Preaching the Gospel, Preparing a People

Woe Unto Us If We Preach Not the Gospel

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Woe Unto Us If We Preach Not the Gospel

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Woe Unto Us If We Preach Not the Gospel

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Other than personal salvation, there is possibly no more vital biblical perspective than our collective role of preaching the gospel. To fully understanding this will direct where you place your life's energies and your devotion.

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Other than personal salvation there is possibly no more vital Biblical perspective to properly understand than what is our collective role of preaching the gospel. Let's ask ourselves a question as we begin this second message this afternoon. The question is simply this, is it a vital part of the church's responsibility before God to preach the gospel of the kingdom of God as a warning witness, preaching a message of repentance and warning, lovingly but firmly? Why do I bring this up? And why do I bring this up today to you? Because your answer to that question will define much of what you do with your life's energy, as to where you place your prayers, how you pray, as to who you congregate with, who you fellowship with, where your camaraderie spiritually will be. The answer will be where you place your life's energies and your devotion. Today in the Church of God community, of which the United Church of God is but a part, there are two general schools of thought on the question I just raised pertaining to the gospel.

Let me first illustrate the thoughts of the first school. The first school answers the questions that I mentioned to you with an affirmative yes in endorsing the church's historic pattern that the Church of God practices and preaches a gospel pertaining to the kingdom of God. And in offering and preaching and presenting that gospel there is a warning message. There is also a call to repentance. It also includes prophecy.

It also includes mentioning and telling the audience about the consequences of their life action and also the consequences of the blessings that God wants to bring upon people. And historically the church has done that as long as God provides the resources and we have the freedom to do such. Why? Because the first school believes that in do-ing that it does fulfill the will of God. The first school sees itself and its mission firmly planted in Matthew 24:14 Matthew 24:14And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness to all nations; and then shall the end come.
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. Would you please join me there. In Matthew 24:14 Matthew 24:14And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness to all nations; and then shall the end come.
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let's notice Jesus' own words in what is called the Olivet prophecy, one of his last messages to his disciples. And in Matthew 24:14 Matthew 24:14And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness to all nations; and then shall the end come.
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we read the words of Christ, "And 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." The first school of thought in the Church of God sees itself in part fulfilling the mission that is mentioned here. And in that sense, it sees it in the progressive present tense. That it is not just something in the past, or can wait towards the future, but is something that the church is to be doing now. The church also sees itself, this first school of thought, in the words of Paul in Colossians. Join me if you would there in the book of Colossians. We don't often think of Colossians being in a sense prophetic. But let's notice Paul's words in Colossians 1, beginning in verse 25. The mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations that now has been revealed to his saints. In other words, God has not always brought forth all that is going to be, but at this point now as Paul was speaking there was something different and something new, and something happening to them. God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Him we preach, warning (notice, warning) warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.

So to this end, verse 29, I also labor, striving according to his working which works in me mightily. So Paul was filled with this knowledge of mystery, and of the gospel, and a gospel of warning, and this is what his life was about. It is where his devotion was. It is where he placed his energy. It is as we say today, it was 24/7 in his life.

Now, the second school of thought within the Church of God community answers the question that I raised about the specter of a warning and prophetic element in the gospel. The second school answers the question no. Those of this persuasion have concluded that it is not now the church's responsibility to do so. Their reasoning and arguments vary. And it is not just in one corner. It can be with many different thoughts and persuasions. Some have said it has never been the church's responsibility, or should have been the responsibility of the church to preach the gospel in the sense of a prophetic warning, or an element of warning to witness to the world. To them Christ's statement in Matthew 24:14 Matthew 24:14And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness to all nations; and then shall the end come.
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is just simply a prophetic time setting within the Olivet prophecy, that ultimately the warning is going to be reserved, saved for the end when the angel of Revelation 14 proclaims the everlasting gospel, and/or it is the work of the two witnesses that we find in Revelation 11. Some have said the preaching of the gospel, including prophecy, was a responsibility of the church during the life and times and ministry of Herbert W. Arm-strong, but that his was exclusive and a singular special calling and ministry from God. And it ended with Mr. Armstrong's death. Some have said Mr. Armstrong fulfilled Matthew 24:14 Matthew 24:14And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness to all nations; and then shall the end come.
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by preaching the gospel through print, through radio, television, through meetings with world leaders on all continents, and thus the responsibility has been fulfilled and has ended. Also a variation of this particular thought, or shall we say in the positive sense, argument, is that Mr. Armstrong was indeed the end-time Elijah as mentioned in the Bible, and he completed the prophesied work of Elijah, and thus again the work is done.

