Hope of Israel Ministries (Ecclesia of YEHOVAH):
Will we ever get it right? Will we ever come to agree on the most basic teachings concerning YEHOVAH's Holy Days -- when and how we should observe Passover, and Pentecost? It seems disagreement is still rampant and opinions are still obdurate and set in concrete! Will we ever learn? Will we ever wake up, and confess our sins, and admit our transgressions? What will it take?
by HOIM Staff
Some Years back, on December 23-25, 1995, a unique "Friends of the Sabbath" meeting or seminar was held at San Antonio, Texas, and was much bally-hooed and even advertised in the Biblical Archaeology Review. The central focus of the meetings was, in this instance, discussion and lectures on the "Annual Holy Days of God." Put together by a private religious organization, called "Friends of the Sabbath," the conference included lectures from ministers of various end-time splits of the Worldwide Church of God, including Ron Dart, formerly of Church of God, International, Steven Nathan of the United Church of God, Larry Salyer of Global Church of God, and others.
The featured key-note speaker was Dr. Samuelle Bacchiocchi, a Seventh Day Adventist, who has been diligently researching the Holy Days for the past six months. He says he has come to some conclusions that may upset and startle his own church, the Seventh Day Adventists, who do not observe the annual holy days. He says his conclusions will also cause consternation among many groups who claim to observe them.
I say, "Hurrah!" It's about time somebody got the attention of all these groups who boast about their spirituality and think they have it all "right." I mean, of course, all the off-shoots that have split off from the Worldwide Church of God over the past twenty years or so. I am sure "Sam," or "Brother Sam," as he prefers to be called, will tweak the noses of many former Worldwide ministers, and leave them a little "out of joint." Many of them, I am sure, will not appreciate it in the least. They may even feel "cornered." But, maybe some of them will be willing to accept the challenge, and look into this matter of the Holy Days of YEHOVAH God, and when and how they should be observed. Maybe, once his conclusions are publicized, these other ministers will finally see that their own historic positions are not that easily defended. Maybe some of them will become more serious about looking into these questions, and will study the issues for the first time, more diligently, open-mindedly, and honestly, than they have in the past.
Since being ejected from Worldwide, precisely one year to the very date of Herbert Armstrong's death on January 16, 1986, I have stood alone, pounding the gong, blowing the shofar (or trumpet), banging on the drums, telling Worldwide and all of its off-shoots, "You are keeping Passover on the wrong day," "You are observing a pagan style Passover mass"; and, "You are observing Pentecost on the wrong day, counting it from the wrong day!"
I have been shouting at the top of my lungs but very few have taken notice. Very few have paid much attention. Most ministers have been very blase‚ about the whole matter. They don't want to listen to a little "pip-squeak" like me. Apparently, they reason, "Why this noisy this fellow was never one of us," "Why should we listen to him?" And they smugly congratulate themselves, and pat themselves on the back, and go their way, refusing to even entertain the thought they could be wrong. Rather than approach this matter prayerfully, and humbly, asking YEHOVAH God if they could be wrong, and asking Him for direction, divine guidance, and for an open mind, they refuse to do so, stubbornly setting their jaw firmly, and pounding on the subject of "church government," their eyes like gleaming daggers pointed at any who would question their wisdom, knowledge, or authority.
They have taken "so much" for granted all these years. I might paraphrase Winston Churchill: "Never was so much taken for granted by so many over so long a period of time!"
An Alien Encounter of a Strange Kind
One such minister I accosted at the "Friends of the Sabbath" seminar at Dana Point, in the spring of 1995. He had left Worldwide a year or so earlier, and was planning to go into selling Real Estate, back in Missouri, but then found out that wasn't going to be easy. He got a better offer from Rod Meredith, head of the Global Church of God, and became an evangelist with that church organization. This particular individual, ironically, had been the one who had disfellowshipped me from Worldwide, without so much as a hearing, in January of 1987, and then had my name read in all the churches around the world as a "heretic," and one who was to be "marked in all the churches"! When I saw him at the "Friends of the Sabbath" meeting, and went up to him to meet him, and talk to him, I smiled, shook his hand, and said, "You are the minister who disfellowshipped me from Worldwide." Did he apologize, and admit he may well have been wrong? Since he himself has now been disfellowshipped by Worldwide, I thought he might be easier to talk to. But it was nothing of the kind. He simply stared at me and retorted, "You probably deserved it!" He was dead serious.
