Chapter 4

Following Elijah

From the book Malachi’s Message to God’s Church Today
By Gerald Flurry

The one predominant issue for God’s people in the end time revolves around a modern-day Elijah. He restored all things (Matthew 17:10-11). If we know God, the Bible and where God’s Church is, then it is easy to find this Elijah.

He was prophesied to appear just before Christ’s Second Coming. God would use him to build the physical and spiritual family (Malachi 4:5-6). He would appear before the “great and dreadful day of the Lord.” God’s true saints should be able to easily discern such a major leader for God in this short end-time period.

Failure to recognize this powerful man of God condemns a person’s religion. This Elijah would be doing a great Work for God, and God’s people would be helping him get the Work accomplished.

Have you seen this man of God? Have you recognized this Work of God? Nothing is more important to your physical and spiritual salvation!

Who Is Levi?

There is very little in the Bible about Levi. Still, the Bible says he had a great fear of God (Malachi 2:4-5). God used Levi to symbolize godly fear in the Levitical priesthood.

God is working with us spiritually today. The Bible talks about “Jews” (Revelation 3:9), and the Church applies it spiritually. The Sardis Church is “dead” spiritually (verse 1), not physically. The Laodiceans are “blind” and “naked” (verse 17) spiritually. We have always applied these words spiritually.

And so it is with Levi, who was the father of the physical Levites (or ministers). The priests and the Levites ministered in the tabernacle and the temple.

We know that most prophecy is dual. And we know the main fulfillment of the book of Malachi is in the end time (Malachi 4:5-6).

What is the meaning of Levi that God is trying to tell us today? The temple today is spiritual—God’s Church (John 2:21; 1 Corinthians 3:16-17; 6:19; 2 Corinthians 6:16). So who is the spiritual father of the ministers today? Mr. Armstrong said repeatedly that spiritually he was the father of all of us—either directly or indirectly. Just as Paul was the spiritual father of those he brought into the Church (1 Corinthians 4:15).

God is working with us spiritually today (Zechariah 4:6). “Levi” is a code word to help us understand—if we apply these verses spiritually. Mr. Armstrong often talked about the Bible being a coded book.

When Malachi delivered his message, Levi was dead. So it is today. This message is mainly for God’s Church after Mr. Armstrong’s death. Anyone who knew Mr. Armstrong knows he would not tolerate priests who “caused” people to “stumble at the law” (Malachi 2:8)—at least not for long. Now God wants to see if His other ministers have the same zeal. Do they fear God as Mr. Armstrong and Levi did?

If the priests, or ministers, don’t heed the message of Malachi, God will curse them (verse 2) and make them “contemptible and base before all the people” (verse 9).

And that is only the beginning. They will have to face the Great Tribulation and potentially the lake of fire. It’s a terrible way to learn godly fearif they finally do learn it.

The spiritual sons of Levi are to be purified (Malachi 3:3). The Levites of old were not offered salvation. But the Levites, or ministers, of Malachi are offered salvation—or ashes! (Malachi 4:1).

God says dung is to be spread on the faces of the guilty (Malachi 2:3). Severe humiliation—if they don’t repent.

Levi turned many from iniquity (verse 6). The Laodicean ministry causes many to stumble at the law (verse 8).

Seven Lamps

There is a significant key to understanding Zechariah 3 and 4. “For behold the stone that I have laid before Joshua; upon one stone shall be seven eyes …. [T]hey shall rejoice, and shall see the plummet in the hand of Zerubbabel with those seven; they are the eyes of the Lord, which run to and fro through the whole earth” (Zechariah 3:9; 4:10).

At the Ministerial Refreshing Program in September 1988, Dr. Ward taught that the “seven eyes” refer to the seven Church eras. That is the only interpretation I ever heard at Ambassador College. I think most of God’s ministers agree on that subject.

“The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches” (Revelation 1:20). The seven candlesticks (or lamps) are also the seven Church eras (see Revelation 2 and 3).

