The 2011 Feast of Tabernacles sermon video is titled: “In Pursuit of the Kingdom of God.” The Kingdom is our destination. We look forward to the time when Christ returns to establish His Kingdom here on this earth. It will be a time of great peace like we have never experienced. All of humankind will be striving to live God's way of life.
As the United Church of God, we are striving to work humbly together, as one body, doing His work and preparing ourselves for that time. Continuing on in the commission Christ assigned to his people, His Church moves forward, pursuing His Kingdom.
This sermon video will tell stories of UCG members and their families and congregations from diverse locations. As brothers and sisters in Christ, their stories should bring to mind your own calling and inspire you to more fervently seek the Kingdom. Enjoy seeing how God increased their faith and humble attitude of service—often despite obstacles, trial or persecution.
As we look forward to God's Kingdom and anticipate the time when all of humanity will be learning of His ways—pictured by the Feast of Tabernacles—this message will help all of us to be even more committed to serving Christ in everything we do.
Dennis Luker: Greetings, brethren, wherever you may be keeping the Feast of Tabernacles around the world. As we all know, this Feast pictures the Kingdom of God on earth - the one thousand year period when Jesus Christ will rule this earth from Jerusalem. And all the saints - His called and chosen people, down through the ages, will be ruling and serving under Him. And that includes all of us.
I’m sure that you are hearing some inspiring messages about God’s coming Kingdom and our part in it. And I hope the message of this Feast video will also encourage and inspire you brethren.
Let’s briefly review what God reveals in His Word about the meaning of this Feast, and then, what God wants us to be doing in His church and work today. So let’s begin by looking at the incredible meaning of the Feast of Tabernacles. Zechariah, chapter 14, and we’ll begin reading in verse 1.
Zechariah 14:1 Zechariah 14:1Behold, the day of the LORD comes, and your spoil shall be divided in the middle of you.
American King James Version×- Behold, the day of the LORD is coming and your spoil will be divided in your midst.
Then drop down to verse 9.
V-9 - The LORD shall be king over all the earth. In that day it shall be - "The LORD is one and His name is one."
So this is talking about the return of Jesus Christ to rule on this earth. Then, let’s notice the well-known verses 16 through 19.
V-16-19 - And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left of all the nations, which came against Jerusalem, shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles. And it shall be that, whichever of the families of the earth do not come up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, on them there will be no rain. If the family of Egypt will not come and enter in, they shall have no rain. They shall receive the plague with which the LORD strikes the nations who do not come up to keep the Feast of Tabernacles. This shall be the punishment of Egypt and the punishment of all the nations that do not come up to keep the Feast of Tabernacles.
So, brethren, we know that when Christ returns, all nations will learn to keep the Feast of Tabernacles. That’s why we keep it every year. We’re preparing for that time.
Let’s notice what Micah says about the Kingdom of God. Verses 1 through 4, chapter 4.
Micah 4:1-4 Micah 4:1-4 1 But in the last days it shall come to pass, that the mountain of the house of the LORD shall be established in the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and people shall flow to it.
2 And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
3 And he shall judge among many people, and rebuke strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.
4 But they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid: for the mouth of the LORD of hosts has spoken it.
American King James Version×- And it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the LORD's house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills, and people shall flow to it. Many nations shall come and say, "Come and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob, He will teach us His ways. And we will walk in His paths. For out of Zion the law shall go forth and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. And He shall judge between many peoples and rebuke strong nations afar off. They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruninghooks. Nations shall not lift up sword against nation, and neither shall they learn war anymore. Then notice verse 4 - the peace that will come. But everyone shall sit under his vine and under his fig tree and no one will make them afraid, for the mouth of the LORD of hosts has spoken.
So, brethren, this Feast pictures a wonderful time of peace on earth, when no one will be afraid.
Herbert Armstrong: Now, if you want to know the state of the world, and where we are now, and what is immediately ahead, and what is going to happen next, you have to get it from one source only.
Peggy Huckstep : I found the church through listening to the radio - Mr. Armstrong.
Ed Smith: WOAI, San Antonio, Texas - a 50,000 watt , clear channel station.
Bill Hadley: And I was, at one time, interested in becoming a cartoonist. In the evening, I would sit at my easel, and I would work on my course. So I turned the radio on.
Dottie Seifert: My father owned a small printing company and he did a hometown newspaper. And I would go help him put the papers together. And one day, he told me, "There’s this program that you’ve got to be listening to." He said that there’s no prayers, no organ music. And then he told me a little bit about Mr. Armstrong. And I said, "Do you suppose that they’re preparing the way for the second coming of Christ, like John the Baptist did for the first?" And then I thought, "Where did that come from? We’ve never heard anything about the second coming of Christ."
