When Herbert W. Armstrong was being called into God’s Work, something really puzzled him. The church he affiliated himself with had more of God’s truth than any other, but the work it was doing was insignificant. He couldn’t understand why God wouldn’t have a more powerful work!
Mr. Armstrong recognized from Scripture that individuals need to accept correction from God in order to grow. He believed that the same principle must also apply to a church, but he never heard of a church publicly admitting error and making changes. He decided to test this church to see if it was the same way.
Mr. Armstrong recognized a clear error in this church’s teaching, even though it was a minor point. He wrote a 16-page manuscript explaining it and sent it to the church leaders. The president of the church’s general conference wrote him back—and admitted Mr. Armstrong was correct! But he also said they couldn’t correct that publicly because members would be upset and wouldn’t accept it. So they felt they had to continue to preach the error.
That was quite an admission from what we recognize now to be the Sardis era of God’s Church.
That incident really shook Mr. Armstrong’s confidence. He saw that these church leaders had faith in the people more than in God!
Mr. Armstrong wondered, If this is not the true Church, then where is it?
“A little later I tried the second test,” he wrote in his autobiography. “After exhaustive study and research, I had found it proved that the so-called ‘lost 10 tribes’ of Israel had migrated to Western Europe, the British Isles, and later the United States—that the British were the descendants of Ephraim, younger son of Joseph, and the United States modern-day Manasseh, elder son of Joseph—and that we possessed the national wealth and resources of the birthright which God had promised to Abraham through Isaac, Jacob and Joseph.
“This truth was written in a lengthy manuscript of close to 300 typed pages, and mailed to this editor and leader of this church. I explained that although this new truth seemed to be proved beyond doubt, yet I was still comparatively new in Christ and scriptural knowledge, and wished the judgment of one more mature and experienced in things biblical.
“I think it was some six months before the reply came. It was written on a train late at night. This church leader stated in his letter (which I still have) that I was most certainly right—that this was a wonderful new truth revealed by God, and that God surely had a special reason for revealing this new truth to me. However, he stated he did not know what use, if any, he could make of it at that time, but was sure I would hear more of it later.
“Did this church accept and proclaim this vital new truth—the key that unlocks the doors to all prophecy? Here was the key to understanding one third of the whole Bible. But this church refused then to accept it or preach it or publish it though their leader frankly confessed it was truth and revelation from God!
“Yet here was the church which appeared to have more truth, and less error, than any other. It did ‘profess’ the commandments of God and have ‘the testimony of Jesus Christ.’ It did have the true name of the Church Christ built. Its members did love what truth they had and sacrificed for it! In spite of the fact this church did not appear to be dynamically alive spiritually—in spite of its little or no accomplishment—still it came closer to the biblical characteristics of Christ’s true Church than any I knew!
“Truly, this was bewildering!”
That 300-page paper was the beginning of what ended up being The United States and Britain in Prophecy. The leader of that church, Andrew Dugger, said this about it in a letter he wrote to Mr. Armstrong on July 28, 1929: “You are surely right, and while I cannot use it in the paper [the church publication] at the present, you may be assured that your labor has surely not been in vain.”
That statement was absolutely true. Mr. Armstrong’s labor surely was not in vain. Mr. Armstrong did continue to associate with that church for a few more years, but he never became a member.
“And unto the angel of the church in Sardis write; These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars; I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead” (Revelation 3:1).
Those are God’s words to the Sardis Church, the church that received that revelation from God through Mr. Armstrong, acknowledged it was correct—and then simply walked away from it. God called it a dead church! What a terrible condemnation. It was the attitude of the Sardis leaders that caused the church to die!
Few crises are greater in magnitude than the death of one of God’s churches!
“Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God. Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. …” (verses 2-3). The Sardis Church had a good history at one time, but had forgotten it. Be watchful! God said. I’m going to send you the truth! I will warn you and give you an opportunity to change! God did that through Mr. Armstrong, but they didn’t heed. And what does God say would happen if they failed to “be watchful”?
“If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee” (verse 3).
Individuals die spiritually. So do churches. But God always warns us—and Scripture shows that He usually does that through an apostle or prophet whom He has chosen (Amos 3:7; Luke 11:49; Ephesians 2:20; 3:5; 2 Peter 3:2).
