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Our Ukrainian brothers and sisters

In the country where before the invasion by the Russians lived about 50 million people, we can find people who have been exposed to a variety of religious beliefs.

The Orthodox Church –  10th-21st Century

In the tenth century, the Eastern Orthodox religion was introduced to become in 2018 the Orthodox Church of Ukraine.

Митрополит Київський і всієї України Епіфаній.jpg

Metropolitan Epiphanius of Kyiv and All Ukraine, Serhii Petrovych Dumenko, Epiphanius I of Ukraine, primate of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU), holding the title of Metropolitan of Kyiv and All Ukraine.

The church was united at the unification council in Kyiv on 15 December 2018 as a condition for recognition of it by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople and was granted the tomos of autocephaly (decree of ecclesial independence) by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople in Istanbul on 5 January 2019. The unification council voted to unite all the existing Ukrainian Orthodox major jurisdictions: the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Kyiv Patriarchate (UOC-KP) and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC) as well as a part of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (a branch of the Moscow-based Russian Orthodox Church, which claims jurisdiction over Ukraine). The Unification Council elected Epiphanius Dumenko – previously the Metropolitan of Pereiaslav-Khmelnytskyi and Bila Tserkva (UOC-KP) – as its primate, the Metropolitan of Kyiv and all Ukraine.

Catholicism, Islam and atheism

Later the Ottoman Empire brought Islam to southern Ukraine. Also, Polish noblemen were spreading Catholicism during the Middle Ages.

In the 20th century, many became atheists under the rule of Communism, though also a lot of religious people practised their religion in secret.

For the Bible students in the country, such religious practice in secret was nothing new, as they always had to keep themselves safe from repercussions from Trinitarian Christians, who regarded non-trinitarians as the devil.

Cross-border seeds of faith – 9th – 13th Century

Devoted Bible readers living in the Principality or, from 1253, Kingdom of Galicia–Volhynia, one of the three most important powers to emerge from the collapse of Kievan Rus’ (loose federation in Eastern Europe and Northern Europe from the late 9th to the mid-13th century) By the Mongol invasion the Byzantine teaching of a three-headed god was replaced in the regions by the singular God by the Muslims, which made it somehow more comfortable for the Bible students to show others how the Singular God had provided His begotten son to rescue the world.

16th Century

In the 16th century, several people interested in the Word of the Only One True God by seeking refuge from their persecution by state churches in the Holy Roman Empire (mostly Germany today) and other European states, found their way into regions which became later ruled by Poland, Romania, and Czechoslovakia.

Because everything had to be done in secret, like in many other countries throughout Europe, it was not so easy to enlarge the community. Certainly, because they did not consider people who had a child baptism and who believed that Jesus is God, to be real Christians. This provided for a lot of controversy throughout the ages.

Jews opposing Charles Taze Russell his teaching

Charles Taze Russell, a leading Bible Student, at the end of the 19th century visited many countries in Europe and the Middle East. On his way to what was then Constantinople, Turkey, he visited Odessa in southern Ukraine in 1891. Later, in 1911, he gave a series of Bible lectures in major cities of Europe, including the city of Lvov or Lviv in western Ukraine. Lviv has historically been the chief centre of Galicia, a region now divided between Ukraine and Poland. Its position controlling east-west routes and passes across the Carpathians has given it a stormy history, but made it also a region of moving Biblestudents going from one place to another, spreading the faith, bringing a continuation of true New Testament Christianity over Eastern Europe.

Strangely enough, it was a Jewish rabbi from the United States who fiercely opposed Russell’s work who cabled a message to his associates in Lvov, denouncing the Bible Students. This incited some to try and stop Russell from speaking. About that night, Russell said

“God alone knows what his providences may be in connection with these experiences. . . . [The Jews’] excitement on the subject may lead some to a deeper investigation than if they had heard us in a decent and orderly manner.”

Though there was no immediate response to the message, seeds of truth had been sown, and many groups of Bible Students were formed later, not only in Lvov but also in other areas of Ukraine.

After World War I

Following World War I, Ukraine was divided among four neighbouring countries. The territories of central and eastern Ukraine were seized by Communist Russia and incorporated into the Soviet Union. Western Ukraine was divided among three other countries. The areas of Halychyna and Volyn’ were annexed to Poland, Bukovina to Romania, and Transcarpathia to Czechoslovakia. These three countries provided a measure of religious freedom and permitted the Bible Students to carry on their preaching. Thus, many seeds of truth that were to bear fruit later were first sown in western Ukraine.