Are you with me so far? Some have said, and this is the last one, some have said the church in the last 15-20 years became so corrupted and weakened spiritually, displeasing to God, collectively or individually as a people, due to the great heresy of the last 20 years, that it is no longer spiritually fit to go into the world with the message of God. So instead all of the church's resources, attention, and effort should go into another vein, singularly, fully, and it is simply called "preparing the bride of Christ." According to this line of thought by some, at some future time the church will have its wrinkles pressed out, strong enough spiritually to do a holy work, to again preach, to do the work of God with a warning message, but that time is not now.

With all of this that I have mentioned to us so far, let me be clear, plain, and up front. The United Church of God and myself as your pastor, your spiritual guide, totally, firmly are in the first school. And endorse the first school. And do not subscribe to the conclusions of the second school left of and by themselves solely. Why, you say? Because we take God's word seriously, and his admonition, and the words of his servants that have gone on before us. And we do read to know that we are not alone.

Join me if you would over in 1 Corinthians 9, because it is from 1 Corinthians 9 that we take the title of this message today. This is the apostle Paul speaking. And the apostle Paul says, For I preach the gospel. I have nothing to boast of. For necessity it is laid upon me. There is a need. Yet, woe is me if I do not preach the gospel. Thus the title of today's message and discussion with you.

You know, the most important consideration for every Christian, friends, is simply this. Not what some say, which makes a nice segue into all of these arguments within the second school of thought, the most important thing is what does the word of God say about the gospel? How did Christ define it? How did the first generation of Christians define it? As we put these arguments of the second school of thought up to the light of scripture and fully in view of the discernment of the Holy Spirit in us, I think we can draw some conclusions that are important.

Why do I bring this up to you, my friends here in Los Angeles? You know and I know that ideas that I have mentioned, the second school of thought and all the variations are out there. They are circulating out there. There are people who are very sincere and very dedicated in their argument, and in their belief that God is speaking to them or this is what to do. And I am not here to question their sincerity. I am simply here to point you to the word of God and allow God's Spirit to draw you to service to him. When there are ideas and when there are ministers out there, ideas and ministers beg for an audience. It is just a natural cause and effect. And people are drawn to ideas. There is nothing wrong with ideas, but we need to analyze and discern them. Because ul-timately they do affect your spiritual well being. In an audience this big in the Church of God I know that many of you may listen to tapes of other ministers from other organizations, perhaps take literature from other organizations, and that is your responsibility, that is your privilege. But I have got you for an hour here, and it is my privilege to discuss what I know as a minister from the Bible, and discuss where I think God wants us to be. So let's go into it.

Let's explore some of these thoughts and what I call the second school of thought. As previously mentioned, some will tell you preaching a gospel coupled with prophetic warning is not the role of the church today. It is such a challenge. And it is a challenge, isn't it? It is instructive to examine the work and the behavior of the first century church, be it the ministry of Jesus and/or those that would follow him, being the apostles.

Let's understand that the apostles were personally trained and offered understanding by none other than Jesus himself of the things that the heavenly Father expected of them and also their successors that would come along in the faith. Come to Matthew 28, which is one of the clarion calls of all scripture. It is certainly a part of what we might call the commission, if not one of the major verses of it. I always like to think of the entire Bible as the commission of God. I don't like to be as scripturally strapped as some, but certainly these are hallmark words of Jesus Christ right before he went to heaven. In Matthew 28:18 Matthew 28:18And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, All power is given to me in heaven and in earth.
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let's notice, And Jesus came and spoke to them. Now this is very important as we break this apart, notice what he says. All authority has been given to me. The authority rests on Jesus' shoulders, now the Christ. Now if Jesus says that all authority is upon him, and he is about to proclaim something, I as a minister of Jesus Christ should be very, very careful that I don't usurp any of the authority of his word in the scripture. 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 of the Holy Spirit. Tells what to do. Teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you. And lo, I am with you always, and notice, even to the end of the age.

Now, with that spoken, let's consider a few considerations. We see that he told them that the gospel would be preached throughout all the world to all the nations. He also says in this statement that he expected them to preach the gospel. He also said most encouragingly, that he would be with them in that endeavor. And notice the last part of the verse, till the end of the age. Now here is what we might call the rub. What do we mean by the end of the age? Now if we look at this podium right here, and you didn't know that this podium was a timeline but I have just made it a timeline. Okay, here's the timeline. Now let's say that this is the beginning. Let's say this is Matthew 28 at the end. This is the start after the verse. And Jesus said, I want you as my followers to do what I ask you, and you are going to do it until the end of the age. Okay? Are you with me so far? There is no trick in this. You look a little nervous out there. You think I am setting you up. Okay, let me ask you a question. If this is the beginning, and because I am running out of room over here, we are going for the moment to say, there is the end over there, okay? Now. Who am I going to call? Miguel, hi. You're my target today, Miguel. Okay, can I ask you a question. If this is the beginning, and let's say for all practical purposes this is the end, where are we here? Is this the end? You're sure? You're positive, okay. Is this the end? No. Is this the end? My hand is starting to hurt. Okay. Let me ask you a question. We will make this the end here. Is this the end? Okay. Now we very well might be in the time frame of world and human history, we may be right here. We may be right here. Am I at the end yet? We're not at the end. The job is not complete until Jesus Christ comes back at his second coming. And he says you are to do this until the end of the age. And he says, I'm the boss, and when I come back through the clouds and the angels come with me and you hear the trumpet, guess what? Then is the end. And all authority is in me. You don't get to determine when the end is. Sound good? It is kind of what we said at baptism, you're the boss. So as a human being I don't get to determine when the end is. There are those within the community of the Church of God today that are making that determination. It is not a good determination. We are to do the job until the end. And not only that, but we have a role in preaching that gospel.

