Chapter 5

Following Christ

From the book Jeremiah and the Greatest Vision in the Bible

In Jeremiah 6:2, it says, “I have likened the daughter of Zion to a comely and delicate woman.” Zion, or God’s Church headquarters, is always in Israel—so Zion can represent all Israel in that sense. Here we see Zion likened to a woman. A woman is used in the Bible to represent a church. But if it is Zion, it is God’s own Church. It could be a rebellious Zion or a loyal Zion, because there are two end-time churches.

The rebellious Zion in the end time has made a serious mistake. “Thus saith the Lord, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein” (verse 16). God’s Laodicean Church has gotten away from the “old paths” which it was taught! The nations of Israel have also rejected God’s word that was delivered to them in this end time.

These people said, “We will not walk in Gods way”! So somebody had to teach and warn God’s Church and Israel about Gods way! Who was it? It was Herbert W. Armstrong and God’s Philadelphia Church today!

“Also I set watchmen over you, saying, Hearken to the sound of the trumpet. But they said, We will not hearken” (verse 17). Who said “hearken to the sound of the trumpet” in this end time? Herbert W. Armstrong preached the gospel and warned the nations of Israel and the world. Today the Philadelphia Church of God warns God’s own Laodicean Church, the nations of Israel and the world. That is our work. Our emphasis today is on the warningas Jeremiahs was! We blow a trumpet and warn. God’s Laodicean Church and the nations of Israel say, “We will not hearken”! And what a terrifying penalty they must pay for that attitude.

These prophecies are being fulfilled this very moment!

“Hear, O earth: behold, I will bring evil upon this people, even the fruit of their thoughts, because they have not hearkened unto my words, nor to my law, but rejected it” (verse 19). So we can see this message is for the whole world—the Earth. Mr. Armstrong preached God’s law to the whole world! But people rejected it.

False Worship

“To what purpose cometh there to me incense from Sheba, and the sweet cane from a far country? your burnt offerings are not acceptable, nor your sacrifices sweet unto me” (verse 20). When Jeremiah talks about burnt offerings and sacrifices, it is a coded message. These offerings were made in the temple. The temple is God’s Church today (see Ephesians 2:19-21). So these words are also a warning to God’s own rebellious Church today!

The Laodiceans are sent “strong delusion” (2 Thessalonians 2:11). What makes it such strong delusion? Because though they are zealously sacrificing and giving offerings, they are failing to do the Work God has given them to do. They give tithes and offerings. They serve in the Church. They talk about love, love, love. Then they feel that as long as they have done all those deeds, God couldn’t reject them. But Jeremiah tells us that God will reject them with wrath!

Now God gives another warning. “Thus saith the Lord, Behold, a people cometh from the north country, and a great nation shall be raised from the sides of the earth. They shall lay hold on bow and spear; they are cruel, and have no mercy; their voice roareth like the sea; and they ride upon horses, set in array as men for war against thee, O daughter of Zion” (Jeremiah 6:22-23). Here is a great nation north of Jerusalem. It has a history of cruelty in warfare. It shows no mercy in warfare. They are men of war. A very good description of Germany!

Did Germany have mercy in World Wars i and ii? Remember the concentration camps! The world is still mesmerized by its past cruelty captured on film. Again and again we watch it on television.

And believe it or not, its about to happen again, unless we wake up! This time God’s own Laodicean Church, sinning Zion, will be right in the midst of it.

“We have heard the fame thereof: our hands wax feeble: anguish hath taken hold of us, and pain, as of a woman in travail” (verse 24). Yes, indeed, we have heard the fame of Germany—especially God’s own people! When it happens, the hands of God’s people will wax feeble. Why? Because they have heard these prophecies more than anybody on Earth! They heard them in the past from Mr. Armstrong and are now hearing them from the Philadelphia Church of God.

“I have set thee for a tower and a fortress among my people, that thou mayest know and try their way” (verse 27). God is still talking about Zion, His Church. God says, “I have set you for a tower and a fortress” among Israel. God did this. He raised up Zion to do a work. His people were to watch from the tower and warn Israel about God’s prophecies. Some of Zion’s members do God’s Work, but many do not.

God’s Church is a fortress that God will protect—if the members obey His law. We have nothing to fear if we obey God. But if we fail to obey God, then we are entering into a time when fear will be, by far, the most dominant theme of our lives!

