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The Church and the Work, including Ambassador College, grew at an unprecedented rate until 1969. Then serious trouble began. Not everyone in the Church was loyal to the doctrine restored to the Church. During the 1970s, rebellions against Mr. Armstrong and the truth were launched—one in 1974, another in 1979.
These rebellions were prophesied to happen. Jesus Christ warned the Philadelphia era, “Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee” (Revelation 3:9). These are Christ’s own words, printed in red letters.
What is this synagogue of Satan? In the past, many believed it referred to worldly churches counterfeiting themselves as the one true Church. But the truth is, this verse is revelation concerning the Laodicean rebellions that took place during the Philadelphia era of God’s own Church.
God inspired the word synagogue in Revelation 3:9 because the rebels He is identifying claim to be spiritual Jews, but they lie. The word synagogue implies they are God’s people—but they have been led astray by Satan. Even Lange’s Commentary says Revelation 3:9 is discussing God’s Church. The context tells us there are two synagogues, or two of God’s Churches. One is led by God and the other by Satan—but the latter was restrained by God’s government through Mr. Armstrong. For a time, they coexisted side by side within the same organization.
Dr. Herman Hoeh was perhaps the most brilliant, highly educated minister in the Worldwide Church of God. He probably had more knowledge than anyone other than Mr. Armstrong. He wrote and preached God’s truth in a uniquely powerful manner. But he allowed Satan to deceive him in a fundamental way. I have gone back and looked at some of his writings—including what he wrote on the crucial subject of Church history—and I see something dangerously wrong, even in his earlier years. He sat right at Mr. Armstrong’s feet—but there was something about Mr. Armstrong’s writings he didn’t like, and it got him into deep trouble spiritually.
In A True History of the True Church, which he wrote in 1959, Dr. Hoeh made a serious error. This led to other mistakes in the booklet.
You can begin to detect that mistake in the following statement regarding the first-century Church: “The Church of God which had been at Jerusalem was a ‘headquarters church,’ to whom all looked for truth! Other local churches often became confused. Controversies and disputes on certain points entered. It was to the Jerusalem church, now moved to Pella, which had God’s authority, that they all turned” (emphasis his).
In reality, God’s authority wasn’t really in the Jerusalem church. We have to get specific: It was the Apostle Peter who had the authority. Christ made that very clear. Later it was with John at Ephesus. God never said authority was vested in the Jerusalem church. We have to make sure we follow Christ’s structure of government, or we are going to get in serious trouble.
God’s authority in Pasadena was not in the headquarters church—it was in Mr. Armstrong. He was the one sent to do the Work of God. God called others to support him, and they worked under him. But if Mr. Armstrong went to Britain or Ethiopia, that is where the top level of God’s government was. The authority was in the apostle, not in the headquarters church—otherwise, you could go to Pasadena for the final word even if Mr. Armstrong was out of town. We know that is not the way it worked.
Looking again at statements like these from the Church history booklet, I can see now that Dr. Hoeh and some other men in Pasadena were beginning to exalt themselves to Mr. Armstrong’s level.
Dr. Hoeh continued: “In Acts 15:1-2, we read of a dispute that arose in the local churches in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia. In their midst were Paul and Barnabas, both of great authority in the Church. Yet to whom did the brethren turn in order to settle the dispute? To the headquarters church—Jerusalem—where the other apostles and elders were gathered!” Again, that overlooks the office of Peter—and the Head of the Church, Jesus Christ!
“At Jerusalem the question would be considered and decided—why?“ Dr. Hoeh continued. “Because the brethren knew that Jesus had given special authority to His ministers who were at the headquarters church—Jerusalem” (emphasis his). The way he wrote that is not really true. At times I send ministers out from headquarters and give them some special authority to do a particular job. They have the authority God has given to them in their rank and office. But the way Dr. Hoeh wrote this makes it look like all the ministers have special authority if they are from headquarters. That is not what God says or the Bible says!
Anyone who follows the trajectory Dr. Hoeh was on will end up in trouble similar to what he did. It did not end well for him. We must get it right and follow our Head, Jesus Christ!
Dr. Hoeh made his error worse with this reasoning: “Jesus conferred upon His representatives [plural] the keys of the Kingdom of God and authority to guide the Church through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.” That is not true, as we will see.
He continued, “They could ‘bind,’ or forbid certain things; and they could ‘loose,’ or permit certain things.” That part is true if you understand it in the right context. But in Matthew 16:18‑19, Christ said to Peter, specifically, “And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this [R]ock [Christ] I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee [Peter] the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou [Peter] shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou [Peter] shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
Christ said that Peter was like a pebble (Greek: petros), and He, Christ, was the Rock (Greek: Petra). Nevertheless, Christ clearly gave Peter the keys of the Kingdom of God and the authority to bind and loose over all the Work around the world at that time. Only Peter was given the keys of the Kingdom and the authority to enforce them. Christ didn’t say He gave the “representatives” that authority, or the ministers and the elders and the other apostles that authority. Peter was over the whole Church; Christ made that clear.
