The ABC of Scattering

Part 17:  More Loose Ends Tied Up

John Plunkett
February 25

This is our final episode – Part 17 – of the ABC of Scattering series, and I would like to begin and introduce it with some special music.  This is a lovely piece from the soundtrack of a Soviet Russian movie from 1955, called "The Gadfly" and was composed by one of my favourite composers, Dmitri Shostakovich and on this recording is played on the violin by Janine Jansen.

So, what is a Gadfly?

I looked it up in good old Wikipedia, which told me that a gadfly is a fly that annoys horses and other livestock.  It is usually a horse-fly or a bot-fly.  The term can also refer to a social gadfly who is a person who upsets the status quo or a practitioner of "Gadfly Ethics," which is one of the competing theories about how to pursue goodness.  I thought that last one was kind of interesting.

As we wind down towards the close of this sermon series, I want to make a couple of things very clear and I would like to try to tie up the last of our "loose ends."

Some Recent Personal Church History

Firstly, I would like to go back in time to 1995 when we parted company with the Worldwide Church of God.  Since then, Trish and I, and others of us here too, have been criticized by more than just a few people for being spiritual equivalents of the gadflies.  I mentioned to you a couple of weeks ago that a church member in Tennessee called us “nothing but a couple of grasshoppers.”

One of the worst accusations that some brethren have accused us of was that being hypocrites – specifically with regards to our publicly-stated desire to attempt to be “Building Bridges.” 

I do not deny that, since leaving the Worldwide Church of God twenty-two years ago, Trish and I have met with more than just a few different Church of God groups.  But I want to assure you that all of our moves were for very good reasons – reasons that we believe were approved by our Father and our Elder Brother – similar to those northern Israelites that we read about last time, who moved to the southern house of Judah back in King Asa’s time.

In our case, though, why the separations?

In some cases, my family and I were abruptly cut off by the leaders, the ministers, or the members of some of those organizations; and for no apparently valid reason that we were able to find out. 

In some other cases, we found it necessary to leave a group voluntarily, because of what we believed to be an unacceptable level of various kinds of wrongdoing.
Please bear with me as I go through a brief "potted history" of what happened to us.  In doing this, I am not "crying the blues."  I know that our experiences, and what we went through were not unique, and that probably most of you have had similar experiences.  But I think that it is good to put it out on the table and discuss it.  In doing so, I do not want to unrighteously judge the Church of God groups from whom we parted company.

What then?  What am I doing?  Am I indulging in self-justification?  Okay, I will admit to an attempt at self-justification to some extent.  But rather, and more importantly for all of us as we go through this, is God’s justification – His justification of our moves – and again, because we believe that the moves we voluntarily made were according to His will and His holy Word.

It is not my purpose to point the finger at any of these groups or individuals that we parted company from.  As with all of us, their distance from God’s Word is between themselves and Him.  He is their Judge – as well as ours.

So as not to identify the groups specifically, and as this is “the ABC of Scattering,” I will use an alphabetical format and call them – in an approximate time order – “Company A,” “Company B,” “Company C,” etc. Some you might recognize.  Others you may not.

"Companies" is a term that God's Word appears to prophetically call such organizations in Isaiah 57:13.

I am not going to go through all of this in fine detail; but soon after leaving the Worldwide Church of God (Company A) early in 1995, we and other members here on Vancouver Island became pioneer members of the fledgling Company E in Canada. 

Although Company B had been in existence since 1978, for the 1990s brethren fleeing the Tkachs’ apostasy, Company B was never a real consideration at that time – mainly, I believe, because of Company A’s propaganda regarding their initial split – plus the widely publicized, unrepented-of immorality of their leader.

Companies C and D had both been in existence since 1992; but we were unaware of the relatively small Company D and we overlooked Company C and opted for the fledgling Company E.

WhyBecause the leaders of Company C were trying to emulate the the old-style methods of Company A – to an almost comical and embarrassing extent.  So, we were attracted by Company E’s promise that, rather than a hierarchical leadership structure, they would lead by a set of councils; and that those councils would be gently considerate in their handling of any concerns brought forward by the members.  However, as we were to find out to our dismay, the reality did not match the promise!

