In Matthew 16:18, Jesus Christ said, “I will build my church.” He did not say that there would be different denominations or sects. He certainly did not say that there would be conflicting beliefs and doctrines.
“There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all” (Eph. 4:4-6). The Church Christ established in a.d. 31 was not divided. Yet, religion today is a mass of confusion—with hundreds of different sects and denominations that all claim the title of “Christianity.”
Can they all be right?
Notice what else Christ said: “Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matt. 7:14). He also said His people would be “hated of all men for my name’s sake” (Matt. 10:22).
Jesus Christ said that He would guide His Church, be with it always, and that the grave would never prevail against it (Matt. 16:18; 28:20). That one Church would continue to exist, doing His work down through the ages as a little flock, till the end time.
How, you may ask, can the Philadelphia Church of God, which was founded in 1989, claim to be that Church? Why is the pcg in existence today?
The Work of the Church
Today, thousands of ministers and missionaries claim to be God’s servants. Hundreds of churches claim to be doing the work of God. But how many religions truly have a clear, distinct commission based solely on God’s Word? Just what has God commissioned His people to do? What is “the work of God”?
“Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent” (John 6:28-29).
From the beginning of Christ’s ministry with just 12 disciples to the hundreds and thousands of laborers, supporters and co-workers of today, God’s true work has had a vital job to do—a commission to fulfill. The purpose for which Christ established the Church characterizes its work—its activities and overall commission.
The work is a spiritual work. Through the New Testament, Christ shows us the purpose of the work of God, which is twofold: 1) To proclaim to the world, for a warning witness, the good news of the coming Kingdom of God (Mark 1:14-15), and 2) to nurture the Church—to “feed the flock” (i Pet. 5:2)—thereby preparing the people whom God adds to the Church to be taught and trained for governmental positions under Christ when He comes to rule over all the nations. The Church was to be built as the spiritual temple to which Christ shall come at His return (Mal. 3:1).
Men have searched history for a large, popular, growing, visible, politically organized body in endeavoring to compile the history of the Church. However, it is necessary to understand the history of the Church as explained by Jesus Christ in order to really understand why the pcg exists today.
Many people recognize a.d. 31 as the year in which the Church was founded, but few realize that Jesus Christ gave detailed revelation about what the Church would do for the next 2,000 years.
In Revelation 2 and 3, the Apostle John wrote down the revelation he received from Jesus Christ about the seven Church eras. These seven eras were named after seven actual churches in Asia Minor in the first century, located in successive order on a long mail route. These two chapters of the Bible show the progressive history of the Church from its founding all the way up to the coming return of Christ. The Ephesus church was the first, followed by Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea. (If you would like more information on the history of these Church eras, please write for our free booklet Unveiled At Last: The Royal Book of Revelation.)
The Church in the First Century
In the early apostolic days, beginning in a.d. 31, the work of God was accomplished by only a few. The gospel was proclaimed to the world exclusively by the apostles and evangelists. Those proclaiming it went forth by foot, donkey or horse, rowboat or sailboat. There was no radio, TV, Internet or such modern methods of communication as we have today. The only way to communicate was orally or by handwritten letters, carried afoot or by boat. The work was not complex. The gospel traveled slowly. Peter, Paul and others often spoke to small groups (i.e. Acts 16:12-13). Because personal visits to local congregations were sometimes few and far between, the ministry often had to “feed the flock” by letter, or epistle.
God—not man or the world—set the original pattern of Church organization. God appointed first apostles, then evangelists, pastors and elders—and also deacons and deaconesses to help with physical matters. The form of Church organization is primarily outlined in i Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4. It is a theocratic government, with authority administered in hierarchical form, from the top down. It is a family government based on God’s law of love (Eph. 4:11-13; i Cor. 11:3).
The resurrected Christ was (and is today) the Head of the Church; Peter was the chief apostle. After some years, Peter and most of the original 12 apostles seemingly disappeared from view. Jesus had sent them to “the lost sheep of the house of Israel”—then in Asia Minor, Western Europe and Britain (Matt. 10:6; 15:24). They were “lost” in identity—and lost spiritually. Evidently, of all the apostles, only Paul remained in the Middle East and Rome.
After only 20 years of existence, however, the gospel of the Kingdom of God began to be suppressed. By the middle a.d. 50s, it was superseded by another message that was not the true gospel (Gal. 1:6-7). By a.d. 70, when Jerusalem fell to the Romans, the proclaiming of the true gospel to the world had virtually ceased.
Enemies of the true Church had begun to persecute the work. A fierce controversy arose as to whether the gospel was about Christ or Christ’s message. A great false church rose to teach a false gospel about the person of Christ (Matt. 24:5; ii Cor. 11:3-4, 13-15). From that time on, a spurious gospel was preached in the name of traditional Christianity, by which Satan deceived the whole world (Rev. 12:9).
