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Most of God’s Laodicean churches now say that the seven Church eras are only history. Smyrna and Ephesus were 50 miles apart. One is in tribulation (Revelation 2:10)—one is not. Why, if this is only history? The Sardis Church is dead (Revelation 3:1). A few miles down the road is Philadelphia—one of the best churches (verses 7-12). It doesn’t make sense if this is only history.
One of the Laodicean groups says “the seven churches could also represent the progressive state of God’s Church through the centuries.” “Could.” But they don’t know. They should know, because Herbert Armstrong taught and proved this subject forcefully.
Successive Church eras
In Mystery of the Ages, Mr. Armstrong wrote, “The book of Revelation records seven messages to seven churches that existed in Asia Minor toward the end of the first century a.d.
“These churches—Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea—were located along one of the mail routes of the old Roman Empire.
“Riders would follow the route—carrying messages from town to town.
“The messages to the seven churches have words of both encouragement and correction, and they clearly show the dominant characteristics of each of the congregations at that time.
“But these messages were intended for a wider audience than the Christians in these small towns.
“They are a series of remarkable prophecies, by which the future of the true Church was foretold in outline form, from the day it began on Pentecost, a.d. 31, until the Second Coming of Christ.
“The history of the Church would fall into seven distinct eras—each with its own strengths and weaknesses and its own special trials and problems.
“Just as a message could pass along the mail route from Ephesus to Laodicea, so would the truth of God be passed from era to era.
“It was like a relay race—in which the baton is passed from runner to runner, each one doing his part, until the finish line is reached.
“Some time during the early decades of the second century, the baton was passed from the Ephesian era to the people that God had called to the Smyrna era of His Church.”
This progression continued down to the present.
“The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John” (Revelation 1:1). This was revealed to “shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass.” That is PROPHECY of the future.
Christ says Church eras are to show us the future. They are not just history, as the Laodiceans say they “could” mean. Church eras are to reveal the future to us, from the time of Christ to His Second Coming. Otherwise, why is this included in the book of Revelation?
The purpose of this book is to put prophecy into a time frame. The seven seals unfold from Christ’s first coming to the Second Coming. We see the seven successive resurrections of the Holy Roman Empire. Seven different times a political beast and the great false church emerge to bring savage destruction on the world. The final beast is forming right now! We can see that because of the time frame in the book of Revelation.
The history and prophecy of the great false church is included. Then doesn’t it seem logical that God would also reveal the far more important history and prophecy of His true Church in this book?
The book of Revelation is prophetic. Church eras are discussed because they are prophetic. God puts the eras of His true Church into a time frame too.
We can only understand the book of Daniel, Matthew 24 and many other Bible prophecies because of the time sequence in the book of Revelation.
The subject of the seven churches would not be in this book of Revelation if it weren’t prophetic! This is a book of prophecy! That’s what the 22 chapters are all about.
Revelation is a book of revealing. Those who fail to understand don’t have God revealing truth to them. They are in the dark.
They talk about could be because they lack faith.
Be prepared for your mind to be stretched and expanded by this magnificent vision—the key of David! There is no vision to compare to it!
When Christ introduced the end-time Philadelphia era, He emphasized this one vision. It was with this subject that He began His message to the Philadelphians. “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” (Revelation 3:7-8).
This is the one vision that identifies God’s end-time Philadelphia Church. This is critical understanding. Christ introduces the Philadelphia era by saying He has the key of David. Then He relates how He opens the door for God’s Work. Today, Christ opens the door only for the very elect who have the key of David vision. That clearly implies that Christ wants the Philadelphians to deliver His key of David message through the door He opens. So we must know what that message is!
Why do the Philadelphians understand this vision? Christ gives three essential points in these two verses. First, there is the key of David vision; and second, the open door (television airtime, the Internet, magazines, books and booklets) through which to deliver that message. Third, these Philadelphians are given this understanding because they have not denied God’s “name.”
