Just What Was the “Tree of the
Knowledge of Good and Evil”?
According to the Book of Genesis, or “Beginnings,” in the
Garden of Eden were two trees -- one the “Tree of Life,” and
the other called the “Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.”
What was so “bad” about the second tree, that God forbad Adam
and Eve to eat from its fruit? Why did He warn them they would
DIE “in the day” they ate of that tree? Why did Satan cleverly
seduce Eve to partake of that tree? What was the “Tree of Life”?
Could you be partaking of the “tree of knowledge of good and evil”
today? If you desire, can you partake of the “Tree of Life” today?
Let’s understand this baffling, perplexing mystery of mysteries!
William F. Dankenbring
In the Scriptures, God warns us, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Proverbs 14:12, NKJV). This principle is so important that God had it recorded twice in the Scriptures. Solomon wrote again: “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Prov.16:25).
We read in the book of Judges that during the historical period of the Judges, “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25). If you read the book of Judges, you will note that it was a period of bloodshed, reoccurring apostasy from God’s Truth, and violence. Following what people thought was right, in their own judgment, according to their own opinions, led to misery, conflict, confrontation, violence and death -- just as the Word of God warns.
But the first two individuals who did what was “right in their own eyes” -- they were deceived into doing it -- were Adam and Eve. Notice!
The TWO Trees
In the book of Genesis, we read: “And out of the ground the LORD God made every tree grow that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of LIFE was also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (Gen.2:10, NKJV). And, continuing: “And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely DIE” (vs.16-17).
Notice! Two trees -- one leads to LIFE, and the other leads to DEATH! Notice also -- Adam and Eve had permission from God to eat of the tree of life! The ONLY tree forbidden to them was the “evil” tree -- the tree whose fruit was poisonous and caused eventual DEATH!
What does this “Tree of Life” represent? Many have thought, and taught, that it refers to the Holy Spirit of God -- that if they had somehow partaken of it, even one single bite, that they would have gained immortality! But notice! God never said that! God never said that one bite from the fruit of the tree of life would confer eternal life! People and ministers have ASSUMED that to be the case -- and they have assumed wrongly!
God is not a magician, He is a Creator. He never intended mankind to receive eternal life as a hereditary fact and feature until man developed the proper godly CHARACTER and traits of love and obedience to the ways and law of God. To develop these characteristics, man had to remain in CONTACT and communion with GOD. In due time, under the teaching and tutelage of God, mankind would eventually become Godlike in character and heart and mind -- and would then be ready for the gift of eternal life.
The “Tree of Life,” therefore, symbolized GOD HIMSELF! Life, science teaches us can only come from pre-existing LIFE. That is the famous “Law of Biogenesis.” Life does not spring up from dead, inert matter. Only the Living can create or procreate the “living.” This is a scientific fact attested to by all biological science.
Ultimately, GOD Himself is the only true Life-Giver. God says in Scripture, “Now see that I, even I, am He, and there is no God besides Me; I kill and I MAKE ALIVE; I wound and I heal; nor is there any who can deliver out of My hand” (Deut.32:39).
God, as the Supreme Being, has certain characteristics. He describes these for us also in His Word, the Holy Scriptures: “Now the LORD descended in the cloud and stood with him (Moses) there, and proclaimed the NAME of the LORD. And the LORD passed before him and proclaimed, ‘The LORD [YHVH, or Yahveh, or possibly also Yahuveh], the LORD God [“Yahveh-Elohim”], merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and TRUTH, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty [those who refuse to repent and follow God’s ways, and His Law and Teachings], visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the
children’s children to the third and fourth generation” (Exodus 34:5-7).
Notice! To sum up the character of God, as He reveals Himself, He is a merciful, compassionate, gracious, patient, righteous Judge, who is filled with (abounding with) goodness and truth, who hates sin and wickedness, and who will JUDGE righteously, with justice and fairness for all. Therefore, if we are to fellowship with Him, and walk with Him, in His way, as Adam and Eve did before they transgressed, we must learn and develop the SAME ATTRIBUTES! He is our Father, and Creator, and He intends for us to become LIKE HIM in every respect. That is why He calls us His children. In the gospel of Luke we read “of Adam, the son of God” (Luke 3:38). Being descended from Adam, therefore, we are all “sons of God,” humanly speaking, or His “offspring.” But we are still flesh and blood -- not spirit beings, as God is. As the Messiah said, “God is Spirit, those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24).