Realize what was going on at this point in the Church’s history! The Sardis era had died—and yet God sent a man with specialrevelation to give the Sardis people an opportunity to revive—a chance to repent and turn things around! He always does that when we go off track.
This Sardis leader even admitted that this was truth “revealed by God,” and “that God surely had a special reason for revealing this new truth” to Mr. Armstrong.
Sadly, the leader did not accept the correction. We should all consider the eternal consequences! But God still says there were a few in that era who made it and are worthy to enter His Family (Revelation 3:4).
“He that overcometh [conquers], the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches” (verses 5-6). The implication is that if you don’t conquer, your name will be blotted out! That is the worst horror we could hear.
Because the Sardis people rejected new revelation, they were in danger of having their names blotted out of the book of life—as if they had never lived!
This is dangerous knowledge!
God was actually giving the Sardis Church an opportunity to receive understanding that lies at the very heart of the key of David!
The truth in The United States and Britain in Prophecy is at the core of the key of David vision, which God gave to the Philadelphians (verse 7). This was the loving God reaching out to His Family! What that would have done for the people of the Sardis Church had they accepted it!
God was trying to save the Sardis era! How could a loving Father not reach out and try to save His Family when He sees them going astray? Everything is at stake! God doesn’t want to see any of His beloved children have their names blotted out of the book of life. They rejected God’s correction—His new revelation—and the era died.
Members of God’s Church can die. It’s all too common! In a sense, God’s faithful people today are sandwiched in between the Sardis people, who died spiritually, and the lukewarm Laodiceans, 50 percent of whom will die forever! (see Matthew 25:1-12). It shouldn’t be that way at all. God does everything He can to prevent that.
When you talk about the key of David, you’re talking about a rulership opportunity that will never come again to any of God’s people. God doesn’t make this extraordinary promise to those in Sardis, or to the Laodiceans. But to the Philadelphians, who have this key, God says, “Him that [conquers] will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out …” (Revelation 3:12). These blessed individuals will be at headquarters in Jerusalem throughout eternity!
Can you imagine if the Sardis era had listened to Mr. Armstrong and turned it around? If it had accepted the key of David, how dynamically alive it would have become! Instead, most of the members embraced spiritual leaders who were dead. With all that power available, they were dead! Many of their names were blotted out of the book of life. What a missed opportunity. God delivered the warning to the leaders, and they ignored it. So they can’t come back and say they didn’t understand the seriousness of the issue. God holds us accountable for every word He gives us!
“And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write; These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth; I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name” (verses 7-8). Here is how an end-time Christian lives or dies. He must embrace the key of David vision or he dies!
This royal key of David vision brings God’s kings and priests alive! This vision fills us with dynamic spiritual life. We must labor spiritually through prayer and Bible study to keep ourselves energized by this vision.
There is no mention of the Sardis members being in the Jerusalem headquarters ruling with Christ and the Philadelphians. Why? Because they rejected this vision and failed to prepare and qualify for the most majestic opportunity that God ever has offered or ever will offer one of His churches!
What a missed opportunity! What eternal glory they rejected.
Look how this vision brought the Worldwide Church of God alive under Herbert W. Armstrong. Mr. Armstrong was on over 400 television stations and had a Plain Truth magazine circulation of over 8 million—greater than Time and Newsweek combined at the time. Mr. Armstrong was reaching the largest audience possible.
It was the strongest global message God’s Church has ever delivered to this world!
What the key of David vision can do for individuals and organizations is hard to even calculate.
Soon this vision will fill the Earth with unparalleled joy. Finally the world will be pulsating with excitement as people understand and live as the Father and Christ have lived for all eternity.
Individually, we probably need to re-prove some of the truth in The United States and Britain in Prophecy today. It is vital understanding. Are we as certain about that truth as Mr. Armstrong was when he approached Sardis?
God wanted those in the Sardis Church to live! He wants all of us to live now and forever! God wants our names written in the book of eternal life! That’s why we are here! To learn to live and live, and never stop living! Look how dramatically alive the Philadelphia era became because one man yielded himself to God, and God was able to surround him with supporters. God truly gives His people the opportunity to really live and to have a real impact on this world! How inspiring to see what God will do if only we’ll yield to Him.