The keys of the Kingdom are God’s knowledge (e.g. Luke 11:52; Hosea 4:6). The foundational keys are the Sabbath—which pictures 1,000 years of rest after 6,000 years of unrest—and the festivals, or God’s plan of salvation. The keys unlock God’s master plan for the salvation of mankind.
The keys are of no value unless you have the government or authority to implement the truth after God reveals it to the one man He is using—in this case, Peter. All the new revelation for God’s Church was given to Peter (Matthew 16:18-19).
For Dr. Hoeh to talk about “representatives” having the keys of the Kingdom is like Korah saying, We’re all on the same level. We’re all holy. Why do you take all this authority upon yourself, Moses? (Numbers 16:1-3).
Dr. Hoeh went on to say, “In Matthew 18:18, Jesus gives His ministers the authority to make binding decisions, based on the revelation of God [which is given only to His apostle, Ephesians 3:5] and under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, in order to preserve the unity of the Church in love and truth.” You can see in Matthew 18 that the other ministers do have a certain authority to make major decisions—but it is on a different level, on the local level. In the Church today, for example, local ministers occasionally have to put extremely sinful members out of the Church, and then bring them back upon their repentance, and they have the authority to make those decisions in their church areas (that is the context of Matthew 18:15-18). But even those decisions are closely monitored and supervised by the physical head of God’s Church. God’s ministers have to make some major decisions, obviously. But they don’t have the authority over the entire Church that God gave Peter! And the Bible doesn’t say they had the keys to the Kingdom of heaven. Those keys were revealed only to Peter.
Why do you suppose Dr. Hoeh didn’t mention the passage in Matthew 16 about Peter? Was it because he didn’t know it was there? Or do you suppose he knew it was there and just didn’t like what it expressly stated? God is his judge. But whatever the reason, that is a dangerous mistake. We can see that by the fruits.
Dr. Hoeh continued, “The church at Jerusalem was kept pure by the constant admonition and correction of the elders and apostles so that it might be the example to all other churches.” Truly, headquarters should strive to set that example. But notice what Dr. Hoeh added to that statement: “Christians, like all human beings, need to learn by example. … The congregation at Jerusalem, later at Pella, recognizing this responsibility, acted in her capacity. The apostles and elders made the decisions, and they were binding on all other churches ….” Not true! Such thinking ended up destroying the church that Herbert W. Armstrong founded! That is not what Mr. Armstrong taught them.
Peter made the decisions that were binding on all the churches. That is the way God’s government works. It has always worked that way! The apostles and the elders at Jerusalem did not make the decisions for all the other churches unless they were commissioned to do so by the chief apostle, under Christ’s leadership.
Such thinking later fully emerged when the Church moved into its final era, Laodicea, after Mr. Armstrong died. Another prominent wcg minister through the years was Roderick Meredith. The fruits prove that he held many of the same wrong views that Dr. Hoeh did.
When God moved His lamp, or His presence, from the Worldwide Church of God and started the Philadelphia Church of God (pcg), Dr. Meredith rejected that because he could not accept me personally. He said, “If God is going to use someone to succeed Mr. Armstrong, He would use somebody from the headquarters church.” Where does God say that in the Bible? He doesn’t say that at all! But Dr. Meredith clung to that idea, and it is the same thinking Dr. Hoeh had.
I believe those two ministers—Dr. Meredith and Dr. Hoeh—had a major responsibility for that entire church going astray (except the pcg). Herman Hoeh was the number one scholar, and for years, Rod Meredith was over the ministers. Mr. Armstrong later realized that this actually put Dr. Meredith over the Church—that is, those who lead the ministers also direct the Church. The members picked up on that thinking. Satan had another man that he wanted to rule the Church, and succeeded in using him. Those two headquarters ministers helped condition the minds of the members for this evil takeover.
Mr. Armstrong later wrote, “But I made the mistake, unrealizing that mistake, of allowing an office of authority to be injected between me and the ministry and Church!” He was speaking about the office held by Rod Meredith. That did not work; it caused terrible problems in the 1970s. “I knew that God’s form of organization is from the top down. I did not realize that allowing an office of authority to be interjected between me and the Church was contrary to God’s form of human organization” (Good News, June 5, 1978). This is a lesson we must understand deeply. If a man gets between God’s apostle and the Church or the ministry, that cuts Christ off!
Christ rules the apostle and the evangelists and all of us! Christ rules! Christ establishes the government of God! Men do not. God does it, and that is the only way it can ever work!
Dr. Hoeh called Mr. Armstrong an apostle long before Mr. Armstrong called himself one. He called him that for so long, yet he did not submit to God’s apostle! That shows the deceitfulness of human nature. Mr. Armstrong practically reared him spiritually in the Church! What a lack of gratitude toward a man who was his spiritual father and, in many ways, much like a physical father!
Dr. Hoeh’s booklet A True History of the True Church does not teach the true history of the true Church! I see now why Mr. Armstrong rejected it: He saw the basic government problem and a few other problems that flowed from that.
Later, Dr. Hoeh wanted to continue work on his massive doctoral dissertation, Compendium of World History, and Mr. Armstrong said no. But as soon as Mr. Armstrong’s successor, Joseph Tkach, assumed control after Mr. Armstrong’s death, he told Dr. Hoeh to continue it. Even early on, those men were pretty blatant in their rebellion. But as far as I know, the Compendium was never distributed for public consumption. Maybe Christ was behind that—effectively enforcing Mr. Armstrong’s decision.