Come with me if you would to Mark 1:14 Mark 1:14Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God,
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. In Mark 1:14 Mark 1:14Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God,
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let's notice how Jesus himself presented the gospel, the elements he brought in to the way he presented the message. In Mark 1:14 Mark 1:14Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God,
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, Now after John was put in prison Jesus came to Galilee preaching (notice his emphasis) preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God. So we see where his, shall we say SPS or specific purpose statement was. It was about the kingdom of God. And saying the time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand, that was in his personage at that time. Notice then what he says. Repent and believe in the gospel. When you tell somebody they are wrong, they have to be told why they are wrong. They have to be told of the consequences of their actions, and in that sense a warning is given out. As the warning is mentioned by Paul in the book of Colossians, whether to an individual, whether to a congregation, whether to Los Angeles, or whether to the world at large, Jesus Christ was saying the kingdom of God is at hand and you need to get a mind that fits it.

When we understand how important it was to proclaim the kingdom of God and to call people to repentance in his public ministry, we begin to understand that it was the heart of his message, that the kingdom of God was coming, that humanity needed a mind and a heart to fit it, and a warning was given to consequences that if such a revelation were given out, what would be the response of the individual.

For Jesus the Christ, preaching this message was not simply his own idea. Even as the Son of God it was a Father-initiated imperative. It was not an option.

In fact, I want to show you a very interesting verse. Come with me if you would, join me over here in the third gospel, Luke 4:43 Luke 4:43And he said to them, I must preach the kingdom of God to other cities also: for therefore am I sent.
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. Notice what is mentioned here. But He being the Christ said to them, I must, not maybe, I must preach the kingdom of God to the other cities also. He was never satisfied. The job was not complete. Because for this purpose I have been sent. His purpose was to preach the kingdom of God. As we know when we read the full writings of Christ as inscribed in all four gospels, we realize that there are many dimensions to the gospel message. There are the dimensions of who Christ is and what he brings from the Father, that he is our Atonement, that he is our Propitiation, that he is our Savior, that he is our Passover. This is a part of the gospel. He also brought the whole scope that yet it was not just only about then and now being back then, but that the kingdom of God was going to come to this earth, not mystical, not ethereal, but a literal kingdom to bring peace to humanity. That is good news. That message needs to get out.

But he not only looked at it as a commission with a warning element, but there were future prophetic elements to his messages.
Join me if you would over in Luke 19. In Luke 19, and let's look at verse 11, we are going to break into the thought of a parable. Now I want to share something with you, because some of you are new to the Word and you are just beginning to be Bible students. And so we have often heard about the word parable, and we think of them as kind of nice stories that were told by the good teacher on a meadow side to the crowd that gathered around Him. And yes Christ was a nice teacher, and audiences did gather around him on the meadow side. But the important thing we need to understand about the parables is that almost all of the time the parables are about the kingdom of God. They define oftentimes the ministry of Christ then and later, as we are going to find here. Oftentimes they define the attitude or the approaches that alone will be able to be in the kingdom of God. Basically parables, when you bring it down to it, are simply kingdom of God talk. It is about the kingdom of God. And we pick this up in Luke 19:11 Luke 19:11And as they heard these things, he added and spoke a parable, because he was near to Jerusalem, and because they thought that the kingdom of God should immediately appear.
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. Now as they heard these things he spoke another parable because he was near Jerusalem and because they thought the kingdom of God would appear immediately. And therefore he said, (Jesus speaking) A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom, (but then notice) and to return.

Now I don't have time to go all the way into this parable, but right within that last breath that I used is basically a gigantic geopolitical event that is going to occur in the future. And sometimes we have to read the words of Christ's earthly ministry, and then we need to couple them with the ministry of Christ in heaven as he revealed things later on to his servants on earth, and we pick up the thought of what is being mentioned here in this parable in Revelation 11, if you will join me there. Because it is not the revelation of St. John the Divine. It is the revelation of Jesus Christ. We find in Revelation 11 what is being mentioned in this parable.

