Chapter 2

The Two Trees

From the booklet From the Beginning

We must understand our own minds. “The carnal mind is enmity against God” (Rom. 8:7). Our natural mind hates God’s rule over us. But that rule brings us the happy and joyful life we all desire.

The majority of God’s own people have turned away from Him in this end time. The failure to understand “from the beginning” is the primary reason for this greatest of all catastrophes!

Rejecting God’s Government

The book of Haggai, like all of the major and minor prophets, is primarily for the end time (Hag. 2:23). Haggai shows how the ministers falsely measure God’s law, upon which God’s government is based.

“Thus saith the Lord of hosts; Ask now the priests concerning the law, saying, If one bear holy flesh in the skirt of his garment, and with his skirt do touch bread, or pottage, or wine, or oil, or any meat, shall it be holy? And the priests answered and said, No. Then said Haggai, If one that is unclean by a dead body touch any of these, shall it be unclean? And the priests answered and said, It shall be unclean. Then answered Haggai, and said, So is this people, and so is this nation before me, saith the Lord; and so is every work of their hands; and that which they offer there is unclean. And now, I pray you, consider from this day and upward, from before a stone was laid upon a stone in the temple of the Lord: Since those days were, when one came to an heap of twenty measures, there were but ten: when one came to the pressfat for to draw out fifty vessels out of the press, there were but twenty” (Hag. 2:11-16).

We must look at these verses spiritually today. It is a prophecy about how the ministers today measure very badly when it comes to God’s law. Only God’s Church keeps His laws spiritually. So it is a stern warning to God’s own people to beware of their Laodicean ministers—“that which they offer is unclean”! Unless the people can measure better than most of them, they are going to be deceived! And don’t forget, it’s about measuring God’s law—upon which God’s government is based. Those who are properly measuring cannot be deceived! Then you follow God and not God’s Laodicean ministers who have been deceived.

Let’s not forget that the primary meaning is for this end time. “In that day, saith the Lord of hosts, will I take thee, O Zerubbabel, my servant, the son of Shealtiel, saith the Lord, and will make thee as a signet: for I have chosen thee, saith the Lord of hosts” (v. 23). In that day always refers to the end time. So there must be a spiritual leader in this end time who was a type of Zerubbabel.

Herbert W. Armstrong started and finished an era that “restored all things.” Before he died, he started it and finished it, with the power of God’s Holy Spirit (Zech. 4:6). His hands laid the foundation and his hands finished the house—the Philadelphia era. “The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also finish it” (Zech. 4:9). It is clearly talking about a hands-on operation.

It twice mentions hands, designating a starting and finishing of a project. The Anchor Bible Commentary says hands is literal, and expresses participation in temple building (“Book of Zechariah,” p. 251). That is, it was built by a human being with “hands,” not built “without hands”—as Christ does it.

Notice what Mr. Armstrong wrote in a letter to the Church in 1981: “Zerubbabel built the second temple to which Jesus came the first time. John the Baptist prepared the way before the first coming. But who was to build the spiritual temple to which Christ shall soon come the second time? Who was to prepare the way before His Second Coming?

“Remember God does things in dual stages. As Zerubbabel built the first temple of material stone, wood and other materials, he was a forerunner or type of one through whom Christ would raise up or build the spiritual temple—His Church of our time, prior to the Day of the Lord and Christ’s Second Coming. As John the Baptist prepared the way, in the physical wilderness of the Jordan River for the First Coming of the human Jesus (both man and God), then coming to His material temple, and to His physical people Judah, announcing the Kingdom of God to be set up more than 1,900 years later, so God would use a human messenger in the spiritual wilderness of 20th-century religious confusion, to be a voice crying out the gospel of the Kingdom of God, about the spiritual Christ, coming in supreme power and glory to His spiritual temple, to actually establish that spiritual Kingdom of God.

“Brethren, has that been done by this Church?

“Did God raise up a one-man leadership to be used by Him in building this spiritual temple and in proclaiming after 1,900 years the true gospel of the Kingdom of God in all the world—to even go to kings and heads of nations (Rev. 10:11)—in bringing the Church back to the faith once delivered (Jude 3)?

“Has this happened, in your days, and has God brought you into this prophetic fulfillment as a part of it?

Has anyone else done it?” (March 19, 1981).

Did Mr. Armstrong think one man would and did fulfill this prophecy? Absolutely! He speaks of one, a human messenger, a voice, a one-man leadership and then ends by asking, “Has anyone else done it?”

This end-time Zerubbabel was made “as a signet.” The word signet means an emblem of authority. Anciently, a king often had a signet or ring with which to place his stamp of authority—when he was not present.

God says He “will make thee [Zerubbabel] as a signet.” That must mean after he is dead. Otherwise, in this age of jet planes, there would be no need for a signet. However, the government God established through Herbert W. Armstrong is still very binding today! That government is based on God’s law.

