Colossians: First-Century Parallels

 

Chapter 1: First Century Parallels

Colossians was written about a.d. 59-61. The book of Revelation was written around a.d. 90, only 30 years after Paul warned the Colossians and the Laodiceans. John revealed what happened to the Laodiceans! The Colossians heeded the warning—the Laodiceans did not.

Revelation 3:14-19 tell us that the Laodiceans became lukewarm. The book of Colossians tells us how the Laodiceans turned away from God. We can see specifically how they became sinful. This book can help us see how to remain faithfully Philadelphian.

Because the book of Colossians is tied directly into Revelation 3, that means Colossians is a prophetic book! It tells us in detail how the Laodiceans erred in the past—and how they are sinning today!

The book of Colossians reveals their problems, and the book of Revelation reveals the outcome.

Colossians is the only book in the New Testament to discuss the Laodiceans, except for the book of Revelation. Here are the only specific scriptures where you will find the name Laodicea or Laodicean: Colossians 2:1; 4:13, 15-16 and Revelation 1:11; 3:14-19. (Please request a free copy of Malachi’s Message for an in-depth study of the Laodicean condition.)

Satan clearly understands what this revelation means for his evil plans and for God’s Work. He exerts herculean effort to stop such vital prophecy.

The Laodiceans were warned around a.d. 60 by Paul. The modern-day Laodiceans (including the Worldwide Church of God and its splinter groups) are being warned today by the Philadelphia Church of God.

Revelation 2 and 3 are about the seven Church eras from the first coming of Christ until His Second Coming. Chapter 3 shows us what happens to the Laodicean era in the end time. The book of Colossians revealed what the Laodiceans did in the past. God says that same attitude will also prevail in the end time! History repeats itself, but on a far greater scale.

The book of Colossians is like Matthew 24, a first-century type of what would happen in God’s Church just before Christ returns.

Because the book of Colossians and the book of Revelation are linked, it is prophecy for right now!

The book of Colossians actually revealed what happened to two churches in the first century. It also reveals what happens to two churches in the end time—the Philadelphians and the Laodiceans. The Colossians in the past and the Philadelphians in the present both know how to overcome the Laodicean problem. Just as God’s warning to the Colossians saved them from catastrophe, so it will save the Philadelphians today!

The Colossians and the Laodiceans were both warned in the first century. One heeded and one didn’t. In this end time, both the Philadelphians and the Laodiceans are warned. One heeds and one doesn’t.

The Colossians were in the first-century Ephesus era (which included the Colossians, Laodiceans and others). The Laodicean era, or the last Church era, is predominantly comprised of Laodiceans, although it includes some Philadelphians as well. But the very fact that it is called the Laodicean era, shows us that the majority are Laodicean—not Philadelphian.

A Warning Message

“For I would that ye knew what great conflict I have for you, and for them at Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh” (Colossians 2:1). Paul suffered for both the Laodiceans and the Colossians. The Greek word “conflict” has the connotation of “wrestling in the arena.” Paul was in a constant battle with Satan and those who followed Satan.

This is the same conflict that both churches had to battle. The Colossians overcame Satan. The Laodiceans were overcome by Satan—just as they have been today!

It appears that Satan’s plan was to: 1) attack Paul;

2) attack the other ministers (we’ll see that shortly); and

3) battle with the other church members. Through the book of Colossians, we see that Satan had a definite plan of attack. We are given specifics of how Satan attacks and destroys God’s Church.

“Salute the brethren which are in Laodicea, and Nymphas, and the church which is in his house” (Colossians 4:15). Nymphas was one of the few Laodicean leaders who seemed to remain loyal to God. He rejected what came to be known as the Laodicean attitude. There was a church meeting in his house.

“And when this epistle is read among you, cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans; and that ye likewise read the epistle from Laodicea” (verse 16). So we see that this Colossian message had to be read in Colosse and Laodicea. They both received the same letter.

“And say to Archippus, Take heed to the ministry which thou hast received in the Lord, that thou fulfil it” (verse 17). Most commentaries agree that the subject is still Laodicea. Now another prominent leader of Laodicea is discussed. It strongly indicates that Archippus was a leading Laodicean minister. He was well known by all the Laodiceans. He was given a public warning!

Archippus was warned so all of the members could prod him to remain loyal! But neither he nor his followers responded.

We can see that this falling away from God’s truth was caused from within the Church—just as it is in this end time! (See 2 Thessalonians 2 and Malachi 1-4.)

Archippus was a “fellow soldier” of Paul’s (see Philemon 2). That means Archippus had been fighting and serving with Paul. This was a great compliment. They fought side by side—like Herbert W. Armstrong and many of the prominent Laodicean leaders today. But Archippus turned away from God and betrayed Christ and Paul, just as God and Mr. Armstrong were betrayed today!

Rich and Increased With Goods

The New Bible Dictionary says that “anciently Laodicea was an extremely prosperous commercial center, under Roman rule …. It was therefore an important center of banking and exchange.”

“So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked” (Revelation 3:16-17). “Rich and increased with goods” in the Greek literally means “have become enriched” or “I am rich and have gotten riches.” The Laodiceans say they are rich and increased with goods (physically), because many of them are!

The word “goods” has an interesting meaning. The first definition in Thayer’s Lexicon is “to be rich, to have abundance,” meaning “outward possessions.” This means physical wealth! Remember, these are carnal-minded people with their minds on physical things. They are spiritually “blind.”