In mulling this over in my mind, I couldn't help but wonder if this minister even yet got the point of what true humility, repentance, and conversion were all about!
Today, I see an end-time church of God in turmoil. Members are in distress. Many see friends and family members attending different churches, and some are scared to death that their friends and family members may be en route to the Gehenna Fire! There is alarm, and fear, everywhere.
And many are beginning to search for the truth, refusing to depend on previously erring and errant ministers and "leaders" to spoon feed them the "Truth." They want to know, and really PROVE, the truth, and not take it for granted any longer!
Today, I wonder, How many ministers have yet to learn their lessons? How many ministers are still self-righteous, worried more about their salaries than the Truth of YEHOVAH God?
I also look at the scattered members, and wonder, How many of them are alert, how many have learned not to follow "men," how many are really dedicating themselves to seeking the TRUTH of YEHOVAH God, fearlessly, boldly, wherever it may lead them?
I look at the massive devastation caused by the incredible apostasy of Worldwide Church of God and its leadership, in these Last Days -- a case where the wolves have completely taken over the sheepfold -- and I wince.
Sheep Scattered on a Thousand Hills
I look at the scattering sheep, fleeing over a thousand hills, today, and the efforts of various branches of the end-time churches of YEHOVAH God, trying to bring them into their own folds, and I cannot help but groan inwardly, and bewail their plight. For these ministers, in most cases, still haven't repented of their sins, their self-righteousness, and their gross errors in teaching. They still assume and teach the members to "follow us," rather than follow the Messiah! They still put a high price on "Church Authority" and "Government," yet they themselves are deeply remiss when it comes to searching the Scriptures, obeying YEHOVAH God, and following the plain commands of Yeshua the Messiah!
How important is it that we get it right? How important is it that we observe Passover and Pentecost on the correct days and in the correct manner? In YEHOVAH's sight, it is VERY IMPORTANT!
As Herbert Armstrong would have said, if he had understood these truths, "IT IS HOLY TIME!" "ONLY GOD CAN MAKE TIME HOLY!" Satan the devil must chuckle, chortle, snort, and wheeze with uncontrollable glee and riotous laughter when he sees the various splinter-branches of the churches of YEHOVAH God dumfounded, bamboozled, and totally mired in the mud of deception, regarding the celebration of these two "APPOINTED TIMES" of YEHOVAH God Almighty!
Where have the end-time leaders of the end-time churches gone wrong? Where did they all go astray? Why haven't ANY of them seriously, objectively, looked into these matters, confessing that they could be wrong? Are they just too lazy?
How Important is the "Truth"?
David Hulme has been appointed "President" of the newly formed "United Church of God." Formerly he was the "Chairman of the Board." Surely he should know the truth! But as a friend from Canada called me, and commented, "The Chairman of the Board doesn't even know how to figure Pentecost!" But how many of the off-shoots of Worldwide do? Why are they all so blind? Is this a "sign" they are all of the "Laodicean persuasion" (Rev. 3:17)? Of all the seven churches in Revelation, YEHOVAH God only calls the Laodicean church "blind"!
I thought about the leaders of the various other branches of the end-time Church. Gerald Flurry of the "Philadelphia Church of God" thinks he is Elisha the prophet, following in the footsteps of "Elijah." But the original Elijah and Elisha kept these holy days at the appointed times! How can Flurry lead the "true end-time church of God," if he can't even keep Passover and Pentecost on the right days, and in proper manner? Herbert Armstrong made scores of errors in terms of prophetic predictions, which failed to come to pass -- in the 1930's, 1940's, 1950's, 1960's, and even in the 1970's. He predicted for years that Yeshua the Messiah would return in 1975! Could his prophetic errors have been due to the fact he never got Passover and Pentecost right?
Roderick Meredith, leader of the "Global Church of God," takes great pride in having once been "on the inside" with Herbert Armstrong. He and "Global Church of God" are busily "preaching the gospel," especially the "Ten Commandments." But Rod, who was the "hatchet man" for Stanley Rader and Herbert Armstrong during the Receivership Crisis of the Worldwide Church of God in 1979-1980, hasn't got a clue as to how to calculate Passover and Pentecost! When one man entered his office a couple of years ago to tell him he was taking the following day off to celebrate Pentecost, Meredith, in shock, declared, "You mean there's a controversy over Pentecost, too?"
