This is a page that focuses on religious and theological issues, as well as providing comprehensive teaching from a classic Catholic perspective. As you read the articles, it is my hope they will educate and bless you.

Monday, September 26, 2011

True Convergence - Establishing a Godly Heritage in Our Faith Communities

I have been pondering for several weeks about how to tie several thoughts together into one cohesive thing, and today's study is the resulting fruit of that labor.   My laptop computer has actually been out of commission for several days as of this writing, so you will be getting this later than it was originally written.  Therefore, here it is for this week.

The past couple of weeks have had me drawing a lot of things from a lot of material - I have finally given a good reading of Pastor Richard Crayne's history of the independent Holiness/Pentecostal movement entitled  The Pentecostal Handbook, and I have also been re-reading some of my old Convergence movement material, notably a book by Canon Philip Weeks (of the Charismatic Episcopal Church) published in 1998 entitled Non Nobis Domine - The Convergence Movement and the Charismatic Episcopal Church, which was originally published as an instructional manual for new congregations in the Phillipines, where Canon Weeks served as a missionary with Barnabas Ministries for many years.  Although I am personally no longer identified with the Convergence Movement per se - long story I will address briefly later - my exposure to this movement in its early stages still holds much value to me, and I came to appreciate the liturgical/sacramental dimension of my faith largely as a result of it.   However, for me the Convergence Movement did its duty, as it was my first stepping-stone towards my full embrace of my faith as a Catholic Christian.  And, it's that which I am basically writing to address now.

I guess it would be a good idea for me at this point to explain to you exactly what the Convergence Movement is, as some of you may not be familiar with it who are reading this, and therefore the terminology may not be familiar either I will be using.   Sometime back in the mid-1970's, a number of Evangelical, Pentecostal, and Charismatic Christians - a large number of them being pastors and other spiritual leaders - began to embark on a journey and surprisingly it led them to some undiscovered territory, much to their shock.  And, what they found rocked their world - the New Testament Church, they discovered, was a sacramental/liturgical entity!  To get the full impact of this whole thing, you need to understand where many of these pastors came from - many of them were out of a very "free-church" tradition in which the highest authority was the local congregation for the most part, and they eschewed any and all expressions that even hinted at being liturgical as being "dead" or "formalistic."  Many of them also were afflicted with a serious spiritual disorder called "Romophobia," which means basically that their hackles would go up at any mention of anything they perceived as "Catholic" in appearance.   Therefore, when the Holy Spirit started working a new thing in this group of Evangelicals, Baptists, Pentecostals, and Charismatics, he started revealing things to them in Scripture that not only spoke positively of liturgical worship, but in some areas even mandated it!  The initial shock was somewhat overwhelming for many of these people, but they were also a people with a high regard for Scripture as well as taking seriously St. Paul's admonition in II Timothy 2:15 to "study to show themselves approved," and so they did just that.   Their yielding to the Spirit allowed the Lord to work something new in these sincere people of God, and they would not be the same!  One particular group, formed out of a group of leaders of varied denominational backgrounds within the Campus Crusade for Christ organization, included Peter Gillquist, Gordon Walker, Richard Ballew, Jack Sparks, Jon Braun, and Ken Berven, among others, called themselves intially the New Covenant Apostolic Order, which later evolved into the Evangelical Orthodox Church (in 1987, the majority of the AOC was chrismated and received into the Antiochian Orthodox Church by Metropolitan Philip, but a small independent EOC group still exists today, and is in communion with my Synod - their story is in Fr Peter Gillquist's 1989 book, Becoming Orthodox, published by Conciliar Press of Ben Lomond, CA).  Yet another individual was a former independent Baptist student who later became a professor at Wheaton College, Dr. Robert Webber - after being received into the Episcopal Church later, Dr. Webber wrote in 1985 a book entitled Evangelicals On The Canterbury Trail which became the foundational text of the Convergence Movement.   Many others followed suit, and that whole thing culminated in 1977 in Chicago, when a group of these like-minded people, many of whom were still on their search, met and drafted a statement called "The Chicago Call" that became the foundational document - officially or unofficially, depending on whom one talks to - of Convergence.   Now that we have given a historical background, it's time to discuss in a more detailed fashion what Convergence is all about.

The idea of "convergence" basically in this context involves the gathering together of positive aspects of varying Christian traditions in a balance, and in doing so the spirit of the New Testament Church would be on the road to restoration.  Most teachers and proponents have called these variant traditions "streams," and generally there are three fundamental streams they identify:

2.  Pentecostal/Charismatic
3.  Sacramental/Liturgical

Those involved in the Convergence movement maintain that all of these streams contain vital elements of the New Testament Church as Jesus intended it, but over the centuries divisions and denominationalism have caused them to be played against each other rather than working in concord.   Therefore, the task of restoring New Testament Christianity is to separate out all the man-made legalisms and divisions, retain the Biblical aspects, and "converge" them together like the pieces of a puzzle coming together.  This, they teach, would be the thing to restore the Church to its fullness.   There is much merit to this, which is what initially attracted me to this movement in the first place, and I personally have always supported those objectives.   However, even the most noble experiments, despite their sincerity and correctness, are vulnerable to man's agenda getting into the equation to muddy it up, and I feel some segments of the Convergence movement have failed because they tried to "converge" the wrong things based on the wrong directions.  I want to address that now.

