QUESTION: "Please explain Exodus 23:19: 'Thou shalt not seethe [boil] a kid in his mother's milk.' Is this verse saying It Is wrong to eat meat and milk together?"
ANSWER: In analyzing the context of this particular verse, we notice that it does not refer to just any kind of meat or milk — but specifically to the meat of a kid seethed in its own mother's milk. The association of these two products of the mother's body suggests that this scripture is referring to something connected with pagan fertility rites. Peake's Commentary shows that this is so: "The significance of this prohibition has now been made clear by the Ras Shamra texts. According to the Birth of the Gods, i, 14, a kid was cooked in its mother's milk to procure the fertility of the fields, which were sprinkled with the substance which resulted" (p. 232).
Referring again to the same page in this commentary, we find something which a careful reading of the text of Exodus itself also shows — that verses 10 through 19 are a unit which is concerned with Sabbath and Festival (annual holy day) worship.
Verse 18 states: "Thou shalt not offer the blood of my sacrifice with leavened bread; neither shall the fat of my sacrifice remain until the morning." Unleavened bread was eaten with the Passover on the day preceding the seven-day festival of Unleavened Bread (Ex. 12:8). It was a standing rule that no fat should be eaten (Lev. 7:23-25; 3:16-17). The Passover lamb was roasted whole, but its fat was not to be eaten. It, along with any other remains, was to be burned the morning after (Ex. 12:9-10).
The same sequence of thoughts is repeated in Exodus 34:21 -26, and it is definitively stated to be in reference to "the sacrifice of the feast of the passover." The firstfruits mentioned in both places refer to the "wavesheaf" offering which is described in more detail in Leviticus 23:10-14.
But why does this verse refer to kids, when the Passover sacrifice was traditionally a lamb? We know that originally kids (young goats) from the "flock" and even calves from the "herd" (Deut. 16:2; II Chron. 35:7) were permitted as well as lambs (Ex. 12; John 1 :29, 36; I Pet. 1 :19; Rev. 5:6, 12). But, "Later Jewish ordinances, dating after the return from Babylon, limit it [the Passover animal] to a lamb" (Alfred Edersheim, The Temple, p. 213).
But what does not seething a kid in its mother's milk have to do with the Passover? Just this: God did not want the Israelites to confuse the Passover with the pagan rites of the heathen (Ex. 23:32-33). He did not want the Passover to become a spring fertility festival! Israelite amalgamation of the Passover with this heathen practice (or rather the abandonment of the Passover in favor of the other practice) was a very likely possibility.
From the preceding it is obvious that the command against "seething a kid in its mother's milk" had to do with safeguarding the observance of the Passover. It was never meant as a dietary law.
Q: "There are two accounts of the second coming In the New Testament. The first account says Jesus will come 'as a thief In the night,' and in the second account He will 'come In the clouds of glory, and every eye shall see him.' Now, which one (If any) can we believe?"
Willow Springs, Missouri
A: Revelation 1:7 ("Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him") refers to the manner of Christ's coming. The statement that " he day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night" (I Thess. 5:2; II Pet. 3:10) refers to the time of his coming. He will arrive like a thief — at a time no one expects. The context of I Thessalonians 5:2 shows this: "But as to the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves know well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night." Matthew 24:42-44 expands on this idea: "Watch therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the householder had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have watched and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready; for the Son of man is coming at an hour you do not expect."
There is no contradiction between these two concepts: Christ will arrive in a dramatic, obvious manner (Matt. 24:29-31), but the time of this coming is known only to God the Father (Matt. 24:36) and it will take many by surprise just like a thief in the night.
Q: "On page 8 of your booklet 'Where are Enoch and Elijah?' It states that 'The first death Is appointed unto men (Heb. 9:27). That death cannot be evaded. It is inevitable.' If this Is so, what of those that are still alive when Christ comes and are at that Instant taken into the clouds to be with the Lord for eternity, without dying first?"
A: These people are the one exception to Hebrews 9:27. But this occurrence is unique throughout human history. All other human beings apparently do have to die.
Q: "In the booklet 'The Plain Truth About Easter,' Mr. Armstrong states that the Church as the true body of Christ has existed continuously since the first century. What books should I consult In Investigating this question for myself?"