‘You Can’t Leave God’s Church’

We often hear people say it would be a grave mistake to leave God’s Church. But did you know that Jeremiah left God’s Church and warned others to do so? Of course, he didn’t always tell people to leave. But he did say there is a time to leave God’s temple, or Church. The temple is the Church in the New Testament.

Jeremiah taught that there is more to following God than belonging to a temple, a church or an organization of men. He gave one of the strongest warnings in the Bible about leaving Gods Church!

“The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord, saying, Stand in the gate of the Lord’s house, and proclaim there this word, and say, Hear the word of the Lord, all ye of Judah, that enter in at these gates to worship the Lord” (Jeremiah 7:1-2). Spiritually, God’s saints are the temple today. Jeremiah is discussing God’s house, temple or people. He stood in the gate of the temple, where the worshipers had to see and hear him! Of course, the people accused him of leaving God’s temple. They said he was a traitor who was betraying them.

But remember, this is primarily a prophecy for today.

“Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, Amend your ways and your doings, and I will cause you to dwell in this place. Trust ye not in lying words, saying, The temple of the Lord, The temple of the Lord, The temple of the Lord, are these” (verses 3-4). Jeremiah warned them to repent and stop listening to lying words. What were these lying words? The temple, the temple, the temple. Their statement was the same as what God’s people today are saying: the church, the church, the church! Or, to state it another way—“This is God’s Church,” or, “You can’t leave God’s Church,” or, “This is still God’s Church.”

All these statements are lying words! It was a problem in Jeremiah’s time, and he prophesied it would be a problem today in God’s own Church! These are lying words because the statements imply that these are God’s people doing God’s Work. That is simply not true.

God’s faithful people today, just like Jeremiah, have a commission to warn God’s unfaithful people that they are going astray spiritually.

If God’s people are going astray, then it becomes a sin to remain with them. A plea to remain in a sinning church becomes “lying words”! (verse 8).

Some people ask, “Well, can’t God control His own leaders?” The answer is no, He cannot, because He has made them free moral agents and they must choose right over wrong. God won’t force obedience on His leaders or His followers. Character is built by voluntarily choosing the way of God.

The Bible is full of examples where God’s people were led astray by sinful leaders.

“Will ye steal, murder, and commit adultery, and swear falsely, and burn incense unto Baal, and walk after other gods whom ye know not; And come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, We are delivered to do all these abominations?” (verses 9-10). These people turned away from God as they sanctimoniously talked about loving God and His temple! Just having God’s name doesn’t make it God’s Church. Jeremiah says the temple is only called by God’s name and he condemned them for rejecting God’s Word.

In this end time, the Laodiceans had God’s truth but have now turned away from God as they hypocritically act very righteous.

“Is this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your eyes? Behold, even I have seen it, saith the Lord. But go ye now unto my place which was in Shiloh, where I set my name at the first, and see what I did to it for the wickedness of my people Israel” (Jeremiah 7:11-12). The Hebrew word for “my place” means “sanctuary”—the most sacred place in the temple, the holy of holies. These were God’s own people. He dwelled among them. But the people turned away from God. So God was no longer present among them. As in Revelation 2 and 3, God removed His lamp when the people turned to sin! Something dreadful happened to God’s “place” in Shiloh. It’s a powerful lesson for us today.

The Shiloh story is in 1 Samuel 4. Israel had the ark of the covenant which contained the two tables of stone, or the Ten Commandments. The ark was a symbol of God’s throne—His presence. When the Israelites crossed the Jordan River, they had the ark. They saw the waters of the Jordan separate so they could cross. They knew this was a great miracle of God. When Israel circled Jericho seven times, the walls came tumbling down. They had the ark of the covenant with them. All of the Israelites knew that God was with them and had performed these miracles.

When the temple was built, the ark was put in the sanctuary, the holy of holies. The Israelites thought God was always with them when they had the ark. In 1 Samuel 4, they had the ark when they went into battle. But over 30,000 Israelite soldiers were lost in a bloody massacre!

The people of Israel were deeply discouraged. They wanted to know why this happened. So God revealed to them that He had left them because of their wickedness, as explained in the seventh chapter of Jeremiah. Even if God’s people have the ark, or His temple, or His Church name, He is against them if they are rebelling!

Having God’s name is not enough. God must be there too! And if God’s people turn away from Him, He won’t be with them.