Ed Smith: I grew up, as a young teenage boy, in Oklahoma during the dust bowl days and the Great Depression. From there, we went into the war years.
Cliff Adams: And I had sent in for the booklet, Should a Christian Fight? And I got it about the same time I got orders to go to Korea. And I was reading that, and we were talking about it...I said, "I think I’m in the wrong business."
Joe Handley: I lived in Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania, at that time, but I was visiting a cousin in the Washington DC area. And he had worked on his car that day, and he asked me to take a ride with him, to see if the car was okay. And I guess we were out on the road about an hour, and that whole time, he told me that he was going to raise his newborn daughter very differently. She wouldn’t be keeping Christmas and things like that. Well, I thought this was the craziest thing I had ever heard! I went to bed that night - probably about ten, ten-thirty - and about one o’clock I woke up and I could not sleep, because I was thinking about all the things that he was telling me. And I was going for hours...I mulled them over in my head. And my thinking changed by morning. My thinking was different.
Cliff Adams: When it came to the Sabbath, I was having to go to the Motor Pool and work on a tank, because I was a tank driver. And I asked my sergeant if there was any way I could get out of going to the Motor Pool on Saturday. He said, "As long as your tank is running, you don’t have to go to the Motor Pool on Saturday. My tank never broke down. I mean, it was amazing to think that God was so far out ahead of me. ...you know, you’re a farm boy, but, if you just wait, these things are going to work out, if you just....
Carolyn Adams: I was learning so much and I just couldn’t get enough of the learning. And I was just taking it all in, but learning about the kingdom - that there was something to work for, and something to grow for, and something that was going to help everybody - not just a few people, or whatever. It was for everybody !
Victor Kubik: The Kingdom of God was very intriguing, because, on the program, it talked about the Kingdom of God coming to the earth. It seemed very practical, relevant, and, really, a problem-solving type of experience for the earth. So I found all this to be very, very intriguing. And I loved the doctrine - the teachings - about the Kingdom of God.
Aaron Dean: I was very happy when we started studying 1 Corinthians 7 and we found out that you chose . Because God called your parents, you could choose to come into the church. So, for me, the first love was a different experience.
Elissa Shew: Well, since I grew up in the church - I’d been taught God’s way my whole life - I don’t know that I really internalized that to be mine until I was graduated from college. I had been through a lot of things during college years. Losing my dad was one of them. It was at a very young age - a very premature death. And that definitely got me thinking about how short life is, and how we’re just...you know, we're mortal, and things don’t go on forever.
Peter Eddington: I remember, when I was eleven years old.... I never had any thought of leaving the church. I just figured that I’d always be coming to church. And this was my church. And when I was about eleven years old, I remember taking ownership of it, and figuring, one day I’ll get baptized and that’s just the way it will be. So I learned the truth from an early age and it was normal to me. But it wasn’t until I was about twenty years old that it started to take on deeper meaning. And I remember reading the booklet, The Gospel of the Kingdom , or The Gospel of the Kingdom of God ...I forget the exact title. But suddenly, it just started to make sense to me. Something clicked in my mind. Obviously, God was calling me at the time. Within a year of that, I was baptized.
Joe Handley: I would go out on Sabbath mornings, on this upper porch on the second floor, and I would take my Bible and some booklets. And I would stay out there all day and read. And I look back...they were some of the most wonderful times of my life. I had experienced a peace and a joy that I had never known before. You know, these awesome truths of God were really penetrating. Before I saw...when I was fourteen, I saw that the world was wrong. Now I was seeing how much I had to change personally.
Bill Hadley: I grew up in the Methodist Church.
Carolyn Adams: Protestant Church.
Victor Kubik: Ukranian Orthodox.
Joe Handley: I started telling my parents what I was learning. Now, they actually persecuted me - my parents actually persecuted me.
Bill Hadley: It caused problems at first. For awhile, it caused problems, because we left the Methodist Church and followed some crazy religion.
Joe Handley: They said they were going to put me in an insane asylum, told me that they were going to disinherit me - which they did. They tore up my literature. They actually tore up all my literature. By the time I was sixteen, I got a post office box. I was probably the only sixteen-year-old in that town that had his own post office box. The only thing is, it was two miles away and I had to walk four miles up there to get my literature.
Bill Hadley: Nobody will ever forget their first Feast.