In the early 1920’s, seeds of truth were sown in Halychyna and Volyn’ by Bible Students from Poland. Meanwhile, brothers from Romania and Moldavia (now Moldova) brought the truth into the Bukovina region.

This laid a good foundation for further growth. The Watch Tower of December 15, 1921, reported:

“Recently some of our brethren visited [Bukovina] . . . The result of their visit there for a few weeks is seven classes organized and now studying the volumes and ‘Tabernacle Shadows’. One of these classes has about 70 members.”

In 1922 in the village of Kolinkivtsi, in Bukovina, Stepan Koltsa accepted the truth, was baptised, and began preaching. Later ten families joined him. Similar growth occurred in the Transcarpathian area. By 1925 there were approximately 100 Bible Students in the village of Velyki Luchky and neighbouring villages. Following that, the first full-time servants began preaching in Transcarpathia, conducting meetings in the homes of the Bible Students. Many people asked the office in Brooklyn to send more books and pamphlets so that more people could be reached and baptised.

Such keen interest resulted in the establishing of an office of the Bible Students on Pekarska Street in Lvov. The office received many requests for literature from Halychyna and Volyn’ and regularly forwarded them to Brooklyn to be filled.

Like in many countries,several of the Biblestudents working on their own, and not having a connection with central organisations, made that we do not have exact figures of baptised Biblestudents. Though we now of ecclesiae having 50 to 100 baptised people.

In the 1920s there were were 15 publishers who had to exert themselves in order to work through the many villages with literature twice a year. Every Sunday at four o’clock in the morning, they met together at one of the village to start their house-to-house ministry at 8:00 a.m. to work until 2:00 p.m..

Since Roman Catholics and Greek Catholics have their Christmas celebrations during different weeks the brethren made use of it to bring singing sessions, but soon they stopped with those liked activities because they saw how wrong it was to be connected with that pagan festival of Christmas.

Willing to come more into the open there was decided to have a first convention of Bible Students in the Transcarpathian area. It was held in the village Velyki LuchkyIn, in the Mukachevo Raion in the Zakarpattia Oblast (province) in southwestern Ukraine, May 1926. There were 150 in attendance, and 20 were baptised. The following year 200 persons attended a convention in the outdoor central park of Uzhgorod, a city in the same region, which had passed to Czechoslovakia in 1919, to Hungary in 1938, and to the Soviet Union during World War II.  Soon other conventions were organised in various towns of Transcarpathia. In 1928, Lvov had its first convention. Later, other conventions took place in Halychyna and Volyn’ that after World War II became part of the Ukrainian S.S.R..

Despite the fact that some halls Biblestudents had built, were destroyed during the war and some were confiscated, the brothers maintained the desire to have their own Kingdom Halls and got meeting places all over the country. (Presently, there are 8 Kingdom Halls of the Jehovah’s Witnesses in the village of Dibrova and 18 Kingdom Halls in six neighbouring villages).

Before World War II the majority of our brethren and sisters could be found in the West of Ukraine. Today they may be found all over Ukraine.

That Biblestudents are not spared the grim consequences of war, could already be seen in the Second World War, but now also with this Ukrainian war with Russia.  But also when there was no war, like from 1951 till the middle of the 1960’s, with the majority of the brothers imprisoned or exiled, our community had to be very careful how to preach or come into the open. Many brothers and sisters ended up in one of the 54 prison camps throughout the entire Soviet Union. In many congregations, it became necessary for sisters to take the lead.

Concealed in cellars

Today there are grandparents who feel like they are back in the old days when they had to hide in cellars and forests. Others remember how they gathered several times a week in the late evening or well into the night. They curtained their windows with heavy cloth in order to avoid detection and studied by kerosene lamp. Often the exhortations were only distributed on a written paper. Later, brothers began to receive magazines printed on duplicating machines. In KGB times the secret service was unrelenting in their determination to locate meeting places of Biblestudents so that they could punish the responsible brothers.

In Communist times holding the Memorial was the most challenging. But now with the Russians bombing Ukraine it has also become a very big challenge. Last 14 Nisan (15 of April 2022) several of our brethren and sisters did everything to make the best out of the evening. Though in several villages and cities there was not even drinkable water to prepare a meal. Bottles of alcohol brought salvation to have something extra in this time of distress.

Normally Biblestudents open their meeting to all who want to come to listen to what we have to tell. Last year there was Corona that prevented such a gathering. This year our Ukrainian brethren could not invite many. Some of them were already pleased that they could prepare a meal for 7 people, with the limited foodstuffs they still had available.