“Government Is Everything”

As Mr. Armstrong said, “Government is everything.” Nobody can properly implement God’s law without God’s government. And that is where the Laodicean ministry is measuring so badly in this end time. Of course, we have to look at this spiritually today.

The Philadelphia Church of God is the only Church that has kept the government God established through Mr. Armstrong! “And there was given me a reed like unto a rod: and the angel stood, saying, Rise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein. But the court which is without the temple leave out, and measure it not; for it is given unto the Gentiles: and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months” (Rev. 11:1-2). This remnant is told to measure “the altar and them that worship therein.” The altar symbolizes the ministry, which caused the problem discussed in Haggai 2. Since the ministry is the primary problem, they are listed first and are to be corrected more severely. These deceived ministers are condemned because they so badly measure God’s law, upon which God’s government is based. God then has to command His loyal remnant to rise and measure for Him.

God uses the pcg to measure His ministry and temple (the Church today). This little remnant could not measure if they hadn’t already been given God’s government and authority to do so—through an end-time Zerubbabel! Only those submissive to that government will allow themselves to be measured and therefore qualify to measure for God.

God gives His revelation only to this obedient remnant, which resides in the inner court—where God dwells!

Because the Laodiceans measure God’s law and government so badly, they have to be put in the outer court. They were in the inner court, but they rebelled and God no longer does His work through them.

Because they rebel against God’s government, they will be plunged into the Great Tribulation. Fifty percent of them will repent at that time. The remaining fifty percent will lose their eternal lives! (Matt. 25:1-13). Do we see why it is so critical that we learn to submit to God’s rule?

The gospel is the good news of the coming Kingdom or family of God—which is the government that administers God’s law in the World Tomorrow. How could they possibly fulfill such a role if they don’t submit to God’s government today?

Let me give you an example of how badly they measure God’s law and government. One member of the board of directors in the United Church of God sent out a packet of their beliefs to many of their members. That church left the Worldwide Church of God early in 1995. Here is a quote from one of those letters: “We find it interesting that the only one of the ’18 Truths’ restored by Mr. Armstrong which has not been changed by the apostates [referring to current wcg leadership] is the ‘truth’ about church government. Those men are so deceived they cannot see that is the only one which needed to be changed.”

God called Mr. Armstrong to “restore all things” (Matt. 17:10-11), not these leaders. Yet these men think they can reject the government God established through him.

Here is a quote from another one of their board members (March 17, 1995): “Learning to work, in a new form of government, will be the principal challenge” (emphasis mine). The problem is God has given them no authority to make such a change! This is where the Laodiceans are measuring so badly today.

Let’s take another look at Haggai 2:15: “And now, I pray you, consider from this day and upward, from before a stone was laid upon a stone in the temple of the Lord.” God’s temple, or Church, was built in this end time through Mr. Armstrong. God says if we view it “from the beginning,” before one stone, or doctrine, was established, we can measure accurately.

Remember, Mr. Armstrong was called to “restore all things”—that means all of God’s foundational truths. The Laodiceans lack the faith to believe God. So they select and choose only those doctrines which appeal to them. They compromise God’s truth. That is why they are Laodicean!

The first doctrine listed among the 18 restored truths is government, which is built on God’s law. This government directed the most successful work of God ever on this Earth—in terms of numbers of people! For over 50 years, God used this government to preach the gospel around the world (Matt. 24:14). And all of these Laodicean ministers supported that government while Mr. Armstrong was alive! Now they somehow think God has commissioned them to change it! Somewhere along the line they were hypocrites, either then or now.

Notice what Mr. Armstrong said on the Feast of Trumpets in 1985: “There was an Elijah to come and to restore things in the Church. That has happened, and what has been restored is the government of God—and many of the truths, at least 17 or 18 principal, vital doctrines of truth, have been added to about the three that had survived in the Sardis era of the Church…. But they didn’t know about the government of God in the Church. They didn’t know about what I’m telling you today.” Mr. Armstrong clearly stated that he was the end-time Elijah. God used Mr. Armstrong to restore His government in this end time and nobody else!

The Two Trees—Back to the Beginning

God keeps directing us back, back, back. He wants us to see the whole “movie” or we get confused. So if we go back to the beginning of the Philadelphia era headed by Mr. Armstrong, we can easily see the Laodicean error.

But that’s not all. The subject Mr. Armstrong repeated most of all was about the two trees. He kept our minds focused on the distant past as well as the glorious future. If we go back far enough, God gives us tremendous vision.

The meaning of the two trees goes back much farther than Adam and Eve. That is why God inspired Mr. Armstrong to repeat it so often.

“Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons” (Gen. 3:1-7). That is how this present evil world began! Man chose to rule himself and reject God’s rule. Adam and Eve missed the greatest opportunity that could ever be offered to them.

