ABC of Scattering: Part 14

Threads and Fibres
Dark Age Travels

John Plunkett 
December 10, 2016

You might have been wondering why I’ve been spending so much time and effort on this topic of scattering.  You might have been wondering if scattering really is so very important and significant to God’s people in this day and age.

I believe that it is!  Very much so!  As well as the many, many scattering scriptures that we’ve been through over the past umpteen months, I ran across this one the other night when I was reading in the book of Daniel:

Daniel 12:7:
And I heard the man clothed in linen, which was upon the waters of the river, when he held up his right hand and his left hand unto heaven, and swore by Him that lives forever that it shall be for a time, times, and an half; and when He shall have accomplished to scatter the power of the holy people, all these things shall be finished.

We often wonder – and sometimes argue – about the true meanings and correct countings of the various prophecies of the three and a half years, the 2,300 days, the 1,290 days and the 1335 days, and others.  

But if we are properly watching what is going on with "the holy people," this scripture really seems to put a time stamp on it. 

We don’t need to go back and dogmatically state that we are pretty sure that those days begin at such-and-such a time.  All we have to do to see when these things are going to be finished is to look at what is happening to God’s people.

I have to admit that I was truly shocked when I re-read this verse the aother night and considered what it seems to be telling us – especially when I thought of the scattered state of the Church of God today.  It is something for us all to think about and to be aware of.

I also recently came across something that Richard Ritenbaugh (Church of the Great God (CGG)) wrote about this verse in his article “The Remnant” in their “Forerunner” magazine:

In the larger context of end-time events, "the holy people" refers to God's chosen nation, Israel.  

The church, however, can also be alluded to here in antitype: Peter calls the church "a holy nation, His own special people" (I Peter 2:9). 

Both of these groups, Israel and the church, seem to be in the process of having their power "completely scattered and completely shattered.

This expression in the Hebrew has the primary meaning of "broken in pieces," "scattered," or "dispersed by force." 

It can mean something akin to "explode."  When an object explodes, its pieces fly apart, and it can no longer do what it was made to do.  The individual pieces are powerless to accomplish what the whole object did.  The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

This must be part of the meaning of the verse because the word power is really the Hebrew word for "hand."  The hand symbolizes a person's ability to do work, to accomplish, to act. 

The translators have taken it to mean the more abstract "might" or "power"; but they could have rendered it as "ability," "strength," or "effectiveness."

If this is so, we can expect the church's ability to do an effective work to decline still further because our power is not yet completely shattered. 

That is why it is so important that we make use of the abilities still left to us: to prepare ourselves for God's Kingdom. 

We’ll come back to this again; but for now, let me comment on something I said last time in Part 13:

Threads and Fibres

I was thinking some more, the other day, about my “thin thread” symbolism that I mentioned to you last time – the “coloured thread” symbolizing, in my own mind, the various aspects of the truth of God and how close – or how far away – different people (both in and out of God’s true church) are in our understanding and keeping of the various aspects of God’s truth and doctrines.

When I mentioned that, many of you might have thought, “Yes.  OK.  But how can you get so much information into a tiny, thin thread?

Being a retired telephone man, this naturally set me thinking about telephone wires!  More specifically, optical fibre telephone "wires."

Many years ago, in the infancy of telecommunications technology, if you wanted to get an important message to someone who lived or worked many miles away from your home or office, you had to pay a visit to the local telegraph office, write your message on a form, give the form to a clerk who would send your message by Morse Code to the telegraph office in the town where your correspondent lived or worked – where it would be decoded, printed out on “ticker-tape”, glued to an official form, put in an envelope and hand-delivered to your correspondent’s home or office – with the hope that someone was there to collect it!

But only one message could be sent over one metallic wire circuit at any given time.  Things improved a little when the telephone came into use.  But even then, everyone didn’t own a phone like they do today.  In the UK, telephone service was quite expensive.  Even though my Dad worked all of his post-WWII career in the British telephone company, he and my Mum didn’t have a home-phone until after we left for Canada in 1974!  Most people used public payphones – if they could find one working.  Public payphones were frequent targets of petty thieves and vandals.

But again, just like the telegraph, a single wire circuit (usually two wires called a “pair”) could only handle one conversation at a time.  Pretty low-tech, eh?

Due to the limitations caused by the common shortage of operators, cable circuits and/or telephone exchange equipment, some bright spark came up with the idea of Party Lines – in which two or more neighbours were connected to a single phone line back to the telephone exchange.  This system wasn’t very private and was dependent, to a great extent, upon patience, trust and good manners – because one subscriber could listen in to his neighbour’s conversation.