What, then, was the “Tree of Life” in the midst of the garden of Eden? God is the true “Life giver,” and He is defined and expressed by His “Torah” -- His “Law” which describes His perfect, righteous character, and which reveals His very divine nature and spiritual essence to us. The “Tree of Life,” therefore, represents God Himself -- and His Torah! It represents communion and close contact with God -- walking with God, standing in His Presence, surrounded by and engulfed in His Character, exuding His righteousness, being filled with His Ruach haKodesh -- His Holy Spirit!
Notice how the Word of God verifies this fact! We read in the book of Deuteronomy that God says: “I have set before you LIFE AND DEATH, blessing and cursing; therefore CHOOSE LIFE, that both you and your descendants may live” (Deut.30:19). And in choosing “life,” or the “tree of life,” as opposed to the “tree of death,” what are we literally to DO? Next verse: “that you may LOVE the LORD your God, that you may OBEY His voice [which Adam and Eve failed to do when they partook of the forbidden fruit!], and that you may cling to Him, for HE IS YOUR LIFE and the length of your days . . .” (Deut.30:20).
Furthermore, speaking of the Law of God, Moses was inspired to write, “Set your heart on ALL THE WORDS which I testify among you today, which you shall COMMAND your children to be CAREFUL TO OBSERVE -- ALL THE WORDS OF THIS LAW. For it is not a futile thing for you, BECAUSE IT IS YOUR LIFE, AND BY THIS WORD you shall prolong your days in the land which you cross over the Jordan to possess” (Deut.32:46-47).
How plain! It is GOD’S LAW -- HIS WORD -- ALL HIS WORDS -- which constitute true LIFE -- the way of and to Eternal Life!
Yeshua Messiah -- Jesus Christ -- verified this when He so plainly and simply stated (recorded again twice for our admonition!): “Man shall not LIVE by bread alone, but by EVERY WORD THAT PROCEEDS FROM THE MOUTH OF GOD” (Matt.4:4). And in Luke 4:4: “MAN SHALL NOT LIVE BY BREAD ALONE, BUT BY EVERY WORD OF GOD.” This passage is actually a direct reference to the Old Testament Scriptures, where Moses tells Israel, “So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but MAN LIVES BY EVERY WORD THAT PROCEEDS FROM THE MOUTH OF THE LORD” (Deut.8:3).
God then is the “Tree of Life,” and its “fruit” are HIS WORDS -- His utterances, commandments, laws, statutes, ordinances, and His every single word that comes out of His mouth!
This fact is also alluded to in the book of Proverbs. We read: “My son, do not forget MY LAW, but let your heart KEEP MY COMMANDS; FOR LENGTH OF DAYS AND LONG LIFE AND PEACE they will add to you” (Prov.3:1-2). Furthermore, God says in this same chapter, “Happy is the man who finds WISDOM, and the man who gains UNDERSTANDING . . . Length of days is in her right hand, in her left hand riches and honor. Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are PEACE. SHE IS A TREE OF LIFE to those who take hold of her, and happy are all who RETAIN her” (Proverbs 3:13-18).
Adam and Eve had access to this “Tree” in the Garden of Eden. There is no indication in the Scriptures that they did not eat of this tree, so long as they obeyed God and kept His commandments. As they did so, they partook of God’s character, and learned His ways, and grew in true wisdom, understanding, and knowlege of the Divine One. I believe both these trees were literal trees. The “tree of life” will also be available to mankind during the world to come (Rev.22:14; 22:2; Ezek.47:12).
But what happened? They did not “RETAIN her” -- they let go of her, stopped eating of her, and decided to “test” the OTHER tree -- the forbidden tree! They chose to follow Satan -- and when they did that, they were summarily cut off from the Tree of Life, and true fellowship and contact with God, as they had experienced previously. They had chosen to ignore “the tree of revelation,” to stop believing God, and to partake of “the tree of the knowledge of human experience” -- what we might call, “the tree of experimentation,” the “tree of doing what seems right in our own eyes,” the “tree of the school of hard knocks.” It is said, “The school of hard knocks is a dear school, but a fool will learn in no other!”
True wisdom and God’s commandments are one and the same. Solomon wrote, “KEEP MY COMMANDMENTS, AND LIVE. GET WISDOM! GET UNDERSTAND-ING! Do not forget, nor turn away from the words of my mouth. Do not forsake her, and she will preserve you; love her, and she will keep you. WISDOM is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom. And in all your getting, get
understanding. Exalt her, and she will promote you; she will bring you honor, when you embrace her; she will place on your head an ornament of grace; a crown of glory she will deliver to you” (Proverbs 4:4-9).