“And said unto me, What seest thou? And I said, I have looked, and behold a candlestick all of gold, with a bowl upon the top of it, and his seven lamps thereon, and seven pipes to the seven lamps, which are upon the top thereof” (Zechariah 4:2). The word “candlestick” in this verse would better be translated “lampstand” (see Anchor Bible Commentary). The lampstand has seven lamps, which is again referring to the seven Church eras of Revelation 2 and 3.

Lamps give light. Eyes are used to see. These seven Church eras are given spiritual light and spiritual sight by God. They see and understand God’s plan and world events if they use God’s Holy Spirit (Zechariah 4:6). No other group is given this understanding by God.

The seven eyes are listed in the Joshua section (Zechariah 3:9) and in the Zerubbabel section (Zechariah 4:10). The seven lamps (or seven eyes) are also mentioned in Zechariah 4:2. God is emphasizing the subject of Church eras because the unlawful Joshua and the righteous Zerubbabel both are in this end-time prophecy. That is just another indication that this is a prophecy for now. The seven eras start at Christ’s first coming and end at His Second Coming. God wants us to think in terms of Church eras. This is crucial to understanding Zechariah 3 and 4. Then the chapters are easy to grasp.

After Zerubbabel’s death came the Laodicean era—which turned away from the Zerubbabel work (just as it happened in Revelation 3).

Zechariah 3 talks about a Joshua who had a mitre, or was the leader. It is a prophecy of a modern Joshua who was given rule over God’s Church. So when God talks about Joshua and Zerubbabel (in the context of Church eras), two eras and two leaders are discussed. Therefore, in modern times they must each lead a Church era. Zerubbabel was a leader before Joshua, so let’s start with Zerubbabel.

‘The Hands of Zerubbabel’

When the Bible refers directly to Christ doing the building, it is usually stated as “not made with hands” (2 Corinthians 5:1), or something is accomplished “without hands” (Daniel 2:45), or “a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands” (Hebrews 9:11).

“The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also finish it …” (Zechariah 4:9). This verse 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. That is, it was built through a human being with “hands,” not built “without hands”—as Christ does it without the use of a human instrument.

Mr. Armstrong started and finished an era that “restored all things.” He started it and finished it before he died, with the power of God’s Holy Spirit (Zechariah 4:6). His hands laid the foundation, and his hands finished the house—the Philadelphia era.

Mr. Armstrong wrote a letter to the Church on March 19, 1981. Here is an excerpt from that letter (emphasis his):

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 (Revelation 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?

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?”

Why are Laodicean leaders today, without proper biblical support and proof, so intent on changing major prophecies Mr. Armstrong taught us?

Mr. Armstrong continued: “God has never removed a man called to a specific leadership or assignment or commission until his mission is completed.” Did Mr. Armstrong complete his mission? Did he finish “this house,” “restore all things” and “turn the hearts of the fathers”? He most certainly did!

We shouldn’t be too quick to say we can’t understand Zechariah. God’s angel chided the Prophet Zechariah for having this attitude (Zechariah 4:4-5).

“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). “House” is a very common word in the Bible. In the Englishman’s Hebrew and Chaldee Concordance, where “house” is used, the scriptures cover 13 pages. The word “temple” in the same book covers only one fourth of a page. “Temple” is not used here—and “temple” is not nearly as common in the Bible as the word “house.”

The word “house” can mean an “inner part”—or only a part of something greater. It is a name given to human bodies as being frail and transitory (Job 4:19). The word is used as “tent” (Genesis 27:15; 33:17). It is used as the “house of the spider” (Job 8:14). It is applied to wealth, property and all that belongs to a family. All uses of this word are very temporary (like a Church era). The word temple is used in a more permanent way or to indicate a very long period of time. For example, the word “temple” often applies to all seven Church eras. It also applies to eternal life.

The subject is “this house” and is in the context of the seven Church eras (Zechariah 3:7-8; 4:2, 10; Revelation 1:20). If we put all the scriptures together, it could just as well be called “this era.” And Zerubbabel did finish it. Mr. Armstrong not only laid the foundation, as we often say today—he built the whole house. When he died, the Philadelphia era was completed. He restored all things (Matthew 17:10-11). No more foundational doctrines need to be added to the house. All we need to do is walk in Mr. Armstrong‘s footsteps, which is what Mr. Tkach SAID he would do. Primarily, we just need to maintain the “house” and do God’s Work.

