In The Incredible Human Potential, Mr. Armstrong wrote, “Thereupon this Simon appropriated the name of Christ, calling his Babylonian mystery religion ‘Christianity.’ Satan moved this man and used him as his instrument to persecute and all but destroy the true Church of God. Before the end of the first century—probably by a.d. 70—he managed to suppress the message Christ had brought from God.
“There ensued ‘the lost century’ in the history of the true Church of God. There was a well-organized conspiracy to blot out all record of Church history during that period. A hundred years later, history reveals a ‘Christianity’ utterly unlike the Church Christ founded.
“It had taken the name of Christ and applied it to the Babylonian mystery religion. It had replaced the message Jesus brought from God with a ‘gospel’ about the person of Christ—proclaiming the Messenger but suppressing the entire missing dimension from His message.
“And for at least 18½ centuries the true gospel was not proclaimed to the world”! (emphasis mine throughout). Then came a man by the name of Herbert W. Armstrong who relied on God’s power and preached the gospel to the whole world.
Mr. Armstrong coined the phrase “lost century,” referring to the period from around a.d. 70 to around a.d. 170. (At other times, he used the dates a.d. 50 to 150. These dates are approximate.) It is a period where the history of God’s Church is blotted out, as far as books in the world go. That shows Satan’s tremendous power—much of it administered through the great false church. Mr. Armstrong called this “Satan’s great conspiracy.”
In his June 24, 1983, sermon, “From Sardis to Laodicea,” Mr. Armstrong read a statement from a German theological school that spoke about an “obscure century” in Church history. During that time, a “‘violent contest was going on between two gospels. Some wanted the gospel of Christ,’ which means the same gospel Christ preached, the gospel of the Kingdom. ‘And others wanted a gospel about Christ.’” Which one do you think won?
Mr. Armstrong electrified the whole Church when he first explained about thatlost century.I heard it—and I specifically remember him saying that although secular history didn’t record anything, God did. God ensured it was recorded in several different biblical books—but mostly in the Apostle John’s writings, and specifically in the epistles of John.
That was one of the most memorable and important statements Mr. Armstrong ever made about God’s true Church and its battle with the great false church!
I went searching for a quote from Mr. Armstrong about this, but I couldn’t find it. I had others searching for it. I found one statement from Ernest Martin, another wcg minister who worked under Mr. Armstrong, that said something very similar; he must have gotten it from Mr. Armstrong.
I looked in my file on Church history, and I found a sermon that I gave on November 13, 1986, the year Mr. Armstrong died—and it said exactly what I remembered. Here is what I said about a.d. 70—and I know I got it from Mr. Armstrong or I wouldn’t have said it: “The Church history in the world just disappeared. Because the Catholic Church destroyed all records in the world, one place John records it is in his three letters.”
That is what Mr. Armstrong said, and I just relayed it to the people. I know that I never would have said that unless Mr. Armstrong had said something like that. You have to realize how it would impact the Church and how it would be impressed on your memory when something like that is discussed. That is why I was frustrated that I couldn’t find the quote, even in the pcg’s literature. That was puzzling to me. I did find statements that were close to that, but they didn’t state it like I thought they should. I was certain I was right about that, and I was.
Here is another statement I found that Dr. Martin wrote at least one or two decades before Mr. Armstrong died: “The period from a.d. 70 to 170 has become known as the lost century, as far as New Testament history goes. God has preserved the central history in the pages of the Bible.” That is a dynamite statement. But he said nothing about the Catholic Church destroying that history! He also did not give Mr. Armstrong credit for the above statement!
That “lost century” is an essential, vitally critical piece of history to understand. Why did I find it extremely difficult to find in God’s Church after Mr. Armstrong’s death—even though it had electrified the Church only a few years before?
During the Philadelphia era of God’s true Church there was a synagogue of Satan (Revelation 3:9). Satan’s synagogue almost blotted out “the lost century” revealed truth inside God’s own Church!
Please read that paragraph again.
In this end time, God’s Church is dangerously unaware of Satan’s deadly power. That is why the synagogue of Satan became the Laodicean era.
