The Bible repeatedly warns us to hold fast to traditions: “Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle” (2 Thessalonians 2:15). The word “traditions” is rendered “instructions” in other translations. So God warns us to hold fast to His past instructions. Our spiritual well-being depends on it! God warns us against neglecting “so great salvation” which was conveyed to us by Christ (Hebrews 2:3). The saints in 2 Thessalonians 2:3 were turning away from God’s truth. They failed to hold fast. Paul gave them the solution to this problem, if only they had accepted it.
If we fail to hold on to God’s past instructions, we will be easily deceived—as those Christians were. Since the death of Herbert Armstrong, many changes have occurred within the Worldwide Church of God. Today, these changes have become blatant and obvious. Let’s examine how some of these disturbing changes began.
Mystery of the Ages
The following quote is from Mr. Tkach about Mystery of the Ages—it is taken from the November-December 1986 Plain Truth (emphasis mine throughout):
With this issue we complete our serialized publication of Mystery of the Ages by Herbert W. Armstrong. Although in declining health, and for all practical purposes blind, Mr. Armstrong persevered during the last year of his life to complete this, his last book. One of his last public appearances was to present it to the students of Ambassador College.
But he also wanted to make it available to a much wider audience. He decided Mystery of the Ages should be published by installments in the Plain Truth—a parting gift to the millions he had served through radio, television and the printed word during his long life.
Herbert W. Armstrong often likened understanding the Bible to putting together a jigsaw puzzle. At first there is a jumble of unrelated pieces. But as you fit them together, a clear picture begins to emerge. Over the years, God gave him more pieces of the puzzle, and he never stopped learning. Shortly before he died, he said he had understood more in the last 10 years of his long life than in all the previous decades.
Mystery of the Agesis the product of that understanding. Mr. Armstrong did not underestimate the importance of this last work, for it contained vital keys to understanding the plan of God as revealed in the Bible. Mystery of the Ages in a very real sense was a last will and testament,to be passed on to those who wouldvalue it. As we come to the last installment of this remarkable book, we gratefully acknowledge our indebtedness to Herbert W. Armstrong, and his dogged search for the truth. He freely shared his understanding with us, and we have been privileged to make it available to you. He loved and respected his readers and, in a figurative sense, he remembered you in his will.
On January 16, 1986—the day Mr. Armstrong died—Mr. Tkach wrote members and co-workers the following comment: “Even in the last year of his life, with declining strength, he completed with God’s help, his most powerful and effective book, Mystery of the Ages.”
Mr. Tkach wrote to the members and co-workers on January 19, 1986, after he returned from Mr. Armstrong’s funeral. Here is an excerpt from that letter: “I hope none of you will miss the January 26 telecast, which will be a special tribute to Mr. Armstrong, and will offer to the viewers a softbound copy of Mr. Armstrong’s final and most important book, Mystery of the Ages.”
Mystery of the Ages was removed from print in 1989. At that time, Mr. Tkach admitted the book contained “fundamental truths of God’s Word,” but said that “peripheral or incidental points … give occasion to critics to fault the whole book.” Do wcg leaders fear the critics and the world more than they fear God? (Malachi 2:4-8).
Why such a radical change in the way Mr. Tkach viewed this book?
Read Mr. Armstrong’s own words when he introduced Mystery of the Ages to God’s people in a letter dated September 12, 1985:
Dear Brethren and Co-workers with Christ:
Since last December I have been working diligently on the largest and most important book of my life. In real fact I feel I myself did not write it. Rather, I believe God used me in writing it. I candidly feel it may be the most important book since the Bible. …
We want to reach the largest audience possible with this book. I know you will feel the same way when you read it. …
This new book, Mystery of the Ages, unveils all these mysteries. It puts the many different parts of the ‘jigsaw puzzle’ together. It is, in fact, a synopsis of the entire Bible. It is my prayer that you will read it along with your Bible—that it will make your Bible come alive and understandable. And with God’s Holy Spirit dwelling in you, I feel sure that it will. I am now in my 94th year, and I feel that this book is the most valuable gift I could possibly give to you. This book is a partial expression of my thanks and gratitude to you for being a co-laborer with me and with Jesus Christ. With all my heart, I do appreciate and thank God for your part with me in the wonderful Work in these closing days.
Here is what Mr. Armstrong wrote in a member and co-worker letter dated November 25, 1985: “With the writing of the new book Mystery of the Ages God has helped me this year to do the best work of my 93 years of life!”
Mr. Armstrong was sick during the 1985 Feast of Tabernacles. A tape was played of his sermon the previous year. It was preceded by a videotaped segment about Mystery of the Ages in which this book was called Mr. Armstrong’s “most important and significant work”! I repeat: It was his “most important and significant work”! (This was said about three months before his death.) Less than three years after his death, the leaders of the wcgdiscontinued the very heart of Christ’s Work through Mr. Armstrong! How soon some forget—less than three years!
