Sunday, September 9, 2018

Overcoming and the Feast of Trumpets

As the Churches of God are celebrating the Feast of Trumpets, I'm sure there will be plenty of COG critics who make a big deal about the fact that this day is never even mentioned in the New Testament.

I won't be one of them.

Sure, if you want to get technical, it isn't. The epistles do make passing references to the Days of Unleavened Bread, Pentecost and the Day of Atonement. But, despite NT references to trumpets and resurrections and Jesus' return, poor old Rosh Hashanah itself doesn't even get a mention.

But that's ok. I don't really care. Because today, I don't want to argue about whether the COGs are correct about what the Feast of Trumpets pictures, or how it will play out. I don't plan to debate Heaven versus soul sleep. For the purposes of this discussion, let's just assume you're right. Because, at the end of the day – or really, the End of Days – you and I basically share the same hope: that Jesus Christ will return, that the dead in Christ will rise, and that we will be numbered among the saints in God's family. 

Paul gives us the basis for this hope in 1 Corinthians 15:51-52:

Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.

No matter what our differences, this victory over death is our common hope. So how can we be sure we will "make it"? How can we make sure we have overcome? That we'll be there? This is the real question, the real important point of discussion. Many Feast of Trumpets sermons - and really, a good number of messages - come back to in the COGs. They seem to be pretty certain we must DO something, although they tell us in different ways:

The United Church of God, for example, soberly calls us to action:
"Think about this in regard to this festival, this holy day, and this assemblage. Every day in our life, there should be the sounding of a symbolic trumpet of urgency for us to live for God, developing a relationship with God, preparing for that time when we will be changed at the sounding of a trumpet, and our bodies changed from mortal to immortality, as Paul talks about in 1 Corinthians chapter 15, the resurrection chapter". (Beyond Today: Feast of Trumpets: An Urgency to Live for God Everyday, Darris McNeely, September 11, 2015)

The Church of God, a Worldwide Association, reminds us that failure is not an option - but not quite how the Bible teaches it (and I'm still waiting for them to explain me how to "use" the Holy Spirit like a pressure washer or something):  
"God did not call us to fail. When we repent and die with Christ through baptism, we begin a new life—a life fueled by the Holy Spirit, the power of God. There’s a lifetime of work ahead of us as we strive to put out sin and grow in righteousness, but thanks to the Holy Spirit and the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, it’s work we can accomplish." (, The Plan of God, Day 3: The Power to Overcome.)

The Living Church of God invokes Herbert W Armstrong, founder of the COG movement, in their current literature to deliver subtle, thought-provoking ultimatums: 
"Repeatedly Jesus warned us to watch, regarding His second coming! Could it be possible that, unless we are observing the Feast of Trumpets, as the first-century Church of God was observing Pentecost, that we shall not be ready, or caught up to meet Him? We do not—we cannot, of course, say; but we do ask the question. Is it not possible? Let us humbly and willingly yield to walk obediently in all the light.” (Herbert W Armstrong, Pagan Holidays or God’s Holy Days—Which? , p. 34.)

And the Philadelphia Church of God hands us not-so-subtle ultimatums: 
“We can’t carelessly relegate the Feast of Trumpets to just another day to give an offering and then get on with the fast to sort of punish ourselves before the “fun” starts at the Feast of Tabernacles. If we allow ourselves to drift into that contemptuous attitude, then we will not be accounted worthy to escape His wrath at His coming! (Luke 21:35-36). He won’t count us worthy to be born into His Family.” (Remember the Feast of Trumpets, and God Will Remember You! John Amos, Philadelphia Church of God, 1992). 

Regardless of which COG flavor you choose, the same underlying message comes through loud and clear: you must be doing something, the right something, and keep doing it correctly until you're done. Granted, they never tell you exactly WHAT that something is, or how well you must do it, or how long you must do it. 

Thankfully, the Bible DOES tell us how this victory over death comes, though it isn't through what WE do. Not surprisingly, it comes just a few verses after Paul's description of the resurrection:

But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. - 1 Corinthians 15:57. 

Wait, what? 

Let me rephrase that without the complicating commas and clauses. 

God gives us the victory. 

We do not secure it ourselves, through works:

But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to His own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior.  - Titus 3:4-6

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.  - Ephesians 2:8-9

This victory comes through Jesus, not through maintaining a state of grace through ongoing justification

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through Him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. - Romans 5:1-2

We do NOT begin our Christian life with an act of faith, but reach its final objective through physical works. 

Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works on the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? - Galatians 3:2-3

In fact, our works would secure a much different outcome

Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. Romans 4:4.

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23. 

This victory - over sin in this life and over death at the end - is the eventual fruit of our faith, not of our works

For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? -  1 John 5:4

We overcome by professing our faith in the blood of the lamb, not in what we do. 

"And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death. - Revelation 12:10-12. 

So what can we do to make sure that we "make it?"

Not a whole lot. Not keep the Sabbath. Not count the new moons correctly from Jerusalem, to make sure we are spot-on about when to keep the holy days. Not adopt a vegetarian diet to avoid eating any unclean ingredients. Not take a vow of silence so that we can never lie again.

Really, all we can do is choose to believe the One who promises to forgive our sins and grant us eternal life through the shed blood of His Son. And then take it on faith.

Good thing that was what He really wanted anyway.

It is important that you understand; Everything on this blog is based on the current understanding of each author. Never take anyone's word for it, always prove it for yourself, it is your responsibility. You cannot ride someone else's coattail into the Kingdom. ; )
Acts 17:11


Anonymous said...

Well said, Martha. I think the COGs would do well to understand that the Lord represents both Lambs pictured in Atonement. Certainly satan has no role in atonement. One Lamb is represents the Lord sacrificing Himself for us, the other represents Jesus taking our sins far from us. The teaching that one lamb represents Satan takes away the understanding that Christ removes sin from those that are His.

Ekklesia said...

Well said, Martha. I think the COGs would do well to understand that the Lord represents both Lambs pictured in Atonement. Certainly satan has no role in atonement. One Lamb is represents the Lord sacrificing Himself for us, the other represents Jesus taking our sins far from us. The teaching that one lamb represents Satan takes away the understanding that Christ removes sin from those that are His.

Ekklesia said...

So, I've attempted to post what seem to be respectful and reasonable comments, but they don't post. What gives???