Mr. Armstrong taught us that he was the end-time fulfillment of Zerubbabel. He also believed there would be an end-time fulfillment of Joshua. This means the message about an end-time Joshua urgently needs to be understood by all of us.
That message is a prophecy about a modern-day Joshua and “his fellows” who are failing to build the way Zerubbabel did. They adopt the world’s scholarly approach to the Bible, which leads to one of the greatest disasters ever in God’s Church! Let’s examine these prophecies concerning Joshua and “his fellows.”
Who Is Joshua?
“And he shewed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him. And the Lord said unto Satan, The Lord rebuke thee, O Satan; even the Lord that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee: is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?” (Zechariah 3:1-2).
Just as Mr. Armstrong was an end-time type of Zerubbabel, so there must be an end-time type of this Joshua who was responsible for leading the Laodiceans astray. Joshua symbolizes the Laodicean rebellion.
The context shows that spiritual Israel is plunged into the Great Tribulation—and plucked out. It is going to be “a brand plucked out of the fire.”
Most of God’s people will be in the Tribulation—and then plucked out—or not plucked out! Nobody who survives the Tribulation could fulfill this scripture more than a Laodicean. Fifty percent of the Laodiceans will lose their eternal life (Matthew 25:1-10). A repentant Laodicean would indeed be a “brand plucked out of the fire.”
If we put all the pieces together, we can see that Joshua and Zerubbabel represent the last two Church eras! Zechariah 3 and 4 are about the Joshua era. The Zerubbabel inset is there to emphasize to Joshua where he got off track—how his garments became filthy, spiritually. And it’s all to occur just before Christ returns (Zechariah 3:8). It has to be the Laodicean era! Many people will follow Joshua’s teachings into the Great Tribulation—a Joshua who had filthy garments. Other major prophecies of the Bible say virtually the same thing. More on that later.
“Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and stood before the angel” (verse 3). The Hebrew word for “filthy” designates an extreme condition of filth. The word can even be used as “excrement.” The high priest, Joshua, didn’t begin with filthy garments. The Companion Bible says “was” means “had come to be.” Clearly, Satan got to him.
“Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and stood before the angel. And he answered and spake unto those that stood before him, saying, Take away the filthy garments from him. And unto him he said, Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment. And I said, Let them set a fair mitre upon his head. So they set a fair mitre upon his head, and clothed him with garments. And the angel of the Lord stood by” (verses 3-5). Joshua had filthy garments. Then there must have been some measure of repentance around the time he was put in charge. God took the filthy garments away and even gave Joshua a fair mitre, or pure turban, which symbolizes rule, or government. That means he was in charge and reigned over the last era of God’s Church. God gave him a majestic opportunity. But his rule over God’s Church ended badly.
Joshua’s salvation was conditional (verse 7). “If thou wilt walk in my ways.” “If thou wilt keep my charge.” A specific individual in a specific setting. “Then thou shalt also judge my house.” “And I will give thee places to walk.” The promises are all conditional. This is addressing a definite person with a specific priestly item—a turban—which symbolizes government. Joshua’s downfall revolved around government.
The central act is positioning a pure turban. His big problem was how he ruled—and failed to follow Zerubbabel’s example! This prophecy says there will be a leader in God’s Church who has a serious government problem! He refuses to submit to what Christ established through Mr. Armstrong! God is calling for repentance from the TOP!That is where the major government problem is.
The wcg leaders today are saying that the Philadelphia Church of God members have a government problem. The truth is not what men say—but what God says. And God says the Laodicean leaders have the government problem!
“Hear now, O Joshua the high priest, thou, and thy fellows that sit before thee: for they are men wondered at: for, behold, I will bring forth my servant the Branch [Christ]” (verse 8).
This refers to a leader who has serious spiritual problems just before the return of Christ. There are also other leaders with him—“his fellows”—which means there must be followers, namely the Laodicean Church. These other leaders also have a serious government problem.
The Anchor Bible says the word “sit” in Zechariah 3:8 could mean “rule, exercise authority.” But Joshua is not alone. It is Joshua and “thy fellows.” Strong’s Concordance says this expression could be rendered “your pastors.” “Thy” (or your) is a personal possessive pronoun which shows possession of something (the car’s engine, the baby’s toy, etc). They belong to Joshua—they are “HIS fellows.” They don’t belong to Christ. They follow a man! That’s the big problem! They are not spiritually motivated as they should be (e.g. Zechariah 4:6, which, remember, is part of the Zerubbabel inset). If they were properly motivated, they wouldn’t be following Joshua in his rebellion. They have contempt for Zerubbabel (Mr. Armstrong) and what he taught. So they move away from the Philadelphia standard.