This video was of Mr. Armstrong presenting Mystery of the Ages to the sophomore Fundamentals of Theology class at Ambassador College. (After obtaining accreditation in 1994, the wcg changed the name of Ambassador College to Ambassador University.) It was probably his last time to speak publicly.
The book cover was a royal purple. That color was not commercially available. It had to be a special mixture made by R. R. Donnelley Printers. Mr. Armstrong’s autograph was in gold. The title was embossed in gold lettering. Mr. Armstrong showed a personal interest in every detail of its production.
Each member and co-worker was given a hardback copy. It was run serially in the Plain Truth. Ads were placed in trade journals around the United States. Full-page ads were run in the most prestigious business paper in the U.S., the Wall Street Journal. There were extensive ads in magazines and newspapers. It was even sold in bookstores.
Mr. Armstrong suggested it be read and studied a second and a third time. (That is still very good advice for us today.) It was stated that this book “may prove to be one of the most important books of our day.”
Mr. Armstrong got very emotional when he said to the sophomore class, “This is a pretty big day in my life when I can hand this book out to each of you.” He gave this book to them to be used as a college textbook. Yet wcg leaders today have decided it is too “flawed” to continue printing.
No one coming into the Worldwide Church can receive these discontinued books. Here are the instructions from Pasadena to the ministry: “[I]t is inappropriate to photocopy and distribute obsolete articles. If the literature is not on our current literature index, then it should not be used.” A strong decision with a ring of finality.
Mr. Armstrong instructed the ministers to insist that every baptismal candidate read Mystery of the Ages. That has been stopped “forever.” The wcg no longer prints this book. If these top men had made this suggestion before January 16, 1986, all of them would have been fired!
The first reason Larry Salyer gave in the Pastor General’s Report in 1989 for discontinuing the book was cost. Mystery of the Ages is the cornerstone of all the Church’s literature and he said they could not afford to print it! God reveals such powerful truths—and the wcg can’t afford to print them?
What a drastic change in Mr. Tkach’s thinking! What are God’s people going to think about this book now? Will they cast it aside as “flawed”? Lacking credibility?
Some ministers were critical of the decision to discontinue Mystery of the Ages, but Mr. Tkach responded, “God has not commanded us to view every word Mr. Armstrong wrote as sacred scripture.” After all those wonderful statements by Mr. Armstrong and Mr. Tkach about the book, are questions regarding the decision to remove this vital book unreasonable? Did Mr. Tkach really think anyone who is critical of that decision believes every word of Mr. Armstrong is sacred?
There is a vast difference between being concerned about discontinuing this book and viewing every word of Mr. Armstrong as “sacred.”
Mystery of the Ages was like the magnificent summary of all Mr. Armstrong’s work—the accumulated knowledge of his entire ministry. This book, more than any other piece of literature, was what Mr. Armstrong and God’s Work were about during the Philadelphia era.
Mr. Armstrong said, “I feel I myself did not write it. I believe God used me in writing it.” What does that mean? It means that if Mr. Armstrong was right, these men have a dangerous disagreement with Jesus Christ! Still, in less than three years after Mr. Armstrong’s death, it was discontinued.
In the final meeting between John Amos and me and two of the top leaders at Pasadena, one of them said Mr. Armstrong put the book together by “just combining many different articles.” Mr. Armstrong’s letter of September 12, 1985 (quoted above), refutes that statement. Joe Tkach Jr., director of Church Administration in the wcg, had said earlier that Mystery of the Ages “was riddled with error”—a statement we challenged. He later changed that remark to “many significant errors.” He also talked about “racist statements” in the book. We strongly disagreed with what they both said and told them so.
Mr. Armstrong had served in God’s Work for over 20 years before these two men were even born! Mr. Armstrong was in the Work full time for over 50 years. Joe Tkach Jr. has only been in the Work full time since early 1987 (one year after Mr. Armstrong’s death).
Please read and study Mystery of the Ages again. I did. I wanted to see all the “errors” they were talking about. Now I am 10-fold more convinced it was a tragic decision to remove this book from publication. Study it again, prayerfully, and then tell me they made a right decision.
The Autobiography of Herbert W. Armstrong, Volume 1, has also been discontinued. This is perhaps the second-most important book Mr. Armstrong wrote. It tells the history of the Philadelphia era better than any other book. Volume 2 was not written entirely by Mr. Armstrong due to his failing health, but it is still a very important book.