When Christ speaks of the “synagogue of Satan” in the Philadelphia era, He is talking about people who lie! They came to be led by the father of liars (John 8:44). They lie about the Bible. That will destroy any person spiritually—very quickly!
These “scholarly” men were in the synagogue of Satan, inside the largest Church of God ever. They had so much knowledge, but they were duped by the devil! They were not childlike and teachable. They lost the knowledge of God. This rebellion ended up leading 95 percent of God’s people away from God!
Satan has terrifying power to deceive. We must understand this and stay close to our loving Father for His protection.
Eternal lives are at stake. We must keep ourselves humble so God can correct His beloved sons and keep us on the right path. Then Christ will lead us to conquer the devil as He did (Revelation 3:21).
Dr. Hoeh’s writings and actions clearly show that he wanted all the ministers to be on the same level. He reasoned, Yes, Mr. Armstrong has the leading position, but God is revealing truth to all of us to teach to God’s Church. But that is not what Scripture says!
Mr. Armstrong taught the correct structure of God’s government. Yet many of the leading ministers didn’t really love that government, and they didn’t love God’s apostle. They kidded themselves that everything they were doing was right, but there was something deadly wrong.
Herman Hoeh taught us a lot. He taught us from the very Word of God. But amazingly, before he died, Dr. Hoeh was talking about the “born again” doctrine the same way that born again “Christians” do today—a teaching that Mr. Armstrong (and Dr. Hoeh) had disproved decades before! Once Dr. Hoeh started caving in, Satan forced his ideas on his mind. Satan kept pushing and intimidating and pressuring until he deceived Dr. Hoeh! Once you start caving in to Satan, you start accepting dangerous ideas.
These men had so much knowledge, yet now they dare to simply parrot the doctrines of Satan the devil! What a shameful tragedy!
In studying Church history, I just follow Mr. Armstrong’s reasoning and thinking, based on the Bible. It is critical that we build on the foundation Mr. Armstrong laid for us and that we are in sync with what he said. We do build on that, and God has given us an exciting, wonderful work on top of that—but realize: This man restored all things! Let’s not treat him like he was merely a deacon in the Church! God used him to restore all things! (Matthew 17:10-11). God could use Mr. Armstrong to restore all things only because he was so submissive to the government and law of God.
Looking more closely at what God’s Church wrote about Church history in the wcg and even in the early days of the pcg, I have realized that in writing and speaking on this subject, we have not stuck closely enough to what Mr. Armstrong taught. We have at times veered away by getting too much into worldly scholars, or by just not keeping it focused and simple like Mr. Armstrong did. You just have to get back to what God said this man did: He restored all things. We cannot afford not to use what he restored. This was a magnificent accomplishment on this Earth in the end time!
We do not worship Mr. Armstrong; we worship God—the God who restored all things through him. But unlike Dr. Hoeh and Dr. Meredith, we try to give him the respect that God gave him. Mr. Armstrong made some mistakes, and he repented of them. But he was God’s end-time type of Elijah. He restored the truth. A truly spiritual person can easily recognize that. And that truth should be built upon, not torn down.
Look at what happens when you don’t honor God’s Elijah. The vile fruits are out there for everybody to see.
In 1974, the synagogue of Satan manifested itself in a major rebellion. Misunderstandings about divorce and remarriage and other doctrines caused serious problems. Accusers also said Mr. Armstrong and others at headquarters mishandled funds. Several regional directors, ministers and deacons defected from the Church.
Then, between 1977 and 1979, there was an even larger and more extensive rebellion. After Mr. Armstrong suffered a major heart attack in August 1977, a power struggle began at headquarters in Pasadena. Some wondered who would take Mr. Armstrong’s place if he died.
About this time, ministers with liberal tendencies joined together under a Pasadena executive and began to water down Church doctrine. A “Systematic Theology Project” began without Mr. Armstrong’s knowledge. This project was designed to gradually move the Church into false doctrine. Amid this power struggle, ministers allowed Satan to inject false doctrine into the Church. This damaged the Church tremendously. Christ no longer blessed the Church and the Work. Both stopped growing.
Mr. Armstrong’s heart attack, however, proved very beneficial. It forced him to stop and take stock of the state of the Church and the Work. After recovering, Mr. Armstrong worked for the rest of his life to put and keep the Church “on track.” He courageously reestablished the Church on God’s form of organization. He vigorously attacked the Systematic Theology Project and corrected the Church doctrinally. He fired a number of ministers, including his own son, Garner Ted Armstrong. A few thousand members rallied around the fired ministers. Splinter groups formed. But the Church and the Work began to grow again.
In this robust effort to repair the damage, Mr. Armstrong gave a series of sermons and articles in which he diagnosed the cause of the problem. He confronted the Laodicean root that had entered the Church through liberal ministers vying for power.
