Chapter 1

First-Century Parallels

From the booklet Colossians: First-Century Parallels
By Gerald Flurry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Warning Message

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

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

It appears that Satan’s plan was to: 1) attack Paul, 2) attack the other ministers (we’ll see that shortly), 3) battle with the other church members. Through the book of Colossians, we see that Satan had a definite plan of attack. We are given specifics of how Satan attacks and destroys God’s Church.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rich and Increased With Goods

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

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

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

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

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

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

Another Gospel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sons of God

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

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

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

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

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

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

Father—Central Figure

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Another Jesus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That good news ought to keep us inspired forever!

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

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

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

Continue Reading: Chapter 2: The Mystery of God