I won’t go into the details of what happened with our two years with Company E or our thirteen years with Company D; but after parting company with Company C in 2010, we came to start believing Jesus’ assurance that He only has one, single Body; also that, although it is true that some Church of God groups seem to have more truth than others, no one Church of God group has a total “corner” on the truth; and we started believing the likelihood that there are God’s true people in most – if not all – of the Church of God groups. 

Led by these sincere beliefs, we began our “Building Bridges” program – not, – and I repeat, not – to attempt to reunite the scattered churches.  We believed – and still do – that the scriptures clearly reveal that, just as it was God who scattered the true church, it must, therefore, be God who regathers and reunites it; and then in His own good time.

Rather, we wanted to obey what Jesus was telling us about loving one another; and in order to do that, we chose to recognize the various Church of God groups as "containing" God’s people and we decided to try to attend with as many Church of God groups that would welcome us and as were mutually acceptable.

We were aware, of course, that there were – and still are – some Church of God groups who would not welcome us unless we gave total commitment to their organization – to their corporation – to their “company.”  (Please keep in mind what God inspired Isaiah to warn about man’s “companies”).

Little did we know back then how prevalent this very same unscriptural mindset grew to be in so many more Church of God groups!

However, innocently naïve on this issue, we delved into our Building Bridges program.  We started off by revisiting Company E after a hiatus of more than thirteen years.  We also visited congregations of another fifteen post-WCG "splinter groups" – for a total of seventeen – both local and distant.

Although our relationships with all seventeen groups that we attended were initially amicable and peaceful, seven of them basically “gave us the boot” for one reason/excuse or another; but mainly and obviously because we declined to commit to their organizations.

We voluntarily stopped attending four groups for what we believe to be valid scriptural reasons.

We stopped attending with one group (Company L) after just two visits – mainly because of their ultra-negative accent on seriously and continually bad-mouthing the group that they had split off from.  But also because of their unreasonably harsh treatment of a faithful church family who sincerely chose a different calendar.  (Similar “guns” would eventually be turned on us for the same reason).  This fine family were expelled for practicing (not preaching, by the way!) what they believed to be the truth.  They never tried to coerce other brethren into their belief; but still the leadership of that group accused them of causing division and expelled them from their organization. 

In that case and others like it, who was it that was causing division?

Let's see what God tells us through the apostle Paul:

Romans 16:17:
Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which you have learned; and avoid them.

Is righteous judgment and so called “marking” merely the domain of the ministry?  

No!  Please notice that Paul addresses this instruction to the “brethren”; not just to the Roman church leaders. 

This verse indicates that “marking” is not just something that is to be imposed by the church leadership – i.e. the extreme form of disfellowshipment that was exercised by the church leadership. 

Rather, it is something that, if and when it becomes necessary, is to be done by individual members.  Paul even beseeches the brethren to do so.  We are to mark (New King James Version: “note”) and avoid those – yes, fellow church members – and even ministers if the cap fits! – who are either causing division within the church or who are committing offences that are contrary to the true doctrine – i.e. the faith once delivered.

This is exactly what Trish and I, in all sincerity, had to do.

Does God give us any other supporting scriptures? 

Yes.  Here’s another one from Paul – this one referring to a serious case of immorality which the local Corinthian brethren, and particularly their local leaders, were allowing to continue:

I Corinthians 5:
1:  It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father’s wife.
2:  And you are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that has done this deed might be taken away from among you.
3:  For I verily, as absent in body, but present in spirit, have judged already
{N.B. righteous judgment!}, as though I were present, concerning him that has so done this deed,
4:  In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when you are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ,
5:  To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.
6:  Your glorying is not good.  Know you not that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?...

“The whole lump” perhaps symbolizing the entire congregation – and if not corrected, could grow into a problem in the entire Church of God!  Continuing:

11:  But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat.
12:  For what have I to do to judge them also that are without
{i.e. outside God’s church}?  Do not you judge them that are within {i.e. inside God’s church}?