Gumberry, North Carolina
A: As the booklet explains, the true Church is composed of those — and only those — who have truly repented and have therefore received the Holy Spirit of God (Acts 2:38). These people are comparatively few in number, though the number of people claiming the name of "Christian" is large. Therefore, the true Church is small (Luke 12:32). Furthermore, its people are scattered. But wherever they are, those Spirit-led individuals are the body of Christ.
Historically, in addition to the large organizations of so-called Christians, smaller groups have always existed, standing for doctrines differing from the beliefs of the mainstream churches. You should be able to find encyclopedias in your local library which deal specifically with religious sects. You will want especially those dealing with the earlier periods of the Christian era. From these you can learn the names of so-called "heretical" groups, and read brief statements of their main beliefs and histories. Then you can inquire about more thorough works on such individual groups.
We generally consider certain Ebionites, some of the Waldenses, Anabaptists, Paulicians, the earliest Seventh-Day Baptists, and several other groups as standing more or less in the direct lineage of the Church of God. But, remember, no organization is the body of Christ. Rather, the Church is an organism often composed of scattered individuals (see I Corinthians 12). And usually those individuals do not make historical headlines. They are therefore almost all but impossible to trace.
For more information on this subject, read our free booklets Where Is God's True Church Today? and Seven Proofs of God's True Church.
Q: "If Jesus wasn't guilty, why wouldn't he give a straightforward simple answer when Pontius Pilate asked him, 'Are you a king?'"
A: Jesus did give a straightforward answer. But there was a very important reason why He first asked Pilate a question. If the Roman ruler thought Christ had political ambitions, that would have classed Him with the enemies of the ruling Romans. But Jesus was no enemy of Caesar's government (see Romans 13:1-7).
If, on the other hand, Pilate was asking the question because the Jews had called Jesus a king, the answer would have been yes, because the kingdom they were referring to was the one promised to the fathers of Israel: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
When Pilate confirmed that he would never have thought such a thing had he not first heard it from the Jews, Jesus declared: "My kingship is not of this world [this age, this society]; if my kingship were of this world, my servants would fight, that I might not be handed over to the Jews; but my kingship is not from the world" (John 18:36). He confirmed that He was indeed a king, the Messiah to redeem and eventually rule the Kingdom of God.
With the question and its source clear, he answered plainly: "... I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth" (verse 37).
Q: "Although I wish to live as close as possible to God's way, I do not desire eternal life. I may be missing the whole point of my existence and the reason for obeying God, but living forever does not interest me."
A: Perhaps living forever conjures images in your mind of boredom, ennui, or eternal sterility. Perhaps you have not fully pondered the possibilities of such a plane of existence. Talk about mind expansion! You would be able to operate unfettered by the pain and weakness of a physical body. You would be free from the limits of time and space, able to will anything and have it immediately occur. You would be able to instantly communicate mentally or telepathically with a host of other sons of God like yourself anywhere in the entire universe.
When we are born into the Kingdom of God, we will be able to see colors we never dreamed existed, hear sounds that have never been experienced and have life on an incredible level of accomplishment. Think of the power you would have! The vast wealth of the whole universe would be yours to share with those born into the family of God. You would manage the activities of angels (I Cor. 6:3). Every sense would be expanded and accelerated, and you would grow forever, learning and creating new things, and delving into areas our minds can't begin to comprehend now.
If eternal life were not worth striving for, then why did Jesus Christ go to such lengths to regain it for Himself and open the way for us to attain it? If there were something wrong with living forever — if it were dull, boring, or otherwise undesirable — He had every opportunity to get out while He had the chance. As a mortal human being, all He needed to do was sin, and He would have reaped the wages of sin, which is death (Rom. 6:23).
It would be logical to assume that as a spirit being, you, too, would have the same option Christ had. But Christ Himself desperately wanted to regain His former state of being. Just before He was crucified, He prayed: "And now, Father, glorify thou me in thy own presence with the glory which I had with thee before the world was made" (John 17:5).
Paul also had been given a glimpse of life on a spirit plane (II Cor. 12:2-4). He was ready to do anything to be in the first resurrection, to gain that kind of existence (Phil. 3:7-11). God says that "no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him" (I Cor. 2:9).