Removing the Autobiography is another move away from “traditions” or the history of God’s Church (2 Thessalonians 2:15). Never was a better book written on how to be a minister. All of us are called to that office in the World Tomorrow. This is the story of how God prepared the end-time “Elijah.” It is a big part of the history of our modern-day “John the Baptist” preparing the way for Christ’s return.
Luke wrote the whole book of Acts about the history of God’s Church. God considers Church history very important.
The Autobiography is the best history book we have of God’s Work. It’s not just history of Mr. Armstrong. This is vital history of the beginning and growth of the Philadelphia era of God’s Church.
The Incredible Human Potential
Shortly before Mr. Armstrong’s death, a taped sermon was sent out by the wcg about the book The Incredible Human Potential. The speaker said this book should be “dog-eared” from use by Church members. Mr. Armstrong had the sermon tape sent to all of God’s congregations. The wcg also discontinued this book a short while after Mr. Armstrong died, and nobody explained why it was discontinued.
Why do these wcg leaders think so differently in such a short time? The Incredible Human Potential is one of the most inspiring books God’s Church ever produced. It contains powerful inspiration from Christ. If you doubt its value, read and study it two or three times. This is the acid test. Then learn again, or more deeply, how glorious this truth is. I’ll comment on more of Mr. Armstrong’s canceled books later.
Who Was Jesus? Booklet
As the wcg discontinued Mystery of the Ages, it introduced Who Was Jesus? Mr. Armstrong said the big problem with the Protestants was their preaching about the person of Christ while rejecting His message. Mystery of the Ages is about Christ’s message. The Who Was Jesus? booklet is mostly about the person of Christ. It is this booklet’s direction we need to be concerned about.
Mr. Tkach said of the Who Was Jesus? booklet: “I believe this will be one of our most vital and important pieces of literature as we continue to do the job of preaching and teaching the full gospel of Jesus Christ ….”
I fail to see such importance in this booklet. I do see a disturbing change in direction.
It is the focus that should disturb us. The wcg has moved away from the message of Christ and is focusing more and more on the Messenger. Just as the Protestants do.
When they discontinued Mystery of the Ages with criticism and then introduced Who Was Jesus? with great plaudits, it revealed a dangerous direction—away from what God taught us through Mr. Armstrong. Please read the two books and compare them. That should be proof enough to a spiritually discerning person.
This is exactly the direction some Church leaders were going in the 1970s. Mr. Armstrong wrote in the June 24, 1985, Worldwide News about the trying times when the early Church changed its focus to a false Jesus and a false gospel. Here is what he said:
After Jesus’s death and resurrection He ascended to heaven to sit with God on God’s throne, where He is today. Ten days after His ascension—53 days after His death—the Holy Spirit descended and filled His disciples. That day of “firstfruits” the Church was born.
It thrived and grew amazingly, but soon opposition and persecution set in. By a.d. 51, much of the Church in Galatia had turned to another gospel (Galatians 1:6-7). A violent controversy arose over whether the gospel to be preached was the gospel of Christ or a gospel about Christ. The latter won out. There ensued a “lost century” in the history of the Church, from about a.d. 70 to 170. The original true Church survived, but gradually lost much of Jesus’s teaching and biblical truth. By the early part of the 20th century much of God’s purpose and truth had been lost—but the struggling true Church still had the name Church of God, the Ten Commandments including the Sabbath, and also tithing.
Let’s look at an amazing prophecy. “And as he [Jesus] 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? And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you” (Matthew 24:3-4). This is dual. It’s addressed to physical and spiritual Israel. Christ is addressing His own disciples. The wcg has taught for years that when the Bible says “you,” it’s talking to God’s people. Christ said, “Take heed that no man deceive you.” That means you disciples—or God’s people.
So God’s people are warned to beware of deception, aimed mainly at the end time. How would this deception occur? How could some man deceive God’s people? “For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many” (verse 5). Many shall come saying Jesus is Christ “and shall deceive many.” Or, many shall come teaching about the person of Christ—not about His message. This is what will happen in the very end time to God’s own people. It was prophesied to happen, and it’s happening in God’s Worldwide Church right now! Just as Christ said it would. The booklet Who Was Jesus? helps to fulfill that prophecy!
“And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold” (verse 12). This word “love” is from the Greek word agape which is God’s love, not man’s love. Only God’s true Church has God’s love. This is a prophecy about what is to happen in God’s Church. False teachers cause this to happen within the Church.
The Church is not apt to be deceived by people from without. The Bible shows that God’s Church is usually deceived from within.
When wcg leaders moved away from Mystery of the Ages (and Christ’s message) to Who Was Jesus? (and the person of Christ), it was time to start asking some hard questions about the direction of the wcg. One approach is focused on Christ—the other on Christ’s message.