To have a truly "Convergent" Christianity, there are important standards that must be upheld and maintained in order to prevent worldiness and compromise from destroying the potential witness God would have for such an endeavor.  First, ther is another very unscriptural movement out there now called the "Emerging Church" that has practically nothing to do with true Convergence and this is why - Convergence seeks to restore while Emerging Church seeks to deconstruct, and the two are mutually exclusive.  By strict standards, the two movements should have nothing to do with each other, yet I have noted lines being blurred as some Convergence churches unfortunately have embraced such heretical practices as using rock bands (or CCM, as it is called) in "worship," advocacy of the "contemplative prayer" movement (which is more esoteric and New Age than Christian), and using writings of major proponents of the Emerging Church movement - Erwin McManus, Brian McLaren, Leonard Sweet, Richard Foster, and of course the "Purpose-Driven" nonsense of Rick Warren are some examples - as teaching material.   These things are not of God, as they are diametrically opposed to Scriptural teaching and the Tradition of the Church, and a truly Convergent Church should NEVER be part of the Emerging Church.  This is why my prayer for my dear friends and brethren in the Convergence Movement is for a greater spirit of discernment.

Second, what Convergence leaders should be doing is looking back to old-time expressions of each of the "Streams," rather than trying to keep up with new fads.   A Remnant Church must be built on Remnant principles, and these include principles that are in harmony with Scripture, the Holy Tradition of the Church, and with the true discernment of the Holy Spirit.   All three of the noted "Streams" of Christianity all have rich reservoirs of these, and it is these legacies we must seek to preserve and incorporate.  For instance, let's take liturgies and prayer books - a spiritually-sensitive Convergence leader should stay away from certain things:  the post-Vatican II Novus Ordo Mass and the Episcopal 1979 Book of Common Prayer come to mind here, as neither represents the rich liturgical heritage of the Church.  The more appropriate material for liturgy, if for instance the Convergence congregation chooses to follow the Anglican legacy, would be the 1928 Book of Common Prayer, which is more Scripturally sound and more faithful to Catholic practice.  That is just one example worthy of serious consideration.

Third, an openness to the Holy Spirit does not mean "Charismania"!!  I personally and fully believe in the spiritual gifts of I Corinthians 12, that they are relevant for today and are necessary in the life of the Church.  I also believe in the experience of the infilling of the Holy Spirit as documented in Acts 2, and I myself have that experience - I received it on 21 June 1989 at a little Pentecostal Holiness church in Brunswick GA, and I did speak in tongues!  However, being a former Pentecostal minister myself, I have seen more than my share (not to mention more than I could stomach!) of certain things, and therefore vehemently eschew such things as the "name-it-and-claim-it" stuff,  the whole "Toronto Blessing" mess, and pretty much all televangelism (with a couple of sound exceptions) because none of that garbage is Scriptural.  The Holy Spirit does do things decently and in order, and although spiritual vitality is essential, it should never be confused with spiritual anarchy.   This is why Convergence pastors and leaders should look to the old-time Pentecostals as well as to the earlier Charismatic renewal in the 1960's and early 1970's, and they should avoid like the plague the majority of stuff featured on Trinity Broadcasting Network and Charisma magazine these days.  There are also two other important factors to consider relating to this.  First, the Pentecostal experience didn't just pop up when some old woman spoke in tongues in 1906 at Azuza Street - the moving of the Holy Spirit has a long history in the Church, and much of its earliest activities were in sacramental/liturgical settings (ie:  the Catholic Apostolic Church in the 1830's)!  John Wesley, the man credited with much of Pentecostal/charismatic renewal these days, was in reality a high-church Anglo-Catholic priest who prayed the Rosary, believed in Mary as Ever-Virgin and the Theotokos, and was inspired greatly by the writings of St. Ephrem of Syria, one of the greatest Eastern Church Fathers who wrote extensively on the infilling of the Holy Spirit.   Also, A.A. Boddy, an early leader in British Pentecostalism, was greatly impacted by the spiritual legacy of St. Seraphim of Sarov, another spiritually dynamic Russian saint.  More examples can be cited, and they all say the same thing - liturgy and the renewal of the Holy Spirit go together!   Second, the charismatic experience has an apocalyptic dimension to it as well - as it gets closer to the time of the Lord's return to this earth to establish His kingdom, the Holy Spirit will manefest himself in more profound ways in the lives of both individual believers and in the corporate life of the Remnant Church.  That is Joel 2:28.   That being said, it is also important to emphasize that the Book of Revelation is also both a book of liturgy and a book of prophecy, and both go hand-in-hand as you have seen from my earlier teachings on that subject.  True Convergence, then, is taught in the Bible, and it is something the Remnant needs to strive for.