The Laodicean era inherited abundant “outward possessions” from the Philadelphian era. The income of the Worldwide Church of God was about $200 million a year after Mr. Armstrong died in 1986. There was real estate and other property valued at about $100 million. Certainly, the present administration of the WCG inherited great wealth.

“Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing …” (verse 17). Don’t they “have need of nothing” because they are “rich, and increased” with physical goods? Isn’t that why the ministers who had real concerns about the direction of the WCG were never heard? Didn’t the WCG leaders think they could always rely on the physical wealth, and therefore they didn’t have to be concerned about dissenting voices?

Mr. Armstrong taught for many years that Church eras were successive. But now the Laodiceans say they aren’t. Even many worldly sources believe they are successive. For example, Unger’s Bible Dictionary says: “The Laodicean condition describes the spiritual lukewarmness and worldliness that will prevail in the professing Church of Christ at the end of the age. Rich, cultured, religiously ritualistic—this church will have become so self-satisfied and worldly as to have ostracized Christ completely. He is represented prophetically as standing on the outside knocking for admission (Revelation 3:20). No longer is He admitted by the corporate body, but stands outside extending an invitation to individuals.”

Another Gospel

The Apostle Paul, when dealing with the Laodicean problem in the first century, gave us a way to ensure that we are not moved away from the spiritual vision God gives us. “If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister” (Colossians 1:23).

The gospel is the good news of the Family of God which administers the government of God in the wonderful World Tomorrow. We must be grounded and settled in the hope of that future—the hope of the Family of God.

Paul said that all of the Colossians and Laodiceans in the first century heard this gospel. He said they would be held accountable for that. We’ve heard it too. This is dangerous knowledge. We can’t just run away and act like it didn’t happen, as the Laodiceans are trying to do. God will hold us accountable for every word. So many of God’s people have not measured up to what God expects of them.

This is a warning about losing “the hope of the gospel” in this end time. Paul admonishes us to remain “grounded and settled.” “Grounded” means to have a sure foundation. The word “settled” has the added meaning of persistently remaining on the foundation. That foundation is the one Mr. Armstrong laid for the end-time saints. The Laodiceans have not remained on that foundation! They have lost the hope of the gospel!

Secular history tells us that the Colossians and the Laodiceans had a serious conflict over what the gospel was. But more importantly, Bible history in Colossians tells us the same story. Paul was talking to the Colossians and the Laodiceans about “If you continue” in the “hope of the gospel.” The Laodiceans did not continue in the true gospel! Paul warned them while he was in jail. But they still moved to another gospel. They didn’t follow their great leader, who suffered so much for them and for God’s Work.

In the first century, they heard the true gospel from Paul. We heard it from Mr. Armstrong in the end time.

Paul was in jail. Mr. Armstrong is dead. They both preached the true gospel and then God removed them. Still, we are warned individually to hold fast to the true gospel. We can’t look to physical men who may be taken away. We must look to Christ!

Both the first-century Laodiceans and the last-century Laodiceans were seduced away from the true gospel. They were deceived into adopting a false gospel.

Now the WCG and other Laodiceans teach not to think of the Kingdom only in terms of the future, but in the present as well. The Church is the Kingdom in embryo. But that is not the Kingdom, and the Kingdom is not here on this Earth now. It is yet to come in the future.

The WCG talks about the gospel of salvation, the gospel of grace, the gospel of reconciliation, etc., etc. These doctrines are only a part of the gospel—not one of them is the true gospel!

The book of Colossians is a warning that the end-time Laodiceans would be moved away from the “hope of the gospel.” That prophecy has been fulfilled before our very eyes!

Sons of God

A major change in the Laodicean Church surfaced in 1991 when the late Joseph Tkach Sr., pastor general of the Worldwide Church of God, began using the word “adopted” in referring to our future in God’s Family. That is a satanic twisting of the truth! We are going to be God’s own sonsHis own Family—in the future. We should never refer to God’s sons as adopted! In his Worldwide News “Personal” on July 22, 1991, Mr. Tkach said: “What the Bible does say is indeed incredible and wonderful beyond all imagination! But it does not say we will be equal with God. It says we will be immortal children of God. ‘But Mr. Tkach,’ someone might say, ‘a son is equal to his father because both are equal human beings, even though the father is greater in authority and experience.’ That statement is fine when you are talking about human beings, but it is not true when comparing the uncreated God with His creation.”

Of course we won’t have God’s supreme rank, authority or power. But we are to be God—as God is God!

“For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren” (Romans 8:29). We are being conformed or molded into the very image of God’s Son! The Bible calls us children and sons.

Satan hates this doctrine more than any other because he can’t be a son in God’s Family. So Satan influenced the WCG leaders to remove this wonderful and inspiring “hope of the gospel.”

If we remain loyal, we will be God as God is God! That is the “hope of the gospel.” The Laodiceans are warned in the book of Colossians that they are losing that precious hope!

Don’t let Satan destroy your priceless hope. Mr. Armstrong taught that to us for so many years. Read and re-read the Incredible Human Potential and Mystery of the Ages. You are going to be God!

Father—Central Figure

Another major change became apparent when the WCG began saying that Christ is the central figure of the gospel. Again, the gospel is the good news about a soon-coming Family of God administering the government of God on this Earth and in the universe. Who is the Head of the Family? The Father—not Christ!