“As long as this Church believed and spoke the same thing Christ put in it through His apostle, He blessed it, and it grew 30 percent a year for 35 years,” Mr. Armstrong explained in 1979. “But when my son Garner Ted came to take over more authority than had been delegated to him, surrounding himself with a group of liberals who led him and misled him into watering down God’s doctrines—under their false influence and a Laodicean lukewarmness and indifference, losing the love of God’s truth, found root in the Church. Christ built this Church through His chosen apostle! We did, perhaps imperfectly, but certainly in general, speak the same thing! We grew in Christ’s knowledge and truth as well as in size and scope of Work” (Worldwide News, Feb. 19, 1979).
Mr. Armstrong warned strongly against the Church becoming Laodicean. In a Worldwide News article later that year, he warned, “Today the living Christ, Head of the Church, is setting it back on God’s track, yet these dissidents would have you think Christ’s apostle and even the Church has gone sour—and, like vultures of the sky, they figuratively hover over it, waiting for this, that and the other member to die spiritually, so they may gobble up the remains! They no longer seek to build—they seek to destroy!
“Well, brethren, just where do we stand at the moment? During the past year this Church of the living God has been at least 75 percent set back on God’s track. We are getting frighteningly close to the end of this age. This Church was drifting into a Laodicean condition. Incidentally, both the Sardis and Laodicean eras of the Church were God’s Churches—not Satan’s!
“Someone spread the false rumor that I have said these others were or will be Satan’s churches. The Sardis era in the main had become spiritually dead—had rejected too much of God’s truth—was accomplishing virtually nothing in spreading the true gospel to the world (indeed had no clear conception of what that gospel is). The Laodicean Church will be characterized by spiritual lukewarmness—half of its membership (Matthew 25:1-13) will be shut out of the Kingdom of God.
“But the bad news, as it appears today, my dear brethren, is that we, undoubtedly of the Philadelphia era—my son’s ridicule notwithstanding—are in serious danger of becoming also the Laodicean era. I am personally much concerned about that. If you are not concerned, then indeed we are in mortal danger!
“Satan is pulling out all stops now to destroy this Church of God!” (June 25, 1979).
While Herbert Armstrong was alive, the Church remained on track. The root of Laodiceanism—the synagogue of Satan—was held in check, or restrained (see 2 Thessalonians 2:7). He put the Church on red alert against liberalism and lukewarmness. But events were soon to bring drastic and tragic changes into the Work.
Herbert W. Armstrong died on January 16, 1986. This day will long be remembered by those of a true Philadelphian spirit.
Six days earlier, on January 10, he wrote to the Church: “This is my first letter to you in 1986, and could very well be my last. Now in my 94th year I am in a very physically weakened state, enduring severe pain and with virtually no strength whatsoever. …
“After much counsel and prayer over the past months God has led me in announcing a decision last week to appoint Mr. Joseph W. Tkach, director of Church Administration, to the office of deputy pastor general, to assist me while I am in a weakened state, and should God choose to take my life, to place himself totally in Christ’s hands to lead God’s Church under Christ, succeeding me as pastor general, in the difficult times ahead. …
“Remember, brethren, this is not the work of Herbert W. Armstrong, nor will it be the work of Mr. Tkach, or any man. It is the Work of the living Creator, God.”
When Mr. Armstrong died, many wondered what would become of the Church and the Work. Mr. Tkach’s initial letters to the Church members were full of encouragement. Church members believed that the Church Christ established through Mr. Armstrong would continue in the same spirit. Mr. Tkach was full of high praise for Mr. Armstrong. On January 16, he informed the Church about Mr. Armstrong’s death by letter, and wrote: “God granted Mr. Armstrong 93½ dynamic years, the last 53 of which were fully immersed in doing the Work of God, proclaiming the gospel of the Kingdom of God to a world blinded by the deception of the god of this world, Satan the devil (Revelation 12:9).
“Even in the last year of his life, with declining strength, he completed with God’s help, his most powerful and effective book Mystery of the Ages. This after half a century of articles, letters, booklets, books, sermons and broadcasts, preaching and teaching the truth of God’s Word, of His plan for mankind, of the glorious and radiant future that is the ultimate destiny of humanity. …
“Let us persevere. Let us carry on, redoubling our efforts to draw closer to God in prayer and Bible study, fasting often, and striving to overcome, as well as putting our hearts into doing the Work of God! As Mr. Armstrong so often stated, ‘When our ways please God, He will bless us.’”
On January 19, headquarters sent a transcript of Mr. Armstrong’s funeral service to all Church members. The service was conducted by Herman Hoeh. At the end of this service he stated, “It is our purpose in this January of 1986 to continue Mr. Armstrong’s work, to assure our representatives who are here from many countries around the world that we will continue in our relationship and offer our services, as well as to reach those people whom God may directly call to be trained, to be subject to Christ and to His will, to be imbued with His Spirit and to overcome themselves and to master themselves.”
Mr. Tkach gave the committal prayer at the end of the service. He said, “And now as we close another chapter in the book of Acts and begin a new one, we readily admit and acknowledge that there is no man who can fill his shoes, but, Father, we aim to follow in his footsteps. We realize that of ourselves we’re helpless in all of these matters and endeavors. And we look to you as our source of strength and our power, the one who will guide and direct as you did your late servant.”