There is an application there, that righteous judgment within the church is to be exercised, if and when it becomes necessary.

13: But them that are without {outside the church} God judges.  Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person.

Put away that wicked person?  Yes!  For his/her own ultimate good.  And for the good of the whole church.

But what if we don’t have the authority to put that person away from us – out of the church?  Or, what if the church authorities fail to support us in putting away such persons?  (Again, these are decisions that we had to make years ago, and it was very, very unpleasant). 

What if the Church leadership supports these persons and their actions, as these Corinthian leaders were doing?  What are we to do?  

God doesn’t leave us in the dark.

There are certain steps that we must go through if some of these things are happening.  Jesus gives us the detailed procedure in Matthew 18:15-17.  This is a simplified version of it:

II Corinthians 6:
14:  Be you not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship has righteousness with unrighteousness?  And what communion has light with darkness?
15:  And what concord has Christ with Belial?  Or what part has he that believes with an infidel?
16:  And what agreement has the temple of God with idols?  For you are the temple of the living God; as God has said, “I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
17:  Wherefore come out from among them, and be you separate,” says the Lord, “And touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you,
18:  And will be a Father unto you, and you shall be my sons and daughters,” says the Lord Almighty.

This is pretty heavy stuff; but please don't misunderstand!  It is not as though we are to go around the congregation, looking at everybody and trying to judge them.  But if we know that there are serious sins that are being openly committed (and that is what was happening in some of these organizations, with the ministry allowing it, or even encouraging it), then these are the steps that we need to go through.  It is not easy at all.

In accordance with these and other scriptures, we stopped attending with at least two church groups.  In both cases, the ministers-in-charge refused to deal with the problems, evidently due to what God’s Word refers to as “respect of persons” – which God’s Word also condemns as sin.

The good news, though, is that we (Tricia and I) are still on relatively good terms with lots of brethren around the world and quite a few Church of God groups as well.

One man publicly accused Trish and me of burning our bridges instead of building them.  That is just not the case.  As often as we could, we have tried hard to maintain good rapport with the people in the groups that we parted company with.  As many of you are aware, back in August, we made just such an attempt by getting together with John Elliot.  I will mention John again later.

Much more than mere self-justification, what I’m trying to get across here is that our church life has been – and continues to be – a constantly changing journey – just as it was for the world's early peoples, the patriarchs and the Church of God throughout the ages.  Change, change, change!  Move, move, move!  There is much truth to the old saying that "the only constant is change."

I repeat that I know that many of you have had similar experiences, moving from one source of spiritual pasture to others.

Perhaps some of us came to be too comfortable in our former Church of God groups.  For those of us who were with the former Worldwide Church of God, perhaps the church itself, Ambassador College, Herbert Armstrong, and some of the other church leaders and ministers came to be idols to a certain extent.  Perhaps they collectively became another Tower of Babel where a large segment of God’s New Covenant people decided to come to a spiritual full stop.  Perhaps, back then in WCG, and with others of the later groups too, we vainly thought that "our" church leadership had all truth – all spiritual knowledge, that growth in grace and knowledge had ceased, and that there was nothing else left for us to learn.  What a joke that was if that's what we believed!  Speaking for Trish and myself, we can safely say that, in the past twenty-two years since leaving WCG in early 1995, we have learned so much more! 

Herman Hoeh and Solomon

I would like to pick up another "loose-end" here.  This is a bit of a detour:

I mentioned last time that I have been re-reading an old WCG booklet, “The True History of the True Church” which was written way back in 1959 by Herman Hoeh.  It got me wondering what kind of epilogue he would have updated that booklet with if he were still alive today. 

