Lunes, Marso 12, 2012

The Church Of Christ Today In Bible Prophecies

The Church Of Christ Today In Bible Prophecies


IT IS NOT SURPRISING that our editorial desk receives letters from our readers that try to refute our beliefs. One of the most frequently criticized is the belief that the re-establishment of the Church of Christ (Iglesia ni Cristo) in the Philippines was foretold in the Bible. We have culled from these reader's letters the most commonly raised points against this belief concerning this topic. These are enumerated below, each followed by our brief reply:

1. In John 10:16, Jesus said, "I have other sheep." Since Jesus used the present tense and did not say, "I will have other sheep," this verse cannot be a prophecy and hence does not refer to the Iglesia ni Cristo.

This view that Jesus's statement in John 10:16 is not a prophecy proceeds from the wrong assumption that prophecies are always spoken in the future tense. This is simply not true. Prophecies in the Old Testament regarding our Lord Jesus Christ were spoken in the present and past tenses. For instance, Isaiah 61:1 states:  "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me;...  he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted..."  The same book of prophecies foretold the work of John the Baptist:  "A voice cries:  'In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD..." (Is. 40:3, Revised Standard Version)-- evidently in the present tense. Should we then reject Jesus and John's affirmation (cf. Lk. 4:18,21; Jn. 1:23) that they were the ones spoken of in those verses written hundreds of years before they were born just because the pronouncements were made in the present tense and not in the future tense? And even if anyone does reject them on that ground, would it make any difference at all? Would such rejection render untrue the fact that Jesus and John were the ones referred to in those prophecies?
Christ's pronouncement in John 10:16 states that He has other sheep "which are not of this fold," whom He must also bring and who shall hear His voice, that there shall be one flock and one shepherd. The Easy-to-Read New Testament (Life Publishers International, 1978) renders the last portion of that verse: "In the future there will be one flock and one shepherd." (Italics ours). Certainly, this pronouncement is a prophecy about a future event.

2. In John 10:16, Christ says that His sheep will hear His voice. He did not say that anyone would be speaking for Him. Since the members of the Iglesia ni Cristo heard Mr. Felix Manalo's voice and not Christ's in gathering them together, the Iglesia ni Cristo belongs to Mr. Manalo and not to Christ.
Iglesia ni Cristo claim that Acts 2:39 refers to them when the verse clearly refers only to the Israelites? (V. 22, Men of Israel, hear these words¨v. 39, For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.?

The criticism reflects either a woeful ignorance of the Bible or dishonesty. Christ clearly said to those whom He sent, "He that heareth you heareth me; and he that despiseth you despiseth me; and he that despiseth me despiseth him that sent me" (Lk. 10:16 ). So, if we listen to those whom Christ sent to preach or his messengers, we, in effect, listen to Him. Christ's voice could still be heard by His sheep even if He is not actually the one teaching among them as long as the one who is actually preaching is His messenger.

3. Why does the Iglesia ni Cristo claim that Acts 2:39 refers to them when the verse clearly refers only to the Israelites? (v. 22, "Men of Israel, hear these words..."v. 39, "For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.")

If the promise belongs exclusively to the Israelites then where does that leave the Gentiles who were also called into the Church through the preaching of the apostles? How would this interpretation account for the statement of Apostle Paul in Ephesians 3:6:  "That the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel"?
Clearly, the promise is not exclusively for the Israelites. It is also for those whom they have begotten through the gospel (cf. I Cor. 4:15 ), that is, their children in the faith, the Gentiles. According to Apostle Paul:  "For we are the people he called, not only from among the Jews but also from among the Gentiles." ( Rom. 9:4, Today's English Version).
Indeed, during the time of the apostles, however, the gradual turning away of the early Christians from the true Christian faith began until the inevitable had to come, the great apostasy of the early Christian Church. History attests to the fulfillment of biblical prophecies concerning that event. Those who refused to follow the heretical teachings of the false teachers who led the apostasy were summarily killed.
But Christ said He has other sheep (cf. Jn. 10:16 ) and was referring to the same group of people foretold by the apostles in Acts 2:39 as partakers also of the promise of God-- "and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call."  This prophecy was fulfilled when the Church of Christ (Iglesia ni Cristo) reemerged in the Philippines in 1914.