Cliff Adams: We strive all year long, trying to emulate the Kingdom as we live. But then, when you go to the Feast, the Kingdom is just...I mean, it’s on...as they say, it’s on fire! I mean, it’s just full of desire and love.
Bill Hadley: It was something that made life worthwhile - made living worthwhile - looking forward to that time - that eternal life in God’s presence.
Cliff Adams: The Kingdom of God...you live it...you live it through the year, but, when God says, "You come to this place where I have set My name," then that’s the love really emphasized.
Dennis Luker: Brethren, let's consider now the incredible attitude of humility that Jesus Christ had, and modeled, and taught for us to have, so that we can serve with Him in His Kingdom.
In Matthew, chapter 20, verses 20 through 28, here's what Christ taught His disciples - and taught us.
Matthew 20:20-28 Matthew 20:20-28 20 Then came to him the mother of Zebedees children with her sons, worshipping him, and desiring a certain thing of him.
21 And he said to her, What will you? She said to him, Grant that these my two sons may sit, the one on your right hand, and the other on the left, in your kingdom.
22 But Jesus answered and said, You know not what you ask. Are you able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? They say to him, We are able.
23 And he said to them, You shall drink indeed of my cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with: but to sit on my right hand, and on my left, is not my to give, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of my Father.
24 And when the ten heard it, they were moved with indignation against the two brothers.
25 But Jesus called them to him, and said, You know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority on them.
26 But it shall not be so among you: but whoever will be great among you, let him be your minister;
27 And whoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant:
28 Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered to, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.
American King James Version×- The mother of Zebedee's sons came to Him, with her sons - that was James and John - and kneeling down and asking something from Him. And He said to her, "What do you wish?" And she said to Him, "Grant that these two sons of mine may sit, one on your right hand and the other on the left in your Kingdom." And Jesus answered and said, "You do not know what you ask. Are you able to drink the cup that I am able to drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?" And they said to Him, "We are able." And He said to them, "You will, indeed, drink my cup and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with, but to sit on My right hand and on My left is not mine to give. But it is for those for whom it is prepared by My Father." So God the Father is preparing for each of us a job, a duty, a responsibility, an opportunity of service in His Kingdom. He will determine that Jesus Christ said. And when the ten heard the question - and wanted to sit on His right hand and on His left hand - they were moved with indignation against the two brothers. Then Jesus called them to Himself and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them" - the people - "and those who are great exercise authority over them" - the people. "And yet, it shall not be so among you. But whosoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave, just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.
So, brethren, it is so very important that all of us - by the grace of God and with the help of God - that we help one another, that we work together, to develop this same attitude of humility that Jesus Christ had.
Notice what Jesus said in John 13 - a scripture we all know well - that we hear, especially before the Passover service. In John 13, verses 14 and 15, Jesus said to the disciples:
John 13:14-15 John 13:14-15 14 If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; you also ought to wash one another’s feet.
15 For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you.
American King James Version×- If I, then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet, for I have given you an example that you should do as I have done to you.
So here is Jesus Christ, the Son of God, humbling Himself, brethren, getting down on His knees to wash the feet of the disciples. What an incredible, wonderful example for all of us to do that for one another, and for any of God's people, and for all of mankind - to humble ourselves like Jesus Christ.
Then, in the book of Philippians, chapter 2, verse 5:
Philippians 2:5-9 Philippians 2:5-9 5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:
7 But made himself of no reputation, and took on him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:
8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient to death, even the death of the cross.
9 Why God also has highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name:
American King James Version×- Let this mind be in you, which also was in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a servant and coming in the likeness of men. And being found, in appearance, as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient, even to the point of death - even the death of the cross. Therefore, God has highly exalted Him and given Him a name, which is above every name.
So, brethren, I want to elaborate on this point for a moment - that we sincerely and deeply, as ministers and servants in the United Church of God, want to learn to become humble servants like Jesus Christ. Please pray for us. And we will pray for you, brethren, that we all can grow together and more perfectly model ourselves after Jesus Christ. The Council of Elders has approved and encouraged us in the ministry to set the example of Christlike service. We know that's biblical. We know it's what we need to be doing - and should be doing - and with God's help, will be doing more of and better. We want to grow in the area of serving as Christ serves.
I want to encourage all of you brethren - wherever you are, wherever you're going to church - to pray about this, please - that Jesus Christ will help us all to develop more humble Christlike attitudes and become like Him in service. And at every level of service in the church - where ever you are - jump in there and serve. Let God use your talents and abilities. Ask Him to show you how you can contribute to His church and His work, that we might all serve more like Jesus Christ.