That is what Christ taught too (John 14:28).

The Father asks, “Where is My honor?” (Malachi 1:6; New King James Version). The Laodiceans who preach a gospel about Christ have lost the true gospel. That is why they no longer give the Father His honor.

Remember, Malachi is a book aimed primarily at the Laodicean churches (specifically their ministers) after Mr. Armstrong died. It is a now book.

Paul was in jail when the split came between the Colossians and the Laodiceans. Paul surely prayed very hard for God to release him from prison so he could help the Laodiceans as they turned away from God! God could have easily worked such a miracle. But He did not. Why? God knew what Paul would do spiritually. He wanted to know what the individual Church members would do! God must see if all true Christians can follow Him without looking to any man.

“Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12). Paul could only warn the Laodiceans just as he warned the Philippians. Their salvation was hanging in the balance.

God wants to remove the high-powered personalities and see how much you, individually, value this incredibly awesome future!

Are you working out your salvation with “fear and trembling”? It’s between you and God.

Today, Mr. Armstrong is dead. He is unable to directly help us now. And that’s the way God wants it! He wants to know how much you love Him and the “hope of the gospel.” God wants to know if you will follow Him now that Mr. Armstrong has been taken out of the way! This test is very revealing.

Another Jesus

“Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timotheus our brother” (Colossians 1:1). Paul was an apostle of Christ, by the will of the Father. He became an apostle because the Father willed it—not Christ.

“To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ which are at Colosse: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. We give thanks to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you” (verses 2-3). God the Father is mentioned first because He is the central figure of the gospel. Christ always taught that.

“Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son” (verses 12-13). The Father was thanked. He is the one who delivered us from the power of darkness—from Satan and the demons. Only the Father calls us out of the world (John 6:44). Only the Father begets sons! Then He puts us into the care of Christ. This is the true role of Jesus. But this is not the role that the WCG teaches about Christ today.

There is the Father, Christ the Son, and many more sons in the Father’s Family. Father, Son, Family of God—this is “the hope of the gospel”!

God the Father handpicked you Himself. That’s so incredible it could make a person faint!

This is the gospel (or good news) of the Kingdom—or Family—of God. The Family of God is about to rule this Earth, and we have an invitation to be the very Bride of the Father’s Son—Jesus Christ. Christ’s role is to be the saints’ Husband; He is not the central figure of the gospel. This is what Christ taught.

Members of God’s true Church are begotten sons of God, about to enter the Family of God—headed by our Father. Only the Father begets sons, and then He turns them over to the “kingdom of his dear Son.”

That good news ought to keep us inspired forever!

Christ was always exalting His Father—not Himself. See John 4:23; 5:30, 37; 6:44; 8:49-50; 14:10, 23, 28—“my Father is greater than I.” These are just a few scriptures from the book of John. The New Testament is filled with similar scriptures. Paul was warning the Colossians and Laodiceans that some members were getting away from the true gospel and preaching another Christ.

It is also a strong warning for the end-time Laodiceans. They too are preaching another gospel and another Christ. That is precisely what is happening to the Laodiceans today. The book of Colossians is a very prophetic book.

When the WCG says, “Christ is the central figure of the gospel,” that is preaching another gospel and another Jesus! Christ never preached about Himself that way. He always made His Father the central figure!

Chapter 2: The Mystery of God

“Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints” (Colossians 1:26). Paul says that a mystery was hid from the world for ages. The world doesn’t understand it; people don’t understand what Paul taught the first-century Christians.

This is the same mystery that we talk about today. There’s only one book on this Earth that really explains the mystery of God. And who proclaims this mystery? Who really even wants that mystery? It was “made manifest to his saints.”

Where did that message come from? Mr. Armstrong said about Mystery of the Ages, “In real fact, I feel I myself did not write it.” It was God Himself who made the mystery manifest to His people. Why did He make it manifest to us? So that we could have a large supply of that book out in our garage? Or on our library shelves? God has the answer to those questions.

Paul talked about this mystery while sitting in jail. At that time, ministers were turning most of God’s people away from the truth, just as they have done today. Understand what a tragedy that is: This mystery has been hid from the ages! For 6,000 years man has not understood it. To actually have it revealed to us, and to understand it, is totally unique! In this evil world, God has given us the most illustrious revelation—the deepest revelation that man can comprehend. It didn’t come from Mr. Armstrong. It came from out in the cosmos—beyond the stars and galaxies. (And yet, when God’s people get it, so many of them then allow Satan to take it away from them. They don’t want it enough to fight for it.)

Men have not understood this mystery for all the ages and generations back to Adam and Eve. Soon, though, they will all understand it. God has revealed it to us so that we can teach it to them—today and in the future.

Notice verse 27: “To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” God makes the mystery manifest to His saints, so He may then make it known among the Gentiles! Spiritually, that means the whole world.

This is a great prophecy about our work—even in this end time. As the Laodiceans turn away from this mystery, we make it known to the Gentiles. Those who are making it known are the only ones who really understand what God commands them to do. The Philadelphians do today what the Colossians did in the first century. God says we must make it known!