In Revelation 11, and in verse 15, we note, Then the seventh angel sounded, and there were loud voices in heaven saying, the kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever. This was what was on Jesus' mind during his earthly ministry. This is what remains at the very heart and core of the Father and the Son in heaven. They think about this every day and in every way and cannot wait for Christ to land on this earth. This is what fills them up. This is the zeal that is talked about in Isaiah 61, the zeal that the Father has for Jerusalem to return, and to mend it, and to mold it as a piece of clay to serve as a world capital in the wonderful world tomorrow.

Now the question I have for you is this. How do you sit on that kind of information and that revelation? How can anyone in their heart or collectively as a congregation or collectively as an organization remain quiet and think that is not a part of our commission today to get that word out? And not only that the word is going out, but to the tell the world that in that sense it is contrary to that kingdom that is coming, and that it needs to change, and that it needs to repent, and that if not there are consequences, and there is a tribulation. There is the day of Satan's wrath. There is the Day of the Lord when God himself will come back and correct this earth. Why would we not want to tell our fellow human beings what is coming?

Interesting when you go to the end of the book of Acts. Join me if you would, please, in the book of Acts. Interesting what Paul says here. What was on Paul's mind at the end of his ministry after 25-30 years of spreading the gospel? It says in verse 30, Paul dwelt two years in his own rented house and received all who came to him, preaching the kingdom of God. He wasn't there talking about himself, but he was preaching the kingdom of God. And that is one thing I want to share with you brethren. Because my time with you is going to be short. But you should always expect that the pastor or the man or the person that is behind this pulpit when I am not here is not going to be talking about himself, but is going to be talking about the kingdom of God. Is going to be talking about Jesus Christ. Is going to be talking about the things of the heavenly vision that have been bestowed upon each and every one of us that are going to keep our hearts, and our eyes, and our noses in the word. Because it is not any organization, and it is not any man that has authority over us other than Jesus Christ and the word of God. This is where we learn from. This is what gives us succor. This is what gives us food. This is what opens doors that to the rest of the world are closed. Always, the Bible must always be open. Otherwise we get lost in these bad arguments, sincere arguments but bad arguments. We notice here that Paul was preaching the kingdom of God and teaching the things, notice, which concern the Lord Jesus Christ with all confidence. Now it's very interesting, I'll share this thought with you, please hear me, that the gospel is indeed a message about the kingdom, but it is also about the messenger. It is also about the messenger. Jesus Christ is central to that kingdom, and he is central for us to understand God. And we find that very fine balance in the last comment on Paul's teachings, that he was preaching the kingdom of God and he was preaching the things of Jesus Christ. Because our mind cannot just simply be in the future all the time, historically or prophetically. We must know today that we have a Savior. We today must know that our sins are atoned for. We today must know that we have a champion who stands for us at the right hand of God. And so, I have always been amazed at times over the years in discussing the gospel with people how they just simply want to hold onto one little facet of it and say they have got it. I don't think I can put my hands, or even my whole heart, around the gospel at this point, and I have been studying it for 40 years. The gospel is like a jewel, it is a diamond, and it has many, many facets so that we just simply cannot get lost into one little facet. You know, it can kind of get star glow and just, you know, hypnotize, and that is what happens, what people do. They look into the Bible, they think they understand the gospel, they get all excited about one verse in the Bible. You know, they go like this, they put it under here, here's the football, you know. And they are a spiritual halfback. Instead of a football it is their idea of what the Bible says. They tuck it under there and there is no way that you can dislodge that spiritual football from them. They are locked in, and you know, they think they are doing God a service. But brethren, the commission is from Genesis 1 to Revelation 22. How can we simply get locked into one little thought or one little verse and we limit God?

Let's go to another thought here. I actually want to share a thought before I go to the second thought. And again, this is why the United Church of God says yes to the question I mentioned at the beginning. That is why the United Church of God's mission statement states the mission of the Church of God is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, and the kingdom of God in all the world, to make disciples in all nations, and care for those disciples. I think we have been blessed as an organization to have the understanding of God to see the totality of what the gospel is about.

Let's go to another thought. Some will say the preaching of the gospel ended with the death of Herbert W. Armstrong. While they may be sincere in their thought, there is no scriptural evidence to believe that the church at this time should consider itself under any less of a God-directed mandate to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and the kingdom of God than did Paul, Peter, James, or John and the other leaders of the first century, AD. The death of Herbert Armstrong did not change the church's imperative to preach that same gospel so long as God provides the resources and we are able to do it freely.