God used Mr. Armstrong to build beautiful buildings—the crown jewel being God’s house in Pasadena, California. It was the most beautiful building of its kind on Earth.
The Philadelphia era was throbbing with spiritual life! It all flowed from the key of David vision.
The Philadelphia Church in the Laodicean era is being used by God to “raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen” (Amos 9:11). Why is it called the tabernacle of David? Because we have the same key of David message that Mr. Armstrong had. Only people with that vision could raise up God’s Work again in this end time and give one final warning to this dying world—and give the inhabitants of this Earth a message of hope like they have never received before!
Most people have no hope or an empty hope. But our hope is based on the almighty power of a loving God. It can never fail. Only men who don’t have that hope, or have it and then lose it, can fail.
The only people who understand the key of David vision today are God’s very elect—the only people who will sit on David’s headquarters throne in Jerusalem forever. This vision actually identifies God’s very elect today!
Those who hold this key are qualifying to rule from God’s headquarters for all eternity. They will go no more out (Revelation 3:12).
Today, we have built another house for God. It is the ultimate message to the Laodiceans and this world in our day. The Head of this Church, the one who gave the key of David vision, has a house and lives on the Herbert W. Armstrong College campus in spirit!
That house illustrates that God is alive on this campus and in God’s very elect. That house is the greatest sign of hope on Earth! That hope is embodied in the key of David vision, which is the dominant vision emanating from that auditorium. Those who understand and proclaim this vision are the only ones empowered to do God’s worldwide Work!
What Is the Key of David?
Christ has the key of David—but He wants to give it to us (Revelation 3:7). If we accept that and step out in faith, then He opens powerful doors so we can tell the world about it! (verse 8). The purpose for the open door is so the Philadelphians can tell the world about the key of David!
It takes Philadelphians in the last two eras to fully explain that key. The understanding of the key of David always comes through Philadelphians in this end time.
What is the key of David? It is the royal gospel viewed through the eyes of the Father, and the Husband, and the headquarters Bride—the highest level of God’s government through all eternity.
That’s right—the headquarters Bride. That Bride consists of those who will go no more out from God’s headquarters temple—those who will be ruling with Christ there in Jerusalem forever (verse 12). That is the highest calling for a body of God’s people ever! That is the resplendent reward awaiting those who teach the key of David! They will be sitting on the headquarters throne of David forever! So this is the gospel viewed through their eyes too.
Those during this Laodicean era who reject the key of David will not have that reward. Fifty percent of them will repent and be in God’s Family, but they will not be at headquarters, because they rejected the key of David, the greatest vision of the Bible. Revelation 3 makes it clear that anyone who goes into the Tribulation will not be stationed at God’s headquarters.
The very elect comprehend God’s family government far better than most of God’s people.
The big question is this: Will you understand and submit to this government in the age of man’s rule of man and act while there is time?
Consider this carefully: The royal key of David gospel is understood now only by the headquarters kings and priests in embryo! If you fully understand and submit to this teaching now, you are going to reside in Jerusalem forever.
Only 5 percent of God’s own people in the Laodicean era have remained faithful to God—and only that 5 percent will qualify for that level of royalty in this end time. We can’t drift into such an exalted position. We must work hard and fervently support God’s Work today.
In past ages, God has only prepared a small number of His people to rule from the Jerusalem headquarters.
It is hard to fathom the level of royalty God’s Philadelphians truly are. God has given them knowledge He never gave to the other eras of His Church because He is specifically training His headquarters personnel who will teach the key of David vision to the world. That is why God gives us that vision from the perspective of headquarters in Jerusalem forever! He is revealing this vision with greater clarity all the time. Christ personally gives it to the Philadelphia era and to the Philadelphians in the Laodicean era. But only a small percentage of both eras qualify for headquarters rule in Jerusalem.
Armed with this key of David knowledge, we will be better able to support the prophets, apostles and leaders that God prepared in past ages.
The biblical account of King David’s life unlocks this key of David message. David was a king who united and ruled over all of the 12 tribes of Israel. We are going to rule with Christ on David’s throne and unite the world.
The Gentiles will be grafted in as a part of Israel.
This practical plan of God’s will absolutely bring peace and joy to this evil and violent world. How wonderful to be able to help Christ achieve that goal!