God praises all the Philadelphians for not denying Christ’s name. The Greek word for name here is onoma and means a name, authority or character. The Philadelphia messenger never denied Christ’s authority, or government! This is a vital lesson we must learn in this end time. The only way men can be successful in doing God’s Work is through God’s government. We must realize that the key of David vision and the knowledge about God’s government are intimately tied together. The key of David vision is all about God’s Family government.
Those members who do not deny God’s government are Philadelphians, in both the Philadelphian and Laodicean eras. The Philadelphians are the only members of God’s Church who submit to His government, or rule. That is the major characteristic that sets the Philadelphians apart as God’s very elect.
That is why the whole world can see the Philadelphian work—the open door. The message is sent around the globe.
The open door, or work, is what identifies God’s true Church to the Earth’s inhabitants!
The Laodicean, or lukewarm, church (Revelation 3:14-20) has no key of David vision and no open door to the world. That is because the Laodiceans have rejected God’s rule, or government, over them.
The Philadelphians kept God’s Word and did not deny God’s government. God gave them an open door, and they proclaimed the key of David vision. That is why they will teach it to all humanity in the World Tomorrow: because they prepared themselves for that job today.
The Laodiceans did neither of those things. If they don’t repent soon, they will lose their headquarters crown. God says He is going to make them see what they did and recognize the opportunity they squandered (verse 9). They will have to acknowledge that God exalted those who kept His Word and government to the top echelon of God’s rule in Jerusalem!
The key of David vision is the ultimate, all-encompassing vision of the Bible. That vision is intimately tied to Christ’s return and His rule over the world and the universe from David’s throne (Luke 1:30-33; Isaiah 9:6-7).
What could be more profound? What an uplifting and wondrous vision! Only the Philadelphians of this end time will share David’s headquarters throne. Philadelphian will be a very exalted word in the World Tomorrow.
The title of our television program is The Key of David. We believe that title was inspired by God.
We followed the twofold formula for loving God: keeping His Word and obeying His government. God gave us a powerful open door to proclaim the key of David. Then God prophesied that no man can shut that door. Many men have tried and failed.
If men attack our message going through that open door, they are attacking the living God!
“[B]ehold, I have set before thee an open door …” (Revelation 3:8). Behold can read, “Behold! Lo! Lo!”
Christ Himself opened that door to prepare for His Second Coming, and He wants God’s message strongly emphasized! “Behold! Lo! Lo!“ The key of David is being trumpeted to the world.
God decided to intervene dramatically in world affairs in the last two eras of His Church. He opened a door to send His key of David message around the globe. Nothing on Earth compares to this message.
God has not intervened in this world to any serious degree since the first century, until now.
All these terrifying problems we see in this world are a sign that Christ is about to return. “Behold! Lo! Lo!” Soon the whole world will focus on David’s throne forever. The world should be shouting for joy. Today, however, Satan leads some to try to shut that door—a direct and dangerous affront to their Creator.
Why does Christ give the Philadelphians only one vision? Because this key unlocks the whole Bible.
Knowing who Israel is unlocks the one third of the Bible that is prophecy. But the key of David makes it possible for us to fully see God’s master plan for the Earth and the universe.
Because of our loyalty and obedience, God is swinging doors open for this Work! We started in 1989 with $80, and today we have built a $20 million house for God! A mighty door simply opened for this Work. Who did that? God did. And when He throws a door open, He challenges anyone in this world to shut it!
Only the Philadelphians do God’s Work in the end time. They are God’s last Church to be loyal before the Great Tribulation. Christ gives the key of David message to His end-time Philadelphians because they are ruled by Him. They will help Christ teach it to all humanity, which will include billions of people!
The end-time Philadelphians have more truth than any other Church ever. They are going to work at headquarters in the World Tomorrow (verse 12). They will be better equipped to teach God’s complete vision than any other group. They probably will have more revealed knowledge than all the other Church eras combined.