“Thus saith the Lord of hosts; If thou wilt walk in my ways, and if thou wilt keep my charge, then thou shalt also judge my house, and shalt also keep my courts, and I will give thee places to walk among these that stand by” (Zechariah 3:7). “Keep my charge” means the act of guarding. It means “a place where guards are set.” The biggest SIN of Joshua and his fellows is a failure to guard what they had—what Mr. Armstrong left behind. (Malachi 2:7 has the same meaning for the word “keep.”) Their job is to tenaciously guard what Christ established through Mr. Armstrong and gave to the Church. Today, the Laodicean leaders are rejecting so much of the knowledge revealed by God.
It is also the same problem as in 2 Thessalonians 2:15. They reject the “traditions,” or “instructions,” of the past.
There is also good news. Joshua’s fellows are a sign that Christ’s return is very near (Zechariah 3:8). The Soncino commentary says, “for they are men that are a sign.” The Jamieson, Fausset and Brown Commentary also translates it “sign.” It could also read “wondrous sign,” because of what follows—Christ’s return! (verses 8-10).
It is the samesign we see in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-3 of a falling away, which also shows that Christ’s return is very near! This is almost the same language as in Zechariah 3. It’s also the same story as Revelation 3—about the Laodicean Church. Signs are to be read, understood and heeded, or we get lost.
There is another Joshua mentioned in the former prophets whom we also need to study.
The Joshua Who Succeeded Moses
The books of Joshua, Judges, 1 and 2 Samuel and 1 and 2 Kings are called the former prophets. They contain some prophecy, but focus more on leadership. Generally, the people of a church or nation follow the leaders. The former prophets reveal the kind of leadership necessary for God’s people to succeed. The books of 1 and 2 Samuel and 1 and 2 Kings tell us how or how not to be king-priests. The Joshua story tells us how to lead when a great man like Moses dies. By studying this example, the leaders in Pasadena would have known how to lead—and how not to lead—when Mr. Armstrong died, and the consequences of each. That makes these books very prophetic!
The purpose of these books was to tell the prophetic history of God’s people. We know that history repeats itself. So we can foretell what will happen to God’s people today if they repeat their history. If they follow a leader like this Joshua who followed Moses, the results will be wonderful. There will be a catastrophe if the reverse is true. That gives these books a heavy prophetic flavor.
Since they are former prophets, it means they have very important messages for us today.
“Remember the word which Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you, saying, The Lord your God hath given you rest, and hath given you this land” (Joshua 1:13). This Joshua told the Israelites to “remember” the word which Moses commanded them. This was after Moses was dead. So we must remember the word Mr. Armstrong commanded us! That is exactly what God tells us about what Mr. Armstrong taught—“remember” (Malachi 4:4-6).
“For the priests which bare the ark stood in the midst of Jordan, until every thing was finished that the Lord commanded Joshua to speak unto the people, according to all that Moses commanded Joshua …” (Joshua 4:10). God commanded Joshua to speak “according to all that Moses commanded” him. And so we must be very careful today to follow Mr. Armstrong’s instructions. Shortly after Mr. Armstrong’s death, the wcg even sent out a tape comparing this Joshua to Mr. Tkach.
“There was not a word of all that Moses commanded, which Joshua read not before all the congregation of Israel …” (Joshua 8:35). Joshua didn’t omit one word of all that Moses commanded—not one word! And Moses was dead! Why don’t we see this attitude in the Laodicean leaders today?
“As the Lord commanded Moses his servant, so did Moses command Joshua, and so did Joshua …” (Joshua 11:15). Moses followed God’s commands and passed them on to Joshua, who obeyed, and “… he [Joshua] left nothing undone of all that the Lord commanded Moses.” Joshua still obeyed the commands of Moses—long after Moses was dead. He built just as Moses did!
“But take diligent heed to do the commandment and the law, which Moses the servant of the Lord charged you, to love the Lord your God, and to walk in all his ways, and to keep his commandments, and to cleave unto him, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul” (Joshua 22:5). At the end of his life, Joshua was still telling them to take diligent heed to what Moses said! He always kept before the eyes of the people what Moses taught! Joshua knew he wasn’t on Moses’s level and never tried to exalt himself to that stature.
“Be ye therefore very courageous to keep and to do all that is written in the book of the law of Moses, that ye turn not aside therefrom to the right hand or to the left” (Joshua 23:6). Israel continued to be loyal until after Joshua and all those elders under him died—showing the fruits of Joshua’s great leadership. Moses was dead, but Joshua kept him very much ALIVE in the eyes of Israel. He told them not to turn to the right hand or the left from what Moses taught. We see no such attitude in the Laodicean leaders today. They are often teaching members to turn away from what “Elijah” taught us! That is why the administration of the wcg and other Laodicean groups are rebelling against God!
Remember, the book of Joshua is one of the former prophets. It has a message of prophecy for us today. It says that the leaders of the wcg and all of those who follow them are headed for disaster! You can stake your life on that—in fact, you will stake your eternal life on that!