Mr. Armstrong had to fight and restrain this synagogue of Satan for most of his ministry (2 Thessalonians 2:1-9; this prophecy is fully explained in my free book Malachi’s Message to God’s Church Today).
When Did John Write?
Mr. Armstrong wrote a member letter on February 21, 1974, that, in a way, gives the heart of Church history. It is a good formula to follow to keep yourself grounded in the truth Mr. Armstrong taught.
“Before the end of the first century, the persecution had reduced the true Church,” Mr. Armstrong wrote. “Many members had gone out of the true Church by the a.d. 90s (1 John 2:19). John was warning the brethren against the false ministers (1 John 2:4; 2 John 7, 10, etc.). Soon the false counterfeit church greatly outnumbered them.”
There Mr. Armstrong established the time frame: the a.d. 90s.
Mr. Armstrong talked about all of John’s books—his Gospel, his epistles, and the book of Revelation—being written around a.d. 85 to 90.
People were blotting out the history of God’s Church, and John was working feverishly to preserve that history—mostly in his epistles, but also, to a more general degree, in his Gospel and in Revelation. All of John’s books tell us a lot about what was going on, but we can really peg it all to the epistles, which makes it far more meaningful.
John was battling that great satanic conspiracy. People rose up in the Church and began kicking out those who were loyal to John and truly following God. These people were not only trying to blot out the history, but they were even murdering God’s people! They did kill a lot of them.
That is reality in this world. God’s people must not be naive about that as we proclaim God’s truth. We can’t sneak off into the dark and hide. God wants us to do the opposite: boldly put His message out there! Whatever happens, happens—but we must know that God is with us and will empower us!
God revealed new truth from John’s epistles to me beginning on May 5, 2001. I gave that first sermon about the “last hour” (which John refers to in 1 John 2:18) on that date, which was well into the Laodicean era. John wrote his epistles well into the Ephesus era as well.
Why did God ensure that John recorded this history? He gave His people this truth so we could combat anything that Simon Magus or any other heretic might say!
At this time Peter had been martyred and John was in charge of the Church.
I think we can appreciate this more when we realize what was on John’s mind. He was answering all the questions God’s people had, and it is some of the most inspiring material in the Bible! I am sure this is what Christ talked to him about when they had those long sessions during His earthly ministry, talking to each other so much. Jesus Christ was telling him what was coming and what he would have to do to help God’s people. Christ didn’t just do that to enjoy Himself socially: He was educating John to get this message to the people to save as many of them as He possibly could.
Even more importantly, it was prophecy for the last era of God’s Church—that is, for God’s people right now. You will see that even more in the latter chapters of this book.
Around a.d. 90, amid intense persecution against the Church, the Roman Emperor Domitian imprisoned the Apostle John on the island of Patmos in the Aegean Sea. Tradition tells us about events concerning John’s banishment to Patmos. John was arrested and exiled there because he preached that Jesus Christ would eventually overthrow the Roman government. He received the visions for the book of Revelation on this tiny island.
In Revelation 1:9, John reveals that he was writing from prison. Why? “[F]or the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.” He was imprisoned for preaching God’s message! The word testimony is from the Greek word marturia, which comes from martus, which relates to our English word martyr. All the other apostles had been killed for the same reason!
Revelation 6:9 prophesies about saints of God who are about to be killed for what they believe. The language is the same as in Revelation 1:9: They will be “slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held.” These servants of God will prove themselves loyal unto death. Thayer’s Lexicon defines marturia, “to hold the testimony, to persevere steadfastly in bearing it.” In explaining martus it says that those who held the testimony “after [Christ’s] example have proved the strength and genuineness of their faith in Christ by undergoing a violent death.”
The Roman Catholic Church had a lot of power in those days, and it grew. Look again at the description of that false church in Revelation 17. Besides being called “Mystery, Babylon the Great, the Mother of Harlots and Abominations of the Earth,” it is also described as being “drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus” (verses 5-6). That is reality! And this prophecy tells us that an even bloodier scene will happen again. Anywhere you see God’s true Church, you know that old Babylonian mystery religion is going to come knocking! That is the truth of history. Satan really has tremendous power.
