesied event that we should watch for, that we can witness with our own eyes, as an indication that the “Great Tribulation” is near?
It will be the Jews’ Third Temple. How do we know the Jews will build it? Because Jesus said this: “Therefore, when you see the abomination of desolation, which was spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (the one who reads, let him understand)…. For then shall there be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until this time, nor ever shall be again. And if those days were not limited, there would no flesh be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days shall be limited” (Matt. 24:15, 21-22).
The “holy place” is the “holy of holies” in the coming Temple. It is not just a place with an altar dedicated to offering sacrifices, as some believe. Rather, it will be an actual functioning temple. (For information on the progress the Jews have made in preparation for building this temple, please go on line and look up The Temple Institute. You will be amazed at how much they have already developed. They are getting ready to build it!)
However, this will not happen until the time is right, according God’s timetable. Paul was inspired to write about Jesus’ return, the Temple, and the “Abomination of Desolation.” Notice: “Now we beseech you, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, that you not be quickly shaken in mind, nor be troubled—neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by epistle, as if from us, saying that the day of Christ is present.
“Do not let anyone deceive you by any means because that day will not come unless the apostasy shall come first, and the man of sin shall be revealed—the son of perdition, the one who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God, or that is an object of worship; so that he comes into the temple of God and sits down as God [in the holy place], proclaiming that he himself is God.
“Do you not remember that when I was still with you, I told you these things? And now you understand what is holding him back in order for him to be revealed in his own set time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already working; only there is one Who is restraining at the present time until it arises out of the midst. And then the lawless one will be revealed (whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth, and will destroy with the brightness of His coming); even the one whose coming is according to the inner working of Satan, with all power and signs and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in those who are perishing because they did not receive the love of the truth, so that they might be saved.
“And for this cause, God will send upon them a powerful deception that will cause them to believe the lie, so that all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but who took pleasure in unrighteousness” (II Thess. 2:1-12).
Additional proof is found in Revelation 11, where the apostle John was given a vision of this coming Third Temple: “Then the angel gave me a measuring rod like a staff, saying, ‘Arise and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and those who worship in it. But leave out the court that is within the temple area, and do not measure it because it has been given up to the Gentiles; and they shall trample upon the holy city for forty-two months’ ” (verses 1-2). John wrote this prophesy 35-38 years after God had completely destroyed the Second Temple. Therefore, when all these passages are put together, we can rightly conclude that there will be a new Temple—up and running with priests and Levites offering animal sacrifices. However, when the “man of sin” enters into this Temple to proclaim himself as God, he will cause the sacrifices to cease (Daniel 12:11)—and that is when the “Great Tribulation” begins.
When the Jews actually start constructing the Third Temple, we can know that the “Great Tribulation” is only a few years away—and when it is finished, possibly only a few months away. In the meantime, there will be many false prophets and false messiahs appearing and performing signs and wonders in their attempts to deceive the elect of God (Matt. 24:23-26).
This is why Jesus commanded us to WATCH—and always be ready! “The heaven and the earth shall pass away, but My words shall never pass away. But concerning that day and the hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. Take heed, be watching and praying. For you do not know when the time is coming. It is like a man journeying to a far country, leaving his house and giving authority to his servants, and to each one his work, and commanding the doorkeeper to watch. Be watching, therefore, for you do not know when the master of the house is coming: at evening, or at midnight, or at the cock’s crowing, or in the morning; lest he come suddenly and find you sleeping. And what I say to you, I say to all: Watch!” (Mark 13:31-37).
Elders’ Conference: The second week of May, we will be holding our annual Elders’ Conference at the Cincinnati Airport Hilton Hotel, where we have held our conferences for over 15 years. All of our elders and deacons are truly dedicated to loving God and serving the brethren. As we look at the past 30 years of the history of the churches of God, it has indeed been a tumultuous time—for elders and brethren.
Through the years, as we have focused on restoring original Christianity, we have endeavored to carefully follow the New Testament’s teachings concerning the structure of church leadership and the function of elders and deacons. This is why the CBCG does not have a hierarchy that places elders between God and the brethren. While we do maintain order and cooperation in the fellowship groups, there are no “rulers over the brethren.” In the past, many church of God leaders (especially in the WCG) have been guilty of exercising overbearing hierarchical control over the lives of the brethren and merchandising them with constant demands for money—beyond the biblically authorized tithes and offerings.