We must develop a deep understanding of this prophetic key of David. The Laodiceans’ bad example shows that our personal spiritual lives are in grave danger if we do not develop that understanding.
When we work hard to grasp this all-encompassing vision, we learn that we will share in God’s royal glory.
“And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end” (Luke 1:31-33). This prophecy was given to Mary by the archangel Gabriel. It shows what Jesus Christ will be doing throughout eternity. But it also gives us some exciting history.
King David is a great example of the way God works. God bestowed incredible honor upon King David as well. He gave David the honor of actually starting Christ’s throne on Earth. David’s throne is going to directly connect all mankind to God! That is why it is called David’s throne—not Christ’s throne, which it is. It is named after an ordinary mortal man.
When we understand the depth and magnitude of these three verses in Luke, it is truly mind-boggling what God plans to do with mankind. David’s life is an inspiring example of what God plans to do with all humanity! David—a man—represents all people who will have ever lived.
Verse 31 shows that Mary was to give birth to a son who was to be called Jesus. He was not to be any ordinary son. He was the Son of the Highest! The only Son who was eternal before His birth! Verse 32 shows that He was born to be King. And the throne that He was to ascend was David’s throne. Verse 33 shows that, once Jesus takes that throne, He will rule over the house of Israel forever.
How did Christ’s throne begin? It began with one man—David. And it began in the humblest of ways. David was a shepherd boy and the youngest son of Jesse. He was the least likely to assume the throne. Yet God had the Prophet Samuel anoint him king (1 Samuel 16:1-13). God used this young boy to start revealing His vision for humankind.
God describes David as “a man after mine own heart, which shall fulfil all my will” (Acts 13:22). But he was not perfect. For example, he committed adultery with Bathsheba; when she became pregnant, he arranged the murder of her husband, Uriah, to conceal his own sin. How could God still give him all this honor?
David was an unusually humble individual. He did struggle with many temptations, but he knew how to repent before God. When he sinned, he knew that he was sinning against God (Psalm 51:4). It was God’s law that he transgressed. He also recognized that he almost lost it all (Psalm 73:2). This is the great beauty to David’s life and the key to his righteousness: David mastered repentance. David made some serious mistakes in his life, but he did not get caught up in foolish human reasoning to avoid repenting! When God sent a prophet to correct him, David didn’t argue. He repented! True repentance is the most noble and royal attitude any human being can learn.
God described David as “a man after mine own heart, which shall fulfil all my will” (Acts 13:22). David did all of God’s will. Whatever God asked of him, David did everything possible to do. Not 80 percent of it, or 90 percent—not even 99 percent of God’s will. David strived with all his heart to do 100 percent! That is quite an attitude. He sang for God—he danced for God—he dressed for God—he served for God. It was allfor God!
That beautiful attitude has a lot to do with the key of David. God calls this glorious, all-encompassing vision “the key of David” because this is the profound understanding He wantsall of usto have!
The House of Jacob
That passage in Luke 1:31-33 also shows us the royal gospel through the eyes of the God Family at the highest level: Christ is referred to as the Son of the Highest. This is a Father-Son relationship. Soon, Christ’s very elect will be with Him, sitting on David’s family throne in Jerusalem forever.
Have you ever wondered why God says that Christ will reign over the “house of Jacob”—rather than the house of Israel? Jacob was Israel’s name before he was converted. The main reason is that we need to realize that when we receive our positions of authority, we will begin by dealing with unconverted people. This is the house of Jacob, and we’re going to have to teach them how to become converted—how tobecome spiritual Israel! That is our calling: to help Christ in converting all humanity!
This is why it is so critical God’s people become educated in how to be teachers today. This world doesn’t know God! All those people are Jacob, spiritually speaking. They desperately need to be taught! We are talking about billions of unconverted people. This is a monumental job. And Christ is asking us to help Him do it.
How do you teach people to become converted if you are not converted yourself? How do you teach them to become spiritual Israel if you are not spiritual Israel?
Jesus Christ died for the world. Soon, all those people will need education in becoming converted. Can you see why Christ needs a wife to be His helpmeet?
God did not call you just for your benefit. We are preparing to share the throne of the King of kings and assist Him in spreading this truth and converting every person who has ever lived, if they want to be in God’s Family.