Think about it: Why would God allow His apostles to die? Surely, amid all the persecution, the people thought they needed those men! But God responded, No—you need me! You need to know that I am with you! In too many cases, the people of God didn’t understand that.
We have all the power we need. Jesus Christ Himself is leading His Church! But look what happened after Mr. Armstrong died. The people didn’t see and follow Christ, and everything fell apart.
God really does want to know if we truly love His law and government. He wants to see if we can stand alone with Him—and without another man.
John’s Writings Unique
While on Patmos, John tried to maintain care of the churches in the absence of Peter and Paul. It was difficult. The only way he could communicate was by personal messenger or by letter.
John’s writings were invaluable for a Church struggling to survive. Amid that persecution, John kept reminding people, We actually spent time with the Word of God! We looked upon Him and touched Him! (1 John 1:1). People must have been questioning that, and John brought it right back to their attention, emphasizing that God Himself had come in the flesh! With all the turmoil going on around them, John knew they needed that truth stamped in their memories! Stand up for God! Don’t be afraid of these people. Don’t run from them. Don’t join them. We have God leading this Church!
Trying to encourage the brethren, John wrote, “Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time” (1 John 2:18). In a later message he warned, “For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist. Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward. Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son” (2 John 7‑9). John wanted the people to deal with stark reality.
John wrote his Gospel account to help the people ward off deception. It is unique among the Gospels. It gives great insight into Jesus Christ’s many private conversations with John, who would live much longer than the other leaders for a special work. It reveals His deepest thoughts, prayers and emotions. It explains Christ’s prior history as the Logos, or Spokesman, of the supreme Godhead.
Despite his efforts, however, God’s Church was in grave danger. Only a few loyal ministers could be trusted. In a third letter, John revealed that one apostate minister was even casting true Christians out of the Church (3 John 9-10). Certain ministers had rejected John’s authority. Those who did want John to be in authority were put out of the Church. God’s people, loyal to the truth, and the original apostles, were now cast out.
Why No ‘Amen’?
John’s third epistle does not end with “Amen.”In my old Bible notes from Ambassador College, I wrote that the reason John cut the letter short was that God didn’t want the church conspiracy revealed at that time; He didn’t want John to go on and write that the great whore was rising in Rome. This also shows that Mr. Armstrong was talking about this conspiracy and how John was battling it in these epistles.
Again, Mr. Armstrong explaining about that great conspiracy made a huge impression on many of us. He knew how to convey his message. He spelled it all out and told us how it was revealed in John’s epistles. It galvanized the Church. It was so stark and striking that I vividly remember it to this day.
In his article “Where Did the Twelve Apostles Go?” Dr. Hoeh wrote: “And why was the short letter of 3 John missing an ‘Amen’? Let John himself tell us, ‘I had many things to write, but I will not with ink and pen write unto thee’ (verse 13). John reveals, in the letter, a pagan conspiracy. It was a diabolical attempt by Simon Magus and his false apostles to seize the name of Christ, gain control of the true Church, and masquerade as ‘Christianity.’ God did not permit John to make known, in plain language, the names of the leaders of that conspiracy, and the city of their operation. That is why John cut his letter short. The missing ‘Amen’ is to tell us to look elsewhere in the Bible for the answer. It is described, if you have eyes to see, in Revelation 17, Acts 8 and many other chapters of the Bible” (Plain Truth, May 1964).
He is talking about what Mr. Armstrong said about the epistles of John. Isn’t the truth about what happened during that lost century electrifying? Shouldn’t that be something the ministers of the Church talked about a lot?
Sadly, Dr. Hoeh and the other ministers didn’t properly follow up on what Mr. Armstrong said as they should have. I didn’t recognize it at the time, but they almost caused that truth to be lost! Dr. Hoeh did not even write about it in his booklet A True History of the True Church. Now we can look back and see what happened.
Exposing Simon Magus
Ernest Martin wrote about Simon Magus in a way that reinforced what Mr. Armstrong said. In a September 1964 Good News article, he wrote, “While the book of Acts gives us the key which shows the beginnings of the false religious system under Simon Magus, it does not describe its activities in any great detail. The Acts, however, performs its purpose in exposing who started the whole mess. God leaves it to the epistles, Revelation and also the Gospel of John to describe the heresyin detail. We are certainly not left in doubt concerning its abominable teachings.”