If God punished physical Israel as He did in 1 Samuel 4 and Jeremiah 7, what will He do to spiritual Israel, His Church, today?

“And then come to present yourselves before me in this house, which belongs to me, thinking you are now quite safe—safe to go on with all these abominable practices!” (Jeremiah 7:10, Moffatt).

“I will treat this temple that bears my name, and in which you put your trust, and the place I have given to you and your ancestors, just as I treated Shiloh. I will drive you out of my sight, as I drove all your kinsmen, the entire race of Ephraim” (verses 14-15, Jerusalem translation).

“Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel; Put your burnt offerings unto your sacrifices, and eat flesh. For I spake not unto your fathers, nor commanded them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings or sacrifices: But this thing commanded I them, saying, Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and ye shall be my people: and walk ye in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well unto you” (verses 21-23). The Israelites were getting into a ritualistic religion. They considered themselves very religious, but they were rebelling and committing abominable sins!

And so it is today. The Laodiceans act very religious while they rebel against God!

God inspired Jeremiah to write about our time today. He warned that we must remember what God commanded (mainly through Herbert W. Armstrong in this end time). It’s not enough to call ourselves God’s people. We must also obey God!

We all have read about how Satan comes as an “angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14). We often see a leader hugging kids and talking endlessly of love, love, love, and we find it so hard to envision this person as being motivated by Satan. But that is how Satan comes! He appears as an “angel of light.” We must understand this or be deceived!

“But they hearkened not, nor inclined their ear, but walked in the counsels and in the imagination of their evil heart, and went backward, and not forward” (Jeremiah 7:24). If God’s Church is going “backward”—God says get out of it! We must listen and be corrected by God (verse 28). This is a prophecy for today. If we fail, we receive God’s wrath—in this generation! (verse 29).

Many of God’s own people reject God through deceit (Jeremiah 9:6). They dont want God ruling them! So they come up with some scholarly reasoning and they deceive themselves. But God doesn’t accept their rebellious ideas. He gets to the core of their problem. He just says, “They refuse to know me”! And that is an attitude problem.

“When Jeremiah was entered into the dungeon, and into the cabins, and Jeremiah had remained there many days; Then Zedekiah the king sent, and took him out: and the king asked him secretly in his house, and said, Is there any word from the Lord? And Jeremiah said, There is: for, said he, thou shalt be delivered into the hand of the king of Babylon” (Jeremiah 37:16-17). Zedekiah saw Jeremiah secretly. He probably had Jeremiah brought in through the back door at night. Then he asked Jeremiah if there was “any word from the Lord.”

Deep down he knew where God’s word was. But he still deceived himself into believing he could escape God’s wrath. He was wrong. Zedekiah never told the truth to his people. So when the Babylonians conquered Judah, they killed both of Zedekiah’s sons before his eyes! Then they blinded Zedekiah and took him to Babylon.

At some point in this mind-numbing punishment, Zedekiah must have said tearfully, “I should have taken a stand for God.”

God has given His end-time people this revelation through Jeremiah. It’s mainly for us today. If we refuse to submit to God’s inspired Word, then our future will be like Zedekiah’s fate!

The issue is not where God’s Church is. It’s where God is! God wasn’t in the temple, He was in the dungeon with Jeremiah! God’s leader was not in some exalted office. He was in a dungeon! And God was there with him. That is often reality for God and His servants.

The only time we want to be in God’s Church is when God is there. God has removed His lamp from the Laodicean Church, and there is only terrifying disaster ahead for that church!

Only One Work of God

Let’s move now to Jeremiah 26, which is a counterpart to Jeremiah 7. Both chapters deal with two end-time churches of God. “In the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah came this word from the Lord, saying, Thus saith the Lord; Stand in the court of the Lord’s house, and speak unto all the cities of Judah, which come to worship in the Lord’s house, all the words that I command thee to speak unto them; diminish not a word” (Jeremiah 26:1-2). Jeremiah had to speak to all the temple worshipers. We have shown several times that the temple is God’s Church today and that Jeremiah is mainly an end-time book. (See Jeremiah 23:20; 30:24—the word “consider” should be translated “understand.”) So in these latter days, God’s own Church is rebelling against Him. In Jeremiah 26:2, God says we are not to omit one word. That means you never compromise with what God says. Herbert Armstrong often said if there was any reason that he could see why God would use him, it was because he would not compromise one iota with God’s Word. That is why you see so much religious confusion today. Religious leaders continually compromise with God’s Word.