Up until a couple of years ago, the residents of Lasqueti Island suffered with ten-party service!  That’s right – ten homes on one line.  At busy times, there would be a virtual queue to use the line.  The subscribers would be listening in to whoever was using the line and as soon as he/she said “goodbye” and hung up, other subscribers would immediately scramble to jump in and get a call through.  So much for patience, trust and good manners!

The bottom line here, once again – and even with single-party phone service too – was that one circuit could only handle one conversation at a time.

Then, as the years went by, another bright spark came up with the idea of the concept of “multiplexing” in which the phone companies were able to cram multiple phone conversations onto a single pair of copper wires. 

The first multiplexing systems were "analogue" and could squeeze four or five conversations into one pair of copper wires.  Then, when digital technology came into common use in the1970s, the first digital multiplexing systems were able to send twenty-four conversations down two pairs of wire.

Then, along came fibre optic technology which blew everything else out of the water and has done so ever since!  Fibre optic transmission uses various multiplexing systems which enables literally thousands of phone calls – or 1.05 petabits of data (currently) – over one hair-thin optical fibre!  (A petabit is the equivalent of 1,000 terabits or 1 million megabits).

One of the many fibre-optic multiplexing methods is "colour-division multiplexing" in which the data capacity of a single optical fibre can be vastly increased by taking advantage of the huge transmission capacity of the many shades of coloured light!

What I’m trying to get at in all of this is that, if puny, man-made, physical telecommunications systems can carry or transmit so much information, how much can God’s narrow, hair-thin doctrinal thread of truth carry?

His truth does not require a huge spiritual container of some kind or a big fat spiritual cable.  Though eternally far-reaching, His truth is tiny in its perfection, meticulousness, restriction, limitation and accessibility!  Hair-thin!  Or even smaller!  Here is how the apostle Paul put it:

II Corinthians 11:3:
But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.

We really need to think about this verse, about what it says, about the simplicity that is in Christ.  Here’s how Jesus put it:

Matthew 7:
13:  Enter you in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leads to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat:
14:  Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leads unto life, and few there be that find it.

The adjective “narrow” is very common and easily understood.  But the adjective “strait” is not so commonly used in our day.  It has a similar meaning to narrow; but is even more restrictive.  Its various dictionary meanings, many of them very applicable to God's way of life, His Word and His truth, include: limited, confined, constricted, fitting tightly, affording little room, limiting, strict and scrupulous. 

But just what was this “strait, narrow gate” that Jesus was talking about here? He answers this question in:

John 10:
1:  “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that enters not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.
2:  But he that enters in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep”...
Verse 7:  Then said Jesus unto them again, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep...
Verse 9:  I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.

Jesus says that He was/is the door or gate.  And He said that we must enter into His Father’s spiritual sheep-fold via the Door/Gate.  Yes, by Jesus Christ.  By the personal, living Door/Gate – the personal, living Word of God.

But also, because we don’t have Him here with us to instruct us in His physical person, He has given us this little book – the Holy Bible – the written Word of God.  Effectively, Jesus Christ in print! 

How small is the narrow, strait gate of God’s truth?  This small!  For those of you on-line, this old KJV Bible of mine is only 6 inches by 4 inches by ˝ inch thick.  This small book has 1,047 pages.  Not a very big book when you consider all the information that it contains.  But it contains every word of the written Word of God!

I went on the Internet to see what the computer file size is of the Bible.  Most English language translations are a mere 1.5 Megabits.  That’s a lot of information in a very small digital space!  But it’s all there.  Everything that we need is in that little book.  It is the handbook for mankind – for young people, for children and for old people. It is the instruction manual for human life.

And if we are true Christians – true members of God’s true church – then, as we learned last time in Part 13, we must have Jesus and His Father dwelling within us through their Holy Spirit.  If we have the living Gate and Word of God dwelling within us, we need to be internalizing His “written version” too… the written Word of God.  And the written Gate! 

The idea is to get as close as possible to that tiny spiritual hair-thin “thread” – or “fibre optic,” if that symbol works better for you – the fine thread of God’s truth. 

How?  Not by magic.  Not by rocket science!  Not by complicated telecommunication technology!  But through “the big four” that have been drummed into us since our first calling: regular prayer, Bible study, meditation and occasional fasting.  If we do these things, we will not only become close to the thin thread of His truth and His true doctrines; but we will be close to Him personally.  Not limited by physical constraints; but as close to Him as is spiritually possible.  We will be in Him and He will be in us!