Do you see what Adam and Eve did wrong? They forsook the tree of wisdom, which is the “fear of the Lord” (Prov.1:7). They forsook the way of truth. They began to dabble in the “Mysteries” presented to them by Satan the devil. They turned away from the true path, and onto the path of evil. God’s revelation, His Torah, His truth, tells us: “I have taught you in the way of wisdom; I have led you in RIGHT PATHS. When you walk, your steps will not be hindered, and when you run, you will not stumble. Take firm hold of instruction [God’s Torah, His truth and commandments, His revelation, the Tree of Life!], do not let go; Keep her, for she is YOUR LIFE” (Prov.4:11-13).
Adam and Eve, however, messed up. They failed to heed God’s Red-Flag Warning: “Do not enter the path of the wicked, and do not walk in the way of evil. AVOID IT, DO NOT TRAVEL ON IT; turn away from it and pass on. . . . My son, give attention to my WORDS [God says]; incline your ears to my sayings. Do not let them depart from your eyes; keep them in the midst of your heart; FOR THEY ARE LIFE to those who find them, and health to all their flesh” (Prov.4:14-22).
Exactly where, then, did Adam and Eve go astray?
The Garden of Eden Tragedy
In the book of Genesis, we read, “Now the serpent was more subtle and crafty than any living creature of the field which the Lord God had made. And he [Satan] said to the woman, Can it really be that God has said, You shall not eat of every tree of the garden? And the woman said to the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden, except of the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden. God has said, You shall not eat of it, neither shall you touch it, lest you die” (Gen.3:1-2).
Notice! Satan appealed to the woman’s curiosity. He appealed to her vanity. “What? Is it true,” he said, “that you are not allowed to eat of EVERY tree in the garden? What? Do you mean that God has withheld one tree, out of all the trees?” This question immediately focused her attention on that single tree. What was so unusual about it? Why was it “different”? Eve must have wondered.
The story continues: “But the serpent said to the woman, You shall not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be as God, knowing the difference between good and evil, and blessing and calamity” (v.4-5). But Satan did not tell her this new “knowledge” would come at a price -- the price of “experience” of evil, and
calamity! And he “lied” when he accused God of lying in telling Adam and Eve that the penalty of eating from that tree was “death.” Satan flat out called God a “liar.” His own lie was bold, egregious, and full-blown. Deceivers know that the way to deceive the unwary is not to slip up on them with little lies, but make a bold, bodacious, audacious lie -- a “whopper” -- and people will think to themselves, “No one would be stupid enough to tell a lie that big -- it would be easily disproven. So it must be true!” And without further ado, they swallow it -- hook, line and sinker! Hitler, of course, was a master of the “Big Lie” technique, and deceived MILLIONS of Germans with it time and time again.
Do you see what Satan the devil did? He switched the trees! He claimed that the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil” was the TRUE tree to “make one wise,” to “make one as God,” to be the true “TREE OF LIFE”! He claimed they could gain eternal life (“not die”) IF THEY ATE OF THAT PARTICULAR TREE’S FRUIT! And in so doing, they erred -- they came up short of the mark -- they transgressed God’s commandment -- and they incurred the DEATH PENALTY!
If they had ignored Satan, if they had continued eating of the “tree of life,” and its fruit, then God would have given them ETERNAL LIFE and made them into SPIRIT BEINGS -- DIVINE CHILDREN OF GOD! But they did not continue steadfast in the ways of God and in communion with Him. According to the book of Jubilees, it was after exactly seven years of tilling and cultivating the Garden of Eden, that they succumbed to the blandishments of Satan and evil and were inveigled by his deception, lies, and seduction!
The Great Mistake
Going on: “And when the woman SAW [she exercised her “senses”] that the tree was good [its appearance was beautiful, lovely, it seemed good on the surface!] (suitable and pleasant) for food, and that it was delightful to look at and a tree to be desired to make one wise [she wanted wisdom, something she knew she lacked! -- she wanted the ability to think like Adam, with logical consistency, and without emotional distraction], she took of its fruit and ate [she REBELLED against God, almost unthinkingly!]: and she gave some also to her husband, and he ate” (v.6).
The beautiful woman was seduced by the clever and cunning oratory of the serpent, and succumbed to his charms, and ate the poisonous fruit -- and then persuaded, with all her charms undoubtedly, her husband Adam to join with her in the action. And like a dolt, led about by his wife attempting to wear the “pants” in the family, he followed her -- for he didn’t want to “offend” her -- he didn’t want to “upset” her. So knowing better, he gave in, and ate the forbidden fruit, too.