Bill Hadley: Well, serving...it brings you a lot closer to the people in the church - to the congregation - because that's what you're serving. You're serving God, of course. But you're serving them, too. You're doing something to help them, doing something for them, and something they appreciate your doing.
Vernon Hargrove: If you feel like you're a part of it, then, as we say, you own it - have more confidence - and you feel that what you're doing is worth something.
Peter Eddington: In so many way, when it comes to service in the church, it's a team effort. We all know the scriptures about the toe, and the foot, and the arm and the head. Every part of the body is important.
Joe Handley: At first there was a deacon over us, telling we had to.... Us bachelors...we were the ones that had to come early to the Bible study and lift these heavy tables. It seemed like we had to carry them a half mile away.
Victor Kubik: I see, again, ownership being taken by an entirely different generation. And down deep, that gives me a great sense of joy - that now, at the age I am - I'm not old, but older - to see another generation - one generation behind me - that is not just there on standby, but actually doing things.
Carolyn Adams: If you want to help, the thing of it is, you don't have to have somebody say that you have a specific job. All you have to do is go to God and say, "I want to serve," and then stand back, because you're going to find dozens of ways to serve. Sometimes, you just kind of say, "It's too much." Then God kind of pulls it back. Then you say, "No, I didn't mean it, God. Bring it on." So it would come on.
Bill Hadley: It makes you feel more a part of the church than a bystander. No one, really, if they're in an organization - I don't mean to call the church an organization, but... - if you're in an organization, you don't really want to be a bystander. It takes all the fun out of it, really - all the joy out of it - of getting in there and getting your hands soiled, you might say, and getting tired, but, looking back, and able to say, "I was able to do this, I was able to do that." It makes you feel a part of the church. And the church is God's family - God's children. And that's what we all want to be a part of - is God's family and being His children. And serving makes you feel more a part of it.
Joe Handley: And there are people like that all over the United States - all over the world - in the church. They're there right from the beginning and they're always there for you each and every Sabbath. It doesn't matter whether deacon, elder or member, it really doesn't matter. These people are much loved because of their loyalty and their service.
Cliff Adams: When I first started going to church, it was amazing to me how there would be one or two there that really made you feel welcome. They'd take you around and introduce you to other people - make you feel like.... Because when I first went to church (she wasn't with me that week, because she was expecting our son anytime) and this one man...I mean, I never will forget him. He took me around and introduced me to people. And, at that time, there were over three hundred people there in Cincinnati in just the one church. When I went up there, I thought it was probably me and just two or three people and Mr. Armstrong. I get there and there are three hundred and some people there!
Aaron Dean: Truly, as a Christian, you never quit serving. In fact, the more you get the position, the more dedicated you are and the more service you give.
Cliff Adams: You know, some of these things you saw through the ministry...that has a lot to do with you being willing to serve - is how they serve. You know that new thing that United has come out and said - to be a Christlike servant - you see this over the years, but you, maybe, couldn't have put the title to it. You knew where it was coming from. But to build on that title, it will spread. It will go through those that are doing it. It doesn't matter how low you are, how old you are, how young you are. It will spread.
Peggy Huckstep : When I was younger, I wanted to be a missionary. When I found out about the Church of God and the world tomorrow, all of a sudden I realized that Christ was going to be here on this earth, and that we were going to be a part of that - that government - and we could be a part of changing this world. So in a sense, I would be a missionary.
Dottie Seifert: From the very beginning, knowing that there was a work being done, I wanted to be a part of that work. So we did everything we could. Even before the home office was built, Steve and I would drive down to Cincinnati to do The Good News stuffings. We thought there was a work being done and we wanted to be a part of a work.
Peter Eddington: Here at the home office, we're, pretty much, in three departments. You have the President's Administration. And they're pretty much all together in three or four offices. And that includes Financial Services, where Mr. Dean works as Treasurer. Then we have Ministerial Services, which is another section here at the home office. Then the third area, of course, is the Media Department - Media and Communication Services.
Right now, we really do have an element of peace at the home office. And when you see the employees working together, when you see the United News Managing Editor, Mitch Moss, working with Nick Bizic, who is our main proofreader for our publications - interacting - even when you look at Beyond Today and the production team involved there - the three or four video editors and production staff that are, certainly, very talented, and have had some excellent training in their college years and university training, and have brought a lot to our team. I really see, among my coworkers here at the home office, a spirit of service - and a spirit of humble service.