By all appearances, the Work Mr. Armstrong had started seemed poised to carry on uninterrupted. But this would soon change dramatically.
The Apostle Paul prophesied a tragic event that would happen to the Church just prior to the return of Jesus Christ. He warned, “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. 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 2:1-3).
Many deceivers were disrupting the Church at Paul’s time, attempting to confuse the people concerning the Second Coming. The one key event Paul described indicating the return of Jesus Christ was a “falling away” from the truth. These verses applied to Paul’s lifetime, but they are recorded for us because they are more applicable today, just before Christ’s return!
This “falling away” happens within God’s Church—not any worldly church. It is no small event. It is a very visible sign—to the Church—of Christ’s imminent return. The Williams translation records the “falling away” as the “great revolt.” Weymouth translates it as the “apostasy”; the New English Bible as the “final rebellion.”
This rebellion became visible within the Worldwide Church of God quite soon after Mr. Armstrong’s death. The leaders at headquarters in Pasadena began departing from the biblical truths Mr. Armstrong had taught. They introduced changes in the Church’s position on a rapidly growing list of important issues.
Soon the growth in God’s Work stopped. As in so many Church eras before, God’s people had allowed themselves to drift away from God and to fail in fulfilling the very purpose for which God had founded the Church.
The prophecy of 2 Thessalonians 2:1-3 was fulfilled before our eyes! Tragically, the revolt against God’s truth and doctrine was led by the very men Mr. Armstrong entrusted to keep watch over the Church.
Paul’s warning about this “man of sin” continued: “Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God. … And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time. For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth [or restrains] will let [restrain], until he be taken out of the way” (verses 4, 6-7).
This is a direct prophecy of a man of sin rising within God’s Church and leading the people to revolt against God and His truth. In the 1970s, while Mr. Armstrong was alive, he “restrained” the mystery of iniquity (lawlessness is a better translation) that was working behind the scenes. When he died (or was “taken out of the way”), the restraint was removed.
Mr. Armstrong spent the last years of his life writing, warning and speaking about holding fast to the truth. He warned the Church not to let the history of the ’70s repeat itself. After he died, history repeated itself on a grand scale. He had specifically warned the Church against becoming Laodicean. Sadly, that is exactly what happened.
The Philadelphia Church of God started on December 7, 1989, in the smallest of ways: with just 12 people. From the beginning, we sought to preserve the doctrines, practices and legacy that God had inspired Mr. Armstrong to implement.
But we had to do more than just hang on to the truth. As He always does, God had an important job for His faithful saints.
The first book we published was Malachi’s Message to God’s Church Today. It provided a detailed, biblical explanation of exactly what was taking place within the wcg. In this book, God revealed the “man of sin,” the “son of perdition” (2 Thessalonians 2:3). Malachi’s Message explains several prophecies of this great falling away from God’s truth in this end time. It provided answers and hope to many thousands of God’s people who were disturbed and confused by what occurred in the Church. (We would be happy to send you a free copy of this vital book; I encourage you to study it carefully and prayerfully.)
God charged us with the responsibility of warning the members of His Church who had allowed themselves to become lukewarm. We worked diligently, using the truth in Malachi’s Message as a major tool, to alert those still in the wcg that the Church of God was now in the Laodicean era.
We watched with astonishment as the truths restored to the Church through Mr. Armstrong were systematically removed. In the early years, the wcg administration and ministers were actually shrouding these changes in deception and outright lying about their existence. Many members were asleep to them. We documented and exposed these changes, hoping to awaken as many people to them as possible.
For just one example, take the Church’s teaching about the identity of modern Israel. Herbert Armstrong considered this one of the most important doctrines established in the Church. It was also a doctrine that came under intense attack during the 1970s rebellion. When Mr. Armstrong later confronted that attack, he explained, “The most resultful booklet of all, The United States and British Commonwealth in Prophecy, was attacked, greatly deleted and later put out of circulation—the same with a number of other basic and important booklets written by Christ’s apostle.
“This group of liberals assumed the authority of setting Church doctrine. The one who primarily wrote the Systematic Theology Project later wrote, ‘My only goal in coordinating the project was to bring doctrinal consistency, stability and unity to the ministry’—that is, unity in watered-down doctrines that older loyal ministers did not and never would accept! That was not unity—it was division!” (Good News, March 1979). Mr. Armstrong often stated that the removal of The United States and Britain in Prophecy represented one of the biggest problems during the 1970s rebellion.
Unsurprisingly, after Mr. Armstrong’s death, The United States and Britain in Prophecy was again attacked. Criticisms began to emerge from headquarters.
Michael Snyder, a former spokesman for the wcg, was interviewed by Watchman Fellowship, a Protestant “cult-watching” ministry. In 1991, Mr. Snyder was quoted as saying, “The Church’s beliefs concerning the modern identity of ancient Israel is currently under review. A two-year research project is underway, which will produce either 1) a summary of historical and theological evidence confirming the belief; … 2) a major clarification of the belief; or 3) a statement in which the belief is completely withdrawn” (Watchman Expositor, “What in the Worldwide Church of God Is Going On?”, Vol. 8, No. 5-sp).