Paul tells us about this encounter, “For Adam was first formed, then Eve; and it was not Adam who was deceived, but [the] woman who was deceived and deluded and fell into transgression” (I Tim.2:13-14). Paul goes on, “Nevertheless (the sentence put upon women [of pain in motherhood] does not hinder their [soul’s] salvation), and they will be saved [eternally] if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control; [saved indeed] through the Child-bearing, that is, by the birth of the [divine] Christ” (v.15, Amplified Bible).
Unfortunately, Eve took the leadership, and Adam followed her. Their roles were reversed from what they should have been. Adam should have led; and Eve should have been following his example. The question arises: Why was she separated from Adam? Had she wandered off alone? Had they had a “tift”? And why did she even consider listening to another voice -- a foreign voice -- a different “shepherd”? Why did she listen to that carefully prepared and crafted “message” or “tape” presented by Satan the devil in disguise?
The truth is, she was “set up.” She was “ambushed.” And she never knew it -- she did not recognize the danger until it was far too late! She might have avoided the whole problem if she had just consulted Adam first. But she did not. She did not seek her shepherd’s counsel -- her husband’s advice and wisdom. She followed her “feelings,” and besides -- the message “sounded good,” and promised “wisdom” and increased “understanding.” These were things she was lonely for -- craved -- and eagerly desired. So she compromised -- and disobeyed God -- and ate.
How many of us today, are like Adam and Eve? Probably much more than you think! The Greek tragedy of Pandora is no doubt a corruption or reflection of this “original sin” in the garden of Eden.
The Mystery of Pandora’s Box
According to Greek mythology, Pandora was the first woman on earth. Therefore, she clearly corresponds to “Eve,” the true first woman, and “mother of all living” (Gen.3:20).
According to the myth, Zeus [a type of God the Father] had become angry because Prometheus stole fire from the gods and gave it to men. Zeus ordered Hephaestus to create an evil being whom all men would desire. Hephaestus created a woman from earth and water. All the gods gave the woman gifts, and so she was named Pandora, which means “all-gift.” Athena gave Pandora knowledge in the arts, Aphrodite made her beautiful. Hermes gave her cunning and flattery, and the Graces clothed her.
The new creation was presented to Epimetheus [Adam, of course], who accepted her in spite of warnings from his brother, Prometheus. Pandora had brought with her a box which all the gods warned her never to open [a type of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil with the forbidden fruit!]. But Pandora could not resist her own curiosity, and finally raised the lid and opened the box. Instantly out flew all the world’s troubles, vices, sins, diseases, and woes -- Pandora shut the box lid quickly, but too late. The damage was done! Only Hope, man’s last comfort, was left.
Does this story have any significance, or meaning, for God’s people?
Most certainly, it does! We can all learn a lesson from “Pandora” and her curiosity, which led her to open a box which it was forbidden to open. Obviously, the story of Pandora is a type or mythological rendition of the true story of Eve and the encounter she had with the serpent in the Garden of Eden.
The apostle Paul admitted to the church in his day, “But [now] I am fearful lest that even as the serpent beguiled Eve by his cunning, so your minds may be corrupted and seduced from wholehearted and sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For [you seem ready to endure it] if a man comes and preaches another Jesus than the One we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the [Spirit] you [once] received, or a different gospel from the one you [then] received and welcomed. You tolerate [all that] well enough!” (II Cor.11:3-4).
I, too, am concerned about some of God’s people during this END-time age!
A man whom I have never met and don’t have the pleasure of knowing personally, has written a letter defaming me and warning others about me. He seems to have a very decided opinion of me, however, after having listened to a few of my Bible Study tapes which he took issue with, he calls those he is writing to “free men, mature (spiritual) men,” and says to them, “Beware of those who seek to enslave others” -- no doubt meaning me.
He talks about God’s people being “free men.” I feel, however, that if we are Christians then we are all “slaves of Christ” (Rom.6:16-18). I feel an honest disquiet when I see men writing things which seem to be encouraging people to be “free” -- yet Peter warned against those who speak of “freedom” with these words: -- “While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants [slaves] of corruption” (v.19). Peter speaks of the “way of righteousness” which is obedience to God (verse 21), and those who turn from it to their own “freedom,” their own interpretations based perhaps on human reason (Prov.14:12), and who end up “again entangled therein and overcome,” whose “latter end is worse with them than the beginning” (v.20).