Mr. Armstrong said to Mr. Tkach just before his death, “I have gone to world leaders. Now it’s time to bring the Church together.” It seems that more was finished by Mr. Armstrong than we have realized.

Dr. Ward said, “Christ is the ultimate fulfillment of Zerubbabel.” But that is spiritualizing away God’s truth. Christ is the ultimate fulfillment of everything—if He lives in us (Philippians 2:5). Still, there was a man named Zerubbabel who built the restoration temple. And there was a specific man who built the Philadelphia era of God’s Church. Mr. Armstrong was a type of Zerubbabel. He believed it and said so himself, many times!

The word of the Lord is to Zerubbabel (Zechariah 4:6). It doesn’t make sense if Christ is talking to Himself. Christ is talking to a man who fulfilled that office in this end time. Also, Zechariah 4:9 is not referring to Christ finishing the house, but to a man—Zerubbabel—finishing the house.

It’s illogical to say Zerubbabel is Christ. Is the Elijah Christ? How about John the Baptist? Haggai? Zechariah? Malachi? Of course not. God works through men!

God fits the last two eras of His Church into the seven eras in Zechariah 3 and 4. These chapters give us the overview. If we understand the big picture, then it all becomes very clear.

‘The Day of Small Things’

On January 7, 1934, the first radio program in the Philadelphian era of God’s Church aired on a 100-watt station in Eugene, Oregon. The Plain Truth magazine, mimeographed by hand, began in February 1934 with 234 copies. Ambassador College began in 1947 with four students and eight professors. It all seemed so small and insignificant. (Just as the work of the pcg began very small.) But from its small beginning, the wcg grew into a great and powerful worldwide organization.

“For who hath despised the day of small things? …” (Zechariah 4:10). Do some today despise “the day of small things”? This is another way of saying, some are “treacherous to the wife of your youth.”

The Anchor Bible Commentary uses the word “scorned” instead of the word “despised.” This commentary says the word scorned “indicates rejection.” What is being rejected today? The wcg leaders are rejecting what Christ built through Mr. Armstrong. These leaders have an attitude problem toward what Christ restored through Mr. Armstrong—which means they are rejecting the very government of God. It wasn’t the work of Mr. Armstrong—it was the Work of Christ. These scorners fail to see God’s Spirit (verse 6) in Christ’s Work, which was accomplished through Mr. Armstrong. It is God’s Spirit and God’s government they reject!

Perhaps the Church’s biggest problem today is despising “the day of small things.” Change doesn’t always mean growing in godly character. The Church has changed from a Philadelphian standard to a Laodicean standard, as shown in Revelation 3. So change is not always good.

The Zerubbabel Inset

The story flow of Zechariah 3 and 4 is about Joshua and the last two eras of God’s own Church. Zerubbabel is not an active part of this story flow. The story flow would be much better if you skipped the inset, which includes verses 6-9 and two thirds of verse 10 of Zechariah 4. An inset is an insertion that is added later by the editors after the original story was written. The International Critical Commentary (and a few others) even put this inset in another section of Zechariah.

Why an inset? Those who canonized the Bible put it there after the Joshua story was recorded. Remove it and you primarily have a rebellious Joshua and the last era of God’s Church just before Christ’s return (Zechariah 3:8). That is the time setting.

Joshua and “his fellows” are repeating the sins of the 1970s. They are relying too much on their own power—not the power of God’s Holy Spirit (Zechariah 4:6). Verse 6 is a part of the Zerubbabel inset. God says Zerubbabel (Mr. Armstrong) built the house through the power of God’s Holy Spirit, but the Laodiceans refuse to follow. They have a great example to follow, but they refuse. God considers this a rejection of His authority and government!