All of that knowledge is unlocked by the key of David vision! The Philadelphians have a deeper understanding of this vision than members of God’s Church in any other era. When you find a Philadelphian, you find the key of David vision!
Christ places heavy emphasis on this vision. You and I must know why. Our eternal lives depend on this understanding!
God’s own Laodicean Church—95 percent of God’s people today—has lost this vision! Revelation 3:17 characterizes the Laodiceans as being blind. This means they have rejected Bible knowledge. A large portion of what they have rejected includes the knowledge about the key of David. The Laodiceans have lost God’s greatest vision, if they ever did “get it.” Unless they quickly regain that vision, they will lose everything—forever.
The Laodiceans today are disgracefully divided. They don’t want Herbert W. Armstrong’s book The United States and Britain in Prophecy, which reveals the truth about David’s throne and is the core teaching within the key of David vision. (Request a free copy if you do not have one.) That knowledge could unite them. In 1987, about a year after Mr. Armstrong died, the Worldwide Church of God (wcg) chopped out 70 percent of that book. A year later wcg leaders shelved it completely while officially saying they were only “reviewing” it. Neither do they want Mystery of the Ages, which also talks about the key of David. The real reason is, they don’t want God to rule them! These books were removed from publication after Mr. Armstrong’s death by faithless, liberal ministers.
Mr. Armstrong warned the Church against such liberalism when it had crept into the Church in the 1970s. He wrote, “Gradually, subtilely, systematically, while I was in other parts of the world carrying Christ’s gospel message, doctrines were being watered down, the college was being made secular, God and Christ were being cast out and a conspiracy was in progress to get rid of Christ’s chosen apostle, unless he accommodated the conspirators by dying.
“Church teachings were being changed. 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!” (Worldwide News, Feb. 19, 1979). Today, there is only one church that fully supports the The United States and Britain in Prophecy as written by Mr. Armstrong: the Philadelphia Church! One Laodicean Church has its own version, which was not inspired by God. It falls far short of the revealed version published by Mr. Armstrong.
A version of The United States and Britain in Prophecy written in 1945 had no copyright, and was therefore free to reprint. Yet the Philadelphia Church was the only church that did so. We also stood alone in our fight for the 1980 edition, which we have since acquired. God wants this truth revealed, not hidden! Jesus Christ taught the disciples, “[F]reely ye have received, freely give” (Matthew 10:8). It was Mr. Armstrong’s sincere desire to give this book to all who requested it—free of charge.
The Laodicean Church has casually given up the greatest vision in all the Bible! And look at the confusion in those churches. They are confused about Herbert Armstrong’s work. They are confused about God’s government. They are confused about doctrine. And even though they have a certain amount of wealth and many ministers, they are accomplishing little. They do not have God’s blessing. None of this would have happened to them if they had remained true to the key of David vision established by God.
Some of them ask, Why can’t we all get together? The only way that would be possible is if we all united under the key of David throne. The key of David vision will unite this whole world! It will unite America and China, Arab and Jew.
It truly angers Satan when we talk about David’s throne. He knows his reign is about over. He is composed of pure hatred and has nothing to lose. Thus, he is stirring up all kinds of hatred in this world—racial and other problems that can only be solved with the key of David revelation. The tighter we hold on to that vision, the angrier he gets—but the less he can harm us.
In terms of historical religious tragedy, the present Church crisis far outweighs the destruction of Solomon’s temple. It is the worst crisis in this end time, because so many eternal lives are at stake!
What a serious lesson for us. All those who wish to be true Philadelphians must concentrate their prayers, thoughts and studies toward understanding the key of David vision. You and I must stretch our minds to grasp this greatest of all visions! Please try to focus on this vision as never before. God will deepen our understanding when we faithfully do this.
Nothing will change your life as this vision will!
Malachi 4:5-6 show that God planned to send a man in the office of Elijah to this sick world just before Christ’s return. This Elijah would teach about God’s Family. Matthew 17:10-11 also show that this man would restore all things to the Church. (Please request our free booklet A Pivotal Sign of the End Time.)