Obviously, this “critic” has some errors and misguided thoughts in his mind and heart. He certainly seems to be negative towards me, after having heard some of my “corrective” Bible study messages.
This individual professes to be worried for those “closely associated with Bill.” Is his warning fair -- or just a clear indication of his own suspicious nature? He seems to think that I am wrong to warn people against listening to the “messages” of other churches, ministers, self-professing “servants of God” -- no matter who they are. So apparently he thinks all God’s people should listen to messages or tapes by everybody. What about Billy Graham, the Pope, Jimmy Swaggert, or some other Pentecostal minister, or Baptist, Methodist, Church of England? Apparently he thinks all the offshoots of the Worldwide Church of God are good, except for a few “wolves,” among whom he appears to suggest is “me,” yours truly -- a veritable “wolf” in sheep’s clothing. And he condemns me for warning God’s people of other “wolves” out there, seeking whom they may devour (I Pet.5:8; Matt.7:15).
Jesus told us to beware of wolves “in sheep’s clothing.” But when I attempt to issue a red-flag warning to people of something I consider a terrible danger, a divisive influence, a Satanic influence, this high-strung self-righteous individual accuses me of issuing “threats of loss of salvation” -- but not only that, he says I did so “in a most unChristian, threatening, ultra-governmental way.” He then utterly condemned me, saying, “What ever was behind those words . . . was not God’s Spirit.”
If God’s Spirit didn’t inspire me to speak the warning I gave, then he implies it was “another spirit” -- that of Satan, obviously. There is no middle ground. We are all of us in a spiritual WARFARE! As Paul wrote, “In conclusion, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the complete armor that God supplies, so you will be able to stand against the devil’s intrigues. For our wrestling is not against flesh-and-blood opponents, but against the rulers, the authorities, the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly spheres. Take up, therefore, the whole armor of God so that you may be able to stand when you have done all the fighting” (Eph.6:10-12).
God commands us to “prove all things” (I Thess.5:21). If I am right, then I say to you, “Follow me” as I follow Christ (I Cor.11:2). I say, “Prove all things” (I Thess.5:21), but once you have PROVED IT, don’t let it go -- and don’t even LISTEN to those who would lead you astray, back into false “freedom,” which is really slavery with an innocent “sheeplike” mask to disguise its real hideous inner nature.
This fellow criticizes me roundly, accusing me of “ultra-governmental”-ism. But it is the DUTY of a shepherd to PROTECT THE FLOCK -- to warn the sheep of the presence of a “wolf”! In real life, a shepherd should have much more sensitivity and ability to DETECT a wolf’s presence, than the common ordinary “
@@@@@” in his pasture. That is why he is the shepherd. Ever see a sheep try to shepherd other sheep? It doesn’t work! God chooses shepherds to lead His sheep. Not every sheep can be a shepherd, obviously.
As God’s servant, therefore, it is MY DUTY to protect, safeguard and warn the sheep of ANY prowling predators, or those whom I believe to be predators -- including CGI ministers (they attack me as a false prophet), GCG ministers (they damn me with unequivocal hatred), PCG (Flurry has blasted me vehemently and warned people I am of “Satan” the devil), and others. Of all those who were once associated with Worldwide, I am surely the one who is by far the most attacked, castigated, reviled, condemned, spit upon, and accused, than all the others put together! But does this make me a false prophet?
I ask you, dear reader: Are those who condemn me right? Then choose between me and them! Is one of them right? Then follow him! Are they all wrong? Then rebuke them, and stop listening to them!
Exposing The Wolves
Do I as a minister of God have the right to expose wolves in sheep’s clothing, and to rebuke those who would listen so politely to wolves? This one critic says that for me to do that is “ultra-governmental”-ism. I say, in reply, that I am merely following the example of Christ, who told His followers in no uncertain terms to “beware the leaven of the Sadducees and Pharisees.” I am merely following the example of Paul who said to the church not to listen to false teachers (see Galatians 1, and II Corinthians 11).
The truth is, I am merely following the example of John the dear apostle who wrote under God’s divine inspiration: “For many impostors -- seducers, deceivers and false leaders -- have gone out into the world” (II John 7). He calls these false teachers “the antagonist of Christ” (v.7, latter part) -- that is, the opponent of Christ -- one who fights Christ! Plain and simply put, if I teach the truth of Christ, and they refuse it and reject it, and they teach against me, then they are not just fighting me, but they are fighting CHRIST! They make themselves His opponents -- His adversaries -- His “antagonists.” Their fate is a fearful thing, if they do not wake up, and repent! (Heb.10:31).