The same mistake was made in the 1970s. That is why Mr. Armstrong was warning us in 1985 not to let history repeat itself!
“Remember ye the law of Moses my servant, which I commanded unto him in Horeb for all Israel, with the statutes and judgments” (Malachi 4:4). Horeb is another name for Mt. Sinai. There is something about this word that we need to “remember.” Horeb is where it all began with physical Israel. It is where the Israelites began their spiritual lives (by the letter of the law). At Horeb, they received God’s Ten Commandments. God told them to remember where it all began.
Malachi is an end-time book that keeps referring us back to the beginning. So what does this word mean for us today? “Horeb” is a coded word revealing essential truth. Horeb was a beginning. We, too, must remember where our spiritual history began in this age—“the wife of your youth.” We are spiritual Israel today. Therefore, we must remember what “Elijah” (Mr. Armstrong) taught us from the beginning of the Philadelphia era. We must have our names in the “book of remembrance” (Malachi 3:16).
Many people have Mr. Armstrong’s books and booklets. Hang on to them! Don’t forget what you were taught spiritually from the beginning. This time, there is no Herbert Armstrong to get the Church “back on track.” Those of us in the ministry today must take the lead this time. It is through this struggle that God makes up His “jewels” (verse 17) and decides who will be taken to a place of safety. This is the test God has hurled at His spiritual leaders today!
We must remember where it all began. Malachi repeats this over and over. He does it for a powerful reason. This is where the Church fails at the very end and becomes the Laodicean era. We are told to hold fast our crown (Revelation 3:11). It is through remembering that the Philadelphians qualify for the place of safety and to be pillars in God’s temple after Christ returns.
Malachi’s Message Prophesied!
God has revealed that there is a work which must be done. Christ’s “knock” (Revelation 3:20) must be delivered to the Laodicean Church.
“And ye shall know that I have sent this commandment unto you, that my covenant might be with Levi, saith the Lord of hosts” (Malachi 2:4). This is a specific prophecy about Malachi’s Message. God said I SENT THIS MESSAGE TO YOU, and YOU SHALL KNOW that God sent it! They will know before or during the Great Tribulation that Malachi’s Message is from God.
The book of Malachi has a commandment for the Laodicean Church and its ministers to “remember” what Christ taught and repent (Malachi 4:4). It is a commandment to get back to the law of God. “[Y]e have caused many to stumble at the law,” it says (Malachi 2:8). This is what Malachi’s Message is all about.
God is primarily condemning the ministry! The ministers who refuse to hearMalachi’s Message are under a curse! (verse 2). “If ye will not hear” means that Malachi’s Message will be preached! The wcg ministry will have an opportunity to “hear”—and then accept or reject the message. This is that message. You are holding it in your hands! It is a prophecy being fulfilled this very minute!
“Therefore have I also made you contemptible and base before all the people, according as ye have not kept my ways, but have been partial in the law” (verse 9). The Revised Standard Version states that these ministers show “partiality” in the law. It means they are respecters of persons rather than of the truth. The expression partial in the law literally means, “you have accepted or exalted faces or persons.”
They show partiality or favor to those who move away from the instructions God gave through Mr. Armstrong. This causes people to “stumble at the law” (verse 8). They don’t stop keeping the law, they just stumble. It leads them into a “lukewarm” attitude.
Many of the Laodiceans keep the law (Revelation 12:17). They also stumble at the law. (The Laodiceans are comprised of the wcg and other groups that have left the wcg—except the pcg.)
God says the ministry should “keep knowledge” (Malachi 2:7-8). The Hebrew word for “keep” means “watch, to guard, to fasten with nails.” Some ministers in the wcg today are failing to guard the knowledge of the past. They have failed to “remember” (Malachi 4:4). They have failed to cling to what was previously taught about God’s law.
This is why they show partiality. Many members who are very loyal to what God taught through Mr. Armstrong are being pushed more and more into the background, just as they were in the 1970s. Malachi 2:9 tells us why. The leaders show partiality in the law. Over 2,000 years ago, it was all prophesied to happen!
Malachi was a reformer trying to lead the ministers and the people back to the law. The priests were the usual expounders of the law. The prophets only appeared on special occasions—as in the case of Malachi, who came chiefly because the priests were leading God’s people astray. The men at the top were rejecting God’s law—God’s government. The ministers have “profaned the holiness [sanctuary;rsv] of the Lord” (Malachi 2:11). They profaned God’s sanctuary, or temple (the Church today). Again, this is not about some bad physical marriages, as we thought in the past (verses 14-16). It’s about the Church, the wife of Christ, being corrupted! Where did Malachi begin? Like Ezekiel’s executioners (Ezekiel 9:6), Malachi began at God’s sanctuary—the ministry.