The feast of ingathering (or Tabernacles) is about getting this message to the world—to gather in as many as we can. And that will continue into the World Tomorrow, where a major textbook in all educational institutions will be Mystery of the Ages, by Herbert W. Armstrong. Anytime this mystery was revealed in the past, God wanted His very elect to make it known to the Gentiles. That’s why God reveals it. He doesn’t reveal it so we can just sit there and look at it, or enjoy it ourselves. It is for the whole world! We will gather them all in. And it won’t be very long until we do that. Those of us supporting this message today have a special vision that most of God’s own people do not have—to their own shame.

What do the Laodiceans know about Mystery of the Ages? How many of them would fight for it in court? Paul was in jail because he preached this message! He was in jail trying to inspire and encourage God’s people about the great mystery that man has not known for all ages!

Now the Philadelphia Church of God has it. The Laodiceans are so confused, so foolish, so rebellious; they’re letting Satan take it away from them. If only they would stand up and love that message, nobody would ever be able to take it from them. And as long as there’s a work to be done, we’ll have Mystery of the Ages. Nobody can stop that.

The Colossians in the first century fought with Paul—the Laodiceans fought against him. So it is today. The Philadelphians fight for the truth Mr. Armstrong taught us, standing by God’s end-time Elijah, while the Laodiceans are either neutral, doing nothing, or fighting against it. Don’t ever forget how special and how wonderful you are in God’s eyes.

God will bring the whole world into His Family. He is not doing all this work in vain! He gave us this mystery, and He says we’ve heard it, so we’re accountable. We are accountable for a great deal of knowledge! There’s no way we can escape that! We are accountable for delivering the message, or their blood is on our heads. Soon, the whole world will be our classroom to teach Mystery of the Ages. What a responsibility that will be.

Your attitude toward Mystery of the Ages reveals a great deal about your conversion. It reveals a lot about you. All of God’s people have heard the mystery. Nobody can hold on to God’s revelation if they don’t stand up and fight like any son ought to fight for his father. Don’t be fooled: God will let the enemies take it away from you if you don’t love it! And the Laodiceans and Philadelphians will die spiritually if they don’t love this truth.

Jesus Christ doesn’t want a bride who says, Mystery of the Ages—I could take it or leave it. No, He wants a bride who says, There’s only one thing to do, and that is to take it, deliver it and proclaim it to all of the Gentiles, because that’s my job—to gather in the whole world.

How much do we really care about Mystery of the Ages? How much do you want to proclaim it and give this excitement to the world? This has been hidden from the whole world for all ages. If we don’t care, and don’t fight, and if we don’t proclaim this message, God labels us Laodicean and spews us out of His mouth!

We must make this known among the Gentiles. This applies, in principle, to all of Mr. Armstrong’s literature. God commands that we make it known to the world, to give people an opportunity to know God and to know about what this mystery is! It is “Christ in you, the hope of glory”! If Christ lives in us, we will love and fight for Mystery of the Ages.

Christ in you is the hope of glory! How much is Christ in you? Well, how much hope do you have? We should be filled with hope. We all need more. We live in a world that is getting more hopeless as time goes on. This world needs hope, and there is only one hope: “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” We must think like Christ. How much of our thinking is surrendered to Him? We all have to grow in that.

We are building the Family of God in embryo. Jesus Christ died for this world—God gave His only begotten Son—to bring this hope to it, to develop man’s incredible potential.

Every Man

“Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus” (verse 28). Paul is warning “every man,” or each individual. He didn’t warn a collective body of Church members. He warned each individual person who would listen, to hang on to “the riches of the glory of this mystery”!

God holds each person accountable for what He has revealed and made known!

God gave the same warning to the modern Laodiceans. “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me” (Revelation 3:20). “[I]f any man [or individual] hear my voice, and open the door,” then Christ will bring him out of the Laodicean Church. Salvation is not a group affair. God is judging us individually. He is warning “every man.” That expression is mentioned three times in one verse—a warning in itself! Jesus Christ is determining if His people can follow Him, instead of a man. Those who heed His warning get to share His very own headquarters throne for all eternity (Revelation 3:12, 21). The Laodiceans are not given that reward.

Colossians 1:28 presents God’s Work as happening in a particular order. First, it says, “we preach,” which means to declare plainly and openly or aloud. Mr. Armstrong did that as a witness to the world. Then it says we “warn”; that’s what we’re doing in this “last end” of the Work—warning all the world. We are running out of time. Of course, these things will run concurrently as well. But we have them listed here in this order.

After the preaching and the warning, then we “teach” every man—gathering in the whole world, man by man, woman by woman, child by child.

This is a vision about the future. One day we’ll reach every man! That must be done one by one. That’s where you enter the picture. You will counsel and teach and guide people. You will warn them, too, when they go in the wrong direction. You will teach them very clearly about the mystery of God—the God Family vision, or the gospel.

We will warn and teach until every man has been taught. And then we will take that program out into the universe. What a magnificent vision this is! How could we allow such a vision to be lost? We are called sons of God! What a magnificent calling God has given us. What a prophetic plan God reveals here in Colossians.

Laboring From Jail

“Whereunto I also labour, striving according to his working, which worketh in me mightily” (Colossians 1:29). Paul was laboring from jail. Surely, when Paul’s adversaries threw him in jail, they thought they had finally silenced him. But how wrong they were! He worked even harder! Why? Because he knew it would stir God’s people. They knew who Paul was. And they did all they could to proclaim and do the Work of God while Paul was imprisoned.