That being said, I want to continue addressing subject matter periodically like this, as so much more needs to be said. However, God bless and be with you until we meet up again next time.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Some Thoughts on This Week's Church News

Over the years, I have seen a lot of celebrity preachers do some dumb things and say even dumber stuff, and at times it just amounts to that - dumb!  Recently, however, it has been getting serious, as some of the "dumb" things said are contradictions of the Bible itself, and for people claiming to be ministers of the Gospel making them, it is even worse.   This week one of the worst whoppers I have heard in a long time came from a high-profile minister, Pat Robertson, that I used to actually like to listen to, and what he said was unthinkable.  I want to talk about that today as well as some other related things.

Back as a very young kid, I remember watching "The 700 Club," and it was always inspirational to hear testimonies of people's lives being touched as well as hard-hitting commentary on important issues that affected Christians.  And, in his day, Pat Robertson was a great man who at one time stood for the Gospel.  However, in the past 15 years or so, I have noticed a huge change in both the programming on "The 700 Club" as well as in Robertson himself, and I haven't liked what I have seen.   Yet, this recent thing of his really was chilling as to what he said - Robertson said, on the live "700 Club" broadcast this week, that a man would be morally justified to divorce his wife if she had Alzheimer's disease or dementia.  An article I read from Dr. Russell Moore, Dean of the School of Theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY, that was published on September 15th said it best when he called what Robertson said "a repudiation of the Gospel," and indeed it is.   As Moore correctly pointed out also, marriage is an icon of mystical union of Christ with His Church (see Ephesians 5) meaning that a Christian husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the Church (Ephesians 5:25).   Although Moore is a Baptist, what he said is basically Sacramental Theology 101, and the reason why we Catholic Christians celebrate the matrimonial union as a sacrament, or Holy Mystery.   The matrimonial union also is a picture of the Second Coming, as all Holy Mysteries of the Church signify the heavenly kingdom to some extent.   That being said, Robertson is basically espousing heresy then by what he is saying, and in doing so, he places himself as an apostate - strong words, but the truth often can sting. 

That being said, it is not the first time that Robertson or any other evangelists have made dumb deposits of word vomit upon the public - bizarre statements are actually a snare of the enemy that off-sets the true renewal of the Holy Spirit, and thus destroys or diminishes a witness.   Sometimes it isn't that the statement is wrong necessarily - Robertson, for instance, correctly pointed out that both 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina could be a result of God's hedge over America being lifted due to the widespread acceptance and propagation of homosexuality, and there is some historical merit to the fact that Haiti as a nation has had a bad go of things over its almost 3 centuries of existence due to the voodoo religion and the demons it worships as gods, but even there the problem is not so much in what was said rather than in the timing in which it was said.  Some people just don't know how to use the common sense God gave them to keep their mouths shut until the proper time to share such things comes.   On other things, Robertson and Paul Crouch, the controversial founder of the Trinity Broadcasting Network (that is a whole story of its own!) have done the unthinkable - supporting the communist government of China in order to get a few "perks," often at the expense of the true believers that have been persecuted there for decades - Crouch, for instance, had the gall to say in 2003 that the "underground church" in China needs to be registered with the government because it is "breaking the law" and being the ignorant boob he is, Crouch failed to realize that the "official" churches in China are actually propaganda mechanisms that compromise at will any part of the Bible that speaks out against the atrocities of the Communists.  Ironically, Crouch is the same guy who produced the film China Cry, which was the phenomenal testimony of Nora Lam, a Chinese Christian woman whose life was at risk during the early part of Mao Tse-Tung's evil regime due in part to her strong faith.   I wonder what Nora Lam, still a phenomenal woman of God, thinks of this?   Robertson too has decided to play the whore with the Red Chinese now (a regime he once decried as "godless" until he found out he could make a fast buck off of them, I might add!)  by giving his blessing to their barbaric one-child abortion policy - and, this from a man who claimed to be "pro-life" all these years!  The whole thing just literally disgusts and nauseates me.  

Again, as we have noted in other cases in earlier articles, this is what I believe is the beginning of the Apostasy of the Gentiles that both Scripture and the Holy Tradition of the Church have taught for centuries, and unfortunately we will see more of it - from Joel Osteen acting ashamed of Christ on Larry King, to Don Earl Paulk and Carlton Pearson's embrace of universalist heresy, to Jay Bakker's open acceptance of homosexuals as "created by God" - it goes on, and on, and on....what times we indeed live in!  And, for those of us who champion traditional orthodoxy, we have the task of defending the faith against these apostates, even unto death.   One thing that intrigues me about Robertson though is that he is an ordained Southern Baptist minister, and as such he has officiated over dozens of marriages over the course of his career - did the vows he led all those couples to repeat to each other have any meaning for him?   That is a hard question he needs to be faced with, and I pray someone does face him off with it.   Same with Crouch - as TBN becomes more Warrenized and politically corrected these days, what of his ministerial vows when he was ordained in the Assemblies of God as a minister all those years ago?   Maybe these guys need to have a Charles Dickenseque experience much like that of Ebenezer Scrooge in the classic Christmas Story, as it is time they were haunted by their pasts.  

