Wednesday, March 23, 2016

COGWA on the Resurrection: That's Nice, Now What?

It's almost Easter, which means it's time for the Churches of God to wax eloquent on the sign of Jonah and chocolate rabbits; while making only passing mention of the greatest miracle in the history of the world.

I'm used to it. I cheered it on for years from the sidelines. Now I cringe, but still, I expect it. It takes a lot to shock me. But something I read in COGWA's latest issue of Discern stopped me dead in my tracks:
“Drive down a church-filled road on Easter Sunday, and you'll encounter the literary equivalent of a broken record: He is risen! He is risen! He is risen! He is risen! He is risen!” COGWA writer Jeremy Lallier laments on page 14 of Discern magazine's March/April edition. 
“It's meant to be encouraging, but seeing sign after sign bearing the same emphatic declaration instead leaves me with a single nagging question: Now what? Yes, He is risen, but now what?”
Lallier continues, in his article titled “He is Risen, NOW WHAT?”: 
“Christ died to pay the penalty for our sins, but now what? Where do we go from here? What do we need to be doing?”
Let me digress from my shock over the seemingly flip words COGWA saw fit for its flagship publication to bring you the following message: Guys, when are you guys going to stop pretending that no one besides you knows that Romans 6 is in the Bible?

I could spend the rest of this post citing the same passages as Mr. Lallier to prove I know they exist, but what would be the point? Either you believe me when I say many churches outside the COGs teach about sin, repentance and obedience; or you don't. Yes, some mainstream Christian churches are soft on sin. There are some where “repentance” is a dirty word. But that isn't all of them, it isn't even most of them, and it isn't mine. The standard COG claim that all “so-called Christian” pastors are spineless about sin is just plain silly.  Even total skeptics must admit that the stereotype of the“hellfire and brimstone preacher” had to come from somewhere.

But really, complaints like “now what?” and “Easter doesn't tell the whole story” are just distractions from the real issue. I could just as easily point to an individual Holy Day in a vacuum and complain that it doesn't give a full picture of salvation. We've dealt with the problematic Easter narrative handed to us by Herbert Armstrong and Alexander Hislop many times. Today, let's set aside the hot-button "E-word" and instead talk about something more relevant, like the resurrection.

The deeper issue is this: discussing Jesus Christ and His resurrection really aren't a high priority for COGWA. Or for the other, competing WCG splinters that share its theology. Anyone who professes faith in Christ; yet can respond to the resurrection with "now what" in any manner other than Acts 2:37 brokenness and humility, fails to fully grasp the significance of Christ's sacrifice and what it accomplished. We're talking about the biggest miracle ever, the proof that Christ WAS the Savior and not a madman, the reason for us to have any hope in this life. It's not exactly an occasion to be snarky.

Sure, COGWA and its sister splinters pay lip service. They say the right words when people like me press them on the issue. But, really, Jesus Christ is a footnote; His resurrection is simply one checkpoint along “God's plan of salvation.” And not a very big one, either. After all, if God had wanted us to celebrate Christ's resurrection, He would have made it happen on a Holy Day! I mean, He even had two feast days to choose from that very week! 

As COGWA states in the very same magazine issue, on page 29, “It's all about the Father.” That's pretty obvious. We've seen COGWA's Encourage, Equip and Inspire parenting manual. Jesus didn't even make the short list of biblical characters whose life lessons are lifted up as examples in its "People of the Bible" section. Christ got an honorable mention in the lesson that discussed Simeon in the temple, but apparently didn't merit His own section when compared to people like Abraham, Abigail and Timothy.

According to the COGs, Jesus Christ was the second being - both in number and importance – in the God family; which will become a divine polytheistic oligarchy at His return.

Furthermore, Jesus had to qualify during his time on earth for reinstatement to this soon-to-be Pantheon. Your own founder, the one who created your theology and shaped your religious environment, stated that church members would essentially become co-Saviors with Christ in the Kingdom. COGWA, you claim that “the entire Bible leads us to the Father.” Is it any wonder that the resurrection is a blip on your radar screen?

Dear reader, the entire Bible doesn't point only to the Father, as the latest issue of Discern states on page 29. Don't swallow this dangerous lie. The Bible primarily points to the Savior and man's need for Him. It is intended to convict you of your sin and point you to the only possible solution. Over and over, we see themes of sin, desperation, sacrifice and deliverance. Noah and the Ark. Abraham and Isaac. The blood of the Passover lamb on the doorposts. The Sabbath. The Holy Days. The Serpent on the post stopping the plague. Blood sacrifices in the temple. The Holy of Holies. Ruth and Boaz. The Suffering Servant of Isaiah. Paul, Stephen, Peter and even Jesus Himself showed how the Old Testament pointed to Him:

(Luke 24:25-27) Then He said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory? And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.”

That's the whole point of the As Bereans Did blog. To help people who have been trapped in Herbert Armstrong's web of false doctrines to untangle the scriptures and learn the truth:

(Acts 17:11) These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.”

