Dear fellow elders and brethren,
It hardly seems a day passes without another news story involving crime, corruption, moral decay, lies, deceit or hypocrisy. It seems everywhere you look things are a total mess. The once stable institutions of society are crumbling. There is much bad news, but very little good news.
In addition to what we see going on in the world today, God’s people often have their own personal trials just prior to the Holy Days. If you’ve been in the Church for any length of time, you may have learned to expect them. They may be with your employer, a teacher or a family member. They may be car problems, health problems or unexpected matters that put a financial strain on you. These trials add stress, take up our time and deplete our resources, but we cannot succumb to them.
The apostle Paul described his life as a Christian as being quite difficult at times, but never to a point of giving up. “We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:8–9).
No matter what is happening in the world, or trials we may be facing at this moment in our lives, we need to realize they are all distractions, causing us to turn our attention away from spiritual preparation for the upcoming Holy Days.
The Bible speaks of a time before Christ’s return when the earth will be engulfed in wars and rumors of wars, ethnic fighting, famines, disease epidemics and earthquakes (Matthew 24:6–7). We have seen some of those things, already, but sadly we also see God’s own people will betray one another and hate one another (Matthew 24:10). False prophets, who outwardly appear as sheep but are actually wolves coming to feed on the sheep (Matthew 7:15), will bring their false teachings and deceive many of God’s people (Matthew 24:11).
When you add it all up, we can see we are inching closer to the period of time called the “great tribulation” (Matthew 24:21). It is a time that will bring all of humanity to the brink of total destruction unless God intervenes, which He has promised He will do (Matthew 24:22)!
This coming weekly Sabbath is also a Holy Day. We will gather to observe the Feast of Trumpets, the prophesied Day of the Lord, picturing the second coming of Jesus Christ. Do we fully appreciate that it will be the greatest turning point in human history? It will begin to bring about the end of all we see happening in the world today. Those who are alive and remained faithful will be changed, those who died in the faith will be resurrected and we all will reign with Christ at the sound of the last trumpet (1 Corinthians 15:51–52; 1 Thessalonians 4:16–17).
The next Holy Day is the Day of Atonement picturing the removal of Satan, the god of this age (2 Corinthians 4:4), the “prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:2). Satan is the primary source of all evil on earth today, as he constantly injects evil into the thoughts and minds of human beings. “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). The removal of Satan will be the first order of business after Christ returns.
Then comes the Feast of Tabernacles picturing the 1,000-year period of time when Jesus Christ will rule over all nations, assisted by the resurrected saints. Those alive during this millennial period of time will not have to wrestle against the influences of Satan. The condition of the world in which they live will be much different than the conditions of today. The very nature of animals will be different (Isaiah 11:6–9), the earth will be so fertile, crops so large, there will be little time between reaping and plowing (Amos 9:13). And during this time, we will teach people the ways of God so they will choose eternal life, rather than death.
Finally, the Eighth Day or Last Great Day, is one of the most meaningful Holy Days. Yet, it is only understood by God’s people. It points to the final culmination of God’s plan when billions of people who lived and died never knowing Jesus Christ or the ways of God will be resurrected to physical life and have an opportunity for eternal life. Paul wrote that God “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4), and Peter wrote that God is “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). The meaning of this final Holy Day proves those words to be true, that God has always desired as many as possible to repent, come to the knowledge of the truth, receive His gift of salvation and have eternal life in the family of God!
Jesus told his disciples, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). The Greek word translated tribulation is thlipsis and can mean “pressure, anguish, burden, persecution, tribulation, trouble.” In our final days of preparation before the Holy Days, avoid being distracted by what is happening in the world or trials you are facing. Know that our adversary is trying to hinder you.
In closing, please remember the words of Paul: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6–7).
May the Holy Days ahead of us be full of peace.
In Christ’s Service,