One area I see this, of course, is in our Mail Processing area. We have two areas. There is the incoming mail and there is the outgoing mail. The incoming mail - that section is actually upstairs on the second floor of the home office. We have Connie Seelig and Alec Surratt that manage the department. We have about six or eight employees that have various responsibilities. And they do it with a smile on their face and with an attitude of humble service. Then there's the outgoing mail, and that's downstairs right next to the warehouse, where outgoing mail is processed. We have several full time and part-time employees there - that are involved in "licking the stamps," so to speak.
We have a wonderful Internet department. As you no doubt have heard, we have updated our ucg.org Website. It's more of a mega-site now. And it now incorporates the magazine sites. And it's doing very well. So, through the Internet and our Website presence, we're able to reach around the globe like never before. Aaron Booth, Tom Disher are really appreciated in being able to make sure that happens. There certainly is an element of peace and camaraderie right now that we really appreciate.
Victor Kubik: Conditions in the church right now are so positive and constructive - in a state of optimism and rebuilding - that I absolutely love my work. I have never enjoyed a job as much as I have working with Ministerial Services at this time.
Aaron Dean: And I really feel that in the home office now - that are so dedicated to serving the brethren, serving the church, and praying before every function, to make sure that God is totally involved every time. It really makes you want to make sure you don't let down the other people, because each of us holds up our portion.
Peter Eddington: That's all part of the whole body being involved in service. It's very important that nobody feels that their small part is insignificant, because the whole body has to work together, when it comes to doing our part to help prepare Christ's bride and to preach the gospel of God's Kingdom.
Cliff Adams: And I think the church, as they continue to feed, they continue to teach...and I think the greatest ability that Christ had was to teach us how to be humble.
Aaron Dean: One of the aspects of Christ's service, that I hadn't thought about until recently, is the fact that He served His entire ministry. Yet His final act of service, when He was just about ready to die and become God again - Spirit being - He washes their feet.
Peter Eddington: Christ came to serve and He expects us to serve. We're supposed to have a serving attitude year round. So when someone starts to think outside of themselves, and start to think about the needs of the other person, it's a character building exercise. That's what God expects of us.
Dennis Luker: And now let's look at an incredible prophecy in the book of Daniel, as we're focusing on the meaning of this Feast of Tabernacles and why we're all keeping it. In Daniel, chapter 7, let's begin with verse 13 - of Daniel 7. Daniel was given a vision. And he said:
Daniel 7:13 Daniel 7:13I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him.
American King James Version×- I was watching in the night visions - visions of the future, of Christ's return, the Kingdom of God - and he said: Behold, one like the Son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven, and He came to Ancient of days - and this is Jesus Christ - the "one like the Son of man" is Christ coming with the clouds of heaven. And he came to the Ancient of days - God the Father - and they brought Him - Christ - near before Him - the Father. Then to Him was given dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all nations, peoples and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom the one which shall not be destroyed.
So Daniel was given a vision of the return of Christ and the Kingdom of God on earth. Then notice an amazing verse - 27.
V-27 - And then the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven - all the kingdoms of this earth - shall be given to the people, the saints of the Most High. His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom and all dominions shall serve and obey Him.
So even in this prophecy in Daniel, God reveals that those who are called to be God's people - called the saints - are going to be given rulership, in the Kingdom of God, over all nations on earth. Brethren, it's truly exciting and amazing to understand the truth of God, and the wonderful plan that he has, and why we're here keeping the Feast of Tabernacles - or wherever you may be on the face of the earth.
Let's go to the New Testament - Luke, chapter 12. And we'll notice here what Jesus says about the Kingdom of God. Some very important scriptures in Luke, chapter 12, verses 31 and 32. Christ said to His disciples and to all of us:
Lk. 12:31-32 - But seek the Kingdom of God and all these things shall be added to you. And then he added: Do not fear, little flock. God's people - God's church - have always been a little flock on this earth. And he said: …for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.
So, brethren, God is planning to give opportunity to serve with Jesus Christ in His Kingdom and to help bring peace to this earth. What a wonderful time lies ahead for all mankind!
Then one more scripture on this part of this message.... In Revelation, chapter 20 - one that we all know very well, and we're looking forward to its fulfillment. Revelation, chapter 20, verses 4 through 6. John wrote:
Revelation 20:4-6 Revelation 20:4-6 4 And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark on their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.
5 But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection.
6 Blessed and holy is he that has part in the first resurrection: on such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.
