Chapter 3

Beware of Enemies

From the booklet Ezra and Nehemiah—Building God’s Temple

Why does God have a temple and a work? God had a second temple built primarily to bring joy and inspiration to the people. God does everything for the benefit of mankind.

At the end of Chapter Two, we quoted Ezra 3:10-11. Notice that the priests sang after the “ordinance of David king of Israel.” It was King David who institutionalized praise for God. Throughout his long life, David had grown to love God very deeply. He knew of God’s great love for mankind. He knew that men should praise God because of all of His “wonderful works” (Psalm 107).

One of the main jobs of God’s ministry is to build a temple of praise, joy, happiness and love. The Church is God’s temple. We are God’s Family. God is full of happiness, joy and love. Do our congregations have these attributes? A temple such as this can only be built by true, effective leadership. True leadership is setting an example in obeying God’s law. True leadership involves administering God’s government in love. Effective leadership is loving and serving God’s people. Jesus Christ said, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). Jesus Christ dedicated His life to the needs of others—so must all of God’s ministers. As God’s ministers, we must ensure that we create a climate of praise, joy, happiness and love in our local areas.

God’s ministers must be on guard against bringing sadness into our congregations. Sadness in our people could be the result of the misuse of government. When a minister begins to go sour, God’s people begin to suffer.

Just look at the results of the Laodicean ministers. They have brought deep sadness, misery and tragedy into the lives of many of God’s people through the abuse of government. As Malachi prophesied, they are not only sinning, they are also causing God’s people to “stumble at the law” (Malachi 2:8). Breaking God’s laws and abusing His government can never bring happiness! Christ gave ministers ample warning about hurting God’s “little ones.” He said, “But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea” (Matthew 18:6). All ministers must learn to use government properly.

Adversaries of the Work

God’s ministers must also learn to detect enemies of the work. “Now when the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard that the children of the captivity builded the temple unto the Lord God of Israel; Then they came to Zerubbabel, and to the chief of the fathers, and said unto them, Let us build with you: for we seek your God, as ye do; and we do sacrifice unto him since the days of Esar-haddon king of Assur, which brought us up hither” (Ezra 4:1-2). Notice here that at the time of the second temple project, some people were claiming to be seeking God. Some were claiming a desire to be a part of the work. They seemed very sincere. They had “love.” They wanted to get together with the Jews and be spiritual. In reality, they were enemies to the work of God.

The true but sad history of God’s Church has always been that some people in our midst are actually enemies, feigning a cloak of fellowship, with the sole intent of destroying the work. As builders of God’s temple, we must grasp this reality. It should never be our goal to prevent people from fellowshipping with God’s Church. However, we must be ever watchful of “adversaries.” God does not expect us to seek fellowship with all people that profess to be “seeking God.” The wcg is pursuing fellowship with all who say they are seeking God. They have compromised Church doctrine to do so. Far worse, they have destroyed God’s temple in the process.

Weakened the Hands

Let’s look at how Zerubbabel dealt with some deceitful people who wanted to “fellowship” with the Jews. Zerubbabel and the chief men of Israel could detect their deceit. Zerubbabel knew how to handle such adversaries. “But Zerubbabel, and Jeshua, and the rest of the chief of the fathers of Israel, said unto them, Ye have nothing to do with us to build an house unto our God; but we ourselves together will build unto the Lord God of Israel, as king Cyrus the king of Persia hath commanded us. Then the people of the land weakened the hands of the people of Judah, and troubled them in building” (verses 3-4). Zerubbabel was quite blunt with these people. He told them very directly that they had no part with the work of God.

From time to time, God’s ministers must also deal with adversaries who do not want to really follow God. God definitely opens the door of His temple to people willing to follow His ways. But He restricts those who fight against His purpose. Although this fact is often misunderstood by many, it is a biblical principle to prevent our adversaries from hurting the work. For some, fellowship should be restricted!

God uses men to do His work on this Earth. So does Satan the devil. He will plant people within our congregations to disrupt, harm and destroy the work of God. It generally does not take long to determine who should fellowship with us and who should not. Eventually, some people’s true motives come to light.

Follow the story closely here. Verse 4 shows that the people who said they sought the same God—the people who so much wanted to be a part of the temple project—the people who were so sincere—began stopping the rebuilding project. Verse 4 states that they “weakened the hands of the people of Judah.” The word weakened in Hebrew means “to relax” or “to lose courage” (see Gesenius’ Lexicon, number 7503). That is exactly what Satan wants all of God’s people to do—relax! Look at what Satan has done to the Laodiceans. They are doing a great job of relaxing. They have also lost courage in guarding true doctrine. It takes a lot of courage to build and maintain God’s temple in this world. God’s true, spiritual temple is founded on doctrine (1 Timothy 3:15). God’s ministers must make sure that all members of the local congregations are striving to live by Church doctrine and obey God’s laws. God’s true Church has always had its enemies. History shows that our adversaries have always tried to work from within our own ranks. We must maintain a careful, spiritual watch over our flocks.