Satan is the god of this world. “In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them” (ii Cor. 4:4). Satan has a throne. Adam and Eve had the opportunity to replace Satan on that throne and rule for God. They had to qualify to sit on the throne over this whole Earth. All Adam and Eve had to do was choose the tree of life.

“And the Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever” (Gen. 3:22). Instead, they chose the knowledge of the tree of good and evil. Adam and Eve and all mankind have chosen their own education, religion and government—not God’s way of life.

If Adam and Eve knew they had an opportunity to rule the whole Earth and replace Satan, they also knew about how Lucifer was given that opportunity before man was even created! Adam and Eve also had to know that God created the angels before there was any universe (Job 38). They knew God’s plan was to let the angels rule the universe, and how, after Lucifer rebelled, God had changed His plan. God had realized at that point that only God could rule in such a capacity. So He decided to reproduce His own character in man, or recreate Himself in man (Gen. 1:26). “In his image” means with God’s very own character.

So God taught Adam and Eve about what happened “from the beginning.” They knew about the beginning when there was only God and the Logos or Spokesman (John 1:1). But they didn’t really “get it.”

Now We Must Qualify

So the first Adam failed to qualify to rule this Earth. The second Adam—Jesus Christ—did not fail. And Christ wants to share that rule with the firstfruits.

Today, we are given the opportunity to rule the whole Earth, and ultimately the whole universe, with Jesus Christ. The firstfruits will become His bride (Rev. 19:7). Like Adam, we must choose the tree of life to qualify for this mountainous responsibility. That is why we are called “out of season.” We must be preparing to teach and rule all the rest of humanity, who will be called later.

We must choose between human intellect—man’s own reasoning—or the tree of liferepresenting revealed knowledge from God (see Amos 3:7-8).

The pcg has kept all of the revealed knowledge God gave to Mr. Armstrong. All of the Laodicean groups have rejected at least part of that revelation. Therefore, God has given them no new revelation since Mr. Armstrong died! But the pcg has been flooded with new revelation. We are the only group that is eating from the tree of life! And you can prove it. Because the Laodiceans have rejected God’s revealed government, God will not use them to do His work.

Remember, Satan was right there with Adam and Eve to lead them away from the tree of life. Satan has also deceived God’s Laodicean churches and led them away from the tree of life—God’s revelation. (See ii Thessalonians 2:8-10 and write for our free Colossians booklet.)

How can Satan be so deceptive? Because the tree of the knowledge of good and evil means you have both good and bad knowledge. Having some good knowledge deceives them into thinking all of their knowledge is good. There is some good in all of the Laodicean groups. However, they have rejected most of God’s revealed knowledge, and therefore God rejects them. God does not tolerate compromise. “Whatsoever is not of faith is sin” (Rom. 14:23).

Lucifer ruled the Earth for God. He had been the covering cherub over God’s throne of the whole universe. So he should have been able to administer God’s government on the Earth. However, he forgot what happened “from the beginning.” He was created and chose to fight his Creator! What folly. He was created by fiat. When Lucifer rebelled, God decided He must recreate Himself—with godly character in humans. The angels lacked the character to rule our universe. Now we have the opportunity to build the universe-ruling character of God!

Satan led Adam and Eve to make the same mistake he made. And today, Satan has led the majority of God’s own Church to reject God’s government, just as he did.

We must accept and administer God’s government, or we can never qualify to sit on thrones as kings and priests for God. We are called today to rule the Earth in the future. That means we must prepare by submitting to that government today. We must choose—just as Adam and Lucifer had to choose! Only the right choice will qualify us to rule this Earth with Jesus Christ!

We are being tested now!

We can’t qualify to replace Satan if we can’t overcome him! Today we have to choose between the two trees. The right choice will ensure that we don’t lose our crown.

Laodiceans Didn’t “Get It”

Mr. Armstrong’s made this very strong, condemning statement in his sermon on Pentecost, May 26, 1985—a few months before he died: “Why is this Church the firstfruits of God’s harvest for His Kingdom?… Brethren I want to say to you, I think that most of you don’t understand that at all. I think that most of you think it merely means that God chose us to get into the Kingdom first and then they’ll come in later. That is not the answer at all. And 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’re called for now and for no other purpose—but we’ll get in ahead of the others…. There is a reason why we’re the firstfruits! And I wish I could drive that home. But I fear that most of you just don’t get it. You don’t understand it at all. Why? Why are we the firstfruits? I’m going to try to make it plain this afternoon and still I think you won’t get it.”

How terribly prophetic those words have proven to be! Mr. Armstrong perceived that many ministers and members did not understand this precious truth. We can’t rule with Christ if we don’t even understand His family government.

God reveals His truth to babes (Matt. 11:25). This means humble people who submit to His loving family government.