This influential, counterfeit church made sweeping changes. Its leaders downplayed the need for mankind to keep God’s law, claiming the law had been “done away.” In place of the law, they emphasized a message of grace—but grace turned into a license to disobey (Jude 4).
And so for the next 1,900 years the gospel Christ proclaimed was suppressed. The true Church became small, scattered and persecuted—yet it prevailed. It continued, underground, often meeting secretly.
The Church in the first century was not a world power, neither religiously nor politically. And it is not today. It is fundamentally the same as it was in the first century—embodying the faith “once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3). That aspect has never changed. Yet, today the Church functions in a vastly different and highly complex and mechanized world. Accordingly, modern conditions have necessitated different procedures and methods of operation.
The Church Today
After being rendered virtually ineffective for 1,900 years, the work of God was revived by Jesus Christ, true to prophetic timing, in the 20th century. It remains alive and active today.
Where is that work?
The work of God, as it is in operation presently, traces its roots back to 1934.
As stated previously, the Church had gone underground for nearly two millennia. During the 1920s, the true Church of God subsisted as only a tiny remnant of true believers that still held fast to some of the original doctrines of Christ. They were nearly powerless spiritually, yet they had more biblical truth than any other church at that time. This Sardis era of the Church had the “commandments of God, and the testimony of Jesus,” and the right name (John 17:11)—but they were small and pitifully weak (Rev. 3:1-2).
At that time, the Church was not fulfilling the commission Christ had given it to do: They were not actively proclaiming the gospel of the Kingdom of God. Rather, their work consisted of merely tending the small flock of believers. They had also moved away from God’s form of government. Instead, they were organized on a collegial, democratic style of government.
Yet, during those years—and in particular from 1927 to 1933—the living Christ set apart, prepared and called one man to revive and lead the Church of God in the Philadelphia era (Rev. 3:7).
In June 1931, exactly 1,900 years to the month after the first apostles were ordained, Herbert W. Armstrong was ordained as a minister of God. After founding a fledgling church in Eugene, Ore., he began preaching the true gospel over radio stations on the West Coast of the U.S. in January 1934. In February, he launched the Plain Truth magazine—then only a mimeographed bulletin with a tiny subscription list.
As hard as it might be for some to believe, Mr. Armstrong was raised up as the human leader God would use to “restore all things” to the true Church (Matt. 17:10-11). The fruits of his 52-year-long ministry prove that to be so (read the article on p. 21).
At this point, we need to understand a principle by which God always has worked: God’s work always starts small, like the grain of mustard seed (Matt. 13:31; Zech. 4:10).
Also, Christ always leads through one man at a time. He worked through Abraham. He worked through Moses, through Joshua, through one “judge” at a time, through Samuel, through David, through Solomon. He worked through Peter and, when Peter left the Middle East, through Paul. These men had, in greater or lesser number, staff assistants under them, but God’s work was headed by one man at a time!
By the power of God, Mr. Armstrong became recognized and respected by leaders in government, industry and education around the world. Until the time of his death in January 1986, he remained pastor general of the Worldwide Church of God and editor in chief of the Plain Truth magazine. He was a pioneer in religious broadcasting. Millions around the world heard his voice on The World Tomorrow radio and television program. In 1947, he founded Ambassador College in Pasadena, Calif. He was also founder and chairman of the Ambassador International Cultural Foundation, known for its cultural, charitable and humanitarian activities. Mr. Armstrong visited more than 70 countries proclaiming the gospel of the Kingdom of God, and was highly honored by heads of state in such critical areas as Japan, China, Africa, Israel and Egypt. Even in his 90s, he continued to write, broadcast and preach the good news that God will intervene to save mankind in this generation! Among his many books are The United States and Britain in Prophecy and his final work, completed just months before his death, Mystery of the Ages.
The Great Apostasy
After Mr. Armstrong died, the Worldwide Church of God posthumously denounced him as a heretic and rejected all of his teachings. As a result, church membership plummeted. More than 70 percent of his followers were driven out or excommunicated from the Worldwide Church of God due to sweeping doctrinal changes. Ambassador College, The World Tomorrow program and almost all of the Ambassador Foundation’s projects are now defunct. Gone also is the world-renown concert series held in the magnificent Ambassador Auditorium in Pasadena. The Plain Truth magazine circulation, which topped 8 million free copies per month in the late 1980s, has shriveled to less than 100,000 paid subscriptions.
When these doctrinal changes were in their early stages, Gerald Flurry, an ordained wcg minister since 1973, became alarmed and plunged into an intensive study of the Bible to find the cause of the betrayal he was witnessing. The result of his studies was a book titled Malachi’s Message, which proves that the Worldwide Church of God’s falling away from the truth was actually prophesied millennia ago.
In December 1989, nearly four years after Mr. Armstrong’s death, Mr. Flurry was excommunicated from the wcg for continuing to believe and teach what Mr. Armstrong taught. Mr. Flurry was inspired to establish immediately the Philadelphia Church of God. It started humbly and small—with 12 members.