4. Even if we say that "winds" in Revelation 7:1-3 refers to the First World War -- 
-- How could Mr. Felix Manalo be the fulfillment of this prophecy when his work started in 1914, while the Big Four met in 1919?

The prophecy in revelation 7:2-3 states that the other angel cried to the four angels when he was already ascending and not during the inception of his work. The four angels who symbolized the Big Four in the Peace Conference in Versailles (Wilson, Lloyd George, Clemenceau, and Orlando) met in 1919 and the peace treaty they signed ended the First World War.
At that time, the evangelical work of Brother Felix Manalo who was referred to in the prophecy as the other angel was referred to in the prophecy as the other angel was well on its way. By then, he was already recognized by preachers of other religions. Local congregations of the Iglesia ni Cristo were already established.
In 1919, when the four angels were fulfilling their designated tasks, the work of the other angel which started in 1914 was already manifested--was seen ascending from the east.

--- According to the verse, the other angel "ascending from the east" would "seal the servants of our God on their foreheads" before the four angels would release the winds of war. When the Big Four met in Versailles , World War I was already over. How could the Big Four hold back the winds or the war when the war occurred even before they met?

The prophecy states that war would have first broken out before the four angels were seen holding the winds, meaning the war. The preceding verses (chapter 6, verses 14-17) speak of the departing of the heaven which caused all kinds of people--kings, great men, rich men, chief captains, mighty men, every bondman and every free man--to hide themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains because of that conflagration which historians dubbed the Great War or the First World War.
After these things, so the prophecy continued, the four angels were seen holding the winds. In fact the conference of the Big Four took place after the war had been waged, for had it not yet broken out, what winds would these angels be holding?
It was at the time the four angels were holding the winds, that is, the war, that the other angel was seen ascending from the east sealing the servants of God. As it was foretold, so did it happen.

-- The angel from the east cried with a loud voice to the four angels. Does this mean that Mr. Felix Manalo actually spoke to the Big Four?

We do not teach that. We have never said that Brother Felix Manalo communicated with any of the Big Four nor did we ever say that the Big Four acknowledged that they were the four angels mentioned in Revelation 7:1.

The cry of the other angel should not be taken literally. It signifies the stark contrast between his work which is evangelization and salvation and that of the four angels which was purely secular and had something to do with the destruction through war. Whether or not the Big Four acknowledged that they were the four angels mentioned in that prophecy does not alter the truth that they fulfilled the prophecy concerning the angels that held the winds in Revelation 7:1.

The Big Four were called angels in the prophecy because they were messengers (angels) of their respective nations (cf. I Pt. 2:13 -14; Is. 14:32). They were Wilson of the U.S.A. , Lloyd George of Great Britain , Orlando of Italy, and Clemenceau of France.

Leaders of nations are also called by the Bible as "ministers of God" (cf. Rom. 13:3-4). They are sent neither to preach the gospel nor to establish a nation of God, but to serve God's purpose similar to that which was fulfilled by leaders of ancient nations who, whether they acknowledged Him or not, were sent by God and called by Him as His servants.

The pagan Nebuchadnezzar was sent by God: "Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel; Behold, I will send and take Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon , my servant..." (Jer. 43:10-11).
Of Cyrus, God said, He is my shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasure" (Is. 44:28). "Thus saith the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden, to subdue nations before him;..." (Is. 45:1).

Babylon and Persia were not the chosen nations of God in ancient times. And yet their leaders had once served God's purpose.

--Since the U.S. did not join the war until 1917, when Mr. Felix Manalo registered the Iglesia ni Cristo in 1914, there was no Big Four yet. There would have been only three of the angels.

The four angels or the Big Four, as we have stated above, performed their tasks in the Peace Conference in 1919. It was during this time that the other angel was seen in a vision ascending from the east, not during or before the entrance of the United States in the war.

