“And Elijah answered and said to the captain of fifty, If I be a man of God, then let fire come down from heaven, and consume thee and thy fifty.” ~ 2Ki 1:10
9 And he came thither unto a cave, and lodged there; and, behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and he said unto him, What doest thou here, Elijah?
10 And he said, I have been very jealous for the Lord God of hosts: for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.
Few characters in the Bible bring to my mind the word “enigma” more than Elijah the prophet. The only one perhaps that might be more confusing, and confused I believe, would be Samson, who obviously often had other things on his mind than the task at hand.
It’s no secret that some liked to compare Herbert W Armstrong to Elijah, and while not totally unjustified, I think much of the time it confuses the issue and makes a mess of prophecy. It really should be obvious to anyone that HWA was not the Elijah to come, and that’s one of the things certain soothsayers calling themselves ministers of God like to harp upon. The proof is easy: HWA is dead, and Jesus has not returned. Period. As John the Baptist was alive to introduce the living Christ, so will the Elijah to come prepare God’s people to meet Christ at His return. In fact, since there will be a 3-1/2 year period of protection for God’s people, just as Jesus’ ministry was about 3-1/2 years, it is a fairly sure bet that the Elijah to come will lead God’s people into safety during the Great Tribulation.
There will be no human Elisha to follow the Elijah. There will be no human Joshua to follow Moses. In fact, the only one to follow that last minute endtime leader will be THE Jeshua, the Anglicized word that equates to “Jesus”!
Will he be one of the Two Witnesses of Revelation? I do not know. Anyone who tells you either “yes” or “no” to such a question must either be one of these three individuals or a false teacher. The Bible does not state whether or not that is the case, so it is a presumptuous thing for someone to claim what is not clearly outlined in the Bible!
In fact, it is that same presumption that causes people to see all sorts of things that are not clearly stated in Scripture. For example, the teaching that a third resurrection is a “fundamental belief” is seriously flawed. Jesus over and over outlines two types of resurrection. The writer of Hebrews, most likely Paul, writes of a “resurrection of the dead” (Heb 6:2), but he does not state for certain how many.
For the record, I do believe in three resurrections as the text would be otherwise quite difficult to make sense of, but it could be read so that there are only two. We are specifically told there is a first resurrection, and we specifically see a resurrection afterwards. We are not specifically told there are two.
People also read things in the Bible like an explicit calendar. Ain’t there! People read into the Bible things like going to Heaven when you die. Ain’t there!
It is time we come to terms that well-meaning people are given different levels of understanding, and this may occur on many different subjects. It is time to understand that many groups through whom we trace the true Church of God down through time did not even keep the holy days! We need to understand that for many the only distinguishing doctrines were the rejection of outright Catholicism: rejection of the trinity, baptism by sprinkling and changing the Sabbath to Sunday for worship.
How many of them were truly saved? I don’t know, and it is none of my business.
What is my business is to stick to what I do know without rigidly holding onto that which is questionable.
47 And that servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes.
48 But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.
You know, even when HWA was alive, it was sometimes postulated that there could be some who attend church on Sunday that are saved. Personally, I find it to be a stretch. The Bible is quite clear that keeping the commandments is like a sign of God’s people. However, there is one command that is specifically singled for mentioning in this regard.
13 Speak thou also unto the children of Israel, saying, Verily my sabbaths ye shall keep: for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations; that ye may know that I am the Lord that doth sanctify you.
14 Ye shall keep the sabbath therefore; for it is holy unto you: every one that defileth it shall surely be put to death: for whosoever doeth any work therein, that soul shall be cut off from among his people.
15 Six days may work be done; but in the seventh is the sabbath of rest, holy to the Lord: whosoever doeth any work in the sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death.
16 Wherefore the children of Israel shall keep the sabbath, to observe the sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant.
17 It is a sign between me and the children of Israel for ever: for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed.
18 And he gave unto Moses, when he had made an end of communing with him upon mount Sinai, two tables of testimony, tables of stone, written with the finger of God.
This section starts off talking about Sabbaths, plural, but notice how it ends!
Does this mean that somehow the holy days are less important? No, I don’t think so. They are referred to as “high days”, after all. The Creation account makes it clear that time and calendars are to be based upon the sun, moon and stars, but more important is the word “seasons”, which is also the word for “feasts”!
However, the holy days are not mentioned in the core of the Law: The Ten Commandments. “Sabbath” is singular there!
When you think about it, it is perhaps the most “disruptive” of the days outlined in Leviticus 23. Most bosses in most professions don’t care when you take a vacation throughout the year unless there is some sort of seasonal need. Factories work 24/7. Many white collar jobs are rather flexible. Even in the food industry, it can be a selling point to say, “Look, I’m free to serve food on Easter or Christmas,” and more and more people are eating out rather than cooking on holidays.
Yet, how many jobs posted say you must work some or all Saturdays? How many want shifts that sometimes do not end until after sundown on Friday? It is a weekly disruption for the world’s system!
At minimum, fighting the world’s system is like a salmon swimming upstream. It gets tiring, doesn’t it?
HWA had one thing in common with Elijah, but it wasn’t the most flattering characteristic: He thought he was the only one. Elijah told the people “I, even I only, remain a prophet of the LORD…” (1Ki 18:22). How many times did he refer to himself as the endtime apostle? How many times did he declare it was the “only” true Church?
Of course, by “Church”, he was referring to an organization, and that was not true. After the iron curtain fell and China began to relax controls on religion, it started coming out how many underground churches had been formed, and a few of them were Sabbatarian. Under such circumstances, if they did not keep the holy days, should you or I presume that they were not true servants of God?