There is so much to say on this subject yet, but I am sure that in coming weeks another high-profile minister is going to do something equally stupid and outlandish, and thus will provide more material to talk about.  God bless you until next time.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Have We Left Rome, Or Has Rome Left Us?

For some time now, I have been monitoring the situation in the Roman Catholic Church as I see a growing concern and apostasy happening in its ranks.  I say that as a concerned person who loves the true Catholic faith, and I am a validly-chrismated Catholic myself.  However, I choose at this point in time not to attend a Roman parish because of what I am about to share, and as you will see, it isn't looking good.  However, it is also not a big surprise, as we have mentioned before, because many ancient visionaries and saints in the Church saw it coming, and Scripture too foretells of the apostasy we are seeing today.   Several things have prompted me to write this today, and I want to address those subjects first.

Over the past week, I have read about two faithful priests in the Church who have been more or less blackballed by some bishops with fragile egos for different reasons.   Both of these godly priests are wonderful men of God whose ministries I have supported for many years, and to be honest the Church needs more of them.  The first is Fr. Frank Pavone, who is the national director of Priests For Life, a wonderful organization that has done more to champion the pro-life cause with the possible exception of Operation Rescue.  Fr. Pavone is a conservative priest with very traditional values, and he is a godly man with a heart for saving unborn babies from the evils of the abortion mills.  Yet, on September 9th, Bishop Patrick Zurek of Amarillo, TX, decided to suspend Fr. Pavone's ministry activities outside his diocese, and the reason the "good" bishop sought to do this was of course one of the easiest to try to hang people on - money!   However, upon closer examination, the real reason for Zurek's actions came to the light quickly - he says that Fr. Frank's "fame" has caused him to "see priestly obedience as an inconvenience to his own ministry" which if interpreted means the bishop has a fragile ego, is a control freak, and cannot seem to understand that the pro-life cause is something that is a national issue, and Fr. Frank is doing what God called him to do.  As I progress with this, I am going to show how Bishop Zurek, as well as other bureaucrats in mitres sitting in dioceses all across the country, are hypocritical in doing what they are doing when they have issues in their own backyard that they casually close their eyes to and are potentially more serious than the godly work that Fr. Frank and others are doing.  However, another priest has made headlines recently for similar reasons, but it has been far more uglier due to the fact the attacks were vicious and unfounded against a man of God who is a great priest and defender of the truth.

Fr. Frank Pavone, Director of Priests for Life

Fr. John Corapi is a powerful minister of the Gospel and probably the closest thing I have ever seen to a "hellfire-and-brimstone" preacher in the Catholic tradition, and regular viewers of EWTN often can hear his messages - many of which pull no punches when attacking some of the moral ills that plague our society today - and benefit from his sound teaching on the Gospel.   Yet, Fr. Corapi, like Fr. Frank, has come under fire from some ungodly bureaucrats in the ranks of the Church, and some of the allegations leveled against him (which I do not believe personally are true) are reminiscent of the attacks against some Protestant ministers over the years who took a stand, such as Mike Warnke and Bob Larson, against things that made some church stiffs feel uncomfortable.   Of course, this too comes as no real surprise - in his 2002 book Goodbye Good Men (Washington, DC:  Regnery Publishing),  journalist Michael Rose notes that orthodox candidates for the priesthood these days are often screened out by those he dubs the "Gatekeepers," who are by and large secular psychologists who may not have any Christian convictions whatsoever, much less Catholic, and in general they have a liberal agenda (Rose, 31).   Rose notes a couple of pages earlier that often if a postulant for ordination or seminary applicant even expresses the slightest view of orthodoxy, they can be blackballed from the priesthood.   Apparently, this does not just extend to seminarians and candidates for Holy Orders, and I cite a couple of examples.  The first, of course, is the way some fragile-egoed bishops are going after godly priests who are doing the Lord's work, while the second is much more personal.  Back in 2005, I was considering the possibility of becoming a permanent deacon in the Maronite rite (my chrismated rite of choice in the Church).  My priest was very supportive of this and tried to put a good word in for me, but unfortunately the eparchial vocations director, a man of Roman-rite background by the name of Fr. James Root, said I was "too conservative," which I thought was ridiculous.  You would think that a Church as staunch on dogma and Holy Tradition (or at least it's supposed to be) would welcome people of staunch convictions, yet they don't because of a deeper problem that came to light very recently, and now let's address that.