Teaching Mystery of the Ages got Paul thrown in jail and eventually beheaded! Can you imagine that? And his writings were canonized to make up a hearty portion of the Bible—14 books. A major part of those epistles came right out of prison. He knew something the world didn’t know. Although he was in jail, he knew that his message would go far beyond this Earth. He was imprisoned physically, but not spiritually.

Paul was a convict. That fact reveals a lot about this world. People didn’t really understand what they did to Paul. One day, though, they’ll be convicted and see. All of a sudden, this hope will come alive in their minds and they’ll be inspired, moved and stirred—and, no doubt, shedding a lot of tears, especially those who had Paul incarcerated. Likewise, there are many Laodiceans today who will shed tears profusely because of what they said about Mr. Armstrong—if they repent and make it into God’s Family.

“For I would that ye knew what great conflict I have for you, and for them at Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh” (Colossians 2:1). Paul had a great conflict over what? Over the mystery of the ages! It was a conflict with God’s own people—ministers were out there, as he sat in jail, saying how Paul had gone off the deep end—how he was getting into heresy. They were betraying God’s great apostle.

We won our court battle over Mystery of the Ages. God says this Work must be done—this world must be warned.

The tragedy of the Church in the first century, and the tragedy of the Church today, is this: All of the dirty work was done from within. They have quite a large group and feel secure in that. Paul’s labor and Mr. Armstrong’s labor have been scorned. Many horrible things have been said about Mr. Armstrong. Who is behind all that?

The faithful Colossians labored with Paul, and we ought to labor with Mr. Armstrong. Although he is not alive physically, he still is very much alive if we proclaim the message God gave to him. We bring him back to life and restore what he restored. If we let Christ live in us, we’re reflecting that glory. We cannot rebel against that mystery, or even be neutral.

This is not an easy message to escape. As Mr. Armstrong said repeatedly, this is dangerous knowledge. If 95 percent of God’s people are dying spiritually, doesn’t that monstrous tragedy alone reveal that this is dangerous knowledge? Yet we ought to hunger and thirst after it, and work hard to get it. You will find your effort greatly rewarded.

Spiritual Riches

“That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgment of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ” (Colossians 2:2). The mystery has to do with the Father and Christ and the Family of God. It’s about you being born into that Family.

We are being “knit together in love”—the very love of the God Family. The mystery is man becoming God—sons in the very Family of God. (The word mystery is mentioned three times in a span of six verses.) The mystery is Christ in you, which leads to being born into God’s Family. That is the gospel—the good news of the coming Family or Kingdom of God!

God keeps mentioning the “riches” of the mystery. But the Laodiceans are “rich and increased with goods” physically (Revelation 3:17). Their minds are too much on the physical riches. That is why they are losing the real riches!

The Laodiceans don’t honor their Father (Malachi 1:6). If only they delivered Mystery of the Ages with us, they’d be honoring their Father and their Husband—the whole Family of God. They would have all of these riches. They don’t know what true, spiritual wealth is anymore. That’s obscene!

Yet Paul talked about how wealthy he was, how rich he was, while in jail. He had tremendous vision. Could you be that inspiring if you were in jail? We must be prepared for whatever God allows us to face. How real to you is the fact that you are the Family of God in embryo? As real as it was to Paul?

Chapter 3: Worldly Scholarship

Paul warns us against being led astray by a man. “And this I say, lest any man should beguile you with enticing words” (Colossians 2:4). Verses 8 and 18 thunder the same warning! A man can easily lead us astray “with enticing words” if we aren’t spiritually alert.

Paul was absent because he was in jail (verse 5). Today, Herbert Armstrong is absent because of death. Still, we are admonished to remain steadfast in the faith. We must learn to follow God—not men.

Rooted in Christ

“As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving” (verses 6-7). We are told to keep ourselves rooted in what we have received in the past. At the time this was written, the Laodiceans were getting away from what Christ had taught them through Paul. The end-time Laodiceans are getting away from what Christ taught them through Mr. Armstrong.

We must be “rooted and built up in him [Christ].” Our command is to hold fast to what Christ has taught us! The big focus of our lives must be to get “rooted” in that truth. There is great danger in this area. This is the area where thousands of God’s people are being deceived today!

It is virtually impossible to uproot a strong tree. The roots are planted so firmly in the ground that a violent storm can’t uproot it. This is what God says we must be like spiritually. Our eternal life is at stake, so we must be deeply rooted in God’s truth!

In this end time, that means we must be well-grounded in all of Mr. Armstrong’s major books. The church that he founded has discontinued all of them! We must master all of the truths that Christ established through Mr. Armstrong. The Laodiceans are doing just the opposite.

The Philadelphians also must be grounded in what God is revealing to the Philadelphia Church of God today. That certainly includes the centerpiece of our literature, Malachi’s Message. That book is what brings members into this Church. God REVEALED that message!

It’s so easy to continually seek “new truth,” instead of getting ourselves deeply rooted into the foundational truths—“as ye have been taught.” This is where the Laodiceans failed in the first century, and this is where they are failing today!

Mr. Armstrong said to the Worldwide Church of God members on Pentecost in 1985: “I perceive even ministers [of God’s true Church] think we are called to get us into the Kingdom—get us saved. I fear most of you just don’t get it!” He saw the Laodicean condition! He told us what a Laodicean is.

What was the problem? They weren’t “rooted and built up” in what Christ taught through Mr. Armstrong! That means they were Laodicean!