I say, like the apostle John: “Any one who runs on ahead [of God] and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ -- who is not content with what He taught -- does not have God; but he who continues to live in the doctrine (teaching) of Christ -- does have God; he has both the Father and the Son. If ANYONE comes to you and does not bring THIS DOCTRINE (is disloyal to what Jesus Christ taught), DO NOT RECEIVE HIM -- do not accept him, do nor admit him -- into (your) house or bid him Godspeed or give him
any encouragement. For he who wishes him success who encourages him, wishing him Godspeed -- is a partaker of his evil doings” (II John 10-11).
That one Scripture ought to be emblazoned in the hearts and minds of every one of God’s people -- every one of His sheep! Far too many of God’s people are being foolish and naive and unguarded of their minds. Herbert Armstrong used to say, rightly so, that we need to “guard the doors of our minds.” False teaching is like insidious poison -- it can taste like sweet, delicious morsels of fruit, at first, but contain the bitterest spiritual poison!
Pandora’s Box Revisited
The analogy of Eve in the garden of Eden sampling the “forbidden fruit” is so perfectly apros po -- Paul used it in II Corinthians 11 -- and so I also used it in a Bible Study tape on “Pandora’s Box.” I felt that tape HAD to be issued, as a warning to God’s people -- to PROTECT them from fiendish and fierce wolves in sheep’s clothing!
Some, having left Worldwide and other churches, seem to repudiate all sense of “church government,” and hate all “government” with a purple passion. But God is the Author of all true government (Rom.13:1-6). The truth is, that in “Church government,” as in all other things, we must “contend for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints” (Jude 3). There IS “authority” in God’s church, in the body of Christ, in the work of God -- there MUST be, of necessity. That is WHY God has set “elders” in the church, and positions of authority and power (Eph.4; I Cor.12).
That is why Paul wrote to the Hebrew Christians, “Remember your leaders and superiors in authority, [for it was they] who brought to you the Word of God. Observe attentively and consider their manner of living -- the outcome of their well-spent lives -- and imitate their faith . . . Do not be carried about by different and varied and alien teachings . . . OBEY your spiritual leaders and submit to them -- continuously recognizing THEIR AUTHORITY over you; for they are constantly keeping watch over your souls and guarding your spiritual welfare, as men who will have to render an account [of their trust]. [Do your part to] let them do this with gladness, and not with sighing and groaning, for that would not be profitable to you [either]” (Hebrews 13:7-9, 17).
Peter writes to the pastors over the church, “Tend -- nurture, GUARD, guide and fold -- the flock of God that is [your responsibility], not by coercion or constraint but willingly . . . Not (as arrogant, dictatorial and overbearing persons) domineering over those in your charge, but being examples -- patterns and models of Christian living -- to the flock (the congregation). . . Likewise you that are younger and of LESSER
RANK [so you see, there are offices, and “ranks” in God’s Church!] be subject to the ELDERS -- the ministers and spiritual guides of the church, giving them due respect and yielding to their counsel” (I Pet.5:2-5).
As a youngster of about 5 years of age, my brother and I one time got some matches, and went out to the barn of my grandfather’s farm in Kinston, Alabama, and we gathered some corn husks together on the ground, and my brother (one year younger than I) lit the matches and started a fire. I got scared, the fire grew, and we yelled “Fire,” and it was quickly put out by “Pop” and others. My brother and I, fearful of retribution, scurried underneathe the farmhouse -- it was about a foot or so up off the ground. Angry, “Pop” or Grandad and our mother and grandmother called for us to come out. Finally, reluctantly, I did, and I got whipped solid. My brother refused to come out till hours later. I think he never got whipped (although technically he started the fire!)
What is my point? We were playing with “fire.” I learned a lesson from that experience, and never “played with fire” since! But why, then, do some of God’s people, continually sit on the “fence,” and seem to want to go out to OTHER ministries, and perhaps listen to OTHER “so-called shepherds,” with different messages and interpretations -- naively assuming that they are ALL of “God”? Isn’t that DANGEROUS -- like Eve’s listening to the “tape” or “message” of the brilliant “archangel” Lucifer in the garden of Eden? Why didn’t she question the “source”? Why wasn’t she more “suspcious” of Lucifer and his motives? Why was she so quick to disbelieve God, and so quick to believe an “impostor”? Why are so many subscribers to Prophecy Flash so quick to believe any criticism of me, and so loathe to criticize those who find fault with me? Just because I do not and cannot support or endorse other “churches” or other “ministries,” does that mean I am a narrow-minded, hostile, tyrannical self-important “dictator”?