5. How could Mr. Felix Manalo be the angel in Revelation 7:2-3 when he could not have sealed the twelve tribes of Israel mentioned in verses 5-8? 

It is not stated in Revelation 7:4 that the "other angel' mentioned in the verses 2-3 is the one sealed the 144,000 from the twelve tribes of Israel.  The 144,000 were the first fruits of the preaching of the Lamb (cf. Rev. 14:1,4; Jas. 1:1,18)  They were sealed during the earliest period of the Christian dispensation.

Note how Apostle John narrated in Revelation 7:2 the vision he had seen concerning God's work in these last days: "And I saw another angel... "

In verse 4, there was a remarkable shift in the point of view, he said:  "And I heard ..."  This is not part of the vision, and yet Apostle John mentioned the sealing done during the time of Christ and His apostles so he can show the link between the first century Church and the Church in these last days. Both are acts of sealing and both are God's work for man's salvation.

6. True messengers of God do not use several verses to prove that they are sent by God. John the Baptist used only one verse when he said he was the voice of one crying in the wilderness. (Is. 40:3; Jn. 1:23 ). If Mr. Felix Manalo is a true messenger of God, why did he have to use so many verses to try and prove it?

Just because John the Baptist quoted only one verse from the Bible does not mean that all those sent by God should in the same manner quote only one verse from the Bible to prove that they are genuine. Christ and His apostles quoted more than one verse in the Bible and yet they were truly sent by God. Moreover, there is more than one verse in the Bible that foretold the divined mission of John the Baptist. Aside from the most commonly known prophecy of Isaiah prefigured John as the voice of one crying in the wilderness (cf. Is. 40:3), there is that prophecy of Malachi saying,
"Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me:..." (Mal. 3:1) which also refers to him.

That there is more than one prophecy in the Bible concerning the divine mission of God's messenger in these last days is not Brother Felix Manalo's doing. And he should not be faulted for citing those verses that attest to his election as God's messenger.

As a matter of fact, his citing of those verses should even be viewed favorably by any level-headed student of the Bible because this provides him with more reasons to believe the truthfulness, or genuineness, of this messenger.

For those who do not accept the messenger, they should also view favorably his citing of many verses because they have more points to argue against. But, of course, more important that the number of verses one shows as proof of his election as God's messenger is the certainty that he is really the one referred to in those verses, and that he is truly the fulfillment of those prophecies.

7. Any Bible scholar is aware of the fact that most of the verses in the old Testament refer to Israel and to ancient civilization then  not to the Philippines . How could Mr. Felix Manalo say that Isaiah 43:5-6 refers to the Iglesia ni Cristo when the verse is addressed to Israel and not to any Filipino? (After the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, the Jews were scattered all over the world, in all directions: North, South, East and West. Isn't the gathering of the Jews in modern Israel in 1948 the fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecies?)

The Israelites ceased to be God's chosen people in the ancient times when they departed from His laws. They were cursed by God for having sinned against Him (cf. Dan. 9:11 ). And, in their place, God has set apart another nation: the people who constituted the Church founded by Christ. They were characterized by Apostle Peter as "a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light: Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God:..." (I Pt. 2:9-10). The apostle was referring to the Church of Christ .

However, after the death of the apostles, many members of that Church were led astray by false teachers and the rest were killed. The Church suffered the same fate met by ancient Israel . Just as those former people of God were brought captive in Babylon , the Church became a captive to the "new" Babylon , which was the Roman Church. That is why in the prophecies in which both the emancipation of God's people from the Roman Church and the reemergence of the Iglesia ni Cristo, the new Israel, in these last days are foretold, images of the former people of God being set free from Babylon were used.

8. Mr. Felix Manalo claims that "the ends of the earth" refers to that time which began in 1914 with WWI and would last until the end of the world. According to Mr. Felix Manalo, the ends of the earth started at the end of the sixth seal and the beginning of the seventh, as mentioned in the book of Revelation. How could he tell us the meaning of the sixth and seventh seal when he never claims to know the meaning of the first five seals?