Mr. Armstrong set us an example to follow in this area. The wcg refuses to follow his example and look at the shambles that Church has become. The pcg will continue to strive to follow Mr. Armstrong’s high standards. Mr. Armstrong was well known for his kindness and graciousness to all people. But he was also tough like Zerubbabel. He knew how to deal with adversaries.

The Building Project Stopped

Notice what those people did when Zerubbabel did get tough with them. They “hired counsellers against them, to frustrate their purpose, all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia. And in the reign of Ahasuerus, in the beginning of his reign, wrote they unto him an accusation against the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem” (Ezra 4:5-6). They went to war against the Jews. Study verses 7-10. They used the legal systems of their day to stop the work of God. It is obvious that they exerted pressure at the highest levels of government.

Zerubbabel had to deal with enemies in his day. The pcg is also going to have to deal with enemies today. We must face the reality that there are crises coming for this Church. The Milwaukee Journal published the following ad for a powerful religious organization in its Parade magazine on April 17, 1994: “It’s fairly easy to dismiss with a smile the eccentric characters who dress strangely and carry signs about repentance and the end of the world. But what of those other apostles who do not dress strangely, yet come to us in a deadly serious way and quote Scripture to support their most frightening predictions?

“Well, maybe we need a little frightening. On the other hand, they may be making Scripture say things it was never meant to say. Consciously or unconsciously, they may even be getting in God’s way as He tries to reach us. They may be proving to be no help at all.

“You might like to read something about Bible interpretation. Write for our free pamphlet Some Bible Beliefs Have to be Wrong” (emphasis mine).

This ad is a sign of things to come. It probably shows that our message is being heard by these people. Could the officials of this religious organization be watching our Key of David broadcast closely? If they are, they’re very unhappy with our message.

A False Report

We do not dress strangely. We are deadly serious about our commission. We do quote scripture. But we are not just giving some private, useless interpretation, as this ad indicates. We are clearly delivering God’s prophecies about what is coming upon our sin-sick world. Understanding a huge church’s power and influence, it is not hard to imagine that they will make present-day cult watchers look like kindergarten kids at play in the very near future! We must prepare our minds for some rough road ahead. Our enemies are going to work very hard to discredit us. That is what happened in Zerubbabel’s time. It will happen again. We must be willing to endure persecution and opposition while we work!

A letter of false report was sent to the king concerning what was happening in Jerusalem. “This is the copy of the letter that they sent unto him, even unto Artaxerxes the king; Thy servants the men on this side the river, and at such a time. Be it known unto the king, that the Jews which came up from thee to us are come unto Jerusalem, building the rebellious and the bad city, and have set up the walls thereof, and joined the foundations. Be it known now unto the king, that, if this city be builded, and the walls set up again, then will they not pay toll, tribute, and custom, and so thou shalt endamage the revenue of the kings. Now because we have maintenance from the king’s palace, and it was not meet for us to see the king’s dishonour, therefore have we sent and certified the king; That search may be made in the book of the records of thy fathers: so shalt thou find in the book of the records, and know that this city is a rebellious city, and hurtful unto kings and provinces, and that they have moved sedition within the same of old time: for which cause was this city destroyed. We certify the king that, if this city be builded again, and the walls thereof set up, by this means thou shalt have no portion on this side the river” (verses 11-16).

This letter was written to make the king believe the Jews were betraying him. But the letter was full of lies. Study to the end of the chapter. The adversaries of the Jews were successful in stopping the temple reconstruction. Verse 24 shows that the building project was stopped for nearly 15 years!

Focus Back on Track

Mr. Armstrong taught that it was this work stoppage that caused the book of Haggai to be written. Haggai 1 shows that the people lost their focus on the work because of all the difficulties they were having with their enemies. They began to focus on their own houses and personal lives. They said, “The time is not come, the time that the Lord’s house should be built” (verse 2). God did not bless them for this (verses 5-6). They were wrong—seriously wrong! God expected His house to be built first (verses 7-15). Mr. Armstrong showed that those scriptures applied to our time as well. He had to continually fight to keep the Church focused on God’s work.