There are a lot scriptures that we have already been through on this subject; but let’s look at a couple more, to see how God the Father and Jesus really love us and care about us in this respect, and how they want to have this level of closeness to us:

Jeremiah 29:
11:  "For I know the thoughts that I think toward you," says the LORD, "Thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.
12:  Then shall you call upon me, and you shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you.
13:  And you shall seek me, and find me, when you shall search for me with all your heart.
14:  And I will be found of you," says the LORD.

If we are obedient and if we strive to seek God, He will connect with us.

Acts 17:27:
That they should seek the Lord, if haply
{hoping that} they might feel after Him, and find Him, though He be not far from every one of us:

Ephesians 2:13:
But now in Christ Jesus you who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.

Dark Age Travels and Scatterings

This is where so many of those professing Christians of today and some of our Church of God forebears – both ancient and modern – went wrong.  They didn’t stick to the strait and narrow Word of God.  And, by refusing to obey God’s commandments that are an integral part of that strait and narrow Word of God, they strayed outside its boundaries and into the no-man’s land of false doctrine.  In effect, they disqualified themselves from becoming members of God’s true Church – at least in this lifetime.

Maybe the strait and narrow Word of God – the simplicity of being in Christ (II Corinthians 11:3) – wasn’t big or grand enough for them.  Maybe they wanted the glitz, glamour, pomp and circumstance of their old pagan religions.  If you look at the professing Christian churches, even today, you'll see that this is exactly what those early church people who wandered away from the thin thread of truth adopted when they mixed their watered-down versions of Christianity with rank paganism.

When you have a couple of minutes to spare, please take a look at the Vatican Museum web-site.  You’ll see that the first rooms that its tourists pass through are filled with pagan statues – what they would call "pre-Christian" pagan statues.  As you continue through the museum, it’s not easy to determine exactly when you leave the pagan behind and enter the so-called “Christian” rooms, because the idols are so very similar!  Also, if you go into some of their churches, you will see that there still is, to this day, the symbolism that goes back to the worship of the sun and of other heathen gods as well.  What a deviation from the thin “thread” – from the simplicity that is in Christ!

And this is what we see more than once throughout the history of the true church – brethren being diverted from the truth when they come into contact with people who seem to be likeminded; but really are not.

Right away, in the very first fifty years of the church, deceivers wormed their way in.  Jesus knew that there would be!  What did He liken these deceivers to?  And what were His warnings from Jesus Christ?

Matthew 7:15:
Beware of false prophets
{false preachers as well as false seers into the future}, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.

Matthew 10:16:
Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be you therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.

Evidently, those early church brethren obeyed the first part of Jesus’ command here and tried to be as harmless as doves; but they did not obey His second command and so neglected to be as wise as serpents!  They were gullible.  They allowed themselves to be hoodwinked into departing from “the faith once delivered to the saints.”

Paul gave out this very same warning to the brethren of the Ephesus congregation; but also, by extension, to the whole Church of God from that day to this:

Acts 20:
28:  Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock
{of spiritual sheep}, over the which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers {sub-shepherds under the Chief Shepherd – Jesus}, to feed the church of God {with spiritual food, of course}, which He has purchased with His own blood.
29:  For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock.
30:  Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.

And that’s exactly what happened!  Just as happened in the 1990s, some of these deceivers – these grievous wolves – came from right within the true church!

I believe that we should stop thinking that the New Covenant Israel of God is a different Israel than the Israel of Old Covenant times.  It is not!  It is the very same Israel!  And so, these warnings were not just New Testament era ones.  They at least go all the way back to the prophet Ezekiel:

Ezekiel 22:
23:  And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,
24:  “Son of man, say unto her
{the LORD's immoral, adulterous bride, Israel}, ‘You are the land that is not cleansed, nor rained upon in the day of indignation.
25:  There is a conspiracy of her prophets
{again, preachers as well as seers into the future}, in the midst thereof, like a roaring lion ravening the prey; they have devoured souls; they have taken the treasure and precious things; they have made her many widows in the midst thereof.
26:  Her priests have violated my law, and have profaned my holy things: they have put no difference between the holy and profane, neither have they shown difference between the unclean and the clean, and have hid their eyes from my Sabbaths, and I am profaned among them...

This is exactly what we were talking about in Part 13, when we went through the Ten Commandments to see whether or not those professing Christian churches obey the commandments.