Let's consider for a moment, and I am asking you to think, and you know and I know that you have had conversations with people on these matters, let's consider for a moment, does one human death of one man, even a good man, halt the need to proclaim the sanctity of the life, the death, the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the wayward course of humanity in the end times, or the pending rise of a neaveau Babylonian system of church and state dominated by evil men, or the return of Jesus Christ, or the appearing of the sons of God in glory? How can any one human being, even a good man, thwart the flow of the gospel that comes from the throne of God? Just think it through, that's all I ask. Just think it through.

Throughout the New Testament both Christ and the writers of the New Testament often showed in their writings that God had supplied many, many good men through the ages, prophets of old, men that spoke out with a warning witness, a call to repentance, be it a Jeremiah, Ezekiel, or Isaiah. But with the advent of Christ coming to this earth we are no longer simply talking about a goodly man, or simply a godly prophet, but we are talking about the Son of God. We are talking about God in the flesh, and there is a difference, and that is who we draw, as we went to Matthew 28, that is who we draw our instruction from, Jesus Christ.

You know, it is very interesting, that you look at Matthew 10:23 Matthew 10:23But when they persecute you in this city, flee you into another: for truly I say to you, You shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come.
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, come with me there please. In a sense, this is a prophesy, Christ speaking, red ink in my Bible, maybe yours. When they persecute you in this city, it says, flee to another. For assuredly I say to you, you will not have gone through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes. Now let's understand, let's couple this with Matthew 28 where Jesus said, Go you therefore into all nations, preaching all things that I have commanded you. That is the prime directive, that is the call, that is the task at hand. But he says even so over here that in doing that you will not have gone through the cities of Israel. In other words the thought is this, friends, the job will never be completed. The job, in that sense, will never be done until the end of the age.

Now let me share another thought with you in this, because sometimes people will say, well with the death of Mr. Armstrong the great prophetic utterance to the world by the community of the church will never be matched again that way. But let me share a thought with you over in Daniel 12:4 Daniel 12:4But you, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.
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. Come with me please. There may be a reason that we need to look at this in Daniel 12:4 Daniel 12:4But you, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.
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. Perhaps more than ever it is incumbent that the church does speak out the gospel in a prophetic element with a warning message, especially when you recognize, remember our timeline up here, that we recognize the end is not here because it is over here, but the closer we get it is very interesting what God mentions in Daniel 12:4 Daniel 12:4But you, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.
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. Here Daniel was, indeed a good man, the spiritual survivor in the court of the beast, a man that was given much revelation. But notice what it says in Daniel 12:4 Daniel 12:4But you, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.
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, and oh, by the way, a man that died, so therefore do all things come to an end with Daniel? As we say in L.A., I don't think so. Notice what it says in Daniel 12:4 Daniel 12:4But you, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.
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, But you Daniel, shut up the words and seal the book until the time of the end. Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase, now it is very interesting, if you are with me, let's look at that again, but you Daniel, shut up the word, Daniel was given a certain amount of revelation, and it says, and seal the book until the time of the end. I would suggest that the words here say that whatever was spoken or revealed to Daniel at that time is going to make more sense now than in 580 BC. I would dare say and suggest that it even makes more sense of what is going to occur now than even in 1986, and will continually as time goes on until the end of the age. Seemingly as we come to the end of the age, as we move up to the end of the fourth seal which is human history left unto itself, that God is going to allow that aspect of what is mentioned in Daniel 12:4 Daniel 12:4But you, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.
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under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to be unsealed so that we can give that message to the world.

Let's go to another thought. Some will say Mr. Armstrong fulfilled Matthew 24:14 Matthew 24:14And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness to all nations; and then shall the end come.
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and the prophecies of the end time Elijah. These same people will turn to Matthew 24:14 Matthew 24:14And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness to all nations; and then shall the end come.
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, And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached and then the end shall come. While there is no question that Mr. Armstrong, and those of us who were coworkers with him for many, many years, was allowed to do a marvelous work on behalf of God the Father and Jesus Christ, and to a great degree impact this world with magazines, and broadcasts, and telecasts, and at one time a magazine that actually had a circulation of eight million. And television stations and radio stations that reached around the globe and around the world, at our best, if we can use that human determination, and at our height. Eight million magazines to a world then in 1986 of maybe four billion people. Just do the math, do a little division, eight million magazines into four billion people. And to recognize, and thinking about it friends, that since the death of Mr. Armstrong in 1986 do you realize that over two billion more people have been added to this earth? I said billion with a B. What do we do with them? Do we say that they can't come into a relationship with Christ? Do we say to them, well sorry, you're a little bit late. Can't get on the bus of the gospel. Can't get on the train of Revelation. Sorry. Sorry, can't go there. We can't tell you that out of the Eurasian land mass is going to come the final revival of the Babylonian system, a system that is going to affront Jerusalem, a system that is coming up against God, and is actually in the end, when we understand it, going to battle God thinking they are doing humanity a favor. By the way, we hope that you want to be on God's side and not the side of the beast. But no, we can't do that, we can't announce that, because well, according to this school of thought, that is not the role of the church because it was already fulfilled even though two billion people now exist that didn't exist 17 or 18 years ago.