Many church members wanted Global to look into the Passover question, a few years ago, and were promised that it would be done. But instead it was put on the back burner, and the priority was announced that "we must preach the gospel." Apparently it didn't matter if they didn't even have the "gospel message" right! Shouldn't you know "what to preach" before you begin "preaching"? Shouldn't you know the law, before you "teach" it? They gave Passover a quick "once-over" and declared themselves right, refusing to really do an in-depth and careful analysis of the issues. No wonder they still have prophecy wrong on many outstanding points, and haven't "changed" or grown in understanding since the 1960's!
Prior to his death, Garner Ted Armstrong had his attention diverted and was too busy with other "distractions," to spend any time looking into the Passover or Pentecost question. Pentecost questions in particular were just ridiculed by him, compared to "bird seed," and he simply would not investigate the Pentecost subject. He became "entangled" in the "affairs of this world," and with legal hassles and law suits, so he didn't have much time to study these questions.
What about Ron Dart? He began a new "ministry," which he called "Christian Educational Ministries." He intended to serve "all" the forlorn, scattered brethren who need comfort, help, and teaching, who have felt victimized, betrayed, confused, and hurt. His is a "nonaligned" ministry. Several years ago, while he was still in the Church of God, International, I sent him articles on the subject of Pentecost. I was sincerely hoping that he would be open minded enough to read them carefully, prayerfully, and then give me a responsible answer. But instead, he began preaching sermons giving the old standard "two step shuffle" and "song and dance" routine. He never answered the many points which the articles brought forth, and like most everybody else, defended the church's historic position. He didn't dig into the subject, but merely defended the "status quo" and the "party line." Like many others, he simply ridiculed the Pharisees, pointed out their all-too-obvious faults, and minimized the importance of their "sitting in Moses' seat." He even claimed that all the "Book of the Law" had been lost and destroyed in the reign of wicked king Manasseh of Judah, but in the following reign of righteous king Josiah, a copy of the book of the Law was found in the Temple!
According to Ronald Dart, the Jews had lost all knowledge as to when to keep Pentecost, and had to figure it all out again based on the Scriptures found in the Temple. He added, "So we are in just as good a position as they were to determine how to count Pentecost!" So Ron Dart justifies the current "Sunday" Pentecost, kept by all the off-shoots of Worldwide, who count Pentecost from the Sunday connected with Unleavened Bread. Is Ron Dart right?
But wait a minute! Dart and the rest all observe a different day from that which king Josiah and the Jews in his day KEPT! The Scriptures state PLAINLY: "And he [Josiah] did that which was right in the sight of the LORD, and walked in the ways of David his father, and declined neither to the right hand, nor to the left" (II Chron. 34:2). Therefore, Josiah must have figured it right! YEHOVAH's Word states further: "And Josiah took away all the abominations out of all the countries that pertained to the children of Israel, and made all that were present in Israel to serve, even to serve the LORD their God. And ALL HIS DAYS they departed not from following the LORD the God of their fathers" (II Chron. 34:33).
Now, if Josiah and his people had it right, then Ron Dart and those who disagree with Josiah and the Jews must have it wrong! How could an intelligent man, like Ron Dart, overlook this obvious fact? Did he simply forget the statement in the Scriptures that Josiah was a righteous king, and "departed not" from the commandments of the Lord, to the right hand or the left? Did he forget that Yeshua the Messiah rebuked the Pharisees for many mistakes, but He NEVER said they were wrong in the observance of Passover or Pentecost?
The Jews of Yeshua's time observed Pentecost on the fiftieth day following the first High Holy Day of Passover. The Septuagint, often quoted directly by the Messiah and the apostles, makes it plain. Josephus in his Antiquities of the Jews, writing in the first century, makes it plain. Paul, who was a Pharisee (Acts 23:6), said he had been "taught according to the perfect manner of the law" (Acts 22:3), and that he was "as touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless" (Phil. 3:6). The Messiah himself clearly approved the Pharisees' authority in determining the holy days, saying to his disciples, "All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe [including Sabbaths and Holy Days], that observe and do" (Matt. 23:3).
Isn't it time we quit following "men," and erring "ministers," who refuse to check out and obey the Truth? Isn't it time we ALL humble ourselves, and begin to follow YEHOVAH God and the Messiah?
Isn't it about time we really got serious, and really "contend earnestly for the faith ONCE delivered unto the saints"? (Jude 4). How must YEHOVAH God look on all this modern confusion and ridiculous controversy, when the truth is so plain a CHILD can understand it?
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