Rejecting God’s Law

“If so be they will hearken, and turn every man from his evil way, that I may repent me of the evil, which I purpose to do unto them because of the evil of their doings. And thou shalt say unto them, Thus saith the Lord; If ye will not hearken to me, to walk in my law, which I have set before you, To hearken to the words of my servants the prophets, whom I sent unto you, both rising up early, and sending them, but ye have not hearkened; Then will I make this house like Shiloh, and will make this city a curse to all the nations of the earth” (verses 3-6). Who did God use to set His law before His people in this end time? Almost all religions reject God’s law today. But Herbert Armstrong didn’t. He set it right before God’s own Church and the world. The world refused to accept that law—and the church Mr. Armstrong founded has done the same thing!

Many religious scholars reason around God’s law today and fantasize that they are right. But God cuts through the scholarly nonsense and labels these scholars as rebels.

“So the priests and the prophets and all the people heard Jeremiah speaking these words in the house of the Lord” (verse 7). What Jeremiah did was only a type of this end-time message. He got right into the temple so the people had to hear his message! God says His true followers will have the same approach today. We must get this message out so Israel, and especially God’s own Laodicean Church, can hear it. God says many of His own people are rebelling in this end time. God always warns them and hopes they will repent and escape the coming Tribulation.

“Now it came to pass, when Jeremiah had made an end of speaking all that the Lord had commanded him to speak unto all the people, that the priests and the prophets and all the people took him, saying, Thou shalt surely die. Why hast thou prophesied in the name of the Lord, saying, This house shall be like Shiloh, and this city shall be desolate without an inhabitant? And all the people were gathered against Jeremiah in the house of the Lord” (verses 8-9).

This message is mainly for today. Jeremiah is discussing a nuclear disaster where cities are left “without an inhabitant”! In Jeremiah’s time, Jerusalem was not left without an inhabitant. But many American and British cities will experience this nuclear disaster in the near future, if they fail to repent! Jeremiah was told to stop the message or die. They told him to shut up or be killed. God’s own temple worshipers in Israel were trying to legally put him to death!

Today, some people get upset with us when we preach the truth. The Worldwide Church of God was so upset, it tried to keep us from printing Mystery of the Ages—God’s truth. That doesn’t shock us. It would shock us if some people didn’t get upset!

We sometimes get accused of having the wrong approach in our message. Of course, that’s what they told Jeremiah and all of God’s messengers. Did that stop God’s leaders? Of course not! We expect some criticism. But we deeply understand that this is Gods message and it must be proclaimed! God commands us to do so!

“When the princes of Judah heard these things, then they came up from the king’s house unto the house of the Lord, and sat down in the entry of the new gate of the Lord’s house. Then spake the priests and the prophets unto the princes and to all the people, saying, This man is worthy to die; for he hath prophesied against this city, as ye have heard with your ears” (verses 10-11). Jeremiah’s worst enemies were in God’s temple! And today our worst enemies are in God’s own Church! That is because our message condemns them for failing to do God’s Work.

“Then spake Jeremiah unto all the princes and to all the people, saying, The Lord sent me to prophesy against this house and against this city all the words that ye have heard” (verse 12). Jeremiah was sent to prophesy against God’s house and Judah. Today we are sent by God to prophesy against God’s own Laodicean Church and the nations of Israel! Both parties are guilty of rebellion against God. We have a mandate from God to proclaim this message! Nobody can stop it. That is because it’s not our idea—it is Gods command.

This message is the only hope for America and Britain. Only this message and their repentance can save them from disaster. “Therefore now amend your ways and your doings, and obey the voice of the Lord your God; and the Lord will repent him of the evil that he hath pronounced against you” (verse 13). If any individual repents, God won’t bring destruction upon him or her. There is no other hope! God’s Laodicean Church and Israel must amend their ways.

“As for me, behold, I am in your hand: do with me as seemeth good and meet unto you. But know ye for certain, that if ye put me to death, ye shall surely bring innocent blood upon yourselves, and upon this city, and upon the inhabitants thereof: for of a truth the Lord hath sent me unto you to speak all these words in your ears” (verses 14-15). If people persecute us, they are fighting against God. Every human being on planet Earth must come to know that God is behind our message!