For those of you who may not be familiar with his name, Herman Hoeh was a senior member of Worldwide Church of God’s “old guard” and was considered to be one of their major experts on doctrine as well as on world and church history.  He graduated from Ambassador College in 1951 and was ordained by Herbert Armstrong in 1952.  After the Tkachs' initial apostasy, they retired him in 1996.  We all expected him to leave WCG and go to one of the other splinter-groups; but to the surprise and dismay of many brethren, Herman Hoeh stayed with the Worldwide Church of God!  He continued to serve on the Ambassador University board until its closure in 1997 and on the Worldwide Church of God board until his death in 2004.  An interesting side note is that in Herman Hoeh's early writings – and Herbert Armstrong’s too –  they both mercilessly slammed all such church boards and councils. 

In his later life, Herman Hoeh grew close to the Buddhist religion!  I’m not sure how true it is; but I have heard it said that there were almost as many orange-cassocked Buddhists at his funeral as there were Church of God people. 

My point here is not to judge Herman Hoeh.  As with all of us, God is his Judge; not me.  But rather, my point is that, in some respects, his early and later life seem to parallel those of King Solomon, once again proving the truth of this amazing inspired scripture from Paul:

II Thessalonians 2:
10: And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. 
11: And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie:

I’m not saying that Herman Hoeh never received the love of truth.  I’m sure that, just like the young Solomon, he did.  However, just like the older Solomon, it appears that he didn’t hang onto it.

I'm not a mind-reader and I don't know all the details; but perhaps he started to soak up some of the Tkachs’ self-destructive heresies, e.g. that there is no true Church of God, but that we’d all do just as well attending with all of those nice folks down at “the church on the corner.” 

Then, perhaps those delusions deteriorated into thinking that maybe those folks in the corner church are not so very nice, that maybe none of the professing Christian churches are very nice. 

And then perhaps he thought to himself, “So where are the nicest, most patient, longsuffering and peaceful people in the world?  Of course!  The Dalai Lama and his Buddhists!" 

Of necessity, I am saying lots of "perhaps" and "maybes."  It was just so very hard to get our minds around what he did.  Maybe that was the way it was for Herman Hoeh.  Or maybe it was something totally different.  I don’t know. All I am saying is that we all must be so very careful.  Because if Satan was able to get past the spiritual armour of such high-level personalities as Solomon and Herman Hoeh – both of whom had apparently been so very close to God – then we must not take our spiritual security for granted in letting down in what may be the latter stages of our journeys:

Revelation 3:11:
Behold, I am coming quickly!  Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown.

Jesus is telling us here, “Get serious boys and girls!”

Speaking for Trish and myself, our journey continues!  And so, does yours! And so they must continue!  They do not and can not stop here.  Even with our little group that we have here today! 

I don’t want this little group to become yet another Mini-Tower-of-Babel!  I don’t want you to commit to this little group.  And certainly not to me!  I do want you to commit to God the Father, to Jesus Christ, and to their holy, written Word, in the best way that you can individually understand it!  I want you to feel free to go elsewhere if and whenever our Chief Shepherd leads you to a better, alternative spiritual pasture.

And, even though we love you all dearly, neither can we commit to you!  Now, please don’t get me wrong!  I’m not saying that we’re going to desert you or "bail out" on you.  However, just like you, we too must commit ourselves and our lives to God the Father, to Jesus Christ, and to their holy, written Word!  All of us must take care not to get over-comfortable in any human group or organization.  All of us must follow the lead of our Chief Shepherd, Jesus Christ, as to how and where our spiritual journey should continue. 

Again, please don’t think that we are planning to shut things down here.  But these are things that needed to be said – that our primary commitment must be to God the Father and Jesus.

White Fields and Other Sheep

Here are two very well-known scriptures that have intrigued me for some time:

John 4:35:
Say not you, “There are yet four months, and then comes harvest”?  Behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest.

Are those fields somehow less white for the harvest today than they were in Jesus’ human lifetime?  If not, where are those white fields?  And what should we be doing about them?  I am not totally sure of all of the answers to my own questions; but I strongly believe that all of us should be fervently asking God to point us in the right direction – which is the direction of those fields.

Here’s the second of the two scriptures that have recently been finding so very intriguing:

John 10:16:
And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.