Brother Felix Manalo had proven that the first six seals or periods of the Christian era had already passed. He taught these things to the Church and anyone¡¦s ignorance about them is not our fault. Anyway, a brief summary is given here.
When the first four seals were opened, the four horsemen were seen, one in each seal (cf. Rev. 6:1-8). The first horse and its rider, seen when the first seal was opened, signifies the Church in the first century and Christ. The first seal, therefore, is the beginning of the Christian era at the time of Christ and the apostles.
The second horseman riding a red horse, seen when the second seal was opened, symbolizes the false prophets who led the apostasy of the Christian Church and its transformation into the Catholic Church. Hence, the second seal is the period of apostasy.
The black horse and its rider, seen at the opening of the third seal, prefigure the further corruption of the Christian faith at the hands of those whom the Bible calls "wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever" (cf. Jude 1:13 ). These were the Protestant preachers who emerged in the Reformation period.
The horseman, seen as the fourth seal was opened, indicates the continued spread and expansion of the Catholic Church, the extent of whose power had reached over a fourth of the earth.
When the fifth seal was opened (cf. Rev. 6:9), the souls of those slain by the apostate church, asking to be avenged, were seen. But they shall not be avenged until Judgment Day comes.
The Opening of the sixth seal is followed by a great earthquake, the darkening of the sun and the moon and the falling of the stars (cf. Rev. 6:12-13). These events occurred in the 18th and 19th centuries. The great earthquake occurred in Lisbon in 1755, the darkening of the sun and the moon in 1780 and the falling of the stars in 1833.
At the end of the sixth seal, which also signals the beginning of the seventh seal, the heavens were departed which caused the hiding of all kinds of men in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains (cf. Rev. 6:14-17). The departing of the heaven that caused this was the Great War that broke out in 1914. This war is also symbolized in the prophecy as the winds that were later seen being held by the four angels (cf. Rev. 7:1; Jer. 4:11 -12, 19). The end of the sixth seal which is also the beginning of the seventh seal is what is also referred to in Bible prophecies as the "ends of the earth."

9. Neither Christ nor the apostles or the prophets ever mentioned the term "far east." Mr. Felix Manalo was only giving his own interpretation when he connected the words 'afar off" and "east." Why does the Iglesia ni Cristo insist on using James Moffatt translation of the Bible when this translation did not come out until 1923, and most serious biblical scholars have never even heard of this translation?

The book entitled The Oxford Companion to the Bible (ed. Metzger and Coogan, 1993) does not agree with the view that Moffatt's translation of the Bible is never heard among many Bible scholars or students of theology. The said book which has more than 250 contributors, representing the international community of scholars, coming from some twenty countries, on five continents,  states on page 761:

The translation that made the greatest impact upon the Bible-reading public, though, was that of the Scottish scholar James Moffatt . . . His translation of the Old Testament appeared in 1924 and the whole Bible was revised in 1935. He spent the last years of his life as Professor of Church History at Union Theological Seminary, New York , and at the time of his death (1944), he was working on a translation of the Apocrypha.

This can hardly be considered a put-down to Moffat's work.

But this is not the reason we quote Moffat's translation of Isaiah 43:5 in which he used the term "far east" instead of just plain east as other versions have it. We believe his rendition is the more accurate one because the word in the original Hebrew which he translated "far east" is "mizrach."

Smith's Dictionary of the Bible (p. 637) has this to say on this Hebrew term:

"The Hebrew terms descriptive of the east differ in idea, and, to a certain extent, in application; (1) kedem properly means that which is before or in front of a person, and was applied to the east from the custom of turning in that direction when describing the points of the compass, before, behind, the right and the left,... (2) mizrach means the place of the sun's rising, and strictly answers to the Greek anatolh and the Latin oriensmizrach is used of the far east with a less definite signification (Is. Xli. 2, 25, xliii. 5, xlvi. 11)

Here is a testimony of a renowned Bible scholar that "mizrach" was the Hebrew term used in Isaiah 43:5, and that this word is the equivalent in English to "far east." So Moffatt's translation of Isaiah 43:5 is after all the more accurate one.
It is averred that Christ and His apostles never mentioned the term "far east." Now every Bible student worth his salt is aware that the Book of Revelation is "The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and signified it by his angel unto his servant John" (Rev. 1:1). This is the last book of the New Testament, originally written in Greek.
When Jewish scholars translated the New Testament to Hebrew, it is remarkable that they translated the Greek word for "east" in Revelation 7:2 into Hebrew as "mizrach,' which as we have pointed out above is more accurately translated far east. Revelation 7:2 is a prophecy regarding the divine mission of Brother Felix Y. Manalo. This belies the unfounded claim that Jesus and His apostles never mentioned the term (or its equivalent) "far east."