Herbert Armstrong was that man. The many wonderful truths that Christ originally gave to the Church had become lost by the dawn of the 20th century. But God used Mr. Armstrong to restore the truth about government, the Sabbath, the holy days, the Family of God and much more. Mr. Armstrong faithfully taught these precious truths to the Church. Yet after he died, only a small remnant preserved them—the Philadelphia Church of God (pcg), in the Laodicean era.
God also used Mr. Armstrong powerfully to preach the gospel of the Kingdom around the world as a witness. That incredible task was prophesied in the Olivet prophecy (Matthew 24:14). Revelation 3:8 shows that he had an “open door” to fulfill this commission. An open door is always synonymous with the preaching of a message. Mr. Armstrong was given an open door to preach this message throughout the world.
Revelation 3:7-8 are part of the message to the Philadelphia era. Speaking of Himself, Christ states that He is holy and true. He holds the key of David. Verse 7 shows that the key of David vision is really Christ’s vision. He is the one who revealed it to the Philadelphians.
The key of David vision includes the history about Christ’s physical family—the lineage of David—and the prophecies concerning His own future rule as King of kings in the world to come. Included in the key of David vision is the knowledge of our own mind-expanding future of sharing Christ’s throne. We must realize that the history and prophecy concerning David’s throne is the essence of Christ’s gospel message, with a weighty emphasis on the God Family royalty. The most royal of all those positions will be given to the firstfruits—those called and chosen before Christ’s Second Coming.
Verse 8 shows that Christ opened the door for Mr. Armstrong to reveal and teach the foundation of this incredible knowledge. Mr. Armstrong faithfully walked through the doors Christ opened. When he did this, the Work always grew. And Mr. Armstrong always gave God the credit. One of his most quoted scriptures was, “… Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord of hosts” (Zechariah 4:6).
One of the most important questions we must ask in this end time is, did the Work die with Mr. Armstrong? To answer that question correctly, we must look at the situation from God’s perspective. Otherwise, we will fall short every time.
Anciently, God’s Work was directed from the temple in Jerusalem. The daily sacrifice was offered continually, showing the close connection between God and His people.
Today, the Church is God’s temple on Earth (Ephesians 2:21). In this end time, Mr. Armstrong built God’s spiritual house. He often used a scripture taken from an end-time prophecy to teach this truth to the Church: “The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also finish it; and thou shalt know that the Lord of hosts hath sent me unto you” (Zechariah 4:9). Like Zerubbabel of old, Mr. Armstrong built God’s temple. Even in a physical sense there was a modern temple built in our day. Mr. Armstrong always referred to the auditorium on the Pasadena campus of Ambassador College as God’s house. The Work flowed from that physical temple. We have built a similar auditorium at our headquarters today. God always has headquarters buildings if there is a thriving Work.
The work of the Church represents the “daily sacrifice” spiritually today (Daniel 12:11). (I explain this truth in detail in our free booklet Daniel—Unsealed at Last.) In Daniel, the words “daily sacrifice” can be translated as continual. This should teach us that the Work does not stop with the death of a human being. It is God’s Work. God is eternal. Jesus Christ and God the Father gave Mr. Armstrong authority to do the continual in this end time.
The ministers who were taught by Mr. Armstrong should have remembered what God accomplished through that man. He did the Elijah work in this end time. When he died, the Elijah work should have continued. But it stopped temporarily. Those ministers who were to continue Mr. Armstrong’s work instead did away with all of his major writings.
God raised up the Philadelphia Church to continue the work established by Mr. Armstrong. No other ex-wcg group is doing that today, although most of them claim to carry the mantle of Herbert Armstrong. It doesn’t take a scholar to figure out who truly is continuing in the traditions of Mr. Armstrong. All one needs to do is examine the magazines and other printed materials of the various groups. Only one has consistently stayed true to what Mr. Armstrong taught—the Philadelphia Church of God. Only we have the daily, or continual, spiritual sacrifice.