What is this -- Satan’s masquerade? There can only be “one truth.” Although there may be many “branches” of the end-time Church of God, with varying degrees of error and false doctrine, then shouldn’t we find the TRUTH of God, and follow it alone, and the one or ones who have and teach it?
If we prove that various other churches of God are in error on the BASIC questions of Passover and Pentecost, then should we not hold such groups in abeyance -- be on our guard -- and if they ever forbid us to discuss the TRUTH about Passover and Pentecost, then shouldn’t we stop listening to them, and cease fellowshipping with them?
Should we not respect the “counsel” of the one who taught us the truth of God? Should we not respect his advice and heed his warnings about listening to potentially deadly messages from ministers who we know are teachingh error, no matter how sincere
they may be? Sincerity is not the test of truth. Paul warned that in the last days, “But wicked men and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived” (II Tim.3:13, Berkeley Version). Deception can be very clever. If you listen to it, you could be gradually seduced -- subtlely convinced -- and gradually inbibe a serious, fundamental systemic spiritual poison!
Some messages of some ministers contain a lethal, slow-working spiritual “virus” which is highly contagious and has a 95% mortality rate! Should God’s people not take warning when one who is more experienced than they are, one whom God has used to reveal wonderful new truths and old truths, gives them a serious warning meant to safeguard their spiritual lives?
Of course, at times, if we are careful, IF we are spiritually mature, then we might from time to time listen to a Bible study or message from another ministry -- if our own spiritual senses are exercised and strengthened enough to discern GOOD FROM BAD, TRUTH FROM ERROR, the clean from the unclean. But we must be very careful, and not get carried away. Many make that mistake, and do become carried away with “strange new doctrines” (Eph.4:14) -- “carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait [AMBUSH!!!] to deceive”!!!
An ex-Navy man would know that the captain has a warning issued to the shipmates when the weatherman indicates foul weather -- hurricane or typhoon winds -- are ahead, in the ship’s path! The people on board have to take precautions, PREPARE to face the fury of the deluge, the pounding rains, the relentless winds, the heaving of the ship up and down, to and fro, the danger of capsizing and sinking.
God says if His shepherd does not issue a warning when he sees trouble brewing -- even if the sheep don’t sense or see any danger, yet! -- then the blood of the sheep is on the shepherd’s hands (Ezekiel 33:1-11)! Far be it from me to be derelict in my duty before God, not to warn the sheep! I WILL warn them, just as I will strive with my utmost being to warn the NATIONS of Israel, of their impending judgment and punishment, if THEY also do not repent of their doings, and following false teachers, and seductive siren songs of subversive pastors and shepherds!!!
Of course, we are all human -- and so am I, very much so. No doubt I make mistakes. If some of you reading this article think I am wrong in some particular point, then you don’t need to feel timid, or fearful. If you approach me, I won’t “bite your head off.” But put your faith in God, and come boldly to me, and let me know the issue, or the problem, whatever the subject, and give me time to consider the points and ideas, and/or corrective statements, or positive suggestions, or whatever. It may take
some time before we all come to perfect, true agreement on every little (or big) thing. There is ROOM for disagreement on “doctrinal” points, so far as I am concerned, so long as the spirit and attitude is right.
But where the spirit and attitude is wrong, EVEN IF THERE IS SEEMINGLY BASIC DOCTRINAL AGREEMENT, then there can be no unity, fellowship, or mixing -- lest the evil spirit infect the entire lump of dough, and sin spread like wildfire through the entire flock, contaminating all the sheep! God forbid!
On basic doctrinal points, the early church was in great agreement with the Pharisees, and Christians even attended synagogues. But the time came when even those basic agreements could no longer keep them meeting together, although the Pharisees were permissive of “doctrinal” differences, so long as there were no divisions as to the “Torah” or Law of God. But they gradually added more and more intolerance to their menu, spiritually, and eventually cast the Christians out of the synagogues everywhere, not just the more radical synagogues.
` I hope this article will dispel some of the doubts of people, who don’t know me, and who wonder from time to time what kind of man I am. I hope and pray it will shed light, and overcome some of the reticence, and misgivings, and dissolve some animosity which a few seem to feel toward me, personally. I try my best to be loving and kind, gentle and sweet-natured, but from time to time, like Paul, I feel it is necessary for me to resort to the “paddle,” or the “whip,” or the “rod,” to protect God’s people, even from themselves and their own foolishness!