The biggest turning point ever in the Worldwide Church of God was Mr. Armstrong’s death. That is when the Philadelphia era ended and the Laodicean era began.

What is a Laodicean? Lazy? No, Laodiceans are often very zealous and hardworking. But because they are not “rooted and built up” in Christ, they get deceived and drawn into worldly pursuits.

Deceit Through Philosophy

“Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ” (Colossians 2:8). The Laodiceans are deceived by vain philosophy and wrong education of this world.

Instead of being “rooted and built up,” the Laodiceans destroy what has been built by Christ. This happened anciently and was prophesied to happen in the end time. And it has happened!

Here is one example of what I mean. The wcg discontinued The United States and Britain in Prophecy after debating whether that book was God-inspired truth or only speculation. Of course, you can prove it’s God’s truth. And it doesn’t need to be debated—just believed! That book is not flawed. Their faith is flawed!

As part of their deception, for a while wcg leaders acted like they might bring the book back into circulation. But prophecy in Revelation 3:7 discusses only the Philadelphians, not the Laodiceans, as having the “key of David,” which is the understanding of prophecy—especially about David’s throne and Israel. The discontinuing of that book was another major Laodicean act. They are not “rooted” in Jesus Christ, but in their own ideas.

Paul warns us not to let a man “spoil” us through philosophy. Individuals become the deceivers’ spoil, or victims, by allowing themselves to be turned away from what they have been taught. Vain philosophy turns them from what they should have been rooted in.

Listen to what K.J. Stavrinides, a WCG scholar, wrote in an article about the trinity in the Pastor General’s Report on Dec. 31, 1991: “[T]he Worldwide Church of God has made a clear distinction between issues that are strictly biblical, and issues that are essentially theological or philosophical. The former are easily accessible through the Bible in any translation, while the latter require special training or expertise” (emphasis mine throughout). When you get into the theology or philosophy issues, you need “special training or expertise.”

Then the wcg leaders instructed people to look to their scholars. They would have you believe the laymen are just too incompetent to grasp such issues!

That is what the Laodicean ministers said anciently! The people believed them and were led astray. Now we see history repeating itself. So Satan is using the same strategy again. Why not? It worked so effectively before.

The word philosophy means “love of wisdom.” However, it’s wisdom of this world—inspired by Satan the devil! This is one of the same problems Malachi encountered.

Scholar in the Tabernacle

The book of Malachi is about the Laodicean and the Philadelphian Christians. The Laodiceans are a majority of God’s people.

God condemns the Laodiceans’ scholar in the tabernacle. God also says He is going to cut off the scholar (Malachi 2:12). The word scholar means “one who has the answer”—but not necessarily the right answer.

Malachi is trying to correct a faith crisis, in which the ministry is relying more and more on human, scholarly reasoning. If these scholars are being relied on too much, it’s because the Laodiceans are giving them too much authority. The leaders have the authority to invite the scholars into the tabernacle, which means that those in charge are “off track.” That is the same direction many WCG leaders went in the 1970s, when Mr. Armstrong had to abolish the research committee and stop the college accreditation process.

According to Dr. Donald Ward, former president of Ambassador College, after Mr. Armstrong’s death they wanted to remove the “anti-educational bias in the church and college.” That happened in the 1970s too. That meant the wcg leaders rejected much of what Mr. Armstrong taught about today’s education! Didn’t Mr. Armstrong create much of that “bias” Dr. Ward talked about? Of course. Mr. Armstrong had to be the one! And they know it—but just wouldn’t come out and directly say so!

Dr. Ward also said this “anti-educational bias … has been in the church and college for years.” Sounds like Mr. Armstrong made serious mistakes for years that church scholars needed to correct! Mr. Armstrong said the college would be accredited over his dead body. That is exactly what the Laodiceans did prior to their dismal failure and the closure of both Ambassador College campuses!

Read what Mr. Armstrong said in the Worldwide News dated June 24, 1985: “It was then [late 1970s] that the matter of obtaining accreditation from the organized accreditation societies of secular education became a problem. The liberals at Pasadena wanted accreditation. They did not want to be accredited as a Bible college, but as a full competing college or university. As such the college would fall under rules of the secular accrediting society, which would more or less determine policy and curricula.

“Finally this effort on the part of the liberals increased the enrollment of the college from the approximate 500 limit that I had set to about 1,400 and going up. It was no longer God’s college. I had realized the danger of a student body in excess of 500 students, in residence on campus, and had set that as a definite college policy. But during those years when I was absent from Pasadena headquarters most of the time, changes were being gradually made in college policies as well as Church doctrines.

Jesus Christ had founded this college through me as God’s college. I had realized the state into which higher education had drifted into materialism. Moral and spiritual values were being overlooked almost entirely in colleges and universities. I had realized the tremendous responsibility to avoid neglecting this missing dimension in education at the time of founding Ambassador College.”

Here is another comment Mr. Armstrong made in a letter dated March 9, 1981: “We could now qualify for accreditation both at Pasadena and Big Sandy—but we shall not, because the government of the colleges would have to be according to that which is in force in this world’s educational institutions—God’s government would have to go. We already have the highest accreditation of all—that of Almighty God!

‘Rudiments of the World’

Vain philosophy is “after the rudiments of the world” (Colossians 2:8). What does that mean? The New Testament, Today’s English Version translates that expression as “ruling spirits of the universe.” Most commentaries give a very similar meaning. Here is how Thayer’s Lexicon defines “after the rudiments of the world”: “to invade—of evils coming into existence among men and beginning to exert their power.”