After more than 50 years of bans and persecution, today it looked again as if a period of aggression and ordeal had come over them. Some of our younger brethren had sent their youngsters to leave Ukraine, but after the bombing of the Kramatorsk station, they are now in the dark about what happened to their family members.

Having been able to meet with like-minded friends, for many it was like they belonged to the escaped ones and on that night it was as if they were resurrected from the dead by the Power of God. Even when lots of their assets were gone up in the fire, they still felt rich in the Gory of God that they were able to celebrate that special weekend in these times of war. Normally the Ukrainians eat a lot of potatoes, but this time they were not at the party nor any lamb.

While the sirens were sounding regularly, they quietly read the Bible passages and listened to the elder’s speech. Whilst bombs and weapons did not keep silent, they expressed their hope to live in a world where free nations are assertive and in the ascendant … where freedom and democracy are strengthened through a network of economic and security partnerships, and most importantly they all look forward to the return of Christ, though that would mean there shall be first that Great Tribulation. But for them, it could well be that we are already in that predicted Third World War.

Some saw this special evening also as a night to be liberated from the modern plagues. At the same time some were sad that some of their family members living in Russia do have a totally different picture of what is going on in Ukraine. The modern snake is clearly doing its work and by spreading misinformation gets tornness in otherwise close-knit families. This is one of the most terrible things that these people now have to endure in their families, a part that does not want to believe that they are being slaughtered by Russia’s murderous army.

While others have fled the country, some Ukrainian brothers and sisters have stayed in place — either bound to the land, too old or ill to travel, or simply lacking other options.

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Preceding

Preparing for 14 Nisan

Fellowship over meals

Coming together for a meal to remember a special lamb

Coming together for a meal to remember a special lamb

Jesse Hemery and the The Goshen Fellowship

When Belonging to the escaped ones gathering in Jesus name

Those who Jesus can call friends

Most important weekend of the year 2016

The Most important weekend of the year 2018

2021 Memorial of Christ’s death

Another year of 14 Nisan with restricted access

Celebrating the evening of 15 April 2022 as a festival to Jehovah God

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Additional reading

  1. A useless but very dangerous challenge game
  2. Great tribulation and Armageddon
  3. Armageddon or the Great Tribulation
  4. What makes you following Christ and Facebook Groups
  5. Christadelphian brothers and sisters in Ukraine
  6. The one who claimed he was not planning an invasion in Ukraine
  7. Does the population of Russia know what the Russian soldiers are doing in Ukraine
  8. Russian army wants to make Ukraine the Syria from Europe
  9. Weekly World Watch March 13 – 19, 2022
  10. Stories to read in the week of March/April 2022 in the Independent
  11. The Guardian’s view on Ukraine for the first half of April 2022
  12. Has Ukraine become a Symbol of ‘Freedom’

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Related

  1. The Ten Modern Plagues
  2. A replica of the first Passover
  3. The Pesach Lamb
  4. Pesach 5782
  5. “They think it’s Passover… It is now!”

Mark 9 – The Nazarene’s Commentary: Review Questions on Chapter Nine

Review Questions on Chapter Nine

  • Describe the transfiguration scene.
  • What could the other eight apostles not do?
  • What does Jesus begin to tell the apostles?
  • How does Jesus answer the question of who is superior?
  • What warnings about stumbling does Jesus give?

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Preceding

Mark 9 – The Nazarene’s Commentary: Mark 9:1-8 – The Transfiguration

Mark 9 – The Nazarene’s Commentary: Mark 9:9-13 – Elijah Has Come

Matthew 12:22-30 – The Nazarene’s Commentary: the Charge of Demonism

Mark 9 – The Nazarene’s Commentary: Mark 9:14-24 – Help Me Where I Need Faith

Mark 9 – The Nazarene’s Commentary: Mark 9:25-29 – Why Could We Not Expel It?

Mark 9 – The Nazarene’s Commentary: Mark 9:30-32 – Foretells Resurrection

Mark 9 – The Nazarene’s Commentary: Mark 9:33-37 – Who is Greater?