Notice this remarkable statement: “There is hardly an epistle that does not mention the religion of Simon Magus. Even the scholars who have studied Church history have clearly seen that almost all of the references in the New Testament epistles exposing the errors in the first age of the Church are directed exclusively to Simon Magus or his immediate followers.”
Dr. Martin then quoted church historian Philip Schaff, who wrote: Simon Magus “unquestionably adulterated Christianity with pagan ideas and practices, and gave himself out … for an emanation of God. Plain traces of this error appear in the later epistles of Paul (to the Colossians, to Timothy, and to Titus), the second epistle of Peter, the first two epistles of John, the epistle of Jude, and the messages of the Apocalypse to the seven churches ….
“This heresy, in the second century, spread over the whole church, east and west, in the various schools of Gnosticism” (Apostolic Christianity: History of the Christian Church).
Then Dr. Martin writes, “But to single out the one apostle who seems to have made the most deliberate and planned attack on the false Christianity of Simon Magus—we must look to John.”
“Take [John’s] Gospel for instance,” Dr. Martin continued. “While he records a history of Christ’s ministry, he has an entirely different approach to the subject from the other three.
“John wrote late. Times had changed. John knew that the teachings of Christ were being corrupted by a well-known plot to destroy the truth. To understand John’s approach to his Gospel we must be aware of his endeavor to expose this false system which had arisen and was gaining momentum.
“Notice how John constantly hits at the necessity of keeping the commandmentsof God. Why? Because the false system was preaching libertine doctrines.” Libertine typically means just sexually promiscuous. But in reality, that false system was preachingmanylawlessdoctrines. (Ernest Martin also got off into such thinking, and later ended up leaving the Church many years before Mr. Armstrong died! He started his own church, trying to get people to look to him.)
He continued, “Also, John’s epistles are jam-packed with specific information regarding the conspiracy to overthrow the truth. But yet, none of these works of John mentioned above represent his lastefforts to warn the Church of that conspiracy which was very much present. John’s last witness to God’s Church before his death was the book of Revelation.
“Christ gave His last written message of warning of this system through John in Revelation! He tells us specifically the very names of the system to watch in a remarkable and hidden way. Hidden, and yet so plain once the keys are understood. God certainly does not leave His Church in the dark.”
This is all true. Dr. Martin showed how each of these biblical books supplies a different piece of the puzzle regarding this false church. “While Acts describes the beginning of the false system; the epistles nail down its doctrines and describe its activities; the book of Revelation next comes to the foreground showing the false system’s prophetic history through all eras of the Church. We must remember that Revelation intends to show us ‘things which shall be hereafter.’ This is its duty—and it marvelously performs what it was intended to do.” This is foundational truth that was revealed to Mr. Armstrong. But Ernest Martin never gave Mr. Armstrong any credit!
Let’s look more intently at some of John’s writings to see how he directly confronted the false teachings of Simon Magus’s counterfeit Christianity.
Battling the Trinity Doctrine
Satan introduced the false concept of a trinity within the old Babylonian religion, with Semiramis and Nimrod and Horus. That is where Simon Magus got that doctrine.
John was the only biblical writer who talked about Christ, the Son of God, being the Word. Jesus Christ had given John special instruction; surely John’s statements about the history of the Word, or Logos, came from those conversations.
The Word is mentioned in John 1:1, 14; 1 John 1:1 and Revelation 19:13. This is a wonderful vision, inspiring from beginning to end. There was God and the Word, then the Word came to Earth and became the Son, and God became the Father, and we have the Family of God. This is the gospel of God, and it is all about family!
If you look closely, you will see that the discussion of this truth was a direct assault by the Apostle John on the great false church.