American King James Version×- I saw thrones and they that sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. And I saw the souls of those that had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and the Word of God - many people give their lives, as martyrs, serving God - and those who had not worshipped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. That's the period of the Millennium, called the Kingdom of God on earth. And it goes on: The rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. We all know that's referring to another resurrection after the thousand years, when those who have not been called by God will be resurrected from the dead and given the opportunity to know God and this truth. It goes on in verse 5: This is the first resurrection . This part of the verse is referring to verse 6. There were no verses when God inspired this. Remember that. So this is the first resurrection. Then, carrying on verse 6: Blessed and holy is he who has part in first resurrection - over such, the second death has no power. But they shall priests of God and of Christ and shall reign with Him a thousand years.
So there's that promise, brethren, to all of us and all of God's people all over the face of the earth - those that are truly converted, and have God's Spirit, and are preparing their lives to serve with Jesus. This promise applies to them - that they will become priests of God and of Christ and will rule with Him for a thousand years in the Kingdom of God.
Aaron Dean: The biggest thing that I have learned from trials in my life - and they have been many - there's no question - I'll soon be 59 and I've seen a lot of things from my youth all the way through - and the one thing that I've learned more than anything else is faith in God. And I've learned that through patience, because I've had to develop a lot of patience. Because there are things that you see that you thought you could fix, but it's a fine line in trying to figure out exactly what you should do. And patience is a big thing. It really is. I don't think you can have faith without patience. That's the criteria I've seen. So many people...it goes long enough and long enough and long enough...well, it's so bad that I've got to do something. And sometimes, you don't. Sometimes, it's God's to handle.
Ed Smith: Well, one thing I learned long ago - and of course, I tried to teach the churches that I pastored - that you can't put your confidence or trust or faith in man. You can draw strength from others of like mind, but we must keep our minds on God. He's the source of strength. He's the source of peace. He's the God of peace. The Bible calls Him the God of peace. It says, "Great peace have they which love God's law and nothing shall offend them."
Aaron Dean: Knowing that God was in charge and He doesn't bring through you any trial that you're not able to bear, always let me know that, if I failed a test, I messed up, because I was stronger than that, but didn't think I was.
Cliff Adams: I think, when trials come, if it's a trial and it doesn't become a blessing to me, it's my fault. If it doesn't turn into a blessing, it's my fault.
Aaron Dean: When you fail, the lesson, actually, in that is that you learn that you were stronger and you messed up. So, next time, you should go a step farther. So God continually brings you forward through those trials.
Bill Hadley: We were having some car problems one Sabbath, getting ready to go to Sabbath services. And we couldn't get the door to stay shut. So I said, "Well, let's stop at the dealership and have the mechanic look at it." So I think my wife must have sat in the back seat and held the door shut while I drove there. We pulled into the dealership and I went to the door. A man came to the door, and I said, "I need to see a mechanic." He said, "Well, there not here until nine o'clock." In the meantime, a car was driving by. He pulled in the parking lot - for what reason, I don't know - pulled in and parked. And a man got out, and walked over to us, and he said, "Are you having a problem?" And I said, "I'm having a problem with that door. I can't get it to latch." So he went over and he fooled around with it, and he got it to latch. He walked back over to get into his car to leave. And I said, "Excuse me, sir." I said, "Are you an angel?" And he just smiled, and got in his car and drove off.
Joe Handley: One time, when I was about 31, I don't know what was wrong with me - maybe it was a blood sugar problem or something else...you know, people now get very weak and they have some illness - but I felt like a man of 90. I couldn't even put my hands over my head and hold them there very long. They felt like they were hundred pound weights. I was anointed at church - I was in Washington DC at the time - and afterwards, I was fasting, and I prayed that night, and I asked God to heal me. And all of a sudden, I just felt something like strength - just an immediate thing - come into my body. And I remember thinking, "Now, was I just healed?" I wasn't sure, you know. As it turned out, I was. When something like that happens to you, you realize there is a God who is personally interested in you - concerned about you - who loves you deeply. And again, another I learned from that is faith is not something you work up. It's not something you work up. It's a gift. I truly had come to the point where I believed God would heal me. And He gave me that. It's nothing I, of myself, could do. But when that happens, it really does touch you deeply.
Ed Smith: We must put our faith in God. We must put our faith in His Word. And it's there that we will really be able to overcome, and live right on through it, and be victorious, and waiting for His coming Kingdom.
Aaron Dean: I've seen so many trials where I could see God's hand in it - usually later on. Occasionally, He'll give you a clip, I suppose, that lets you know He's working with it now.
Cliff Adams: There are lessons that we learn, and I think, sometimes, the only way you see the lesson is step and look at it.