Fr. John Corapi, the "hellfire-and-brimstone" warrior of orthodoxy!

Vatican II, for better or worse, opened up a lot of things in the Church.  Some of them - particularly acknowledging other Christians outside the Roman Church - were good, but others were not so great.   Many liberals in the Church, seizing some ambiguities in the Vatican II documents, took great liberties to redefine what they viewed as the "Church," and the results were catastrophic, in particular regarding seminaries.  Many diocesan seminaries today are hotbeds of homosexuality and apostasy, and many who end up graduating from them are now in positions of authority in the Church as parish priests, religious, and even bishops in some cases.  One seminary in Ohio, I believe, as even been dubbed by its detractors "The Pink Palace" due to the rampant homosexuality that is going on behind its doors, and this is to me unthinkable as it defies Church teaching and Biblical injunctions against such behavior.   Unfortunately, even like some in the Pentecostal Bible college I went to, many of these people don't have a calling of God on their lives, and many of them do not know the Lord personally as their Savior either - they are, in essence, "mama-called and daddy-sent" brats that are too lazy to commit to anything, and only seek to use college to indulge and justify their own lusts.  What I find ironic though is that bishops, such as this Zurek fellow in Texas that is crowing on Fr. Frank, are strangely silent about that, yet they are so insecure that when one of their diocesan clergy does something truly for the Lord, Satan enters these bishops' hearts and uses their authority to destroy men of integrity, while at the same time turning a blind eye to the real issues.  And, due to that hypocrisy, the fruit reaped from that filthy harvest culminated in the priest scandals that happened back in 2001-2002, many of which were covered up, bought off, and hushed by those who were supposed to be in spiritual authority in the Church - Cardinal Bernard Law, for one, will have a lot to answer for on Judgement Day due to his complicity in such activity.  Yet, again, this is a sign of the times, and here are a few Scripture references to show that.

II Corinthians 11:14-15 talks about the deception of Satan, who often transforms himself into an "angel of light" to deceive, and in verse 15, it mentions that "his ministers" (here, meaning earthly counterfeits among the clergy as one type) do the same.   Matthew 25: 32-34 states the various contrasts between the Remnant and deceivers, such as sheep/goats, good fish/bad fish, wheat/tares, etc.  Other verses in II Timothy speak of deceptions, "itching ears," and not enduring sound doctrines, and these are just a few to note.   Bottom line is, there will be a falling away from the faith in the latter days - the Bible foretells it, and over the centuries many great men of God have seen it as well.   What we see happening in the Catholic Church is but one example of this, as the Church is rapidly apostasizing - we see that also among the laity, as I work with several professed Catholics who often shock me at the unbiblical things they say that contradict the official teachings of the Church.  However, God is preserving a Remnant Church, and thankfully I have chosen personally to be part of it - and, I believe men of God like Frs. Frank and Corapi are part of it too, because as the Bible says, "by their fruits ye shall know them."  That being said, I urge you to seek out orthodox men who uphold the truth, and give them your prayers and support, because they need that more than ever; the enemy is working overtime to destroy those who truly serve the Lord, and he even uses his "angels of light" and "gatekeepers" within the ranks of the Church to do that.  And, we as the Remnant must stick together.   God bless you until next time.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Ethiopia in Bible Prophecy Part II


After a long delay between Part One and this due in large part to limited access to my library as a result of our recent move, I am presenting the second part of the study on Ethiopia in prophecy, and in this part we will deal with the specifics of Ethiopia, in particular the connection with the Ark of the Covenant. In my readings of Holy Scripture, I see this as playing a significant role in end-times events, which I will show as we progress.  Before beginning however, I have a couple of opening observations I wish to share with you.

First, and foremost, whether or not you agree or disagree with what I am presenting here poses no issues or problems, as what I will be sharing is a personal belief and conviction on my part.  It is not something on which one's Christianity is contingent upon agreeing with, nor is it a cardinal doctrine of faith that will force one to be branded a heretic for accepting or rejecting it.  Therefore, there is no condemnation from either God nor myself if you happen to see this differently.  Nonetheless, I do hope it will be something you will see of interest and I hope you will examine it with an open mind.