Anciently, God stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel to get the work of rebuilding the temple back on track. Even though the project had been stopped, Zerubbabel got back to the job. “Then the prophets, Haggai the prophet, and Zechariah the son of Iddo, prophesied unto the Jews that were in Judah and Jerusalem in the name of the God of Israel, even unto them. Then rose up Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and began to build the house of God which is at Jerusalem: and with them were the prophets of God helping them” (Ezra 5:1-2). This took great faith and courage on Zerubbabel’s part. Why? He didn’t have the secular permission to restart the project!

The local people tried to stop the project a second time. “At the same time came to them Tatnai, governor on this side the river, and Shethar-boznai, and their companions, and said thus unto them, Who hath commanded you to build this house, and to make up this wall? Then said we unto them after this manner, What are the names of the men that make this building?” (verses 3-4). The people tried to intimidate Zerubbabel by asking who authorized them to build. They asked for their names in order to report them to the authorities. This did not affect the building project this time. Zerubbabel would not stop construction. Why?

“But the eye of their God was upon the elders of the Jews, that they could not cause them to cease, till the matter came to Darius: and then they returned answer by letter concerning this matter” (verse 5). Zerubbabel recognized that he had the backing of a far greater authority. He knew God’s eye was upon them. In other words, he got his focus back on track. He put his focus on God. And the people supporting Zerubbabel began to get their focus back on God. We must keep our focus on God!

Servants of the God of Heaven

We must always recognize who we are, who is backing us and where we get our authority. Who are we? “Then asked we those elders, and said unto them thus, Who commanded you to build this house, and to make up these walls? We asked their names also, to certify thee, that we might write the names of the men that were the chief of them. And thus they returned us answer, saying, We are the servants of the God of heaven and earth, and build the house that was builded these many years ago, which a great king of Israel builded and set up” (verses 9-11). Zerubbabel answers the question for us. We are servants of the God of heaven and Earth! We may not be the high and mighty of this world. We may not be the well-known of the wcg. We may not be evangelists—but we do have credentials. We are God’s servants. We have God’s backing. We get our authority from Almighty God! And when we fully realize that God’s eye is upon us, there is no limit to what we can accomplish.

When Zerubbabel was asked where he got his authority to build the temple, he reminded his questioners of the original decree to rebuild God’s house. “But in the first year of Cyrus the king of Babylon the same king Cyrus made a decree to build this house of God” (verse 13). God had stirred up the spirit of Cyrus to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem (Ezra 1:1-2). Zerubbabel showed that there were signed civil documents authorizing God’s house to be rebuilt!

Today, people often ask, “Where does Mr. Flurry get his authority? Where does Mr. Flurry and the pcg get the authority to rebuild a temple?” Zerubbabel’s experience typifies the pcg today. In a similar vein, we get our authority from some original, signed documents. Ours are not civil, legal documents. The documents authorizing the pcg and our work are the writings of Herbert W. Armstrong. The pcg is the only church that holds onto all of what Christ established in the Church through Mr. Armstrong. No other church associating itself with the name of Herbert Armstrong can truthfully make that claim!

If you have not yet read Malachi’s Message, please write for your free copy today! This powerful book explains why the Philadelphia Church came into being. It explains that Gerald Flurry and John Amos were fired because they fully supported what Herbert Armstrong taught and wrote. One of the main contentions of their final meeting at the wcg headquarters in Pasadena was over the removal of Mystery of the Ages from print!

The facts surrounding the beginning of the Philadelphia Church of God are not only exciting, they are unique to modern-day, true Church history. No minister had ever been fired, prior to December 7, 1989, for fully supporting Mr. Armstrong!

Zerubbabel and the people resumed the temple construction with great zeal. They were not intimidated. Their enemies reported, “Be it known unto the king, that we went into the province of Judea, to the house of the great God, which is builded with great stones, and timber is laid in the walls, and this work goeth fast on, and prospereth in their hands” (Ezra 5:8). It was very apparent that Zerubbabel and his fellow laborers were not going to be swayed again from doing their work! They were working hard, very fast and were achieving great success.

When the pcg made its humble entrance on the scene in 1989, many said we would not last five months. We were not intimidated! After completing our first year, someone said we were a peanut shell on a big ocean going nowhere. We continued working for God! Now, with more than 15 years in operation—now, after broadcasting on over 80 television stations—now, after growing to over 300,000 in our Philadelphia Trumpet subscription—we don’t hear many comments like those listed above.

God is greatly prospering the Philadelphia Church. We know who we are. We know God is behind us. And we know that we must get our job done quickly.

Continue Reading: Chapter 4: Purified Together