Mark 9 – The Nazarene’s Commentary: Mark 9:38-42 – Those Not Against Us Are For Us

Mark 9 – The Nazarene’s Commentary: Mark 9:43-48 – The Offending Hand, Foot, or Eye

Mark 9 – The Nazarene’s Commentary: Mark 9:49-50 – Have Salt and Keep Peace

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Related

  1. Mark 9 Jesus goes up the Mount of Transfiguration. He heals a boy with severe demonic possession; he again predicts his death and suffering and resurrection, and the disciples don’t understand.
  2. Mark 9 “What do you mean, ‘If I can?’ Jesus asked. ‘Anything is possible if a person believes.’
  3. Aug 6, 2021: Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord (B)
  4. Listen to Him!: The call to attention for disciples of Jesus
  5. “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!” ~God
  6. Coming Down the Mountain
  7. Here & There
  8. Sanctified Ambition?
  9. belief in the middle of struggle

Mark 9 – The Nazarene’s Commentary: Mark 9:43-48 – The Offending Hand, Foot, or Eye

Mark 9:43-48 – The Offending Hand, Foot, or Eye

|| Matthew 18:6-9;[1] Luke 17:1, 2

MK9:43 “So if your hand causes you to stumble,[2] cut it off![3] It is better for you to enter into the Life maimed,[4] than having two hands to go off into Gehenna,[5] into that inextinguishable fire.[6] [[MK9:44]][7] MK9:45 Also, if your foot[8] makes you stumble, cut it off! It is better to enter crippled into the Life, than having two feet to be cast into Gehenna, [[into that inextinguishable fire]].[9] [[MK9:46]][10] MK9:47 Also, if your eye[11] stumbles you, pluck it out! It is better for you to enter into the Kingdom of the God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into Gehenna – MK9:48 where their maggots never ends and the fire is never extinguished.[12]

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[1] Matthew 18:6-9: For details see notes in Nazarene Commentary 2000 on Matthew.

[2] Hand causes you to stumble: It is the hand that reaches out to touch something it should not, or grasps something it should not. Compare the warning of “touch” in Genesis 3:1-5. The context is about stumbling others, and thus in the process, stumbling oneself. What is it a Christian could do with their hands that could lead to stumbling other ‘little ones’?

[3] Cut it off: Jesus’ analogy is an absurdum not to be taken literally. If what Jesus goes on to say is taken literally then we would expect to see many Christians walking about with one hand, one eye, or one foot.

[4] Enter into the Life maimed: Still part of the absurd hyperbole.

[5] Gehenna: For details see notes in Nazarene Commentary 2000 on Matthew where Gehenna is explained. Simply Gehenna was the city dump of Jerusalem where the dead bodies of criminals thought unworthy of either burial or resurrection were thrown. Fire and smoke occurred their continually and maggots devoured garbage constantly.

[6] Inextinguishable fire: Gehenna’s fire became a symbol of Second Death, or everlasting extinction. Se notes on Revelation 20:13, 14. For more details on hell-fire, Hades, or Gehenna see the book Where Are the Dead?

[7] Bracketed words are recognized as not adequately supported.

[8] Foot: The foot takes one to the place or thing one wants to go. The analogy is used often in the Psalms and Proverbs of conduct leading to harm or evil.

[9] Bracketed words are recognized as not adequately supported.

[10] Bracketed words are recognized as not adequately supported.

[11] Eye: It is the eye that covets or desires what it regularly sees. Compare notes on James 1:14, 15.

[12] Where their maggots never ends and the fire is never extinguished: Jesus borrows the language of Isaiah 66:24. Similar language is used of the destruction of Edom. [Isaiah 34:9, 10]

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Preceding

Mark 9 – The Nazarene’s Commentary: Mark 9:1-8 – The Transfiguration

Mark 9 – The Nazarene’s Commentary: Mark 9:9-13 – Elijah Has Come

Matthew 12:22-30 – The Nazarene’s Commentary: the Charge of Demonism

Mark 9 – The Nazarene’s Commentary: Mark 9:14-24 – Help Me Where I Need Faith

Mark 9 – The Nazarene’s Commentary: Mark 9:25-29 – Why Could We Not Expel It?

Mark 9 – The Nazarene’s Commentary: Mark 9:30-32 – Foretells Resurrection

Mark 9 – The Nazarene’s Commentary: Mark 9:33-37 – Who is Greater?