Secondly, I want to address a common fallacy that many Christians fall into when it comes to this sort of subject matter.   Some people, although definitely Christians and sincere in their faith, often seem to have the impression that if it is not mentioned specifically in Holy Scriptures, then it isn't important or cannot be true.   I want to first state up-front that I believe passionately in the inerrancy and infallibility of the Holy Scripture, as it is God's Word and as such everything in it is completely true.   However, there are two clarifications I wish to make.  There are some things that are mentioned in Scripture that are often overlooked as minutia, but in reality they are there for a reason and lend credence to the authenticity of their reality.   We will be showing some of that in this study.   Secondly, it must also be understood that the Holy Scriptures were never meant to be a general history of the world, although the history they do present is 100% accurate because God is a God of truth.   Rather, the Holy Bible is a record of God's testimony of redemption of mankind, and as such often that plan of redemption takes place within the context of actual historical events.   This is why subjects such as the Ark of the Covenant are often only mentioned as they relate to the divine plan of redemption, but there is always more to the story.  Just because the Scriptural relevancy of the story ends doesn't mean the story itself ends, and indeed, often some of these things make a repeat appearance in Scripture later on.  The Ark itself, for example, no longer plays a role in our redemption, as Christ and His sacrifice on the Cross took care of that aspect, but as you will see the Ark takes on a different role as the end-times scenario begins to play out.  This is why it is important to see small, seemingly insignificant details in Scripture in a totally different light in many cases, for the plan of God is often right there in front of our noses, but it may not be the time for it to be fully revealed.  The future role of Ethiopia is one of those small details that fits this, and as events of prophetic significance unfold on a daily basis with increasing frequency, some of those seemingly minor footnotes in Holy Scripture are now leaping off the page at us, and scholarship is taking them more seriously.  Henceforth, now we have the foundation of this study.

Let us now begin talking about the role of Ethiopia in regard to the Ark of the Covenant, and there are a couple of important traditions we will examine largely from the Ethiopians themselves.

A.   King Solomon, The Queen of Sheba, and King Menelik

Sometime around the 9th century AD, an Ethiopian document called the Kebra Nagast (Ge'ez language meaning "The Glory of Kings") came into existence that more or less provided documentary support for the Solomonic origins of the Ethiopian crown, and it is this book that touches on a pivotal tradition of that heritage - the first Ethiopic king, Menelik I, as the son of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba.

Holy Scripture spends little time talking about the visit of the Queen to Solomon's court, although in I Kings 10 it is documented.  The Queen was enamoured of Solomon's wisdom and wealth, and sought to see for herself this great leader of the ancient world and to seek his counsel.  The Kebra Nagast takes that story and elaborates upon it, filling in what I believe are some details of that visit.  First, how did the Queen know of Solomon?   Well, according to the Kebra Nagast, an Ethiopian merchant who served as advisor to the Queen, Tamrin, was one of the main suppliers of material for building Solomon's Temple, and as it is written in the book Tamrin gained the confidence of Solomon himself as a trusted friend and advisor.  When he returned home, Tamrin told his Queen about Solomon, relating to her his great reputation as a leader of unparalleled wisdom.   This naturally piqued the Queen's interest, and for both diplomatic and personal reasons she decided to embark upon a personal mission to meet with King Solomon, and that is the same meeting we read in I Kings in Holy Scripture.  An important facet of this to note occurs in the translation of the Kebra Nagast I am currently using for reference, which says, " And her heart inclined to go up to him, for God made her heart to desire it."  (Miguel Brooks, trans. The Kebra Nagast (Lawrenceville, NJ:  The Red Sea Press, 1995) p. 22).  In other words, God was working a plan in this dear lady's life - not part of his redemptive plan yet for mankind in general, but a divine plan nonetheless in the life of an individual - that involved her potential conversion to the worship of Him!  We call that today the convicting power of the Holy Spirit, and that is Scriptural!  And, through the obedient action of the Queen the nation would later come to know the one true God, as evidenced later in Acts 8:26-38 when the Apostle and deacon St. Philip would baptize a eunuch of the court of another Ethiopian queen centuries later, Candace, whom he found reading Isaiah 53!  Now, the mystery is how on earth would a court official in a far-away land like Ethiopia had gotten a copy of the Holy Scriptures had not a witness of the true God been there in the first place??  Bob Cornuke, in his book The Lost Ark of the Covenant (Nashville, Broadman and Holman, 2002) notes on pages 176-177 that the eunuch's arrival in Jerusalem was no mere accident; rather, he insinuates that the Holy Spirit sent him on a mission to identify the Messiah!  And, as we will note shortly, that ties back into Isaih 18 in a profound way.