Meanwhile, in a letter dated August 10, 1992, Mr. Tkach Jr. instructed a local minister to “not preach on the topic of Israel in end-time prophecy.” He wrote, “When you stop and consider the significance of Acts 4:12, the teaching of the us&bc [The United States and Britain in Prophecy] has no significance. … In light of the New Testament, and the centrality of Christ in God’s plan of salvation, much of the relevance of our teaching on us&bc is reduced to—so what?’”
But at the same time, Pasadena was giving the impression to its members that nothing had changed. The wcg personal correspondence department produced a letter in May 1993 refuting the pcg’s reporting on the wcg’s doctrinal changes. It said this: “The Church has not announced any change in belief about the identity of the United States and Britain as being populated partly by people descended from the ancient tribes of Israel.”
Such jarring contradictions were happening all the time, regarding doctrine after doctrine, change after change. Though the wcg’s leadership continued to make public statements to members downplaying the changes they were making, the truth was becoming increasingly obvious.
Truth by truth, the biblical teachings that Mr. Armstrong had established in the wcg were systematically dismantled. That Watchman Expositor article made this statement: “Incredibly, in the midst of this doctrinal turmoil, the Worldwide Church of God now considers it to be a ‘misrepresentation’ to quote its founder, Herbert W. Armstrong, as a spokesman for the beliefs of its current membership” (emphasis mine).
This was the end-time type of Elijah who restored all things (Matthew 17:10-11). The leaders were calling God’s prophet a false prophet!
At the same time, the fantastic Work that God had built through Mr. Armstrong was also being destroyed. Church membership and income declined dramatically. The television program was replaced by 30-second advertisements and then discontinued altogether. Circulation of the church’s publications plummeted.
In 1996, I came to realize that God expected the pcg to resume printing and distributing Mr. Armstrong’s most important literature, especially Mystery of the Ages. We published that book and began offering it freely to the public. Soon after, we started printing and distributing more of Mr. Armstrong’s works.
The wcg took us to court for copyright infringement. This exposed the leaders’ true intentions: Not only had they abandoned Mr. Armstrong’s teachings—they wanted to prevent anyone else from accessing them as well! Joseph Tkach Jr. wrote that he considered it his “Christian duty” to eliminate these books from circulation entirely.
Our court battle with the wcg over Mr. Armstrong’s writings lasted six long years. It put us in direct confrontation with the men who had destroyed the Church of God! We came face to face with the people who cast God’s truth to the ground.
One of Christ’s condemnations of the “synagogue of Satan” is that they lie (Revelation 3:9). Now that this “synagogue” had become the Laodicean era, it was even worse. In our court case with the wcg, those leaders told literally thousands of lies! They knew they were lying—and to them it was OK. It frustrated us to no end! (We offer abundant proof of their lies in Stephen Flurry’s full-size book Raising the Ruins. All our literature is free.)
In the deposition process, all the wcg administrators’ lies became a matter of record. Even though the wcg won the case at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, wcg officials didn’t want to go back and have another session in the courts, which would have determined how much we had to pay them. They knew we would drag that information right back out and prove where they were lying! So they decided to settle. They agreed to sell us the rights to all Mr. Armstrong’s works that we were seeking—on one condition: that we give back or destroy all the documents we had accumulated in our court case, which chronicled their blatant deceit. We refused. Eventually they decided to sell us all the copyrights anyway. You can read about the specifics of this miraculous sequence of events in my free booklet Habakkuk.
In the end, God gave us victory. The Philadelphia Church of God gained ownership of the copyrights to Mystery of the Ages and 18 other works by Mr. Armstrong. Going into the court case, we never expected to win the copyrights. Now, we offer the 19 works free of charge to everyone who asks for them!
The court case over Mystery of the Ages was a watershed event that condemned those who were fighting us as antichrists! (1 John 2:18). The Apostle John dealt with antichrists in his day in the first century: There were antichrists both outside and inside the Church. Diotrephes himself was in the Church—and he was kicking the true people of God out of the Church. The same pattern unfolded in our day, during the Laodicean era.
Verse 19 says, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us ….” These people who went out from us were not really with us! We won the copyright battle just a few months after God revealed this antichrist truth to us. That event showed who really was of us and who were the antichrists!
The transition from the Philadelphia era to the Laodicean era of God’s Church was a fiercely painful experience. It shattered people’s faith. It separated families. It destroyed spiritual lives.
In the context of 2,000 years of Church history, it was probably the greatest spiritual disaster that has ever happened to God’s New Testament people. The Church enjoyed its greatest global reach and highest peak of spiritual power! But then Satan the devil took over and decimated the spiritual lives of almost all the dozens of thousands of Spirit-begotten people of God. At the same time, he wiped out the powerful, positive impact on millions of people in the world that God’s Work was having.
Though the number of lives affected by this disaster was greater than probably at any time in the Church’s past, the basic elements of what happened are really a sad repetition of history. As we have seen throughout this book, God’s people have repeatedly succumbed to spiritual timidity, compromise, worldliness and other carnal thinking—and failed to carry out the job Jesus Christ has given them.