Verse 18 explains it in context: “Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind.” The Laodiceans were guilty of “worshiping angels.” Angels are not to be worshiped. Only God should be worshiped. However, this is referring to fallen angels, or demons!

Many of God’s own people in the first century and the last century turned to worshiping demons! In verse 8, Paul is discussing a demon attack through “philosophy and vain deceit,” or wrong spiritual education!

Christ built a strong work through Mr. Armstrong that spanned the globe. Mr. Armstrong was used to establish three dynamic colleges for God that produced abundant fruits over several decades.

Mr. Armstrong was used by God for 57 years to do the most powerful Work of God in 2,000 years! Then Dr. Ward came along and condemned what God did through him. Now the Laodicean leaders are teaching “philosophy and vain deceit” in place of God’s truth. Paul calls that being “vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind” (verse 18). It’s worshiping human vanity and demons!

“Intruding” in verse 18 means “to invade, make a hostile incursion into” (Thayer’s Lexicon). The Laodicean churches of the past and present were invaded by Satan. Those churches today are still under satanic attack. And Satan uses men! “Let no man beguile you … [as he is] intruding into those things which he hath not seen ….” Most texts omit “not.” The demons are inspiring men to invade or intrude “into those things which he has seen”! It’s as if the Laodicean leaders are invading God’s holy of holies. They were a part of God’s highest, inner circle, and are now betraying that trust!

The WCG has rejected all of Mr. Armstrong’s books, his strong prophecy message and all the major doctrines on which the Church was founded. Those top Laodicean leaders have intruded into and changed many of God’s truths which they professed to believe when Mr. Armstrong was alive. Anybody should be able to see their blatant hypocrisy! They were in God’s holy of holies, as it were, when Mr. Armstrong was living.

The Colossians and the Laodiceans were warned in the first century to let no man beguile them. The Philadelphians and the Laodiceans are warned today to “let no man take thy crown” (Revelation 3:11). Through demon philosophy and worldly education, the Laodiceans were and are deceived.

Attack From Within

A man is “intruding into those things which he has seen.” This is a satanic attack from within by a man! The Jamieson, Fausset and Brown Commentary says that a man is “haughtily treading on things which he has seen.” He is haughty and vain.

That evil man in the first century was tearing down what Paul built. Today, there is an evil man who has torn down what Mr. Armstrong built! The Philadelphians refuse to be part of this evil process. They fight it vigorously.

“Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand” (2 Thessalonians 2:1-2). The Biblical Commentary on the New Testament by Dr. Herman Olshausen states about verses 1 and 2: “Those who pretended oral or written communications from the apostle.” Remember this is only a type of what is to happen in the end time. Men were pretending that they had oral or written messages from the Apostle Paul.

That happened in 1991 when the WCG attributed the changes they had made to what Mr. Armstrong supposedly said on his deathbed. Joseph Tkach Jr. wrote this on Nov. 12, 1991, to a pcg member: “On his deathbed Mr. Armstrong himself commissioned my father to look into the very changes we have made.”

That statement in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-2 has been fulfilled in this end time! God tells us to “prove all things” (1 Thessalonians 5:21). Would God allow such a farce, which nobody could ever prove or disprove? It’s inconsistent with God’s Word. It’s a ploy of Satan! (Just three years later, in 1994, WCG leaders dropped the “deathbed changes” explanation; they took credit for all the changes and flat-out called Mr. Armstrong a heretic and false prophet.)

“Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition” (2 Thessalonians 2:3). “That day” is referring to the return of Jesus Christ. There is a “son of perdition” in the end time, just as there was in the first century. Judas Iscariot is the only other man in the Bible to have that label. So there is to be an end-time Judas-type betrayal of Christ!

It is happening within God’s own Church. It is Christ Himself who is betrayed. People are perishing spiritually

(verse 10). This could only be happening in God’s Church. Some evil man in God’s temple, or Church, is pushing aside what Christ taught and asking the people to follow him as if he were God! (verse 4).

“For though I be absent in the flesh, yet am I with you in the spirit, joying and beholding your order, and the stedfastness of your faith in Christ” (Colossians 2:5). “Order” and “steadfastness” are terms of the military vocabulary. We are in a spiritual war! The Colossians and Laodiceans were under satanic attack. Today, the Laodicean Church has been successfully attacked from within.

Salvation is at stake! God help us not to take this lightly!

Satan is real. Look how he deceived one third of the angels—millions of them. And now he has deceived Laodicean members by the thousands!

The Laodiceans are overcome by Satan. The Philadelphians are overcoming Satan and will be rewarded by sharing Christ’s very own throne (Revelation 3:21).

Hearing God’s Voice

“Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me” (Revelation 3:20). Those who come out of the Laodicean Church into the Philadelphia Church of God hear God’s voice.

Early on in pcg history, some Laodiceans said they wanted to see more fruits in the pcg before committing to it. God’s true Church will always bear good fruits. However, fruits are related to time. It takes time to produce fruits. When the pcg started with 12 members on Dec. 16, 1989, there were very few fruits.