Now, the problem with the account in the Kebra Nagast is not so much in what it presents - I firmly believe that the monarchs of Ethiopia, even to the present time, are descended from Solomon and I also firmly believe the Ark is in Ethiopia today - but rather in the manner it presents them.   There is a historical problem with the Kebra Nagast's scenario, in that the Ark was still in Jerusalem in the Temple at least up until the time of the reign of Manasseh a couple of centuries later, so there is no possible way Menelik had the genuine Ark in his time.  The Ark disappears from the Scriptural record sometime around the reigns of Manasseh and his son Amon, both of whom are described in Scripture as wicked kings and apostates, and from that point there is no actual record of the Ark being in the Temple.  Cornuke, as well as Graham Hancock in his book The Sign and the Seal (New York:  Simon and Schuster, 1992), record a more probable scenario of the Ark's disappearance as well as where it ended up.   According to Cornuke (pp. 30-32) and Hancock, a contingent of Godly priests who were appalled at Manasseh's idolatry and wickedness spirited the Ark out of Jerusalem so that it would not be defiled, and there is strong evidence that the Ark may have been taken to Egypt.   Way in the southern part of Egypt, there is a place called Elephantine Island that once had a Jewish Temple almost in proportion to the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem, and although it was later destroyed sometime around 410 BC, it nonetheless demonstrates that a huge community of Israelite expatriates settled there, probably escaping the abominations of Manasseh and Amon as well as for commercial interests.  Strangely, Cornuke and Hancock both record that the Ark somehow showed up on the island of Tana Kirkos on Lake Tana in Ethiopia sometime around 470 BC, but as one looks at the evidence it is of no great mystery.   There had been Hebrew migration into Ethiopia, as well as probably some proselytism and intermarriage among the local tribes, since at least the 10th century BC, and some possibly earlier - escaped Hebrew slaves from prior to the Exodus come to mind also.  Therefore, due to this infusion of Hebraic influence, the Ethiopians would have been receptive to the arrival of such a holy treasure as the Ark, and it would have been in good hands.  It is worth noting that the early heritage of these Hebrew exiles to the Ethiopian highlands as well as the conversion of local people to the God of the Patriarchs produced a community whose descendants, the Falashas, survive to this day.  Also, many of the indigenous Ethiopian Christians have this bloodline as well, which in a bit will shed light on something prophetically significant.  It would make sense for the Ark to have been obscured for its own safety in a friendly, isolated area like the Ethiopian highlands, and as I see it, God may have sent it there to protect it due to something we are about to see shortly in Isaiah 18.  After the Christianization of Ethiopia sometime around the 4th century AD, when the Assyrian monk St. Frumentius brought the Gospel to these people, the Christian kings of Ethiopia them moved the Ark to the city of Axum, where today it still resides in the tiny church of St. Mary of Zion.

Saint Mary of Zion Church in Axum, where the Ark is.

B.  Isaiah 18 And The Future

In addition to the Hebraic origins of a significant percentage of the native Ethiopian population, the Ethiopians (at least a number of their tribes) are cousins of the Hebrews from the beginning.  It is a common - and dare I add stupid! - assertion to say all people in Africa are Black, and in the case of the Ethiopians, nothing could be further from the truth.  All of the major languages of the Ethiopia - Anharic, Tigre, Tigrignya, and others - are Semitic languages, a fact verified by linguists and ethnologists.  That being said, these Ethiopians are more closely related to the Arabs and Hebrews than they are to the Bantu and Yoruba peoples of western Africa.  Their ancient language (still used as a liturgical language in their churches), Ge'ez, is actually one of the oldest Semitic tongues in existence.  That being said, the people of Ethiopia tie into redemptive history probably more than many of us realize, for they are descendants of Shem just like Israel is.   Additionally, their land is within the historical boundaries of the ancient Garden of Eden, as I related in Part 1.  Thus, they are front-and-center on the prophetic stage.  All that being established, let us now look at an important series of passages in Isaiah 18.

Looking specifically at verse 7 of this chapter, I want to talk at length about a "present," or gift, coming to the Lord of Hosts from a people said to, in  verses 2 and 8, come from a land "that the rivers divided."  Let us now take a look at Ethiopia on a globe:

Ethiopia, if you look at the above map, lies at the confluence of three major continental plates, and that confluence has created a huge fault line through the country called the Rift Valley.   Many geologists are saying that this fault is getting wider, and one day it will create an inland sea as a result.   If that happens, it would effectively split modern Ethiopia in half.   Another aspect of the "land where the rivers divide" also exists just north of Ethiopia, and that is the division of the Nile into two branches - the Blue Nile has it source in the eastern Ethiopian highlands at Lake Tana (remember this place?  The Ark of the Covenant was at one time said to be on Tana Kirkos, an island in the middle of the lake!).  Either way you look at it, there are dividing rivers in the land!  

Lake Tana in Ethiopia, the source of the Blue Nile, and the island of Tana Kirkos.

My theory of this is quite simple - the "present" coming from Ethiopia, with a procession of great pomp and ceremony, is the return of the Ark to Jerusalem during the Millenial reign of Jesus.   In Isaiah 19:23-25, a highway is described as linking the land of the Assyrians (I believe this to refer to the present-day remnant of Assyrian Christians) to Egypt (the land of the modern-day Coptic Christians, which I believe this verse refers to), and this great highway has Jerusalem at its center.   People will travel this great highway to worship the Messiah in Jerusalem, attending the required feasts, etc., and the highway I believe continues into the land of Ethiopia, thus the route of that procession it talks about in Isaiah 18:7.  Now, that being said, let us now tie these things together and I will give you what I believe will be the sequence of events.