Read the powerful message Christ thunders to His Laodicean people: “These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God; I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth” (Revelation 3:14-16).
This is a living, vibrant message for today! Here the great Christ calls on His people to return to their past faithfulness. They have been deceived and are now led by Satan. They have fallen away from obeying God. He wants them to recognize their spiritual lukewarmness. If the Laodiceans don’t repent soon, Christ will spew them out of His mouth into the Great Tribulation, a time of unimaginable suffering that will immediately precede Christ’s Second Coming.
Sadly, the Laodiceans don’t see their critically degenerate spiritual state. Christ continues, “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: I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see” (verses 17-18). The Laodiceans believe they are just fine spiritually. But the great God of the universe says they are “wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked”—spiritually.
The more you think about it, the more you realize how much the Laodiceans destroyed! The Church had 140,000 or more people attending when Mr. Armstrong died. The World Tomorrow program never missed airing for one week from the time it began in 1934 until after Mr. Armstrong’s death. Now this program no longer exists. The Plain Truth has been discontinued. God’s Work was destroyed by those Laodicean ministers. The Living and United churches—the two biggest splinters of the wcg—both reject God’s government taught through Mr. Armstrong. Both of these churches continue to suffer split after split. God is not using them to do His Work.
Look at the work of the Laodicean groups today. Prophetic events are exploding around us—and they have little or nothing to say! They are virtually silent. Meanwhile, our editorial department is producing an enormous amount of material explaining hugely important prophetic events—and yet these events are happening so fast we can barely keep up! Events are unfolding before our eyes that we have been warning about since the pcg began!
The Laodiceans are blind. They do not comprehend what is happening in the Middle East or in Europe. Circumstances are rapidly building toward the clash that will trigger World War iii! Those events are going to lead to the battle of Armageddon and the return of Jesus Christ, just as God revealed to Mr. Armstrong—and the Laodiceans don’t even know it!
No wonder Christ is going to spew them out of His mouth (Revelation 3:16). He cannot use people like that! God says they are like dumb watchdogs—even as beasts surround the house, they just lie there and never bark! (Isaiah 56:9-10).
In the Laodicean era, God has given new revelation only to the Philadelphia Church of God. We have more than 50 books to prove it. Christ speaks to His Church today through new revelation.
Why are the Laodiceans so blind? It stems back to their attitude toward government. They have not kept God’s word, and they have denied His authority, unlike the Philadelphians (Revelation 3:8).
Read this powerful statement within Jesus Christ’s message to the Laodiceans in Revelation 3:19: “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.”
Sometimes God has to correct His people very severely. First, He sends messages of warning, or “rebuke.” If that fails, He begins to “chasten”—using increasingly stronger methods. All of this is motivated by love.
Christ warns that there is great punishment coming for all who do not repent and get back to the Philadelphia standard. Some have criticized the pcg for being too harsh in our criticism of the Laodicean groups. Do they realize how critical Christ is of these groups? He plans to punish them severely.
Christ says to all of His Laodicean people in this end time, “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” (verse 20). Christ was kicked out of the Laodicean Church. Yet through the pcg, He is knocking on each individual member’s door. He passionately wants to reunite His Family! Christ has always worked through men. The Philadelphia Church has been commissioned to knock for Christ and tell the Laodiceans that they are “wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked”! That is God’s loving rebuke. Hearing that rebuke is the Laodiceans’ only hope to escape the Tribulation. Any Laodicean who hears and responds to Christ’s knock and voice can be back in close communion with Him!
Even in this Laodicean era, a Philadelphia work still exists. It is being accomplished by the Philadelphia Church of God. Through the pcg, God has revived every major program and project that thrived under Mr. Armstrong—from the magazines and other publications, to the colleges and schools, to the cultural foundation, auditorium, concert series and other initiatives.
God prophesies that there will only be 10,000 saints by the end of this Laodicean era (Deuteronomy 33:2; Jude 14). This remnant work will be small at best. Still, God does tremendous things through us when we submit to His government! Even though the pcg is a little flock, Christ gives us an open door to deliver His message. The pcg is knocking and speaking for Christ. We have an open door to tell the Laodiceans what is happening. Christ wants them to know! He wants the whole world to know!
Besides warning the Laodiceans, God’s people are also expected to warn this entire world about the Great Tribulation and the Day of the Lord that are about to descend upon them. The political-religious system that Satan has raised up time after time throughout history—the system that has been the number one enemy of the true Church of God over the centuries, the Holy Roman Empire—could burst on the scene in months! Prophecy shows that it is going to plunge this world into the worst period of suffering it has ever endured! (e.g. Matthew 24:21-22; Jeremiah 30:7; Daniel 12:1). And just as has been the case so many times before, Satan is going to use that great false church to come after God’s true Church one last time.
Christ warned us about all of this well in advance. We know it is going to happen.
If we heed His warning, we can turn to Him and be protected from it. Just before the Great Tribulation begins, God will deliver His very elect, those doing His Work today, to a place of safety (Revelation 12:14). Just the physical reward for doing God’s Work is enormous.
