Chapter 3

Worldly Scholarship

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

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

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

Rooted in Christ

“As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving” (Colossians 2:6-7). We are told to keep ourselves rooted in what we have received in the past. At the time this was written, the Laodiceans were getting away from what Christ had taught them through Paul. The end-time Laodiceans have gotten away from what Christ taught them through Mr. Armstrong.

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

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

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

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

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

Mr. Armstrong said to the Worldwide Church of God members on Pentecost in 1985: “I perceive that even our ministers, when they preach, take it for granted that the whole goal is to get us into the Kingdom of God; and that’s all we are called for now. … I fear that most of you just don’t get it!” He saw the Laodicean condition! He told us what a Laodicean is.

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

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

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

Deceit Through Philosophy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scholar in the Tabernacle

The book of Malachi is about the Laodicean and the Philadelphian Christians. The Laodiceans make up the majority of God’s people in the end time.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is another comment Mr. Armstrong made in a letter dated March 19, 1981: “We could now qualify for accreditation both at Pasadena and Big Sandy—but we shall not, because the government of the colleges would have to be according to that which is in force in this world’s educational institutions—God’s government would have to go. We already have the highest accreditation of all—that of Almighty God!” (emphasis his).

‘Rudiments of the World’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Attack From Within

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hearing God’s Voice

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

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

Today, the PCG has a television program with weekly access to more than a half-billion people worldwide. We publish a 40-page, full-color, monthly magazine, the Philadelphia Trumpet and a bimonthly Christian-living magazine, Royal Vision. The Church has also produced over 100 books and booklets and hosts several websites, including and Additionally, the Church has a college on two campuses (Edmond, Oklahoma, and Edstone, United Kingdom; at times we operate a third campus in Jerusalem, Israel), a K-12 school, a performing arts center, and a biblical archaeology institute in Jerusalem. All of this is due to the fact that the income has gone from virtually nothing in 1989 to more than $20 million annually as of 2022. God has truly blessed this “little flock.” The fruits are there for all to see.

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

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

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

Rejecting Christ

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Good News

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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