If the Laodiceans would go all the way back to the beginning of Mr. Armstrong’s ministry, they would not make such serious errors. Then they could understand what John taught about “from the beginning.” Then they would see the whole picture. Then they would understand God’s loving family government and not arrogantly presume they can change it!

The Message

The Word, or Logos, is a Spokesman. That means He has a message. “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full. This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all” (i John 1:1-5). One definition of Logos is “revelatory thought.” God’s truth is revealed. The Word has one primary function. He is to deliver a message about the God family. Christ came to reveal the Father—and the God family. Christ didn’t come to focus on Himself, but on His Father and the God family.

Please notice, it is His message that we must declare. God’s Laodicean churches have only a hazy view of this message. That is why they are deceived. They focus too much on the messenger and not enough on the message. That is why their ministers measure so badly!

“And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?” (Matt. 24:3). Christ was addressing His own disciples. But the main focus is on God’s end-time disciples. And how are most of the Laodiceans deceived?

“And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many” (vv. 4-5). They focus on the person of Christ, but they fail to grasp His message. Christ demonstrates that very forcefully. “Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not” (v. 23). Christ is still speaking to His own disciples. There is obviously more than one Laodicean group. “If any man shall say unto you”—not Christ. Perhaps they are well-known evangelists or tv personalities. So these Laodiceans listen to men talk about Christ. But they fail to hear Christ and His message!

This is happening now in God’s own Church! This is how Satan deceives the Laodiceans. Christ says not to believe these men. Why? Their focus is too much on the personality of Christ—not His message!

The pcg always discusses the message of Christ. We encourage people to “prove all things,” then they can know where Christ’s message is. Every group says Christ is with them. But they are not willing to prove that they have the same message Christ revealed to Mr. Armstrong. That’s because they know they don’t have the full revealed truth!

Even the statement “Christ is over here” reveals confused leaders. The focus is simply not on the message. We must get beyond Jesus Christ—to the Father and the God family—the gospel. Christ Himself taught us that (see John 5:30; 14:10).

The Father

The Laodiceans would be more accurate if they would say, “Here is the Father”—not “Here is Christ.” Then they would be getting closer to the family government that is not now ruling them! John said our fellowship is with “the Father and his Son Jesus Christ” (i John 1:3). The Father, Son and firstfruits—God’s family. It is a family message.

John discusses the Word and the Father. That means he is discussing history before and after God became a Father, and before and after Christ became a Son (see John 1:1). That vision includes the rebellion of Lucifer. It was after that rebellion that God became a Father and the Word became a Son. God is recreating Himself now through His family plan, and the gospel is the good news of the coming Kingdom or family of God. That family will administer the government of God. The Laodiceans avoid the family government issue because they have rejected that government!

God says there is a universe out there to be ruled (Heb. 2). Only His family will be qualified to rule. Not only will we be ruling the whole universe, we will also rule over all members of God’s family who are not part of the bride of Christ.

Even given this glorious future, men like Diotrephes (iii John 9-10) and the Laodicean ministers seek the preeminence among a small group of people in this evil world! What grotesque, twisted priorities.

Later in that Pentecost 1985 sermon, Mr. Armstrong said this: “Jesus called these disciples out of the world to live the way of God and to teach them that way of life about the government of God.” But the Laodicean ministers, like Lucifer, have failed to administer that family government, headed by the Father.

The book of Revelation was given to Christ from the Father (Rev. 1:1). That book is the only book which puts prophecy into a time sequence. So the Father is the one in charge of prophecy. Only the Father knows the day and hour of Christ’s return.

Christ said, “My Father is greater than I” (John 14:28). Repeatedly, He taught us family government!

That is the same government God established through Mr. Armstrong. And the same government all the Laodiceans reject. Most of them even admit they have a new government in their churches!

We must learn God’s family government now. That message permeated Christ’s teaching.

The Apostle John introduces us to God’s family government after Lucifer failed. The Father is clearly the Head. It is that God family which we must declare to the Laodiceans and the world. The Father must remain at the head. Only then can we begin to grasp God’s family government.

“Where Is My Honor”

The book that most forcefully condemns the end-time Laodicean rebellion is Malachi. (Write for a free copy of Malachi’s Message.) “A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master: if then I be a father, where is mine honour? and if I be a master, where is my fear? saith the Lord of hosts unto you, O priests, that despise my name. And ye say, Wherein have we despised thy name?” (Mal. 1:6). The ministers are condemned for not honoring the Father—they despise the Father’s name! That is another way of saying they reject God’s family government, with the Father firmly at the head. They focus too much on Christ and preach a false gospel.

Since they don’t honor the Father, He doesn’t reveal prophecy to them! If they would honor the Father and His family government, then they would be flooded with new revelation as the pcg is! As it says in Matthew 7:16, “You shall know them by their fruits.”

Continue Reading: Chapter 3: How Lucifer Failed