As astonishing as it may seem, the root cause of these ungodly abuses was the serious neglect by the ministry in teaching the love and grace of God. Instead, it was taught that love toward God was basically commandment-keeping; love toward neighbor was “outgoing concern” for others; and grace was merely “forgiveness of sin.” While these are true statements, the Word of God teaches the love of God this way: When one of the scribes questioned Jesus about the “first commandment of all,” Jesus answered, “The first of all the commandments is, ‘Hear, O Israel. Our one God is the Lord, the Lord. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. And the second is like this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these…. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets” (Mark 12:28-31; Matt. 22:40).
In order for commandment-keeping to be truly effective, it must be based on this kind of love toward God the Father and Jesus Christ—and others. If not, then commandment-keeping becomes harsh and overbearing, being driven by authoritarian elders who lack love and do not understand the true grace of God. The apostle Peter clearly remembered Jesus’ command that if he loved Him he was to “feed the flock” (John 21:15-17). Likewise, he admonished the elders who served with him to “feed the flock,” the brethren of Christ. He wrote to them: “The elders who are among you I exhort, even as a fellow elder, and an eyewitness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker of the glory that is about to be revealed: Feed the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight not by compulsion, but willingly; not in fondness of dishonest gain, but with an eager attitude; not as exercising lordship over your possessions; but by being examples to the flock of God. And when the Chief Shepherd is manifested, you shall receive an unfading, eternal crown of glory” (I Peter 5:1-4).
The Grace of God: Without a doubt, one of the least understood subjects in mainstream Christianity—and within too many of the churches of God—is the grace of God.
Here is a summary: “Grace is the free and undeserved gift of God the Father through Jesus Christ. The grace of God is the greatest expression of God the Father’s love and all-encompassing mercy. Grace is more than the forgiveness of sins. To be under grace means you are continually receiving from God the Father and Jesus Christ, God’s divine love, favor, blessing, gracious care, help, goodwill, benefits, gifts and goodness. God the Father is the source from which grace comes to the believer. The ONLY MEANS by which grace is granted to the believer is through the birth, life, crucifixion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ as the perfect sacrifice of God the Father. The believer enters the grace of God through faith in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of his or her sins. God the Father grants His grace to each believer upon repentance of sins and baptism by full immersion in water, which is the symbolic covenant death in order to enter into the New Covenant of Grace and is the believer’s outward manifestation of repentance. Through grace, the believer’s sins are forgiven through Jesus’ shed blood. Then the righteousness of Jesus Christ is imputed to him or her.
“Grace establishes a new, direct, personal, spiritual covenant relationship between the believer, God the Father, and Jesus Christ. Through this unearned and unmerited gift of grace, the believer is not only called, chosen, forgiven, and accepted by God the Father through His Beloved, but is also begotten with the Holy Spirit, making him or her a child of God and an heir of eternal life. From this point, the spiritually begotten believer begins a new life under the love and grace of God.
Grace does not grant anyone a license to practice sin by ignoring or rejecting the commandments of God. Only those who love God and keep His commandments can abide in His love and remain under His grace. Every believer who receives the grace of God has a personal obligation to God the Father and Jesus Christ to forsake his or her old, sinful thoughts and practices and to live a new life, daily growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ. For every believer who lives under grace, Jesus Christ acts as Redeemer, High Priest, and Advocate. If the believer commits a sin, He intercedes to propitiate the Father and to obtain His forgiveness, mercy, and grace. The grace of God, which comes through Jesus Christ, keeps the repentant believer in a continual state of blamelessness and sinlessness” (Appendix M, The Holy Bible In Its Original Order—A Faithful Version, p. 1288, updated).
We have in-depth sermon series on these subjects—“Love of God” and “Grace of God.” These are extended series on CDs with accompanying sermon transcripts as spiral-bound books. These series are truly inspiring because they reveal that we have a direct, personal relationship with God the Father and Jesus Christ. Please feel free to order them.