Unifying the Priesthoods

If you will refer back to my earlier articles, you will see that I invest a lot of discussion on the subject of a future "Apostasy of the Gentiles" that many ancient Church Fathers and saints, as well as Scripture itself in several places, seen happening.  The result is that natural Israel will be grafted back into the Church, and Hebrew leadership will be assumed over the Body of Christ as a result (read Fr. Elias Friedman's book, Jewish Identity, which I refer to often as a reference, for more information on that).   This is a natural course of events, as Jesus Himself was born a Hebrew.  In the new Temple. where Jesus shall reign both as High Priest and King, a new priesthood will arise that I believe will merge the earthly priesthood (Levitical) with the spiritual priesthood (Melchizedek) of the Church, thus bringing into fulness both Covenants as one.   The new priests I believe will be ethnically Hebrew, yet be validly ordained Apostolic Church clergy, and will constitute the 144,000 of Revelation 7.   Now, by Hebrew, I also mean ALL of Israel, as the Scriptures attest, meaning all twelve physical tribes.  They will of course be drawn from all corners of the globe and will speak a number of languages based on the lands many of them were born into, but their bloodline is definitely to be Hebrew.   Ethiopia at present has a significant population of these now, as does India, and at the place where the Ark of the Covenant is said to be housed - Saint Mary of Zion Church in the city of Axum - a guardian is appointed who is the only person allowed to even set eyes on the Ark itself.   That being said, here is what I propose - the guardian of the Ark is a Levite by blood, and is also an ordained monastic in the Church at present, and it is he I believe who will lead that glorious procession of Isaiah 18:7 in the future.   As Saint Malachy, the 12th-century Catholic bishop and prophetic voice, also saw the "glory of the olive," I see the last leader of the Remnant Church as being of a similar heritage too, just as a side note.   Any rate, it will be a spectacle to behold, as it would be one of the greatest historical events to ever take place.  

There are of course many who still dispute the claims of the Ethiopians regarding the Ark, and they have legitimate reasons for doing so - one independent Orthodox archbishop I met with some years back basically told me he'd be convinced when the Ethiopians produced an Ark, a sentiment shared by some others of my friends.   My reply to him was this - all in good time!  As I have said, I firmly believe it is there, and if that belief is proven correct, God will definitely make it very well-known when the time is ready.  And, I believe that some who doubt now will be pleasantly surprised when it happens, and personally it is an event I look forward to seeing one day.   However, as we shift gears here, it will not be a joyous day for all people, and as a side note I want to discuss next as to why that will be.

My good friend, Pentecostal evangelist Perry Stone, wrote a very interesting book entitled Secrets From Beyond the Grave (Lake Mary, FL:  Charisma House, 2010), in which he discusses based on a lot of research the location of hell and the underworld.   One thing Perry talks about is the coming fate of the Dead Sea, and he states that it will be split into two parts - one part in the north will be healed by fresh water from the Jordan, while the other part will be more dead as it clogs with salt and chemicals.  Between the two parts of the sea, there will be a chasm that Perry believes will be a portal to the underworld, and will serve as a reminder to those who are born during the Millenium of the consequence of sin and disobedience - he bases this on a Scripture passage in Isaiah 66:23-24.   The Assyria/Egypt Highway of Isaiah 19:23-25 will pass over this area as it proceeds into Jerusalem, and as the Ark comes up from Ethiopia, the sinners in the pit will see and regret bitterly their separation from God as they see the celebration of His glory.   This area will serve as a sobering reminder of what sin does - separation from God and eternal torment.   The Ark itself will serve to remind them that the mercy of God was always there for them, yet tragically they refused to accept it.   And thus, bitter wails of torment will ascend from that portal, which now leads me to conclude by talking about something important with you.

Subject matter like this is very interesting, and it reinforces the fact that God's Word is true and His promises will come to pass.  However, exciting though these things are, the important aspect of our faith is much more simpler - God sent His Son, a perfect and sinless being, to die for our sins on a blood-stained cross.  It was a gift God gave to all of us because he loved us, but it is up to us to accept that gift.  Remember, God doesn't need us, but we need Him; yet, He desires us to be with Him for eternity.   Today, if you haven't made a commitment to follow Christ, this could be your last chance, and I urge you to let the Holy Spirit move through you now and convict you of your sin, driving you to the foot of the Cross.   Let His shed blood wash away your sins, and you too will be able to witness and partake of the great pageantry of these things one day with the Lord Himself.   This is the most important decision you could ever make, and the hours grow short as we approach a time when the Lord shall return in glory to judge the living and the dead, and of His Kingdom then there shall be no end.  If you wait too long, you may find yourself at the wrong judgement, and eternal torment is not something you will want to inherit - the horror of such eternal punishment is unfathomable for our limited human understanding except to say it never ends!!!!  God loves you, and does not want you to stay in that evil, horrible place for eternity - He wants you to be with Him.   So, make that choice today, as it is an eternal choice.   God bless you until next time.