Interesting, many of these same people believe the argument that Mr. Armstrong was the prophesied end-time Elijah. While there is no doubt that Mr. Armstrong did a mighty work, a powerful work, and I personally believe and being around him and serving under him in the auditorium, yes, he came in that sense in the spirit of Elijah, as have many of God's servants since the time of Elijah. He came in that spirit, and there will be others that will come in that spirit, either as a minister, a person, or an organization. But let's think through some things here. Think through the Biblical patterns and parallels. It is very interesting if you will join me over in Matthew 11, interesting verse, so that I can draw a point here. Matthew 11:13 Matthew 11:13For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John.
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. Jesus during his earthly ministry mentioned one of those that he knew and loved was actually the Elijah, not the one that we know out of the Old Testament, but Christ himself labeled this man. We find it is Matthew 11:13 Matthew 11:13For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John.
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. For the prophets and the law prophesied until John, and if you are willing to receive it, he is Elijah. Notice, speaking of John the Baptist, he is Elijah who is to come. Now if you want to know who Elijah was, the Bible right here, isn't that interesting, the Bible says here that John the Baptist was the Elijah to come. Now, here's a parallel, maybe something you have never thought about before. Think about this. John the Baptist, cousin of Christ, the one who baptized him, Jesus himself defines him as who? The Elijah. No, what is very interesting when you think of the Bible, oftentimes the Bible duplicates itself later on, that one who not only was in the spirit of Elijah, but entitled by Christ as the Elijah, actually overlapped the first ministry of Christ. There was an overlap as the one that came to prepare the way, this Elijah or type of Elijah actually overlapped Christ in his existence. The parallel would be this, and I only throw this out, I am not dogmatic on it, but I would suggest that the final one that comes in the spirit of Elijah, and in my reading of the Bible I see that with the two witnesses, for it is the two witnesses that in Jerusalem, in the holy land, are through the auspices of Christ and the Father going to literally call down fire from heaven, which is a type of what? The ministry of Elijah. Elijah did that. But to recognize that over here John the Baptist overlapped with Christ and his first coming, I would suggest, only speculation, that the final Elijah will overlap or at least abut at the end time the second coming of Jesus Christ, which when you read the book of Revelation you recognize that the two witnesses are going to die, and they are going to be resurrected in the streets of Jerusalem, and it says they are going to go up, which gives you a thought that perhaps then they are, and I say a thought, I am not dogmatic but a thought, that this is kind of the springboard for Christ coming back as the dead are going to go up in the air. Just some thoughts to think about.

Likewise, there are certain people that think, well the church is here basically to preach Christ. And that is wonderful that we can preach Christ. You know I have every joy in doing such. But that basically our job in warning the world is really reserved for the angel in Revelation 14:6 Revelation 14:6And I saw another angel fly in the middle of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people,
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. Come with me to Revelation 14:16 Revelation 14:16And he that sat on the cloud thrust in his sickle on the earth; and the earth was reaped.
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. We haven't touched upon that yet. And this is frankly, of and by itself when you understand the right perspective an incredibly exciting verse, because it is going to happen. It is not that the angel of Revelation 14:6 Revelation 14:6And I saw another angel fly in the middle of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people,
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does not have a role. Then I saw another angel flying in the midst of heaven having the everlasting gospel. You see, we are not just preaching it today in 2003. It is the everlasting gospel. The kingdom of God is just about good news, and it is going to go on together. To preach to those who dwell on the earth, to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people. Now the point is this. In the prophetic scheme there is going to be a time when the angel is going to do that. Absolutely, the Bible says that, and I am not here to discount that. But with that thought, does God then intend that now, during this critical period at the end of this age that the message that has always been central to the church's commission be silenced by the messenger itself? This is important to think about. Do we take upon ourselves a weak reading of the scripture and therefore of and by ourselves determine that we no longer go forth in strength, and power, and conviction, and dynamism to do the work? I don't think so. Jesus Christ in Matthew 28 said, I'm the boss. All authority is upon me, and if you are going to follow me you will do this until the end of the age. Now you know and I know as students of the Bible, and many of you have studied prophecy longer than I have, we recognize that in the future, and we pray that day does not come, but it is prophetically inspired that there is going to be a famine of the word. There is going to be a famine of the word, and the Bible mentions that. But that, I suggest, is going to be due to outside sources. If you have heard me carefully, God gives us this commission and as long as we have the resources of loyal, dedicated brethren as you to support this mission, and the finances to support this mission, and the freedom to support this mission, we are going to do it. But there is going to come a time when that wall is going to come down, and there is going to be a famine of the word. But that does not mean that we put ourselves on our own self-prescribed diet program, saying that we are not going to preach the word because an individual died or this doesn't seem to be the time. It is always the time to preach the gospel of Christ and the kingdom of God with a prophetic element and with a warning message. Very important to understand. And in recognizing that, then, is to recognize that the work of the church today does not compete against the work of the angel of Revelation 14:16 Revelation 14:16And he that sat on the cloud thrust in his sickle on the earth; and the earth was reaped.
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. It does not deplete the work of the angel of Revelation 14:6 Revelation 14:6And I saw another angel fly in the middle of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people,
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. Neither will what he does in the future nullify or overwhelm what we are doing now. God has different instruments at different times to do the job, and obviously by looking at Revelation 14 at the end there is going to be one last heavenly, in that sense because it is an angel, witnessing of the gospel. But it is not to thwart or to push us in a corner today of thinking that we don't have a job. It is simply the perfect godly complement in God's own perfect godly timing.