Paul writes: “Now when He [Jesus] came, He preached the gospel—peace to you who were far off and to those who were near. For through Him we both [Jews and Gentiles] have direct access by one Spirit to the Father. So then, you are no longer aliens and foreigners; but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of the household of God. You are being built up on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief Cornerstone, in Whom all the building, being conjointly fitted together, is increasing into a holy temple in the Lord; in Whom you also are being built together for a habitation of God in the Spirit” (Eph. 2:17-22).
Studying these series can be a wonderful life-changing experience, helping you to grow in the grace and the knowledge of Christ. It will also help you to develop a deeper personal relationship with God. John thus encourages us: “That which we have seen and have heard we are reporting to you in order that you also may have fellowship with us; for the fellowship—indeed, our fellowship—is with the Father and with His own Son, Jesus Christ. These things we are also writing to you, so that your joy may be completely full” (I John 1:3-4).
The Feast of Pentecost: The Feast of Pentecost is directly linked to the Feast of Unleavened Bread. The offering of the special sheaf of newly ripened barley was presented to God by the High Priest on the day after the weekly Sabbath during Unleavened Bread. The spring harvest of the barley and wheat could not begin until this unique ceremony was performed: “And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Speak to the children of Israel and say to them, “When you have come into the land which I give to you, and shall reap the harvest of it, then you shall bring the premier sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest to the priest. And he shall wave the sheaf before the Lord to be accepted for you. On the next day after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it” ’ ” (Lev. 23:10-11).
The New Testament spiritual meaning and fulfillment of this Temple ritual applies directly to Jesus Christ. The actual time that Jesus was resurrected from the dead was toward the end of the weekly Sabbath during the Feast of Unleavened Bread—after being in the tomb three whole days and three whole nights. Then, on the morning on the first day of the week, after the Sabbath, Jesus ascended to the Father in heaven to be accepted as the perfect sacrifice for the sins of the world.
Paul writes that Jesus’ resurrection and ascension was the fulfillment of the premier wave sheaf offering—the first of the firstfruits. He writes: “But now Christ has been raised from the dead; He has become the Firstfruit of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead” (I Cor. 15:20-21).
Thus, after the priest waved the premier sheaf, the grain harvest could begin—and would continue for the next seven weeks: “And you shall count to you beginning with the next day after the Sabbath, beginning with the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering; seven Sabbaths shall be complete. Even unto the day after the seventh Sabbath you shall number fifty days. And you shall [then] offer a new grain offering to the Lord” (Lev. 23:15-16).
Paul shows that the seven weeks (plus one day, for a 50-day total) are symbolic of the Church Age—from Jesus’ resurrection and ascension to the resurrection of the saints at His coming. He writes: “But each in his own order: Christ the Firstfruit; then, those who are Christ’s at His coming” (I Cor. 15:23). Additionally, James reveals that Christians are the firstfruits of God’s spiritual creation (James 1:18). To complete the symbolism, we find in Revelation chapters 2-3 that there are “seven prophetic churches” down through time until the return of Christ, which picture the seven weeks of the harvest.
John writes that the firstfruits comprise the first resurrection. “And I saw thrones; and they that sat upon them, and judgment was given to them; and I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus, and for the Word of God, and those who did not worship the beast, or his image, and did not receive the mark in their foreheads or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years…. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is the one who has part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power. But they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years” (Rev. 20:4-6).
You will be receiving messages on CDs concerning the time leading up to Pentecost, as well as the message concerning this vital holy day, which pictures the “first resurrection.”
If you do not have the books God’s Plan Revealed by His Sabbath and Holy Days and Occult Holidays or God’s Holy Days—Which?, please feel free to order them. They will explain all the details concerning the feasts and holy days of God.
Brethren, we all realize that we are facing very difficult times. But regardless of our circumstances, God the Father and Jesus Christ love us and are with us. Plus, the angels are watching over us. Once again, thank you for your love and prayers for all the brethren and for us. We are praying for you every day that God’s love, grace, blessings, healing, and protection will be upon you and yours in every way. We thank you for your continued support with your tithes and offerings, which help us reach out to the brethren and to those searching for God.
With love in Christ Jesus,
Fred R. Coulter