The original members of the pcg supported Mr. Flurry in completing the first mail-out of Malachi’s Message in January 1990. In the fall of that year, there were approximately 250 people in the Church worldwide. The Trumpet was in monthly circulation, though it was much smaller and of lower quality than today’s magazine.
In 1991, there was a tremendous increase in the quality and quantity of literature the Church was producing. The Trumpet circulation continued to grow and several new booklets were finished. Since that time, the pcg has released five books and nearly 50 booklets to support this warning message. We do not ask for money for any of our materials. Jesus Christ said it is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35; Matt. 10:8).
The Church’s first radio program aired in the summer of 1991. In late 1992, plans were being made to phase radio out and purchase television time in as many markets as possible. The pcg began broadcasting The Key of David over eight television stations on January 17, 1993.
A few weeks later, The Key of David was accepted on wgn, a U.S. nationwide cable station. That was followed with coverage in Canada and Europe. All this happened within a few short months. The television equipment was purchased in late November 1992—and by April 1993 the Key of David program had a potential audience of over 300 million people worldwide!
Today, the television program is available throughout the U.S. and Canada and in many other parts of the world (see the station listing on the back of this magazine). It can also be viewed at any time on our website (www.keyofdavid.com).
In 2001, Imperial College opened its doors, restoring the type of quality education that Mr. Armstrong established at Ambassador College. This helps to provide an educated ministry and trained personnel for the administrative needs of God’s work.
The pcg is not a wealthy, multimillion-member church. Yet it carries on a great worldwide work.
As a public service, it is reaching, by radio, TV, the Internet, mass-circulation magazines and publications, hundreds of thousands of people with the inspired message of the way of life that is the cause of all good—of love, peace, happiness, prosperity, abundant well-being—the truly successful life.
The Commission of the PCG
The entire chapter of Revelation 10 speaks about the commission of the Philadelphia Church of God, especially verse 11. The commission of the pcg is primarily one of warning: “And he said unto me, Thou must prophesy again before many peoples, and nations, and tongues, and kings.” This verse outlines the size and scope of God’s primary commission to His remnant Church in this end time. It is for many peoples and nations—a huge job!
The Prophet Ezekiel sheds further light on this watchman warning. Ezekiel 33 says that if the watchman sees the sword come upon the land and does not warn, then the blood of the people will be on the watchman’s head. Mr. Armstrong did warn Israel, but not to the extent that the pcg will have to. He died before the “sword” actually came upon the land. We, however, will see it happen—and we will warn! (vv. 3, 7, 33).
By its weekly television program The Key of David and this magazine, the Trumpet, the Philadelphia Church of God holds fast to the truths restored by Herbert Armstrong to the true Church and proclaims a final warning to the world that, though dark times are ahead for mankind, Jesus Christ will soon return to Earth and usher in the peaceful, wonderful world tomorrow.
The pcg also warns God’s own rebellious people. Jesus Christ says He is standing at their door and knocking (Rev. 3:20). That “knock” is primarily being done through Malachi’s Message. If the Laodiceans will allow Christ back into their lives now, they will receive the reward mentioned in verse 21: “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.”
The Church is also commissioned to “feed the flock” (i Pet. 5:2). Christ has set ministers in the Church “For the perfecting of the saints … for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man …” (Eph. 4:11-13). The Church must be ready for the return of Jesus Christ. The ministry serves in local congregations worldwide. Feeding the flock in print are the bimonthly magazine Royal Vision and a bimonthly newspaper for Church members. Specifically for young people, True Education magazine is published quarterly.
Small, Yet Powerful
The Philadelphia Church of God is an extension of the same Church that was raised up by Jesus Christ through Mr. Armstrong nearly 65 years ago. It teaches the same gospel message that Jesus taught almost 2,000 years ago. It is the only organization in existence today that adheres to God’s form of government and follows and preaches the teachings restored by Mr. Armstrong. The Church does not deify or worship any man, but it does hold Mr. Armstrong in high regard as the end-time apostle God used to raise up the Philadelphia era of His Church.
Revelation 3:8 describes the Church in the last days. It is a Church with little strength—a work that is supported by only a small number—but which has faithfully kept the Word of God and not denied God’s authority. Christ promises to set before that small Church an open door to preach the gospel until the present work of the Church is completed.
Jesus said in Matthew 7:20 that by their fruits you shall know them. In looking for God’s true Church, you need to find the one that is preaching the truth (including newly revealed truths—Amos 3:7) and being blessed mightily for it. The Philadelphia Church of God is doing a powerful work today—and with only a few in number to support it.
We have ministers around the world who are available for counsel if you are interested in attending services with the pcg.
The Philadelphia Church of God has no political agenda. What we do have are answers to the problems that plague our society today. We look to God for those answers. And you need to know what they are. As Mr. Flurry says in the opening to The Key of David: “What I’m talking about is going to touch the lives of every individual on this Earth.” ▪