The trinity doctrine destroys the gospel. It destroys the truth about the God Family. Simon Magus and his satanic trinity doctrine claim that the Godhead is a little triangle, and it is closed—not open to anybody. But the truth of the Bible is that God is opening up His Family to all mankind! God wants Family—and eventually, billions and billions of people will become sons of God! Every person who has ever lived will be given an opportunity to be in God’s Family. Those who have never known God will rise up again in a physical resurrection (e.g. Revelation 20:5, 11-12; Ezekiel 37:1-14; for more information, request our free reprint “The Three Resurrections”). This truth is incredibly inspiring. But Satan doesn’t want that future opened up to us. He hates that because he never had the chance to become a begotten son. And so, the great satanic conspiracy to cover up this mind-staggering truth began with Simon Magus in a.d. 33.
I am convinced that John’s understanding of the Logos came as a result of his talking directly to Christ. Jesus spent a lot of time with John because He knew the rough time John would face throughout his long life. He wanted John to understand this truth so he could combat everything that Simon Magus threw at him.
John 1:1 says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Here John is talking about this vision again. He clearly says there are just two God Beings. There is no third one there—no trinity. John was making it very simple and clear.
Verse 14 continues, “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” Again, there is the Father and the Son: family—not trinity. John said this over and over: Father, Son—Father, Son. It is a mind-staggering, awe-inspiring message.
Verse 18 says that Christ came and declared the Father. It is all about family! The gospel is the good news of the coming Family of God that will administer the government of God. It reveals that man is here to become born sons of God into that Family. God the Father and Jesus Christ have invested just about everything in making that possible!
John devastated the trinity doctrine of Simon Magus. John saysFatherandSonover and over again. He also talks in great depth about the Holy Spirit being a power—not a person—and how it empowers us. How could anyone read what John has written about these subjects and still believe something like the trinity doctrine?
Here is another reference from John about the Word: “And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God” (Revelation 19:13). God in the flesh came to Earth and spilled His blood so we might be in the Family of God. That proves how seriousGod is about opening up the Family of God to human beings! God the Father paid a great price for us to be here. Jesus Christ had to suffer to make all this possible! So when we suffer, that is OK. It is what we need in order to build a godly mind and godly character—and even so, we don’t have to sacrifice to nearly the extent that they did.
Christ even died for those who were deceived by Simon Magus’s bitterness and lawlessness. He will still give them an opportunity to be a part of His Family. Romans 11:31-32 say that God in His mercy concluded them in unbelief. That means they didn’t understand and can be forgiven. God did that in His mercy—even though this world scorns and scoffs and spits on Him! He has mercy on them in spite of what they have done, in spite of how they worship the devil. This is our God of love!
The Samaritan Woman
Before the disciples received God’s Holy Spirit, they received some hard correction at Jacob’s well in Samaria, recorded in John 4. None of the other Gospel writers mentioned this, probably because they didn’t understand it. But Christ made sure John remembered and understood this event.
When Jesus came into the area, He spoke to a Samaritan woman—something the Jews would not do. She recognized that He was a Jew, and she was startled. “How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria?” she asked (verse 9). Her reaction gives an idea of the poor spiritual condition of the Jews! Even Christ’s disciples, who were steeped in that education, had to be straightened out. When they saw Christ talking with this woman, they marveled. Why was Jesus talking to that woman—that dog? they wondered in their hearts.
Mr. Armstrong gave some marvelous insight into this incident in the October-November 1978 Plain Truth. He went back to the origins of the Samaritan people: the fact that when Assyria conquered Israel and exiled the Israelites from this region, it placed people of the Babylonian mystery religion there. “In the time of Christ these Samaritan people were still there. Their religious leader was Simon the sorcerer,” Mr. Armstrong explained—“the ‘Peter’ (or pater, father, papa, leader) of the Babylonian mystery religion.”
He then wrote, “I gave you this incident at the well in Samaria because there is some reason to believe that this woman was at the time living with Simon the sorcerer, founder of the world’s largest religion. (If there were not some special significance attached to her, why would God have mentioned her in the Bible?)”
I believe Mr. Armstrong’s deduction is correct. Simon Magus was a lawless man and probably lived in a lawless relationship with this Samaritan woman! If you know anything about God, you know He carefully plans everything. It wasn’t just happenstance that Jesus Christ started to talk with this woman. This is God! He doesn’t plan like we do—He plans like God!