The Mormons teach that Jesus meant by this that He would leave His disciples for a while in Palestine and come to North America where He would convert a bunch of people.  There is, of course, no scriptural, historical or archeological evidence whatsoever that this ever happened. 

But when Jesus’ disciples heard Him say this, I wonder what they thought.  Did they perhaps think and worry that He was about to leave them and any other sheep of “this fold” in order to and go away somewhere in order to bring these "other sheep" into His “one-fold”?

There are a couple of opinions about what He meant here; but I personally believe that His “one-fold” was – and still is – Israel; and that these “other sheep” were Gentiles who He would call later through certain of His apostles – beginning with Peter (Romans 11; Acts 10).

But what about us?  What jobs does He have in store for us?  What white fields does He have for us to work in?  What potential sheep are there out there who His Father might choose to call perhaps through our efforts?  Sheep whom Jesus might want us to help bring into His one-fold?

I don’t know all the answers to all of these questions.  God has to reveal those answers.  Who knows where Jesus and the Father may take us in the future?  Go back in your mind ten or twenty years and think.  Could you have foreseen the twists and turns in your Christian life to this point?  Trish and I certainly couldn’t!

Let’s face it; we’re all getting older.  So while we are still able, we must take the best advantage of the opportunities that God is giving us.

Oneness and the God Family

A few months ago, in late August, we shared a joint service with John Elliot and a couple of other brethren from the United Church of God.  John gave a split sermon entitled “Oneness and the God Family” in which we heard him quote many scriptures pointing out the very true fact that God the Father and Jesus love oneness and unity, and desire it for their New Covenant people.

Please keep in mind, however, that God the Father and Jesus also desired that very same unity for their Old Covenant “Church in the Wilderness” – their Old Covenant ekklesia (Acts 7), as well as for their New Covenant Israel of God (Galatians 6:16).

John 11:52:
And not for that nation
{Judah} only, but that also He should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad.

What we read there is where Caiaphas unwittingly made a prophecy about Jesus.  The phrase "the children of God that were scattered abroad" is likely referring primarily to the northern House of Israel who were punished by the LORD for their sins by Him having them taken captive into Assyria, from where the majority of them were subsequently scattered around the world.

As we have seen in many, many scriptures, if and when Old Covenant Israel insisted on continuing to commit serious sins such as idolatry and Sabbath-breaking, the LORD reserved the right to continue punishing them severely.  And His “punishment of choice” – the punishment of which He warned them repeatedly, continually and well in advance, and which, eventually, after much longsuffering, He brought down upon them – both on the northern House of Israel and the southern House of Judah – was scattering!

So, as Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8), for the same sins, why would His penalty be any different for New Covenant Israel?   

This Proverb comes to mind:

Proverbs 11:11:
By the blessing of the upright the city is exalted: but it is overthrown by the mouth of the wicked.

Just as with Old Covenant Israel, so with the New.  Same deal!  If we are upright, He will bless and exalt us; but if we even speak wickedly, He will arrange to have us overthrown. 

Jesus said a lot about scattering.  Let's examine some of what He said.  In most of His references, He regarded scattering as a negative thing; but also as something that can lead to positive things – especially repentance:

Matthew 12:30:
He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathers not with me scatters abroad.

Be careful with this one!  Because there is a danger that some might try to twist these words of Jesus in order to accuse brethren of being scatterers if those brethren choose to decline gathering with their accusers’ organizations.

But please notice Jesus’ repetition of the words “with me” (Greek: met-emou).  Please notice that He did not say “with Church of God Company A” or “with Company B” or “with Company C”!  

He said “with me”!  Meaning that we are to be – to gather – to assemble – with the one, undividable Head and Body of Jesus Christ. 

Remember that, just like Old Covenant Israel, although the New Covenant Body of Jesus can be scattered, the Body of Jesus Christ cannot be divided. There is a big difference between the two.  The Body of Jesus is the whole Church of God – not just any one of the many scattered fragments of it –  fragments who might claim to be the only true one.