Victor Kubik: I have seen deliverance time and time and time and time again. I feel that God has delivered us from the most difficult situations, which were impossible from the human standpoint to fix, to bringing about, not only victory, but the best for all concerned - particularly the brethren in the church.
Bill Hadley: No matter what the trial is, just face it and ask God to take care of the rest.
Kay Hadley: Have prayer and Bible study, and then, whatever happens during the day, okay, I'll just have to deal with it. We've had circumstances and then think, "We'll make the best of this. We'll just call it another adventure." We just sort of look at each other, "Okay, it's another adventure in life."
Dottie Seifert: I wrote a hymn - it's in our hymnal - and it's like that peace that passes understanding will guard your hearts and minds. You ask for it and God does give it. That's how I can find peace - knowing that God cares and that He will answer the prayers - maybe not what I want, but they'll be answered.
Ed Smith: God has three ways of answering. He can say, "Yes," or He can say, "No." And He also can say, "Let's wait awhile." Sometimes we have to patiently wait on.... The answer might not come at exactly that time.
Aaron Dean: When you know the end of the book, it makes it very easy to not worry about whether you live or die through a trial, because you know you're going to be part of His family. You know what you have to do. You know this life is temporary. So you don't look at life the same way. And the Kingdom of God - being part of His family.... The most comforting thing to me is to know that, when I'm made a spirit being, God will know that I have been tested.
Dennis Luker: Let's review what Christ has called us to be doing, as a church, in preparation for His soon coming Kingdom. This is called the mission of the church. It's why we are organized and work together - why we want to strive to cooperate, and have teamwork, and all work together in harmony and unity - to accomplish the mission that Jesus Christ has given us. And I will turn to the Gospel of Mark, in chapter 1. And we're going to be following the example of Jesus Christ. Mark, chapter 1, verses 14 and 15.
Mark 1:14-15 Mark 1:14-15 14 Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God,
15 And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent you, and believe the gospel.
American King James Version×- After John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe the gospel."
And in chapter 16 of Mark, verse 15, Jesus Christ said:
Mark 16:15 Mark 16:15And he said to them, Go you into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.
American King James Version×- Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature - to every person.
And, brethren, we want to do our part - in the United Church of God - to do that. We are part of the Church of God, part of God's people, part of the work of God. And we want to fulfill that commission from Jesus Christ. As long as we live and as long as we have time, we want to keep preaching the wonderful good news of the Kingdom of God - the answer to all the world's problems, the answer to all of our problems - the return of Christ and the establishment of His rule on earth. That is our mission, brethren. And with God's help, we will fulfill that mission. We will not quit. We will not fail. We will not give up. We will never quit or give up preaching the gospel - the good news - of the Kingdom of God. And we thank you, brethren, for your part in that.
In Matthew, chapter 24, we'll see, as a reminder here, of what Christ said as we approach the end of this age. Matthew, chapter 24, verses 12 through 14.
Matthew 24:12-14 Matthew 24:12-14 12 And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.
13 But he that shall endure to the end, the same shall be saved.
14 And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness to all nations; and then shall the end come.
American King James Version×- And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. The NIV - the New International Version - says: The love of most will grow cold. Brethren, let's not let that happen. Let's be absolutely determined that we will not grow cold - or lukewarm - in doing the work of God. Let's renew our zeal and our enthusiasm in doing the work of God on the face of this earth. Jesus Christ went on and said in verse 14: This gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then, the end will come. And looking at world events, we're getting closer, brethren. We're getting closer. So let's keep at it - doing the work of God.
In Matthew 28, Jesus Christ also reminded us of another part of the mission of the church that we're all involved in together. In verses 18 through 20 He said to the disciples:
Matthew 28:18-20 Matthew 28:18-20 18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, All power is given to me in heaven and in earth.
19 Go you therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
20 Teaching them to observe all things whatever I have commanded you: and, see, I am with you always, even to the end of the world. Amen.
American King James Version×- All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you. And lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.
Brethren, it's very clear that Christ also wants us to band together, work together, stick together, learn to humble ourselves, and cooperate, and take this message of God's coming Kingdom - that He is calling people today and preparing them to be teachers, and leaders, and rulers and servants in His coming Kingdom. Let's be doing that with our whole heart, because God is reaching out to people all over the face of the earth, and calling them into His church, and we'll keep at that.
Many of you know what is written on the seal of the United Church of God. It's on the podiums of many congregations, where it shows the world - a globe - and then at the top it says, "Preaching the gospel," and "Preparing a people." That's our mission. All of you, brethren - every one of you, wherever you are, whoever you are - listening to this, you are an important part of the work of God - of helping to accomplish our Christ-given mission as a church - in preaching the gospel to the world and preparing a people, serving those that God calls - encouraging them and helping them - encouraging one another, sticking together to help one another prepare for God's Kingdom.