What’s my point? Actually, there are far too many that could be made. However, the main one is that we need not be alone! Humans are social beings, like it or not! We are commanded to assemble together (Heb 10:25)!
We really need to reconsider, each one of us, what that really means. What is the purpose of the Church? What is the purpose of meeting together? Is it only to receive instruction? Is it only for preaching? After all, we don’t need to assemble together if we are simply to pray and pay in order to produce booklets, Bible study correspondence courses, telecasts, blogs, etc. If preaching is truly all that we need, then we can tune in to a webcast and get our messages that way.
Speaking of the web and other forms of technology, we need to understand and consider that these are merely tools. They do not replace the need for human interaction.
18 And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.
~ Ge 2:18
We often concentrate upon the sexual and marital aspects of this. IOW, we often hone in on the fact that God created a woman to be the perfect compliment, physically and emotionally, to the man. However, it would be ludicrous for us to assume that is the only relationship need we have! Otherwise, what is the purpose of having parents, children and siblings? What of our relationship with God?
Notice the wording! “It is not good that the man should be alone“! God’s answer was perfect for the occasion, but notice as well that there were no other human beings in existence. One of their jobs was to “be fruitful and multiply” (Ge 1:28)! Why? Isn’t it because even God wants relationship?
Ironically, I am now listening to a podcast about how electronic gadgets help us to make shallow relationships. We don’t involve ourselves deeply into human relationships that are sitting across from the table because we are busy being alone in a group, tweeting, texting, etc. It’s ironic because one of two The New York Times articles that kicked off this train of thought was “How Not to Be Alone” by Jonathan Safran Foer. It is an odd article, in that I don’t believe Foer ever really comes out and says, “this is how it is done”, but rather it is a commentary on the isolationism that can result from the overuse and dependence upon our electronic toys. It allows us to put up a wall between us that becomes pretty weak in face-to-face encounters.
Everyone wants his parent’s, or friend’s, or partner’s undivided attention — even if many of us, especially children, are getting used to far less. Simone Weil wrote, “Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity.” By this definition, our relationships to the world, and to one another, and to ourselves, are becoming increasingly miserly.
It has become increasingly easier to become alone in a crowd. It has become increasingly easier to become lonely because all of our relationships are becoming more and more shallow.
The other The New York Times article was “Gunfire at Board Meeting Traced to Eviction Dispute“. You’ve probably heard of the impoverished man in the Poconos who opened fire on the Ross Township meeting, killing three people, and he said he wished he could have killed more. The opening statement of the article is what I want to focus in on:
Rockne Warren Newell lived alone in the Pocono Mountains of eastern Pennsylvania in utter poverty.
“It is not good that man should be alone” (NKJV). Some versions say “the man”, as in singular. The man, the human being, should not be alone.
Apparently, Newell had no one. He had his Social Security check for a disability, but obviously that doesn’t pay much. He could not keep up on his house, the court costs, etc.
Then, last October, as part of a last-ditch effort to stave off eviction, Mr. Newell sought to raise $10,000 on an Internet fund-raising page to pay for legal fees and to make some of the improvements demanded by township officials. In his plea, Mr. Newell wrote: “I need to clean up & I need a lawyer, I have no place to go and my 2 rescue dogs will be put to sleep because no one else will take them.” The effort — which he called “Save Rocky’s Home” — failed to garner a single donation. He was eventually forced to leave his property, according to the authorities.
Now, not everyone who is a loner is going to go off and start shooting people, but many shooters have spent time alone or perhaps with one other, feeling totally disenfranchised in what they perceive as an unjust world. It should make us realize just how fragile human beings are, both physically and emotionally.
Of course, it doesn’t help that it often is an unjust world. It sort of reminds me of a short fictional book Society’s Jail by Daniel Reusanach. It struck me how that book was a lot like a story my father used to tell about an ex-con who struggled economically in spite of his best intentions after his release. It finally got so bad he could not get his dentures fixed, so he held up a bank so he could be arrested and go back to jail where he would receive free healthcare and dental work.
It should be evident that, alone, people have a tendency to go off the rails. Alone is not good. It leads to depression and self-pity, sort of how Elijah felt in spite of his great victory against the false prophets of Baal. It leads to weird ideas, including religious ones, and you wind up with people like David Koresh and his followers. The fact that anyone in the COG splinters would defend him is abhorrent and shows how little discernment some people have. Being alone can lead to despair and then to illegal activities.
Do you want to know why I believe Abraham is the “father of the faithful”? For one thing, he did it alone. We get indications from Scripture that Terah might have actually been the one originally called out from Ur of the Chaldees. However, he did not stick to it. He stopped at Haran, which was also the name his son who died. Was that just too much for him? Many are called, but few are chosen.
Yet, Abram/Abraham stuck with it. He was an exceptional human being, but he was still human. He lied twice that we know of, or at least he covered up the truth with intent to deceive, which is really the same thing. He gave in to Sarah in having a son through a concubine. Would he have done so if he had a group of like-minded people to be accountable to? Perhaps, but perhaps not. At very least, it would have been nice if there had been someone to say, “You know, Abraham, don’t you think you’re rushing things? Shouldn’t you ask God about this first?”
If Abraham can make mistakes and jump the rails on his own, then who do we think we are?
I understand how it can be, though. Some countries only have one or two people that even are a part of the larger COG. That’s unfortunate, but they are being entrusted to have the faith of Abraham.
As for the rest of us, though, perhaps Jesus said it best:
7 Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.
~ Mt 4:7