Satan has battled God’s true Church throughout its history. This persecution is prophesied to intensify to unparalleled levels. Even today, God’s people experience trials as we do God’s Work in Satan’s world. It can seem quite negative. Yet God is using those trials and tests to motivate us and to drive us forward spiritually!
Mr. Armstrong once said, “This is not just a church. It’s the beginning of a new world!” God is building a new world, and that nation is going to spring up suddenly. People are going to marvel at this wonderful spiritual nation of God’s very elect—the Bride of Christ! (Isaiah 66:8).
God has been building a major part of the foundation of that new world for 2,000 years through His true Church. For those who understand this, it makes a vast difference in their lives and the way they conduct themselves. Anyone who truly grasps that this is the beginning of a new world will have the spiritual strength to endure quite a lot of suffering.
At the end of that period of intense tribulation, Jesus Christ will return. He will assume rulership of the whole world, establishing His headquarters in Jerusalem. The loyal remnant will rule at God’s headquarters forever. Revelation 3:12 says God will place His loyal people from the pcg at headquarters, and they will “go no more out.” We are going to be right there, from where Christ leads the world!
If you repent and become loyal to God, you are going to be a headquarters ruler forever! What a vision! What a reward!
Those who have become casual about this future will lose that reward unless they repent quickly. The Laodiceans who repent during the Great Tribulation will not be near Christ at headquarters because they are not qualifying for that position. The time to qualify is now.
Why are 95 percent of God’s people failing to qualify for that reward? Because what they have is just a church. It is not the beginning of a new world!
Most of the headquarters rulers in the World Tomorrow will come from the three Church eras that taught the gospel around the world: Ephesus, Philadelphia and Laodicea, with the last group consisting of loyal Philadelphians in the Laodicean era. Their efforts to spread God’s message around the world prepared them for headquarters positions. Why? Because they had a world vision. They had global scope! They realized we were here to help change the world and that this is the beginning of a new world! They were thinking about the whole world, not just themselves and their tiny domain. The world vision really motivated them.
The greatest commission God ever gives to men is to take His message around the world and teach people about this new world!
Christ added chapters 2 and 3 to Revelation, along with a few other words scattered in the first and last chapters, to show us how to get ready, how to serve Him and His Father, and how to follow Him and finish this Work. We only have a small percentage of God’s people here to do it right now. But Christ tells us, Just follow me, and we’ll do the Work. This is a once-in-an-eternity opportunity! There will never be another opportunity like this!
Revelation 2:7 says, “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.” God really has a reward for His people who conquer the devil, remain faithful to Him, and do His Work! You can see His other rewards throughout this passage: I’ll give you the hidden manna, and I’ll give you the morning star—Jesus Christ. You’ll be able to marry Him! (verses 17, 28). In Revelation 3:5, God promises, “He that overcometh … I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.” He tells the Philadelphians that they have a crown waiting for them (verse 11). What stupendous rewards!
God’s people need this vision! When Paul was in jail and about to die, the people were sitting around feeling sorry for Paul and moping. But Paul wasn’t moaning and whining. He was thrilled because he had a crown laid up for him in a new world that is about to come! (2 Timothy 4:8). Paul may have been the only one who wasn’t sad. This vision was real to Paul! That was the only way he could withstand the multitude of trials that he had to go through. He was stoned to the point of death, and he came right back the next day, preaching the gospel! That is phenomenal! Something is very different about a man who does that. Nobody in his right mind would stay with a religion while experiencing what Paul had to endure unless he was moved by it and thankful to God that he could be a part of it. Something really motivated him—and what a work he did for God!
Satan knows what this vision can do to a human mind that is converted because he had to deal with Paul and others who had it.
It really is not easy to get people to see this vision. And unless God tries and tests them, they will throw it all away. God is continually asking, Can I get these people in my Family? Could I make them a part of the Bride today? This vision is full of wonder—and when people truly understand it, in just about 100 percent of the cases, 20,000 armies of demons could never stop them! They are 100 percent committed to it because they know it is worth every struggle and trial they have to experience.
For 2,000 years, God has been shaping and preparing a whole host of such passionately committed saints, using the institution of His Church. And very soon, the whole world will be able to see the wonderful fruits of all His efforts!
Right at the end of the book of Revelation—His Father’s book—Christ added a few more words. He wants His people to understand this red-letter message! “Behold, I come quickly: blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book” (Revelation 22:7). Christ is coming quickly!
He repeats that in verse 12—red-letter: “And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.” He is coming quickly, and He will give everybody an individual reward based on his or her work. Every man and woman in the pcg will receive a reward according to his or her effort. Christ is going to put us on a throne with that reward!
Think about how important your work is today! What kind of passion do you do God’s Work with? What kind of passion do you have for this Work and for Jesus Christ, our Head and Ruler?
In verse 20, only four words are Christ’s. He says, “Surely I come quickly.” Three times in this chapter, Christ says He is coming quickly! We are getting extremely close to when our Husband, the Head of the Church of God, comes quickly!
Time is short. The Tribulation is roaring toward us. The Second Coming of Christ will happen in this generation. True Church history is about to open a new chapter with the spiritual birth of the Kingdom of God. Will you be there? You will if you have learned these vital lessons of the true history of God’s true Church!