When referring to Mystery of the Ages, Mr. Armstrong said, “I feel I myself did not write it.” He felt God’s Holy Spirit moved and stirred him, as God has always led His great leaders. Mr. Armstrong understood how to let God rule and guide him. He didn’t even take the credit for writing that book! We’ll see as we continue that Joshua failed to let Christ rule him with the Holy Spirit. He rejected Zerubbabel’s example; that is what Zechariah 3 and 4 are all about.

Even though Mr. Armstrong is dead, he left us a finished house. Our job is to refine and maintain it (i.e., walk in his footsteps), not tear down what was built. Mr. Armstrong restored all things (Matthew 17:10-11)—he finished the work of the Philadelphia era and then he died. But he didn’t die until he finished God’s Work. What does it all mean? It’s the same warning Malachi gave: “Remember” what Elijah taught (Malachi 3:16; 4:4-6). We must also remember what and how Zerubbabel (Mr. Armstrong) built.

The Anchor Bible Commentary says that the Zerubbabel inset “is not extraneous to understanding the whole.” In other words, while the Zerubbabel inset is an entirely separate thought from the surrounding scriptures, understanding it is critical to comprehending these two chapters. The inset is called aglaring interruption.” That means it interrupts for an essential reason: When you include the inset, you can understand what it takes to continue being a Philadelphian after Mr. Armstrong died. You must follow what Christ established through Herbert W. Armstrong!

Mr. Armstrong said people in the 1970s wanted him out of the way; some even wanted him to die. And when it happened, look at the disaster that resulted. The wcg leaders today have removed most of Mr. Armstrong’s biblically based instructions. They too want him out of the way. Their “fruits” reveal a wrong attitude. We must prove any changes from the Bible.

The Philadelphia Church of God is NOT leaving God’s Philadelphia standard. The Laodicean leaders today are doing the leaving! They are taking a Laodicean turn away from Christ—because they ignore what Christ established through Zerubbabel (Mr. Armstrong).

This inset describes the same problem discussed in Revelation 3:7-21, which is changing from a Philadelphian to a Laodicean attitude.

The Laodiceans “despise the day of small things”—or the example set by “Zerubbabel.” This expression is a part of the inset. Why? It reveals their problem and tells them how they could be a smashing success, but they turn away from this history. It’s just another way of saying they were “treacherous to the wife of your youth”—and showing them how they must look to Zerubbabel to succeed. The “fruits” show he knew how to build spiritually! Several major prophecies are telling us that our salvation has everything to do with following Christ’s instructions through Mr. Armstrong. You’ll see more of these prophecies as we continue.

The inset is there for one main reason—to reveal Joshua’s sin and tell us how to avoid it. He doesn’t follow Zerubbabel’s example. That is getting to the very heart of what a Laodicean is. They turn away from what Christ established through Mr. Armstrong. The Laodicean sin revolves around this rebellion! The inset was added by editors, inspired by Christ, as a warning for the Church today!

Satan’s greatest attack on the Church in the end time is from within. Our greatest test is to resist his deceit and seduction. Joshua failed—Zerubbabel succeeded. The inset tells us how and why. Remember, it’s not possible to deceive the “very elect” (Matthew 24:24). Those who are God’s “very elect” will discern Satan’s deception today by using God’s Holy Spirit (Zechariah 4:6). Only by using God’s Spirit can we be saved from deception.

The Zerubbabel inset is another way of indicating that Mr. Armstrong is dead. It’s as if God is giving all of us the same instructions that Paul gave the Philippians when he was in jail and no longer able to be with them. “Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12-13). “Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you” (Philippians 4:9). God is giving us the same instructions today. What you “have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me”—or Mr. Armstrong—“DO”! Paul is telling them to use God’s Holy Spirit—and “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” That “fear and trembling” is what the ministers in Malachi 2:4-9 lack. So we must not follow their example. Follow the example of Paul and Mr. Armstrong!

Mr. Armstrong is dead, but we must remember what we learned from him and his example, which was inspired by Christ. We must “remember” and “DO”!

That is the major failure of Joshua and “his fellows.” Mr. Armstrong’s “traditions” are pushed aside now, as they were in the 1970s.