Today, the pcg has a television program with weekly access to more than a half-billion people worldwide. We publish a 40-page, full-color, monthly magazine, the Philadelphia Trumpet and a bi-monthly Christian-living magazine, Royal Vision. The Church has also produced over 70 books and booklets and hosts several websites, including theTrumpet.com and pcog.org. Additionally, the Church has a college, a K-12 school and a performing arts center. All of this is due to the fact that the income has gone from virtually nothing in 1989 to around $19.5 million annually as of 2012. God has truly blessed this “little flock.” The fruits are there for all to see.

On the other hand, the Laodicean churches are spiraling downward—and fast! They have split and resplit over and over again, mainly over the doctrine of government. But more importantly, there has been no new revelation by God through any of these Laodicean churches! Would you consider those to be good or bad fruits?

God’s very elect are the only people who receive true revelation. The pcg is unique. We are the only church on Earth receiving revelation from God. Revelation from God sets us totally apart from all of the blind, rebellious Laodiceans!

We must watch for fruits, but it’s far more important to hear God’s voice! In Galatians 1, Paul talked about receiving revelation from God. There is revelation from God in Malachi’s Message. As Philadelphians, we must hear God’s voice and discern God’s revelation. God says His sheep hear His voice (John 10). That is the real test of a Christian. We are judged right now and always on that basis.

Rejecting Christ

“And not holding the Head, from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God” (Colossians 2:19). The Laodiceans are “not holding the Head.” They are rejecting our Head—Jesus Christ.

Those Laodicean members who have come into the pcg say repeatedly that they were starving spiritually. That’s because the Laodicean leaders have a government problem. They are rejecting Christ. That prevents Christ from feeding the people.

The Laodicean leaders have a “show of wisdom” (verse 23). They got Ambassador College accredited. They got more and more degrees in psychology and philosophy. They got more and more seminary degrees. It all has a “show of wisdom,” but they rejected Christ and destroyed the members’ faith! And it all ended in dismal failure!

As they grew in their scholarly pursuits, they made major changes in doctrines. They changed healing into a doctrine which requires virtually no faith in God! They spurned preaching about prophecy because that requires faith. Prophecy is incompatible with philosophy. Prophecy was rejected as they became more and more “scholarly” and faithless!

The expression “wisdom in will worship” (verse 23) is better translated “forced worship of angels”—fallen angels or demons. The demons destroyed the faith of the Laodiceans through “philosophy.” The Laodiceans trusted more and more in human reasoning. As a result, Satan “forced” them to worship him and reject Christ! And the Laodiceans still don’t know it, even to this day.

The evil leader is a “son of perdition,” or destruction. He is continuing to destroy the members spiritually! He is replacing Christ as their leader.

True doctrines on healing and prophecy help us to grow in faith and become more like God. The Laodiceans reject doctrines like those because they lack faith.

In discussing prophecy, the late Joseph Tkach Sr. said, “God has shown us by more than 50 years of experience that this is not the appropriate approach” (Worldwide News, Aug. 19, 1991). He utterly condemned the many prophecies which Mr. Armstrong taught for over 50 years! He intruded (or invaded) into those things “which he has seen.” As Mr. Tkach condemned what Christ taught through Mr. Armstrong, Christ condemned Mr. Tkach’s approach!

Just discontinuing The United States and Britain in Prophecy destroyed two of the 18 truths Mr. Armstrong restored. The Laodiceans are destroyers!

The Philadelphians condemn the destruction of God’s truth—a heinous sin. If we won’t condemn that act and fight against it, then we are Laodicean!

The Good News

“Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving; Withal praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds” (Colossians 4:2-3). If this doesn’t inspire you, I don’t know what it would take. Paul said he was in jail for proclaiming this mystery—and at the same time he was asking God to open a door for this mystery to be proclaimed even more! This great man of God was in jail, and his most urgent request to the people of God was to be praying for an open door so they could proclaim that mystery to the world.

How about that for courage? How about that for having a positive attitude in a trial? Probably none of us could do that. Paul saw something with a passion that few men on this Earth have ever seen. Nevertheless, he was human. He asked them to remember his bonds (verse 18)—to keep him in their prayers.

Perhaps Paul was doing a greater work in jail than he was out of jail, because it stirred up so many more people, giving the Church more power. There was a reason why God did that. Sometimes God will go to extreme measures to stir up His people, because they are His Family. They are the very elite of this Earth. Most of God’s Family has forgotten that!

Like Paul in jail, as times get tougher we must bear down and do even more. We can’t stop proclaiming the mystery. If we let up in this battle, our trials will begin to bog us down. It is the vision we receive from doing the Work that enables us to bear up under the trials that come upon us in this world.

Anciently, some of the saints had Sabbath services in their houses. So do some of the pcg members today. Obeying God is not a numbers game. We have the good news of the coming Kingdom of God. God’s true people are happy wherever they are. God’s precious truth makes them spiritually wealthy and full of joy.

We cling to the glorious vision of God’s future world, whether we are in jail or a house. It doesn’t matter. We have God and a vision of the future.

The Philadelphians remember that we’re called to change the whole world in the future! We can’t get bogged down in this present world. We must cling to the vision of God’s future world!

“If you then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:1-2). God wants us to set our affection on those things that are above—not on the things of this world. God wants us to be passionately into the Work of His pcg. God wants your mind—you individually—to make His Work your greatest delight. Then your future will be magnificent!

“When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory” (Colossians 3:4).

This is the reward that we never, ever want to forget!