Cliff Adams: When you really start to understand the Kingdom - even early - the first Feast just meant so much. And you don't let your first love...the first love to me has always been seeking the Kingdom and His righteousness.
Bill Hadley: The Kingdom has really taken on a greater meaning - the longer you go, the longer you're in God's church, the longer you live - because you just long for that. You say, "That's the answer to my problems. That's the whole solution to everybody's problems. Why can't it come sooner?"
Carolyn Adams: And I think the older I get - the further I go in church - the more I think, "Christ, Your Kingdom come, please." It's what I'm waiting for.
Joe Handley: It's the goal. You know, you always have to your eyes on that goal. When the children of Israel, on the way to the promised land, got their eyes off of their goal, which was the promised land, they died like so many flies out there in the wilderness. So, again, it's a stabilizing thing.
Cliff Adams: I mentioned before, as we seek to go to the Feast, we're actually seeking that time to where we're going to go to the place where God has placed His name. And, if we get the connection - that we're living all year and looking toward that harvest - it answers a lot of questions and helps you keep going, putting one foot ahead of the other.
Dottie Seifert: I'm looking forward to God's Kingdom to be established upon this earth, and that the work can go forward in earnest - of putting justice and righteousness up to the forefront, where it should be.
Joe Handley: Most people don't take the time to really think deeply. There are so many distractions. I don't have a cell phone. I don't have cable television. So I have an advantage that I do spend time thinking about things - you know, deep things - like that.
DeLee Hargrove: I work with people every day that are totally consumed with the entertainment part of our society. I will say that I think you have to monitor that part of your life.
Aaron Dean: It is difficult. I'm surprised the teens can make it through the stresses that this world has now - they're much worse. You know, you made a mistake fifty years ago - you did some prank - and you got spanked for it. You make a mistake today - you know, with drugs or something - and you can die from it! And the kids really do seem to have a dedication and a desire. I think they can see through this world. The problems are so bad now that even the glamour doesn't look as glamorous to them. I see that in our teens and our young people. And even though Satan makes things seem desirable, I think they see the end result of the fame, the fortune, the power - it really doesn't give happiness.
Joe Handley: We need to keep doing the work. We need to be working on ourselves. Other than that...that's the bottom line there - overcoming and doing what God wants us to do.
Aaron Dean: As a church, we need to all pitch in, and do our part, and encourage one another. In a world, now, that's full of discouragement, our way to help the church progress is to help each individual.
Dottie Seifert: Just keep our focus on the Kingdom, and praying, studying, and being a light to the world.
Aaron Dean: When I see what's happening in this world - in the riots that are going on now, the wars that are going on now in every corner of the earth - it makes me pray fervently for God's Kingdom. And to realize that the more that I can learn to be able to help other people, the closer I want it to be. And every day, obviously, it's a day closer.
DeLee Hargrove: But I'm anticipating what is to come. And I'm anticipating it, not just for myself, but for everyone.
Ed Smith: There are many, many parables that talk about the Kingdom of God is like such and such, and like such and such. So Jesus gave so many things to show us the Kingdom of God is most desirable thing that we could desire - to be a part of God's family and His Kingdom right here on this earth when He comes.
Nelson Arnold: We're going to have peace on this earth some day. We're not going to heaven, but God's Kingdom is coming to this earth. And all of His blessings and benefits will be shared with all mankind. There will come a time when the entire world can know about the Kingdom of God, and know about God's way, and be obeying and enjoying the peace and happiness that God wants all mankind to have.
Dennis Luker: Your prayers, brethren, your service make it possible, of course, with God's blessing. But, brethren, you are so important to God and to God's church and to His work. We all love you and need you. And we know you feel the same. We want to grow in the love of God and the love of Jesus Christ for one another.
We are working hard here at the home office to do our part in the work of God - in doing what Jesus wants us to do. We want to learn greater humility and greater love and service to God and to mankind. And we thank all of you for your hard work and your faithful service. Many of you stepped up to the plate and filled great needs in the United Church of God in this last year or six months. And we thank you for that. We thank you for your prayers, your love, your support for us, for all of God's people. Thank you, brethren. Thank you with my whole heart. Thank you from all of us here at the home office, from the staff, from the Council of Elders. Thank you, brethren.
Have a wonderful Feast of Tabernacles as you celebrate the soon coming Kingdom of God!