“The Rod of Correction”
As Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “I do not write this to shame you, but to WARN and COUNSEL you as my beloved children” (I Cor.4:14). He went on, “After all, though you should have ten thousand teachers (guides to direct you) in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the glad tidings (the Gospel). So I urge and implore you, BE IMITATORS OF ME. . . . Some of you have become conceited and arrogant and pretentious . . . Now which do you prefer? Shall I come to you with a ROD OF CORRECTION, or with love and in a spirit of gentleness?” (I Cor.4:15-21, Amplified Bible).
I hate having to use the spiritual “rod of correction” from time to time. But it is necessary. As Paul wrote, “For the Lord corrects and disciplines every one whom He loves, and He punishes, even scourges, every son whom He accepts and welcomes to his heart and cherishes. You must submit to and endure [correction] for discipline. God is dealing with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not [thus] train and correct and discipline? Now if you are exempt from correction and left without discipline in which all [of God’s children] share, then you are illegitimate offspring and not true
sons [at all] . . . .
“For the time being no discipline brings joy but seems grievous and painful, but afterwards it yields peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it -- a harvest of fruit which consists in righteousness, [that is, in conformity to God’s will in purpose, thought and action, resulting in right living and right standing with God]. So then, brace up and reinvigorate and set right your slackened and weakened and drooping hands, and strengthen your feeble and palsied and tottering knees, and cut through and make firm and plain and smooth, straight paths for your feet -- [yes, make them] safe and upright and happy paths that go in the right direction -- so that the lame and halting [limbs] may not be put out of joint, but rather may be cured. Strive to live in peace with everybody, and pursue that consecration and holiness without which no one will [ever] see the Lord” (Heb.12:6-14).
Once we accomplish this, Paul says, we must go on and “exercise foresight and be on watch to look [after one another], to see that no one falls back from and fails to secure God’s grace (His unmerited favor and spiritual blessing], in order that no root of resentment (rancor, bitterness or hatred) shoot forth and cause trouble and bitter torment, and the many become contaminated and defiled by it” (v.15).
Be On Your Guard!!!
We must all be on our guard, and looking out for one another. We must help one another, and help the shepherd, also, to point out the “wolves” lurking in the forest, and the snakes hiding in the bushes, rocks, and woodpiles. We must all stay “on our toes,” alert, vigilant, on guard. As Solomon wrote: “Keep your heart [mind and emotions] with all vigilance and above all that you guard, for out of it flow the springs of life. Put away from you false and dishonest speech, and willful and contrary talk put far from you. Let your eyes look right on [with fixed purpose], and let your gaze be straight before you. Consider well the path of your feet, and let all your ways be established and ordered aright. Turn not aside to the right hand or to the left; remove your foot from evil” (Proverbs 4:23-27).
We know that Satan will continue to attack God’s Work, from every angle -- that he will try to divide and conquer, and to do his deviltry and dirty work in our midst, attacking from both inside and outside, and from every direction at once. But the fortress of God’s Truth will stand strong, secure, and steadfast -- because we have our “Rock” and “Redeemer” with us!
King David, a man after God’s own heart (Acts 14:22), wrote: “I love you fervently and devotedly, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my keen and firm strength in Whom I will trust and take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my high tower. I will call
upon the Lord, Who is to be praised; so shall I be saved from my enemies” (Psalm 18:1-3).
To avoid entrapment, ensnarement, and entanglement in the traps and pitfalls of Satan the devil, we must cling to God, love Him, and strive to live by every word of His Torah -- His Word -- His complete Truth and Revelation to mankind. As David wrote, “How shall a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word. With my whole heart I have sought You; Oh, let me not wander from Your commandments! Your word have I hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You” (Psalm 119:9-11).
God’s Word is the true “Tree of Life.” Take heed to it -- devour it daily -- and LIVE! But AVOID like the plague the “tree of the knowledge of good AND ERROR” -- the “tree of curiosity and experimentation” -- the “tree of subterfuge and lies,” the “tree of death.” It may look inviting on the superficial level; it may appear on the surface to be pleasant, sweet, tasty, even smell good. But BEWARE! Don’t wander off from the “way of the tree of life.” Don’t be a modern “Pandora.” Stick close to the trunk of God’s “Tree of Life.” Stay where it is safe. Stick close to God, His Truth, and His Law. Don’t wander off to “greener pastures,” where carnivores lurk, and predators prowl. The spiritual life you save may be your own!