10. According to the Iglesia ni Cristo, the farthest corners refers to the four directions North, South, East, and West. In their understanding of Isaiah 41:9, they say that Mr. Felix Manalo came from the "farthest corners." How could one man come from four different directions?

Brother Felix Manalo who came from the Far East is the fulfillment of the prophecy in Isaiah 41:9. Our critics could not understand how Brother Felix Manalo could come from the farthest corners of the earth when he could only be in one place or direction at a given time. But these directions which are indicated by the term corners used in the prophecy are not to be taken literally.
North and South signifies the Protestant and the Catholic churches because these religions became the predominant faith in those regions. Owen Chadwick writes in his book,
The Reformation (Penguin Books, 1972);
"In the north the Protestants were in control--Lutheran churches in Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, the northern and central states of Germany: Calvinist or Reformed churches in Scotland, the Netherlands, Hesse, the Palatinate, and a few of the western German states. In the south the Catholics were in control--Spain, Italy , Austria , Bavaria , and elsewhere in southern Germany."

11. When Mr. Felix Manalo preached, he deliberately tried to appeal to the emotions of the listeners by always using comparisons. This was his strategy in winning over his converts. He would enumerate the teachings of Christ  word for word  and compare them to Catholic doctrines or dogma. Many Filipinos believed Mr. Felix Manalo only because they never read the Bible and because they associated Catholicism with their hatred for the Spanish regime.

Comparison is a common pedagogical tool that has been employed by biblical teachers since the earliest times. The Book of Proverbs is replete with comparisons. As a matter of fact, according to scholars "The Hebrew word (masal) translated proverb can mean comparison, and many of the proverbs contain a metaphor or simile." (The Oxford Companion to the Bible, p. 624)
Moses used this very effective approach in teaching when he declared:

  "I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing, therefore choose life,..."  (Dt. 30:19).
During Christ's earthly ministry, He used comparison in His teachings to emphasize the difference between His teachings and common people's beliefs. In one instance, he said:
"Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat?  or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things" (Mt. 6:31 -32). And in another instance, he said,  "For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven." (Mt. 5:20)
Apostle Paul warns the Christians not to give heed to "Jewish fables, and commandments of men, that turn from the truth" (Titus 1:14 ).

Apostle John admonished us to "believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God because many false prophets are gone out into the world" (I Jn. 4:1).
Certainly, a clear presentation of alternatives is vital in anything that calls for a decision, especially if it is a choice between life and death, light and darkness, and salvation and damnation. So why should anybody begrudge Brother Felix Manalo's use of comparison in his preaching?
It is not true that Filipinos associated Catholicism with their hatred for the Spanish regime because when they revolted against Spain , they retained Catholicism but without the trappings of "frailocracy."  This shows that hte revolt of the Filipinos was only against the political and religious abuses of the Spanish officials and friars and not Catholicism per se

The Iglesia ni Cristo was established in the Philippines in 1914, sixteen years after Spain ceded the Philippines to the United States of America . We wonder where our critics got the idea that the "hatred of the Filipinos against the Spanish regime was associated with Catholicism"!
Actually, the main reason why many people are converting to the Iglesia ni Cristo is the realization that this is the true Church of Christ today, the fulfillment of the Bible prophecies concerning the third and last group of people who would comprise the Church established by Christ and who would uphold the true Christian doctrines, the fruit of the divine mission of God's messenger in these last days, and whose calling and election are solidly grounded on the sure word of prophecy.

PASUGO/November 1995, p. 8-13 

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