This truth ties in with another key of David prophecy, given through Jeremiah: “In those days, and at that time, will I cause the Branch of righteousness [Jesus Christ] to grow up unto David; and he shall execute judgment and righteousness in the land” (Jeremiah 33:15). The “land” is referring to the whole Earth! The Messiah is about to come and sit on David’s throne and rule the Earth!
Judah and Israel are about to be reunited under that throne (verse 16). In fact, thisworld is about to become spiritual Israel, united by the throne of David. All mankind will be looking to that one throne, the “key of David” throne. The key of David unites everyone who has ever lived—if they choose life.
God’s Church today has members in nations all over the world—because we are going to teach the whole world!
That throne will eventually unite the whole universe! “Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever” (Isaiah 9:7). This is the key of David message. What a vision! That prophecy is talking about Jesus Christ, but again, as Luke 1 brings out, He is the Son of the Highest. The Father is always at the top.
What a future mankind has because of that throne of David!
Princes in All the Earth
The key of David unlocks the fact that God intends for every human being to become part of His royal Family. Those called now who remain truly Philadelphian will have the opportunity to sit with Christ on His throne—as His Bride in the future headquarters at Jerusalem. Jesus Christ stated, “To him that overcometh [conquers] will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame [conquered], and am set down with my Father in his throne” (Revelation 3:21). We must conquer Satan as Christ did! When we do, we become God’s precious royalty. This fact should be the inspiration and motivation behind our spiritual lives.
The key of David vision represents God’s plan for all mankind. It is not just for the adults of God’s Church; it is a message also for the youth. “With gladness and rejoicing shall they be brought: they shall enter into the king’s palace. Instead of thy fathers shall be thy children, whom thou mayest make princes in all the earth. I will make thy name to be remembered in all generations: therefore shall the people praise thee for ever and ever” (Psalm 45:15-17). Even though our youth are not yet baptized, God’s Philadelphia ministers must teach them by example and with words that they are royalty now. Verse 16 shows they will be taking over royal positions in the Millennium. God’s ministry must begin now to help shape our young people into princes and princesses—God’s royal youth! We must help our young people get the key of David vision into their minds.
We must continually remind our young people that they are God’s princes and princesses of the Earth. But they won’t remain princes and princesses. They are to become God’s kings of the universe! The most exalted calling in all eternity!
They must be taught and encouraged to uphold that royal standard—act like God’s royalty today. That is how they qualify for those supremely exalted offices.
Mr. Armstrong dedicated many resources to help the young people of God’s Church. He fully understood that young people (and adults) must be taught how to be God’s royalty. One of the ways we instruct our young people about being royalty is through our summer camp programs. This was a tradition started by Mr. Armstrong. A session of our summer camp only lasts three weeks, however. For the rest of the year, parents and the ministry must reinforce and teach the key of David vision to the youth. All of us, working together, must make the vision real for our precious youth.
How do we all learn to be royalty? “If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well” (James 2:8). We learn to be royalty by fulfilling the royal law, which is the Ten Commandments. There should be no doubt in our minds about this fact. Jesus Christ stated, “[I]f thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments” (Matthew 19:17). All of our young people should be fully instructed in keeping the Ten Commandments. Just like adults, if our youth want to enter into eternal life and become God’s royalty, they must keep the commandments. The ministry must set the example, but parents hold the major responsibility for this teaching. Each one of us needs to diligently study this message, many times, if we are to truly comprehend it!
The main lesson we need to get across to our young people is how to live the rich and abundant life now. Then they can help teach the whole world. This world is full of glitter and glamour and sinful “fun.” But it is only “fun” temporarily—not truly joyous living. When Jesus Christ returns and sets up the Kingdom of God, abundant living will begin for the whole world. No human being can truly imagine what life will be like in the Millennium, unless we let God show us through the key of David vision. The ministry and adults of God’s Church must grow in understanding this vision. When we do, then we can help our young people also grow in that understanding.
All of this paints such a beautiful picture. Jesus Christ reveals that those who are truly a part of His Church are already royalty. “And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen” (Revelation 1:6; see also Revelation 5:10). If we as God’s Philadelphians continue to do our part, spiritually we are already God’s royalty! By working to deepen our understanding of the key of David vision, we are not only preparing for our own eternal life, we are preparing to bring real spiritual life to our children and to every person on Earth!