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Jesus' Return?
Religion Today, Nov 23./98

Israeli security forces are preparing for the millennium. The government has allocated $12 million for surveillance measures... Some Christians have rented places on the Mount of Olives in hopes of witnessing Christ's return. "The matter of messianic activity with the approach of the year 2000 is a matter we have been dealing with for a very long time," police commander Yair Yitzhaki said. Security forces will be trained to deal with suicide attempts at the Temple Mount by religious fanatics.

Expect this type of report and behavior to increase as 2000 approaches. But don't be deceived... "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father." (Matthew 24:36)

Religion Today, Oct. 22./98

Shen Xianfeng protested the Chinese government's labeling his house church movement a cult and called on officials to release his fellow believers from forced-labor camps. Sixteen leaders of the China Evangelical Fellowship, including Shen, were given 2-to-3 year sentences in labor camps in 1998. Shen, who was released for medical reasons, said Christians are abused in prison.... "We were constantly interrogated, beaten, and exposed to the cold wind of an electric fan in severe winter conditions." Shen, from Henan province, said his group is not a cult but is orthodox in faith... Protestant churches not connected with the government-sponsored Three-Self Patriotic Movement are often labeled cults to justify legal action against them, he said. Henan has seen the largest church growth of all China's provinces, and it is estimated that 10-to-20 million believers may live there.

If one part [of the body] suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. (1 Corinthians 12:16) Do you take for granted our freedom? Do you pray for the persecuted? Would you still want to be called a Christian, if it would cost you your possessions, freedom, or life? (Matthew 10:32-33, 2 Timothy 3:12). Notice that the church is growing in the face of persecution. (Revelation 2:10)


Pope Stairway To Heaven Edict
Starts 2000 Countdown
Reuters, Nov. 29/98 & various

Pope John Paul Sunday issued an edict which declares it a Holy Year (Christmas eve, 1999 to January 6, 2001) and tells Catholics what they can do to pass through the pearly gates of heaven faster.

The edict includes ways of earning indulgences to help get to heaven in the fast lane, including by abstaining from smoking and drinking during the Holy Year. Also by deeds such as visiting the sick or jailed, making pilgrimages to churches and giving part of one's wealth to charity.

The (edict) bull, is the most solemn form of papal document called ''Incarnationis Mysterium'' (The Mystery of the Incarnation).

While many Catholics consider indulgences an anachronism of the past, best known as one of the issues that sparked Martin Luther's Reformation, the conservative Polish Pope clearly assigns them great spiritual significance. Indulgences are remission of temporal punishment -- suffering in this life or the next in order to purify a soul of sins which have already been forgiven in confession.

The Church teaches that people who do not go directly to paradise or hell after death must do some time in ``purgatory,'' an unpleasant waiting room for heaven. In the edict, the Pope decrees ``all faithful, properly prepared, will be able to make abundant use of the gift of the indulgence...''

For all the talk of reconciling Protestants and Roman Catholics, the very issues that led to the Reformation are still there. It was the sale of indulgences by Johann Tetzel, a Dominican friar, in 1502 that sparked Martin Luther to examine, by scriptures, all the teachings of the Roman Catholic church -- culminating in the famed 95 theses of Wittenburg, in 1517.

One news report said that Roman Catholics were stunned at the return to the use of indulgences. In fact, they have never stopped being used. According to the Enchiridion (handbook) of Indulgences (after Vatican II), a "plenary indulgence" could be earned by following the stations of the Way of the Cross. The Roman Catholic Media Office confirmed that indulgences had always been a part of the church's teaching and occurred in every Holy Year, but had lapsed into the background until now.

Any practice or teaching that takes away from the sufficiency of Christ's atonement is a lie (as does the whole Apocryphal teaching of purgatory). Freedom from punishment can't be earned and for those that have found forgiveness in Christ Jesus there is no condemnation (see Romans 8:1, 4:7-8, 5:1)


Edited by Brent MacDonald of Lion Tracks Ministries. All editiorial comment is in italics. (c) 1998. This electronic version is formatted different than the original. Feel free to duplicate as long as the sources are cited.