I don’t think you even need a lot of proof here to make a strong case that this lady, if she wasn’t living with Simon, must have known him (Acts 8:10). God used this woman to give a warning to Simon and all his followers. The woman tried to prove to Christ that their religion was the true religion. Christ told them, “Ye worship ye know not what”! (John 4:22). Christ’s discussion with this woman shows how wrong their religion was. He said it was worthless!
But still Christ worked with this woman because most of the Samaritans will be in God’s Family in the future. The Jews called these people dogs—yet we are all “dogs” until we come into the Family of God!
Christ gave this woman a lot of time and a lot of instruction. He talked to her about the Holy Spirit, calling it “living water.” Christ told the Samaritan woman that if we drink of the living water, it will be “a well of water springing up into everlasting life” (verse 14). He wanted all of us to understand that with this living water, we can face anything. He said, “If thou knewest the gift of God,” referring to the Spirit (verse 10). Here is the Son of God talking to this carnal-minded woman about the Holy Spirit, not the spirit of the devil. Why would He say that when He knew the Holy Spirit was not yet given? It probably had something to do with the later incident when Simon Magus tried to connive to somehow get that power in his life. Simon observed that there was real power in the Holy Spirit. Maybe this Samaritan woman recognized this power in Jesus Christ and told Simon about it.
Christ knew that Simon Magus’s church would kill more people than any other organization—and that it would repeatedly kill God’s own saints! He wanted to warn the followers of that religion!
Jesus Christ told the Samaritan woman, “But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Fatherin spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him” (verse 23). He told her to worship the Father in spirit and truth. The truth is the Bible, yet this false church says its traditions come first, before the Bible. Such traditions are a lot of human reasoning that will always lead you into Satan’s deceptions.
“The woman saith unto him, I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all things. Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee am he” (verses 25-26). This lady must have received the shock of her life! She was talking to the Messiah. The prophesied Messiah was right in front of her, and He told her that she was not worshiping in truth. Surely she would have discussed these things with Simon.
Christ was talking to this woman in order to fight the great satanic conspiracy that was about to take root through the work of Simon. And John recorded it in his Gospel to ensure it was preserved as that conspiracy unfolded.
John’s Focus on the Law
John kept emphasizing the law in his epistles because he was dealing with lawless people, in the Church and out! “And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (1 John 2:3-4).
Bible commentators are agitated by John because he was into “legal law.” They recognize that John was very legal-minded. Of course he was! Simon Magus and his followers were teaching that the law was done away and that people no longer had to keep it. John countered that by teaching that you had better be ready todiebefore you break that law! That is the level we all have to achieve spiritually.
1 John 3:1 states, “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God ….” Behold, take note! We are sons of God! And a son honors his Father by obeying His law and walking the way Christ walked.
There is a Father, and if we have the Holy Spirit, we are His begotten sons and will be born into the Family of God! What else could possibly matter?
Simon Magus came along and tried to destroy that beautiful truth with the trinity doctrine. That is what John was battling. We have that same fight today, even with some of God’s own people. But soon we are going to dispense with the trinity doctrine forever!
There really is a Father, and there really are sons! We really are going to be born into the Family of God. Forget the satanic nonsense of being “born again” in this world—we are going to be born again into the Family of God! We must never treat that casually.
Do you think John—who laid his head on the bosom of Christ, who talked to Him for many hours and got to know Him deeply—would let some twisted pervert full of bitter gall take this truth away from him?
If we really get to know what John knew in all of its depth, we almost certainly will never let anyone take us away from our Father!
“Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law” (verse 4). John gives this wonderful vision about sons of God—“we shall be like him” (verses 1-3), and then starts to talk about the law. God knows that we will not purify ourselves and follow His law and government unless we have thatvisionabout the God Family in our minds. But if we have that in our minds, we will purify ourselves and be thankful to God that we have the opportunity to do so.
We must get this vision across to people, and then they will say, Oh, yes, I see. I understand what I have to do.
“And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight” (verse 22). God will answer our prayers in the smallest of ways. Whatever you ask, if it is good for you, your Father is going to give it. But notice: We receive of Him because we keep His commandments.