“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). This verse reveals that there was a “synagogue of Satan” right in God’s Church—a church within a church. Even while Mr. Armstrong was still there, Satan conquered a great many members! Satan was right there even while God’s apostle was alive! He had a synagogue! Those in this synagogue did not keep God’s Word, and they denied God’s government. Consequently, they lost the key of David vision and were conquered by the devil. Satan established a beachhead in the strong Philadelphia era. These rebels were conquered by the devil, instead of conquering him.
So when Mr. Armstrong died, Satan used his synagogue to conquer 95 percent of God’s Church (now comprised of several different churches). It became the Laodicean era. Unless those Church members repent before the Tribulation, they cannot qualify to rule in the Jerusalem headquarters.
Do you see why we must overcome? (The word conquer as used in the Revised Standard Version is better.) Either we conquer Satan as Christ did (Matthew 4; Luke 4), or we can’t qualify to rule at headquarters with Christ.
The Laodiceans will not rule from headquarters because they are not qualified.
Satan is still alive today. He wants to take over the Philadelphia Church of God in these latter days. We must do all we can to make sure that doesn’t happen. God expects us to conquer the devil as Christ did so we can share David’s throne! (verse 21).
Satan took the key of David from the Church of God, and 95 percent of the members became Laodicean. The fruits show who conquered Satan and who didn’t.
We won a bitter six-year court battle with Satan the devil. We have had to fight and conquer Satan in many battles. With God’s very elect, that is a way of life.
Satan was cast down around the time Mr. Armstrong died, perhaps on that very day. He knows that his time is short (Revelation 12:12). He is on a violent rampage of spiritual and physical destruction.
We have God’s power to conquer the devil because we cling to the key of David vision.
Isn’t it interesting how this Work is so involved in Jerusalem today? We are digging in the very spot where David’s throne once sat—and upon which Christ is about to establish His throne forever! We’re helping to clear away the rubble for Christ’s throne—the throne we are about to share with our Husband! God has laid up for us a crown (Revelation 3:11). If we deeply understand the key of David vision, we will be thrilled by that project in Jerusalem. Behold—LO! LO! There is something truly special here!
What do our activities in Jerusalem have to do with the gospel? Everything! Within just a few short years, every city and country around the world will be focused on Jerusalem! When they are, we’ll be teaching them about the same thing we are teaching now: the key of David. God wants the whole world to understand this vision. The key of David unlocks everything in the Bible, beginning with the third of the Bible that is prophecy. If you lose that, you become blind and forsake God.
Look through the entire description of the Laodicean era (verses 14-22), and you see nothing about the key of David—because the Laodiceans have lost it. That is why they are lukewarm or worse. Mr. Armstrong undertook projects in Jerusalem and tried to get God’s people excited about it for many years. If only they had latched on to that vision!
Satan knows what we’re doing in Jerusalem, and he is raging like a mad dog in his attempt to stop it. He knows what it means for us to build a house for God—it is simply another sign we are in the final phase of this Work. He is deeply disturbed by these developments. All he lives for is to try to destroy what God is building. The world is quickly moving into its worst suffering in history (verse 10). But God will protect His very elect. Even now, we see Christ’s hand at work; as the economy gets worse, we are doing our greatest work.
“Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name” (verse 12). The human mind cannot grasp this reward without the Spirit of God. We must pray and ponder to even understand this key of David vision. We have a crown and will sit in Jerusalem forever. After the Millennium will come new Jerusalem! Everyone who still lives will be in the Family of God—and we will proceed out into the universe! The key of David is about endless rule! That is majestic leadership we must never lose sight of! What a King! What a crown! What an opportunity!
Isn’t it logical God would have our work involved in Jerusalem today? It’s our city forever! We’re going to rule the world from there—the headquarters of the universe, the most exciting city in the cosmos—forever!Continue Reading: Chapter 3: The Key That Identifies the Church