Here’s another intriguing scattering statement from Jesus – one that He made shortly before the end of His human sojourn – actually on His last Passover night:

John 16:32:
Behold, the hour comes, yes, is now come, that you shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me.

We can be quite sure that this statement was to be applied primarily to the scattering of Jesus’ disciples at the time of His arrest at Gethsemane.  But let’s read it again, and as we read it again, please apply it to God’s church today:

Behold, the hour comes, yes, is now come, that you shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me.

Jesus’ modern-day disciples have been scattered. Yes, we too have been "scattered every man to his own" – because God has given us freedom of choice.  Every man – and woman – every Church of God member – has been scattered to his/her own, personally-chosen and preferred Church of God group.

After Jesus’ disciples had scattered in fear, they might have looked back with shame, thinking that, physically, they had left Him alone with His arrestors –  which, of course, they had.

But Jesus said that He was not alone – because His Father was with Him.  Jesus was saying that He would never be alone as long as God the Father was with Him – even if every one of the disciples forsook Him, which they did.  Even if the whole world forsook Him, which it did!

But if we apply this statement from Jesus to His church today, that one little verse carries a very stern warning along with it – which is this.  This is a paraphrase of what I believe that He was saying:

Yes.  Go ahead and scatter – separate – move on – relocate – if and when you feel that you must.  And yes, relocate, every man according to his own choosing. 

But!... if and when you do so, be careful not to leave me (Jesus)!

Because you need to be with me.  Actually, you need to be with me more than I need to be with you!  I have my Father; and with Him by my side, I can get along quite nicely without you – much as I don’t want to, because my Father and I love you.

What is that old song?  "Got along without you before I met you.  Gonna get along without you now”!  There's some truth in that.

Is Jesus Building His Church?

A couple of years ago, Trish and I were questioned by a church minister about our Building Bridges efforts.  When in that conversation, we told him of our belief that it was God who scattered His church, the minister vehemently rejected our view, repeatedly quoting Jesus’ words in this scripture:

Matthew 16:18;
And I say also unto you, that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell
{hades – the grave} shall not prevail against it.

Jesus’ words are true, of course.  But if that minister’s interpretation of them were also true, then, no matter what sins the people of His church committed, He would continue to build it, bless it grow it.

Is this true?  Is this what God the Father and Jesus do?  Is this what Jesus did? Is this building and growing of the church what we see today?

We can be quite sure that He did build His church – right from its inception through to modern times.  But did the Church of God always, continually grow?  And if not, why not?

Let’s take a look at a couple of scriptures here which deal with this sub-topic of the building and growth of God's peoples:

Proverbs 14:1:
Every wise woman builds her house: but the foolish plucks it down with her hands.

Is not a woman a common biblical symbol for the Old and New Covenant Israel of God? 

Here is another very well-known "building" verse from Solomon, written during his “wise period”:

Ecclesiastes 3:3:
A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;

There are also lots of warnings from God through Jeremiah – the prophet through whom He frequently – fourteen times – warned Israel of God’s scattering punishment.

Let’s start off with this one which also mentions the building of God's peoples.  We can apply it to Old Covenant Israel and to the New Testament Israel – the Church of God:

Jeremiah 1:10:
See, I have this day set you over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant.

Notice the time sequence in these verses.  Throwing down and destruction first.  Building and planting later: 

Jeremiah 24:6:
For I will set my eyes upon them for good, and I will bring them again to this land: and I will build them, and not pull them down; and I will plant them, and not pluck them up.

Jeremiah 31:
10:  Hear the word of the LORD, O ye nations, and declare it in the isles afar off, and say, He that scattered Israel will gather him, and keep him, as a shepherd doth his flock...
28:  "And it shall come to pass, that like as I have watched over them, to pluck up, and to break down, and to throw down, and to destroy, and to afflict; so will I watch over them, to build, and to plant,” says the LORD.