God’s true Church is the only place on Earth with God’s government that truthfully teaches the law. What a blessing to be here!
Love in the Truth
Simon Magus and his followers said they were motivated by love, and they talked often of love. But they didn’t love “in the truth”! (2 John 1). They had another love, which wasn’t agape—God’s love. That history is also prophecy for today’s false religion: People out there speak of love, but they do not understand love in the truth.
John 17:17 says God’s Word is truth. If people will look deeply into God’s Word, they will not fall for the sloppy counterfeit taught by men of Simon Magus’s ilk.
You see false love in politics all the time. Politicians promise to undertake initiatives for poor people, for example. They will promise people anything in order to get elected. They often hijack the tax system in a way that encourages lawlessness and sloth. People believe these short-sighted leaders and cast their votes accordingly—and it wrecks the nation! Such misguided thinking also motivates soft-headed foreign policy, fruitless negotiation, and appeasement of dangerous regimes. Because of such thinking, this world is about to explode before our eyes!
The Bible is a book about God’s love. God is love. So don’t we have to know what love is? If God is love and we know God, we have to know what love in the truth means. If you do not have that love, you are wasting your life.
God’s Church has the truth. We are telling the world not only that World War iii will happen, but also why, and what an individual has to change in his life if he wants to be part of leading the new world to come at Christ’s return. What a wonderful and epic calling this is!
“For the truth’s sake, which dwelleth in us, and shall be with us for ever” (2 John 2). The truth dwells in God’s people. The Bible dwells in us and will remain in us forever if we let God work with us.
John continues: “Grace be with you, mercy, and peace, from God the Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love. I rejoiced greatly that I found of thy children walking in truth, as we have received a commandment from the Father” (verses 3-4).
What a beautiful scripture. It contains another of John’s trinity-destroying statements about the Father and the Son. Then John, exuding God’s love, says, I rejoiced greatly that I found your children walking in truth.This was God speaking through John! John loved those people, and he loved God. He knew the Father rejoiced greatly every time a son walked in His truth, and John thought just like God in this respect. The thing that made John happiest was to see God’s people walking in truth. What a powerful example of loving in truth!
3 John 3 also says John “rejoiced greatly, when the brethren came and testified of the truth that is in thee, even as thou walkest in the truth.” Does this resonate with you? That is real spiritual depth. This was John’s life. The Bible was alive to John. God’s Family was John’s family.
Try the Spirits
Christ really prepared the Ephesus era through the ministry and the writings of the Apostle John. But we need to remember that His end-time message is primarily for God’s very elect today. God revealed this new truth from John’s epistles to me for us! We need this information to deal with the trials ahead. (We would be happy to send you a free copy of The Last Hour, my booklet about John’s epistles.)
We have to let the Apostle John prepare us to survive during this last hour. John prepared the Ephesus era for intense persecution, but keep in mind that his writings are designed primarily to prepare us for what is ahead in this end time.
John wrote, “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1).
How do we “try the spirits”? John continues: “Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is [coming] in the flesh is of God” (verse 2). The Spirit of God is active—it is coming in the flesh of God’s true servants. Jesus Christ is manifest in them. God says that is the monumental difference between false prophets and true prophets.
How can you tell the difference? We have to be spiritually sharp to recognize it. The people of God know when Jesus Christ is coming in the flesh. We understand it, and we are continually learning to understand it more profoundly.
In John’s day, people had started talking about the “holy father” on this Earth. They were saying that there is now a man in the place of Christ.No there is not—not then and not now! The Head of this spiritual organism is Christ, and it always has been! Satan was (and is) trying to put a man in the place of Christ.
What a battle John had on his hands! “We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know wethe spirit of truth, and the spirit of error” (verse 6). What a profound statement!
Those are the two ways of life. We have to go beyond just knowing truth and error, and learn to identify the spirit of truth and the spirit of error. The world cannot discern that. For example, the great false church of the world looks like a lamb, but speaks like a dragon (Revelation 13:11)—yet over a billion people follow it.
John was trying to get the people of his day to see and understand it, but it is mainly a prophecy for you and me today!