So, like the believers at Berea, let's reason from the scriptures to see what they reveal  about the Christ (Acts 17:2-3):

(Genesis 1:1) In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

(John 1:1-3) In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.” The whole world was made through the preincarnate Christ.

(Colossians 1:16) For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on the earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him.”

(Genesis 3:15) And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.” This is considered the first Messianic prophecy in the Bible.

(John 1:45) Philip found Nathaniel and said to him, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote – Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” The law and prophets pointed to Christ.

(Luke 4:16-21) So He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read. And He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written: The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.” Then He closed the book and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say to them, Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” Christ explained that these scriptures were fulfilled in Him.

(Luke 24:44) Then He said to them, “These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning me.” And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures. The Law and Prophets pointed to and were fulfilled by the Christ.

(Romans 10:17, ESV) So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. The NKJV renders the last word of this verse God, but in the Greek it is clearly "Christou." Faith - which is what saves us - comes through hearing the words, the teachings, of Jesus. 

(Revelation 17:14) They will make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, for He is Lord of lords and King of kinds; and those who are with Him are called chosen and faithful. Jesus Christ is King of King and Lord of Lords.

(1 Timothy 6:13-15) I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, which He will display at the proper time - He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords..." This same King of Kings and Lord of Lords is the ONLY SOVEREIGN.

(Revelation 22:12-13) And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the End, the First and the Last. Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.

This is clearly Jesus speaking in Revelation 22. He is the Alpha and Omega. The same Jesus being worshiped in the center of heaven before His return in the following verse:

(Revelation 5:11-14) Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice: “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing!” And every creature which is in heaven and on earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying: “Blessing and honor and glory and power be to Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, forever and ever!” Jesus is the Lamb and He is to be worshiped, praised and glorified. 

I suppose, in a roundabout way, God's plan for salvation is the story. But only because Jesus is – and always was – God's plan for salvation. The risen Christ is not half the story, as COGWA suggests. No, Mr. Lallier, we are not the other half of the story. Not by a longshot. No, returning to Sinai Covenant law is not the other half of the story. Jesus didn't suffer and die to initiate the better New Covenant in His blood so that we could cling to practices from the inferior covenant (and hopefully perform them well enough that God will let us into the Kingdom). We dishonor God and cheapen Christ's sacrifice when we claim that we can use the filthy rags of our deeds to cleanse the sinful stains from our hearts.

The story is all about Him. We are blessed to even be the clay in the potter's hand; to be instruments He can use for His glory. We have been set free from sin, and now live our lives as servants of righteousness (Romans 6:18). We do good works, but only because we are His workmanship, created and equipped by Him to do them (Ephesians 2:8-10).

So, He is risen. Now what?
  • Now we can be reconciled to God through Christ rather than our deeds (2 Corinthians 5:18-19).
  • Now God can call hard-hearted sinners like us (Romans 5:10) to Himself (John 6:44).
  • Now God can grant us salvation when we place our faith in His promise to save us through the sacrifice of His Son (John 3:16, Romans 10:9-10)
  • Now God can regenerate our hard, darkened hearts (Colossians 2:13) and give us new life (2 Corinthians 5:17) through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (Ezekiel 36:26-27). 
  • Now we can have Christ's righteousness imputed to us, so that we are found blameless in God's sight (Philippians 3:9, Galatians 2:16, Romans 4:5)
  • Now God can lead us through the Holy Spirit, so that we can cooperate with Him and become more and more like Christ (Romans 8:29, Ephesians 4:22-24, Romans 12:2).
  • Now we need not fear death, since we know that when we leave our earthly body, will will be present with the Lord  (2 Corinthians 5:6-8). 
  • Now we can have faith that God will transform our earthly bodies into glorified bodies like the resurrected Christ's at His return, reuniting them with our souls (1 Corinthians 15:35-58). 
Now what? Now we can place our full faith in God for salvation, rather than toiling and worrying whether He will decide we are "good enough". Now we can strive to follow Him, to obey His commands; secure in the understanding that we will not be condemned when we fail; secure in the knowledge that God will finish what He begins in us (Philippians 1:6).

Now we can have hope, because of the resurrection.

Now that's something to celebrate.

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


Darren C. said...


I especially liked this: "After all, if God had wanted us to celebrate Christ's resurrection, He would have made it happen on a Holy Day!"

Insightful and interesting. They seem more willing to commemorate Israel coming out of Egypt than they are Jesus coming out of the tomb.

xHWA said...

Now what? Why, that's simple!

Now that Jesus has died to institute the New Covenant in His own blood, we have to return to the Old Covenant. It's what God wants.

The Old Covenant is dead. Long live the Old Covenant!

Anonymous said...

the only sign given was to be 3 days & 3 nights in the tomb

good friday - easter sunday deny the sign, and therefore deny Jesus.

it's amazing that so many don't get that.

besides, Jesus said to proclaim His death by observing the passover, He said nothing about celebrating His resurrection.
if you are going to celebrate His resurrection, shouldn't you first proclaim His death as He instructed?

Anonymous said...

Well, the CoGWA and the rest of their ilk have a Bible which basically contains the Old Testament and Revelation. A few chapters in the New Testament may pop up -- like Matthew 24, but by and large, the religion is that of Olde Testament Christianity.