There seems to be a theme here:

Jeremiah 42:10:
If you will still abide in this land, then will I build you, and not pull you down, and I will plant you, and not pluck you up: for I repent me of the evil that I have done unto you. 

“Repent me of the evil”?  Not, of course, that the LORD/YHVH sinned by pulling down and plucking up Old Covenant Israel and Judah.  He cannot sin.  But if and when Israel and Judah repented, He “repented” by doing a 180-degree about-face. 

In God’s case, when He is going in a certain direction and for for a certain reason, if that reason changes, then He will turn back and go the other way.  And that is exactly what He did in this case.  He had mercy on them,  He blessed them, He re-gathered them and He built them up again. 

But He would not – and did not – rebuild them if they did not repent and if they continued in their idolatries, their Sabbath-breaking and other major sins.  Neither will He do so for New Covenant Israel today.  He is the same yesterday, today and forever.  His law does not change (Luke 16:17).

Have you ever heard people say that we must forgive someone even if they do not apologize, repent or admit to the wrong that they’ve done against us? That is a totally unscriptural concept.  God’s example is to forgive; but only if and when He sees fruits of repentance.  Then and only then!  On a human basis, apologies or the admittance of wrongdoing are fruits of repentance.

There is good reason for all this repetition through Jeremiah. This next of Jeremiah’s “building” scriptures is what we might think of as “the clincher” in this regard:

Jeremiah 45:4:
Thus shall you say unto him, “The LORD says thus; ‘Behold, that which I have built will I break down, and that which I have planted I will pluck up, even this whole land.”

Please notice the time sequence here.  The building and planting comes first and the breaking down and plucking up follow!  It is absolutely reversed from the sequence in the previous "building" verses by Jeremiah.

If we apply this to the church – after the church has been built up by God, if necessary, He will slap it down again!

What is the common factor here?  Just as Solomon wrote, there is a time for breaking down and there is a time for building up.  And just as Jeremiah wrote, the time for breaking down is as a punishment for sins.  And the time for building up is when the sinners repent and obey the LORD. 

So, yes!  I believe that Jesus will regather and build His church once again – in the future.  Personally, I don’t believe that it is being built up too much right now.  But I could be wrong!  I don’t know all of the numbers.  I am not omniscient or omnipresent as God the Father and Jesus Christ are; so I can’t see what’s going on in their church all over the world, as they can.

But again, when Jesus and the Father scatter their peoples, they do so for very good reasons.  Yes, to teach us lessons and to bring us to repentance and obedience.  But, perhaps also, to further the preaching of the gospel to the whole world.

Back in our Worldwide Church of God days, during Herbert Armstrong’s lifetime, we thought that its methods – radio, television, magazines, booklets and Reader’s Digest Ads were the “be all and end all” of how best to preach the gospel to the world.  But then, shortly after Herbert Armstrong’s death, along came the Personal Computer and the Internet! 

When we were with Church of the Great God (CGG), at the Feast every year, their IT man gave updates on how their Internet efforts were faring.  I remember him announcing that they – yes, just CGG alone (which is quite a small group) – were reaching more people in a year than the comparatively huge Worldwide Church of God was reaching in its heyday!  So, if that is true for just one, relatively small group, what might be the combined effect of all the many scattered Church of God groups? 

That is it for the "loose ends."  And that is pretty well it for this long sermon series.  After all this talk of many centuries of scattering and separations, of the movements and wanderings of God’s people, let me ask again, Will Jesus regather and rebuild His scattered church?  Yes, He will!  We can be absolutely sure because God’s Word tells us so.  It tells us that sometime in the future, there will be a regathering of God’s scattered peoples.  In fact, there is going to be more than one regathering. 

The question is: Is He regathering them now?  Is He building His church now?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  I don’t know.  But I don’t believe so.  If there are any great increases in Church of God membership numbers, I’m certainly not aware of them. 

If God’s people overall were being righteous, repentant and obedient to God the Father and Jesus, I believe that their work would be visibly exploding into great success. 

But as we’re not seeing any obvious such great success right now, what does this logically imply?

And what should we be doing about it?