Mr. Tkach has said that Mr. Armstrong won’t “rule from the grave”—meaning he won’t let Mr. Armstrong’s words dictate his every move. And he shouldn’t. But God’s leaders must “rule from the grave” to some extent. Mr. Tkach must heed what Jesus Christ established through dead men—like Paul and Mr. Armstrong—and “DO”! If Mr. Tkach doesn’t follow what Christ previously established, then Mr. Tkach’s followers are just following a man!

God is discussing Church eras here. The time setting is just before Christ returns. The Philadelphian and Laodicean eras are the subject.

Zerubbabel had the “plummet,” or “plumb bob”—a measuring device used to test any vertical structure for deviation from a true line. This symbolized Zerubbabel testing the accuracy of truth or departure from previously revealed truth. If we aren’t testing our truth very precisely and carefully, we can easily depart into a Laodicean attitude. If we don’t look to Mr. Armstrong’s method of building, we face disaster in the future.

Two Sons of Oil

We must always keep the overview in mind. Again, there are seven lamps, or Church eras, which are the eyes of God mentioned in Zechariah 3 and 4 (Zechariah 3:9; 4:2, 10). These seven eras extend from Christ’s first coming to His Second Coming. If we don’t keep this overview, Satan will deceive us.

Christ is the Stone, or Head of all seven Church eras. This is all God’s doing. It is not a human project. We must see it through God’s eyes.

“And said unto me, What seest thou? And I said, I have looked, and behold a candlestick all of gold, with a bowl upon the top of it, and his seven lamps thereon … And two olive trees by it, one upon the right side of the bowl, and the other upon the left side thereof. … Then answered I, and said unto him, What are these two olive trees upon the right side of the candlestick and upon the left side thereof?” (Zechariah 4:2-3, 11). One olive tree is on the right side of the lampstand with seven lamps; the other is on the left. These two olive trees are symbols of the Father and the Son, where we get the olive oil, a type of God’s Holy Spirit. God opens our minds and reveals His truth through the Spirit.

“And I answered again, and said unto him, What be these two olive branches which through the two golden pipes empty the golden oil out of themselves? And he answered me and said, Knowest thou not what these be? And I said, No, my lord. Then said he, These are the two anointed ones, that stand by the Lord of the whole earth” (verses 12-14). These two olive branches are the two anointed ones—or, in Hebrew, sons of oil. Only through them does God give His Church new revelation in the last two eras. The golden oil flows from the two olive trees into the two olive branches.

The Holy Spirit is given to all of God’s Church members. That Spirit empowers them. Through the Holy Spirit, each member must discern who has been given God’s new revelation for the collective Body of the true Church. The members must know the two men through whom flowed the golden revelation from God. Their salvation is at stake.

The last two eras of God’s Church are discussed in Zechariah chapters 3 and 4. But the time frame is the last era, or the Laodicean era.

The first anointed one was Herbert W. Armstrong. He was inspired to produce some 50 books and booklets of new revelation for the sixth era. Only he was given new revelation for the true Church in the Philadelphia era. Only he restored all things (Matthew 17:10-11). That statement is proved in his book Mystery of the Ages.

Even though the seventh and last era went astray, God still sent His golden oil through the branch (an anointed one), into the golden pipes. The golden oil is still flowing into God’s very elect. All of that new seventh-era revelation revolves around the book you have in your hands! Without this book, we would not know what happened to God’s Church in the last era.

An unlawful Joshua led 95 percent of God’s people astray. But God used an anointed one, supported by a small remnant, to deliver God’s golden oil! (For more proof, request my free book Who Is ‘That Prophet’?)

In addition to Malachi’s Message, God has given us new revelation that I have written about in more than 30 other booklets in this Laodicean era.

The Holy Spirit opens our minds to know that the new revelation for the true Church came from God. God is trying to emphasize how important the Holy Spirit which brings the revelation is—it is golden oil flowing through golden pipes.

All of this precious revelation is pure spiritual gold! I hope and pray each one of you will beseech God to reveal to you how priceless it truly is!

Continue Reading: Chapter 5: End-Time Joshua in Bondage