Mark 9 – The Nazarene’s Commentary: Mark 9:38-42 – Those Not Against Us Are For Us

Nazarene Commentary Matthew 5:27-30 – 2. The Nazarene’s Commentary on Exodus 20:14

Matthew 13:36-43 – The Nazarene’s Commentary: Parable of the Zizania in the Field Explained

Matthew 13:47-50 – The Nazarene’s Commentary: Parable of the Dragnet

Matthew 18:1-6 Reborn and pliable as a child

Matthew 18:1-6 – The Nazarene’s Commentary: Children and Stumbling

Matthew 18:7-11 – The Nazarene’s Commentary: Danger of Stumbling-blocks

Matthew 25:31-46 – The Nazarene’s Commentary: Judgment on the Realm of Heaven #4 Matthew 25:41-46

 

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Additional reading

  1. Attitude of a Christian
  2. Way of Life
  3. Death & Dead
  4. Soul, Spirit, and Death
  5. Dead and after
  6. Hell – Sheol or the Grave
  7. Sheol or the Grave
  8. Sheol, Sheool, Sjeool, Hades, Hell, Grave, Tomb, Sepulchre
  9. Hell fire
  10. Words Have Meaning: Devil, Diábolos, Slanderers, and False Accusers
  11. Devil, Satan, Demons, Evil Spirits and Hell
  12. Satan or the Devil
  13. The Dead — Where Are They? 5 Sheol, Hades, Hell, Gehenna
  14. Mortal Soul and Mortal Psyche #4 Psyche, According to the Holy Scriptures
  15. Departed Souls Await Judgment
  16. Is Hell-fire something to fear
  17. I Can’t Believe That (1) … God would send anyone to hell
  18. Today’s thought “The one who conquers will …” (July 1)
  19. Looking forward for what is to come
  20. Memorizing wonderfully 73: 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 Sleepers with hope
  21. To will being present in us but to do it not always evident

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Related

  1. Blunt Words from Jesus
  2. Tribal Counsels
  3. Sermon for 9/30/18 Mark 9:38-50
  4. The Case of Wandering Eyes
  5. Cut
  6. Missing My Left Hand
  7. Just Cut It Out
  8. Cut It Off!
  9. Cutting and Plucking
  10. Apologetics & Hell
  11. Hell is Endless
  12. Eternal Life Verses Eternal Judgement

Mark 6 – The Nazarene’s Commentary: Mark 6:7-13 – Apostles Sent Out by Twos

Mark 6:7-13 – Apostles Sent Out by Twos

|| Matthew 10:1, 9-14;[1] Luke 9:1-6

MK6:7 Then Jesus summoned the Twelve and started to send them forth two by two. He gave them authority over unclean demons, MK6:8 and commanded them to take nothing for their travels[2] except only a staff – no bread, no provisions sack, no copper money in their belts – MK6:9 but only sandals for their feet and no second under garment. MK6:10 Now he told them: “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you are finished. MK6:11 And, whoever will not welcome you, or listen to you, on leaving that village stamp the dust off your feet as a witness against them.” MK6:12 So the Twelve set out and preached that everyone should repent. MK6:13 Now they exorcised demons and anointed the sick with oil and healed them.

*

[1] Matthew 10:1, 9-14: For details see notes in Nazarene Commentary 2000 on Matthew.

[2] Take nothing for their travels: Jesus explains his actions after his resurrection. He is trying to teach them a lesson of reliance on God. [Luke 22:35]

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Preceding

Mark 6 – The Nazarene’s Commentary: Mark 6:1-6 – A Prophet Without Honor

Mark 3 – The Nazarene’s Commentary: Mark 3:13-19 – Formation of Group of the Apostles

Mark 3:13-19 – Formation of Group of the Apostles

|| Matthew 10:1-4;[1] Luke 6:12-16

MK3:13 Then Jesus went up into the mountains and summoned those he wanted and they came to visit him. MK3:14 He appointed[2] twelve to be his close companions[3] and in order to send them forth to preach. MK3:15 Also, they would have authority to heal sicknesses and exorcise demons. MK3:16 And Jesus appointed: Simon (also called Peter), MK3:17 James and John of Zebedee (he called them “Boanerges” meaning “Sons of Thunder”), MK3:18 Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus, Simon of Canaan, MK3:19 and Judas Iscariot, who later betrayed him. Then he went home.

*

[1] Matthew 10:1-4: For details see notes in Nazarene Commentary 2000 on Matthew.

[2] Appointed: Or, ordained.

[3] Close companions: Or, be with him, associate with him. In Luke 12:32 Jesus calls these his “little flock.”

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Preceding

Matthew 19:27-29 – The Nazarene’s Commentary: We Have Left Everything for You!

Mark 3 – The Nazarene’s Commentary: Mark 3:1-6 – A Withered Hand Cured on the Sabbath

Mark 3 – The Nazarene’s Commentary: Mark 3:7-12 – Crowds Follow Jesus

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Related

Mark 3:13-19 – Who were the twelve apostles?

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