Let's go to one last part of the second school of thought. Some will say the church is too spiritually immature now today to preach the gospel. As a final consideration let's look at this argument that the church, frankly, is in this stage too carnal or too spiritually depleted now to preach the gospel of the kingdom with a prophetic element, with a warning element. And thus it should devote itself and all of its resources to simply preparing the bride. In other words, lock the bride in her room and let the bride simply take care of herself. It is certainly true that there has been an incredible heresy in the Church of God community that we had to come up against and thwart over the last 20 years. And it is true that zeal and enthusiasm at times have been diminished in some quarters even by loyal and faithful brethren. Though sometimes as we did in the late ‘80s, ‘90s, ‘94, ‘95, eight or nine years ago, when you put out so much incredible spiritual energy and strength just to hold on and come to the victory, what often happens is when you are at your greatest victory on the other side is depression. We see that with the example of Samson. After Samson had killed the 10,000 with the jawbone of the donkey, where do you find Samson in the next verse, but he is wasted and laid out on a log thinking that God had gone somewhere. You often find that wherever there has been tremendous spiritual vigor put out that right afterwards there is a depression, there is a letdown because so much strength has gone out. I see that in the church, brethren. And there are times, as zealous as our brethren are, there is at times a lack of zeal. Sometimes I don't know if it is a change of culture whether nationally or in the church. I think of the old days when I first came into the church, you know, there was Spokesman's Club on Wednesday night, there was Bible study on Friday night, and there was a work party on Sunday. It just went on and on and on and on and on and on and on, and yes, and on. And I remember days in Pasadena that as a boy, as a teenager, that as a young man and married couple Friday night at the gym there would be 1200-1300 people there for Bible Study. Now, hard to get 13 people for Bible Study in the middle of the week. Now there are reasons. I am not saying that necessarily to our shame. I am one of you. I have been here with you for a long time. I try to analyze it myself. Different times. Certainly I am not one of those that appeared on the college stage, no wonder you don't come. But that is not simply here in Los Angeles. It can be anywhere. People are either running the race now as a marathon rather than a sprint. That can be a part of the answer. We have a knowledgeable audience that has heard many, many, many things. And while we have been so zealous in standing up for the truth, which is our good part, there has also at times been a lack of zeal. But even with all of that spoken, does it diminish our responsibility of preaching the gospel with a prophetic and warning element? You see, I believe when I read the scriptures that the Church of God has always at one stage or another had problems, because we are human beings. And also because the adversary, Satan the devil, is going to strike in many ways and at any time at the church to neuter us, to thwart what we are doing.

If there is any church in the scripture that defines a church that was immature we find it in the book of Corinthians. Join me there, if you would. 1 Corinthians 3:3 1 Corinthians 3:3For you are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are you not carnal, and walk as men?
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. Notice what it says. For you are still carnal. You are still needy, you are still earthly. For where there is envy, strife, and divisions among you are you not carnal and behaving like mere men? The state of the Corinthian church under the evangelist Paul humanly was lacking. So what did Paul say as a minister among those people? I am going to pack my bag and put my Bible — he didn't have a Bible then — I will pack my papyri. I will pack my scrolls. It is not the time to preach the gospel. It is not the time to talk about prophecy. It is not the time to give a warning element to the Hellenistic world, that is it. No, the people are carnal. What we are going to do is we are just going to all take them into a room, lock them up, and let them be a bunch of candles melting on one another in a cave, and feel like they are giving out light. That's what I'll do. Is that what Paul did? No.

Join me if you would in 1 Corinthians 1:17 1 Corinthians 1:17For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.
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. In this same church environment, it was in this same book, notice what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1:17 1 Corinthians 1:17For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.
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. For Christ did not send me to baptize. He is making a point that he was not going to baptize everybody. But notice what he was sent for, even within this environment and this carnal atmosphere of the time, but to preach the gospel, not with wisdom of words lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.