27:  Her princes {civil government leaders} in the midst thereof are like wolves ravening the prey, to shed blood, and to destroy souls, to get dishonest gain.
28:  And her prophets have daubed them with untempered mortar, seeing vanity, and divining lies unto them, saying, “Thus says the Lord GOD,” when the LORD has not spoken.
29:  The people of the land have used oppression, and exercised robbery, and have vexed the poor and needy: yes, they have oppressed the stranger wrongfully.’”

If we look through the history of the Roman Catholic church – and some of the Protestant churches as well – and read about what they did, it is not pretty reading!  We might think that they are different now; but I don’t believe it.

Let’s get back now to the churches of the early centuries AD.  Yes, churches – plural!  The true Church of God and the false, professing Christian church organizations – especially the “big player” – the increasingly powerful and corrupt Roman Catholic church.  We meet up with them again in the Fourth Century where we left them last time in Part 13.

And as we meet them again, not only do we find – as we did last time – relevant historical statements from supporters of God’s Sabbaths and of God’s true scriptural doctrines; but amazingly, we also find some historically supportive statements from the enemies of the truth.  Here’s one example –  this one from Father Enright who was a Roman Catholic priest in Kansas City, Missouri.  He brags:

It was the Roman Catholic church that changed the Sabbath from Saturday, the seventh day of the week, to Sunday, the first day, and at the council of Laodicea, we anathematized those who kept the Sabbath, and urged all persons to labor on the seventh day of the week under penalty of anathema.

This man was bragging about what the Roman Catholic church did to the Sabbath and the Sabbath-keepers.  There are other more detailed Roman Catholic documents that back up his claim.  One day – perhaps in the Second Resurrection – perhaps in the Third! – this man will be brought to justice for his prideful boast – as well as his vengeful curse on those who choose to keep God’s true Sabbaths.

He threatens something called "anathema."  What is anathema?  It is defined as a person or thing that is detested, loathed, accursed, consigned to damnation or destruction.  It is an imprecation of divine punishment or execration or a formal ecclesiastical curse involving excommunication.

He also mentions the Council of Laodicea – which was, perhaps, aptly named if we consider Jesus’ judgment of the Laodicean church in Revelation 3. 

But let’s take a quick look at this Council of Laodicea, because it was very significant.  You’ve probably heard of it.  But what was it?  Here’s a brief overview from Wikipedia:

The Council of Laodicea was a regional synod {a kind of council meeting} of approximately thirty clerics {priests} from Asia Minor that assembled about 363–364 AD in Laodicea, Phrygia Pacatiana.

Here’s what led to it:

Julian, the last Constantinian emperor, attempted a revival of paganism and resumed discrimination against Christians… 

This Julian really didn’t need to revive paganism.  All he had to do was to mix it in with the watered-down version of Christianity, thus producing a Satan-inspired mixture of truth and error.  And, in order to attract more pagans into the Roman Catholic fold, that’s exactly what happened.  Just take a quick look some time at Roman Catholic theology and see how little of it lines up with the holy scriptures and how much of it lines up with rank paganism.  Continuing in the Wikipedia article:

After his {Julian’s} death in battle on June 26, 363, officers of the army elected the {professing} Christian Jovian as his successor… He was soon succeeded by Valentinian I, who named his brother Valens Emperor of the East.

It is interesting that these guys were supported and elected by army officers.  I'm sure that that support must have been mutual.  Remember last time that we were talking about professing Christians breaking the sixth commandment – "Thou shalt not kill."   We know that, eventually, the Papal armies became the true church's worst nightmare.  Continuing again in the Wikipedia article.

The major concerns of the Council {of Laodicea} involved regulating the conduct of church members.  The Council expressed its decrees in the form of written rules or “canons.”  Among the sixty canons decreed, several aimed at:

They’d likely put us under the “heretics” classification!  Continuing ...

A liturgy is a predetermined or prescribed set of rituals.  This sounds OK; but we need to be careful not to take it too far.   For example, would it be right to insist that we can only sing hymns out of this one hymnal, or that we must have five hymns, or that we must do things exactly the way that they have always been done according to Church of God tradition?

Jesus had His own term for liturgical practices when they are taken to an extreme, and He reveals their origin in one verse:

Matthew 6:7:
But when you pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.

If we came together every Sabbath Day and said exactly the same prayers and sang exactly the same hymns, this practice would be considered as vain repetitions. The origin of "vain repetitions" is "as the heathen do."

The bottom line here is that, after less than three hundred years after the deaths of the apostles, the predominantly visible, professing Christian church had strayed very far off the true Christian mark and into this syncretized, pseudo-Christian-pseudo-pagan religion that it still is today.  Meanwhile, the true church and its members were being referred to – and persecuted as – “heretics” and “sects.”