While they may claim to lead to God the Father and that He is most important, I have yet to find any CoG which actually seems to know anything about God as The Father.

Their God is an all powerful and vengeful God who is going to punish and destroy people. He is also a corporate CEO and that's the role they know Him best as. The Kingdom of God is really The Kingdom of God, Inc. and those who make into the Corporate Headquarters aren't really going to be kings and priests, ruling with Jesus, they are going to be Corporate Executives in middle management of the Corporation of God.

There's very little to suggest that the CoGs know much of anything about the real God, The Father, let alone Jesus.

Martha said...

Thank you for reading, Anonymous.

Rather than re-invent the wheel, I am going to link an excellent post written by xHWA that explains the classic Armstrongist "Three Days and Three Nights" claims.

Herbert Armstrong painted himself into a lot of theological corners making claims based on interpreting the Bible through 1900s era American language and culture. Was it a repeated, ignorant mistake, or a more calculated attempt to drive a wedge between potential followers and their mainstream Christian leaders? Leaders who, I might add, have studied actual Hebrew idioms, among other things, and must offer a consistent Systematic Theology rather than creating a doctrinal package of disconnected prooftexts?

Armstrong only looked backwards earlier than Victorian English and culture when it suited him. When he did, he twisted concepts beyond recognition and then claimed anyone who disagreed was deceived.

COG leaders today continue to repeat HWA's mistakes in this area. Are they deceived, ignorant or calculating? It would be amusing to watch if it hadn't cost so many relationships, dollars and lives.

Anonymous said...

your article keeps referring to the Greek 3 days, and that's fine....but Jesus specifically mentioned Jonas/ 3 days & 3 nights...He wouldn't have said that if He didn't mean it...and using that as the standard, the Greek "3 days" is easily understood to mean 72hr.

anyway, believe what you will.

xHWA said...


From your comments it seems as if you feel that there is a compelling reason to believe that "3 days and 3 nights" is literal and taking it to mean 72 hours is the correct position. We once agreed with you but no longer. And we do not just disagree because we believe whatever we feel like. We disagree based on what we feel is overwhelming cultural and Biblical evidence.

We no longer find simple statements of opinion such as "Jesus wouldn't have said it if He didn't mean it" to be compelling evidence. Jesus obviously said something important. It's how we should understand what He was really saying that matters the most. And just defaulting to "it must be literal" has to come with some supporting evidence. We have searched! Yet find none at all. Not only that, but if we take this verse to be literal, then what of the 19 other verses where the time of Jesus' interment was described? Only Matthew 12 verse 40 uses the phrase “three days and three nights”. In all of these nineteen other instances, none of them repeat Matthew 12: 40. Here is how they play out in the NKJV:
"The third day" 11 times.
"In three days" 5 times.
"After three days" 2 times.
"On the third day" 1 time.
"Within three days" 1 time.

As you can see, we cannot take them all literally. Why should we take Matthew 12:40 literally and those other 19 not literally? This question needs an answer.

How we answer that is first asking the Bible. There are other places in the Bible where the phrase "three days and three nights" or "three days night and day" appear. The one in Jonah which gives us no clue as to whether it was literal or not. There is simply no other evidence to help us in this one. So we go to the others. What do we see? Not a single one of them are literally 72 hours. So this phrase "three days and three nights" is a known idiom in the Bible and it would be improper for us to take it literally.

Now we ask how would Jesus' audience have understood Him? His audience in Matt 12: 40 were the Pharisees. From the evidence of how they spoke regarding the event, they did not take it literally. In fact, they believed that part of a day counted as the whole day. There word for this is called the "onah." From the start of Israel, we see example after example of how they would not have seen time in the literal way you prefer.

Now we ask if there was any additional evidence that might clear things up, and there is. We see from the discussion between Cleopas and Jesus on the road to Emmaus in Luke 24 that Sunday was the third day from the crucifixion. If Jesus was dead 72 literal hours, then Sunday would be the fourth day. Yet there Jesus and Cleopas are, on a Sunday, saying that day was the third day since the crucifixion.
And not only that, but from the earliest records we have outside of the Bible that the early church believed Jesus died on a Friday and rose on a Sunday and that this time period is to be understood as three days. You may not prefer accepting this as evidence, but if we are to be circumspect then we should leave nothing out.

There is other evidence of course, and we lay it all out in the articles Martha referenced. But in the end we find absolutely no good reason to take the statement as a literal 72 hours beyond personal opinion and preference. And we know the counter-arguments. We lived those counter-arguments for decades. Perhaps you would like to add some new thing that we might not know that we should consider.

Darren C. said...

xHWA: Very good comment. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Just count back 3 days & 3 nights from Sunday and all of Christ's predictions are fulfilled in a Thursday crucifixion.

xHWA said...

Anon 12-9-23
Thanks for the comment. I could do that, but I don't see why I would. The people at that time and in that place would not count that way. Those people in that place at that time counted inclusively. To them, three days before Sunday is Friday, not Thursday.