“Then said the princes and all the people unto the priests and to the prophets; This man is not worthy to die: for he hath spoken to us in the name of the Lord our God” (verse 16). This is an amazing statement. The secular leaders knew Jeremiah spoke God’s truth and they didn’t want to kill him. But religious leaders rejected God’s message and wanted Jeremiah dead. The most hatred for God’s message always comes from the religious sector. Mr. Armstrong is a perfect example of that. While many world leaders and dignitaries respected him, the religious community hated what he stood for.

However, in Jeremiah’s day, the secular leaders’ hatred did intensify as he prophesied (see Jeremiah 37). “Then rose up certain of the elders of the land, and spake to all the assembly of the people, saying, Micah the Morasthite prophesied in the days of Hezekiah king of Judah, and spake to all the people of Judah, saying, Thus saith the Lord of hosts; Zion shall be plowed like a field, and Jerusalem shall become heaps, and the mountain of the house as the high places of a forest” (Jeremiah 26:17-18). Remember, this is an end-time prophecy. God’s Church will be plowed like a field! Do you know what a plowed field is like? It is torn into little pieces. That will happen to God’s Laodicean Church.

The nations of Israel will become like garbageheaps”! These are terrifying prophecies about the nations of Israel, which include America, Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and other democracies of northwestern Europe. Herbert Armstrong preached these prophecies for over 50 years. It’s time for our people to wake up!

“Did Hezekiah king of Judah and all Judah put him at all to death? Did he not fear the Lord, and besought the Lord, and the Lord repented him of the evil which he had pronounced against them? Thus might we procure great evil against our souls” (verse 19). God still calls upon each of us to repent! There is still hope. Repentance doesn’t mean to turn to a deceived Church, but to God’s truth!

Then Jeremiah gets into one of the most sobering and frightening incidents in this book. There was a man named Urijah who also prophesied in God’s name and it got him killed! You need to know why.

Why Urijah Was Killed

“And there was also a man that prophesied in the name of the Lord, Urijah the son of Shemaiah of Kirjathjearim, who prophesied against this city and against this land according to all the words of Jeremiah: And when Jehoiakim the king, with all his mighty men, and all the princes, heard his words, the king sought to put him to death: but when Urijah heard it, he was afraid, and fled, and went into Egypt; And Jehoiakim the king sent men into Egypt, namely, Elnathan the son of Achbor, and certain men with him into Egypt. And they fetched forth Urijah out of Egypt, and brought him unto Jehoiakim the king; who slew him with the sword, and cast his dead body into the graves of the common people. Nevertheless the hand of Ahikam the son of Shaphan was with Jeremiah, that they should not give him into the hand of the people to put him to death” (verses 20-24). Remember, these prophecies are mainly for the end time. There will be Urijahs who will rise up today also! Urijah prophesied in God’s name and against Jerusalem and Judah. But there is no indication he was working with Jeremiah. He probably wanted his own following instead of supporting God’s Work through Jeremiah. That means he really lacked faith in what God was doing through Jeremiah.

Some Laodicean leaders today proclaim many of Herbert Armstrong’s teachings, but reject the Philadelphia Church which God raised up to succeed him! What will happen to them? They don’t have God behind them, so they will panic when real persecution comes. Like Urijah, rather than staying with God and Jeremiah, they run—and it may get them killed!

They lack faith in the living God because they are not supporting His Work. God said He would raise up a work in our day which many wouldn’t believe even when told (Habakkuk 1:5). If we can’t even recognize where God’s Work is, then something is tragically lacking in our spiritual lives!

It’s not enough to be preaching God’s Word and prophecies. All of us must find Christ’s true Work—there is only one—and then back and support that endeavor. Only then will you have the faith and power to stand and fight for God! God will support you only as you support Him and His Work! Jeremiah didn’t run. He was imprisoned, then released by the enemy, Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylon. This could happen to some of God’s people in the end time. The point is, we must know where God’s Work is and never leave it. God will always take care of His loyal people.

Many people know about God’s Word and His prophecies for the end time. But this is not the big issue. The only vision that will save us from physical destruction is knowing where Christ and His Work isthen following it! Only then are you walking by living faith. You must back and support God’s Work, or you could get yourself killed.

Continue Reading: Chapter 6: Laodicean Ministers