The separation between the true Church of God and the Roman Catholic church continued to widen.  However, if you ever thought that the Roman Catholic church itself was ever united in its doctrine, please dismiss that thought; because it never was.  The people and the leaders of the Roman Catholic church could not get along at all well with each other.  In a previous episode of this series, I read a quote from a book entitled "The History of Ireland" about the literal battles and wars that broke out between various Roman Catholic monasteries during its comparatively modern history.

Back now to Dugger and Dodd:

In the fourth century, there was also a distinguished man by the name of Priscillian {died 385 AD}, who founded a “sect” known as the Priscillianists, who differed in some respects from the bishop of Rome.

The clergy of the Catholic church, indeed, persisted in waging a sanguinary
{bloody!} and disgraceful contest with each other about church preferments, and similar objects of human ambition; but, notwithstanding the squabbles of those men of corrupt minds, it must have been a season of precious repose and tranquility to the real churches of Christ, which stood aloof from such scandalous proceedings, and kept their garments unspotted from the world…

In other words, as long as the Catholics were scrapping with one another, their attention was diverted away from persecuting the true church brethren.

The Roman Catholic church have always claimed that they were the true origin of Christianity in other areas of Europe.  But is this true?   Let’s continue once again with Dugger and Dodd:

This {the Roman Papacy} was not the type of Christianity that first penetrated Syria, northern Italy, southern France, and Great Britain.  The ancient records of the first believers in Christ in those parts disclose a Christianity which is not Roman but apostolic.  These lands were first penetrated by missionaries, not from Rome, but from Palestine and Asia Minor. 

And the Greek New Testament, the Received Text that they brought with them, or its translation, was of the type from which the Bibles {including} the King James in the English and the… German, were translated.

In the midst of all the turmoil and the wrangling caused by ambitious bishops, each trying to gain the ascendancy over the others, there dwelt a people untouched by the worldliness of the apostate church.  This was the true Church of God, known, it is true, by various man-made names, but among themselves holding to the true name and the pure unadulterated doctrines advocated by the disciples of the first century.

President Edwards {Bible scholar} says of this people, later called Waldenses, Puritans, etc.: 

Some of the popish writers themselves own that this people never submitted to the church of Rome.  One of the popish writers, speaking of the Waldenses, says,:

The heresy of the Waldenses is the oldest heresy in the world.  It is supposed that they first betook themselves to this place among the mountains, where they existed before Constantine the Great {i.e. before 306 AD!}

And thus {quoting Revelation 12:6, 14}: “The woman fled into the wilderness, from the face of the serpent… And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent.”

More separation, travel and scattering!

The people being settled there {in the mountain valleys}, their posterity continued from age to age; and being, as it were, by natural walls, as well as by God's grace, separated from the rest of the world, they never partook of the overflowing corruption.

One historical sketch tells of a body of believers who fled out of Judaea late in the fourth century, and who by their faith were evidently the Church of God.

So, the true Church of God were scattered to Syria, Spain, northern Italy, Germany, Bulgaria, Moravia, southern France and Great Britain.  Different groups of them were called by different names in different countries.  The most commonly known names were the Cathari, the Paulicians, the Albigenses, the Anabaptists, the Vaudois, who were also know as the Valdese, the Waldenses or the Waldensians.

Let us concentrate for now on the Waldensians, of whom the written history appears to be the most complete.  To cover even a fraction of their many persecutions at the hands of the Catholic papal armies and to cover their many, many scatterings into the high, snow-clad, inhospitable mountains of the Alps would take up way too much time.  If you’re interested in learning more about it, please read “History of the Waldenses” by J.A. Wylie and a video called “The Israel of the Alps,” both of which can be found on the Internet.

We need to fast-forward now through the centuries; but if you are so inclined, you can read more of the details of what happened to the true people of God throughout the fifth to fifteenth centuries in the eighth to the eighteenth chapters of Dugger and Dodd’s work.

In a nutshell, the true Church of God, called various names by the world, continued to be persecuted, pursued and scattered by the popes’ armies for their adherence to the truth – while the pope's “harlot” church went from heresy to heresy – many of which they still hold to today and some of which were adopted by her “daughter” churches.  They have become so very much part of history to the point where the Roman Catholic church and the churches that split off from them agree with the heresies that were developed by then.

Here is a short list of just a few of their unscriptural heresies that were originated and grew up in those ten centuries (fifth to fifteenth):

Next time we will jump all the way forward to the Sixteenth Century where we will see how the Protestant Reformation affected the true Church of God.