God always gives us what we need if we are receptive to it. He always looks after His Family if they are obedient and loyal. Through John, God was going after His Family in the face of satanic deception. Even in a physical family, if you have a child in serious trouble, you take care of him. You do everything you can to the point of sometimes even giving your life. How much more does God the Father love His Family? John’s epistles prove the depth of God’s love for His wayward people.
3 John 9 shows what damage a false minister can do. There John says, “I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not.” Here was a minister—apparently a regional director—who loved to be “number one.” Diotrephes, like Simon Magus, wanted to be in the spotlight instead of putting Christ and God the Father there. We have seen such men in God’s Church in the end time as well.
“Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth, prating against us with malicious words …” (verse 10). Even though he wasn’t there at the time, John discerned that this leading minister had come under the influence of another spirit.
John said Diotrephes was “not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the church.” This man’s decision to cast members loyal to the truth out of the church parallels what happened to us in this end time. That was a prophecy for us. We were cast out of the church because we looked to the elder who built the Philadelphia era. Diotrephes was a type of an end-time antichrist inside God’s own Church!
John was God’s last original apostle—Church enemies had killed all the others—and Diotrephes hated the people who followed him. John had been instructed directly by the Word, yet Diotrephes still thought he knew so much more. But he was traveling straight toward eternal death.
John said he would set things straight if he came. This indicates that John may have been in prison when he wrote this letter. All the trials and persecution John was enduring at this time would leave almost any person somewhat shaken. Yet he had such a wonderful, extremely inspiring attitude. In the midst of such a severe Church crisis, it would surely have taken something like being in prison to keep John away.
Maybe he was on Patmos even while writing these epistles. You know the loyal members were praying for John to come and help them. But God said, No, I’m not going to send John. It’s time for you to stand with me. It’s time to see if you can follow the real Leader of God’s true Church—Christ—when the Apostle John is not there with you!
Peter and the other apostles were not around to help. This remaining apostle was somehow tied up and couldn’t get to the people. And God essentially said to each member, You’ve had all this precious knowledge that John has given you—depth on top of depth on top of depth. Now apply it, and everything will work out! Will you stand with me?
Although John was undergoing extreme trials, he wrote marvelously uplifting letters. He was facing enormous problems, and God wouldn’t even allow him to go where many of the brethren were, who were also being severely tested. Why not? Because He didn’t know how many of them would ultimately choose life. Instead of allowing John to go jolt them out of their confusion, God essentially said to the individual Church members, It’s time that you understand and follow me! I want you to take a stand for me! God is in the business of building more than just one leader—He is building an entire Family of leaders!
Do you have enough depth and enough character to remain loyal to the truth even in the midst of fiery persecution? Does the vision of God’s plan burn in you so brightly that you can stand with God even if a minister is not around to guide you? Do you deeply understand that if Christ lives in you, you have nothing to worry about—and that you have life? (1 John 5:12).
John gave them truth—and he has given it to us—to answer any of the critics. Nobody should be deceived by the teachings of Simon Magus. If you are able to discern the spirit of truth and the spirit of error (1 John 4:6), then you will not follow after arrogant, deceived men who love to be in the spotlight.
Why did God allow Mr. Armstrong to die? Because He wanted to know how each individual member would respond. He has chosen not to peer into the future to know our ultimate outcomes. We thought people were committed to God, but after Mr. Armstrong died we found out that they didn’t deeply believe much of what he taught. God wanted to know what each of us really believed.
God wants to know what you believe. He wants to know what is in your mind and how much you know about Him. He wants to measure the depth of your understanding. He wants to know if each of us trembles at His word.
John’s Final Days
John was released from Patmos around a.d. 96. He finished his final years at Ephesus. Near the end of his life, John worked hard to strengthen the members and encourage them to remain steadfast in the truth. John saw to the training of some very effective leaders. He and the others soon understood that Christ would not return in their lifetime.
Tradition tells us that John lived to be an old man. When he died, the Ephesus era ended. But the Church did not die. It survived as Christ had promised (Matthew 16:18). The faithful men whom John trained kept the truth alive. Revelation 2 and 3 reveal that the Church would endure through six more eras.