So brethren, we see out of the book of Corinthians that the atmosphere or the spirituality in any given congregation or church is not the measuring rod as to whether or not the Church of God has the God-given responsibility and imperative from the Father above to preach the word. Jesus Christ said, I am sending you out, you said you're going to follow me, this is what you do, and you do it to the end.

That's the job.

Now I believe that a vital key to enhancing one's spiritual growth and renewal, and we all need to be spiritually renewed friends, of an individual Christian, a congregation, a Church of God organization, the body of Christ, in whatever order you want to put it, is to join together in sharing the gospel, the full gospel, all of the gospel, the gospel of Jesus Christ as our Passover, as our propitiation, as our atonement, as our older brother, as our king and as our Lord, and the other aspects of the gospel of a warning and prophetic element. You know, when you look at our — I don't know if we have that sign here or not, we do in Bakersfield — but the very motto of the United Church of God is to prepare a people and to preach the gospel. So there is a part in preparing the bride, absolutely, that's in scripture. That's in scripture. That's a part of it, but that's not all of it.

Sometimes what people want to do, I want to show you something here — you are saying, why did Mr. Webber have this whiteboard up here — this is what I have found that even happened within this congregation several years ago. Remember what I said about people when they read the Bible — they become like a scriptural halfback — they get real excited about their own scripture and that's it, all or nothing. And when the United Church of God was developing, what happened is, as you remember — most of you were here, many of you were here at least — there were people that said, you know what we need to do, we need to kind of be the "prepare a bride" people and we need to "be" a work. How many of you remember that phrase? Am I talking to the right audience? The rest of you have come since, that's great. Okay. No, "be a work". A lot of people said, no, we are only going to be part of a church that is going to be a work for God. Now, let me ask you a question. Is it important to be a work for and of God? Is that scriptural? Yes, because he's the potter, we are the clay. Absolutely. But then there were people that said, well you know what we have got to do now, we have got to "do" a work. So what happened is we had "to do a work" people over here. Because all they looked at is Matthew 24:14 Matthew 24:14And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness to all nations; and then shall the end come.
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, you know tucked that scripture underneath their arm and I am not going to let go. Nobody is going to make me let go, right? Did you ever talk to those type of Matthew 24:14 Matthew 24:14And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness to all nations; and then shall the end come.
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— they do not let go. Maybe I have talked to more of them than you have. Okay, so what's the problem here? So we have got people here that are simply going to "be a work" and there are people over here that they want to just simply "do a work". The problem is because both sides get so obstinate with their reading of the Bible, what happens is they are not doing any work because, you know what, they are no longer talking to one another and they are no longer in the same congregation together. Being a work, having God the Father through Christ mold us by the spirit is a part of the Bible. Doing the work, proclaiming the gospel, the prophetic elements and the warning message, that is also in the Bible. That is also very important. But this is the way that I look at it personally. We need to get that thing up here sometime — our motto—where it says to prepare a people, preach the gospel. I look at it this way. Here are the be-ers, and then notice here, here are the doers. There is an overlapping. There is an overlapping. Just like James talks all the time about you show me your works, I'll show you my faith. You show me your faith, I'll show you my works. These aspects of the gospel should not be pulled apart. They are one and in the same part of the gospel. And there is an overlap. A person that yields and surrenders himself to be a part of God's work, to strive for the completeness and maturity of Jesus Christ, of being like Christ, being a work. As you are being like Christ, what did Christ say, I have been sent, I have got the godly imperative. God has sent me to also do the work, to preach the gospel of the kingdom of God. Your being leads into your doing, just as much as I also believe that the doing leads into the being. It is not one or the other. Because when you do that, when you cut out the Bible with your verse, you know, patch it on yourself and keep it, it tends to create division. It makes brother go apart as we had at one time in this very same congregation. Always look for the overlap of purpose. Very important.

Let's conclude, brethren. Join me, if you would, for a final scripture. If you have not opened your Bible all day join me, if you would, in 1 Corinthians 9:16 1 Corinthians 9:16For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid on me; yes, woe is to me, if I preach not the gospel!
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, and let's read it together God's admonition to us on this Sabbath day as a congregation from the very words of one of his apostles, Paul, in the first century AD. 1 Corinthians 9:16 1 Corinthians 9:16For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid on me; yes, woe is to me, if I preach not the gospel!
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. For if I preach the gospel I have nothing to boast of. For necessity is laid upon me. And yes, woe is me if I do not preach the gospel. Well hopefully now as we go on through this study this afternoon we can collectively say then, yes, woe are we if we do not continue in preaching the gospel.