“And Moses rose up, and his minister Joshua: and Moses went up into the mount of God” (Exodus 24:13). It was a meeting with the majestic God. Joshua went with Moses, at least part of the way up into the mount—to receive God’s commandments! A very privileged opportunity.
Mr. Tkach received very special training from Mr. Armstrong as well. God holds Mr. Tkach accountable as no other man on this Earth! That man is dealing with the glorified God (Exodus 24:15-16; 19:16-21). God help the man who forgets this!
Where is Joshua’s Courage?
It appears that the Joshua of Moses’s time had one outstanding strength—spiritual courage (Joshua 1:5-7). God was instructing him to use this quality and showing him how much he would need it.
In the Laodicean churches, spiritual couragemay be the greatest need. Without it, the other virtues are of little value! God’s people can’t cower in fear and still grow in God’s love. God says “the righteous are bold as a lion” (Proverbs 28:1).
The Church is commanded to warn this world. Mr. Tkach has said the world was in a Philadelphian stage when Mr. Armstrong was alive. Now, he said, the world is in a Laodicean stage. Therefore the Church can’t warn the world as Mr. Armstrong did because people just won’t accept the message, he said.
How would Paul respond to such a strategy? He was cursed, beaten, stoned and left for dead—and finally beheaded for preaching the same message Mr. Armstrong later preached! The message must be preached whether the people receive it or not. God says to warn them! Christ and all of God’s messengers were brutally treated for preaching the gospel to a people who wouldn’t accept God’s warning message.
This nation has the greatest power ever of any nation on Earth. It also lacks the will to use it (Leviticus 26:19). The wcg today has the greatest power to communicate God’s truth that any Church era has ever had—but it also lacks the will to use it!
The leaders of the wcg have absorbed the spirit of this age. That is the disease of the Laodiceans. Today they lack the understanding and courage to deliver God’s powerful message!
The World Tomorrow program used to be a powerful message. But after Mr. Armstrong died, the new format on the program quoted the Bible far less frequently and often referred to the authorities of this world. The result? The program received a drastically lower response. That prompted this unbelievable decision in early 1994: “After the current television season, we will begin using television in a new, more effective way. Instead of the half-hour program, we will begin airing special television ads for the Plain Truth and other literature on local stations in areas where we have congregations” (member letter, Feb. 24, 1994). Mr. Tkach blamed the drastic decision on the “exorbitantly high and continually rising cost of television” and doubted whether television was even “an appropriate medium for preaching the gospel”! (Worldwide News, Feb. 15, 1994). Mr. Armstrong would surely have disagreed. Before he died, the hugely successful television program was on close to 400 television stations worldwide!
I have read many articles in the Wall Street Journal and other news sources that are much stronger than the wcg’s articles and booklets! And now it no longer has a television program. The Church is commissioned by God to warn the world! Probably the best booklet the wcg had to do that job was The Book of Revelation Unveiled at Last. The wcg discontinued it. Unbelievable!
God speaks of the “power of the holy people,” that it will be shattered (Daniel 12:7; rsv). The wcg has the power to communicate. God has given it to them. They just aren’t using that power God’s way.
The famine of God’s Word is fast approaching. Then the two witnesses, who will die for God’s truth, will preach the final warning to the world before Christ’s return. We need leaders in God’s Church who are willing to die for God! Many of those who lack this willingness will die in the Tribulation!
Several years ago in Big Sandy, Mr. Tkach said, “We have put too much emphasis on prophecy in the past.” That is just another put-down of Mr. Armstrong and the commission of the Church! The wcg ought to be putting more emphasis on prophecy now—not less. There has probably been 10 times more prophecy fulfilled since late 1989 than in the previous 15 years combined, and the wcg is putting less emphasis on prophecy now than ever before!
It takes courage to warn the world.
‘The Scholar in the Tabernacle’
More and more frequently Joshua’s “fellows” are using the world’s scholarly approach to understanding the Bible.
God says He will cut off the scholar (Malachi 2:12). The word “scholar” means “one who has the answer”—but not necessarily the right answer.
The Prophet Malachi was trying to correct a faith crisis caused by a priesthood that was relying more and more on human, scholarly reasoning. We see the same condition in the wcg today. If these scholars are being relied on too much, it’s because the wcg is giving them too much authority. The leaders have the authority to invite the scholars into the tabernacle. This means those in charge are “off track.” This is the same direction many wcg leaders went in the 1970s, when Mr. Armstrong had to abolishthe doctrinal research committee.
According to Dr. Donald Ward, they are now removing the “anti-educational bias in the Church and college.” That happened in the 1970s too. Doesn’t that mean the wcg leaders are rejecting much of what Mr. Armstrong taught about today’s education? Didn’t Mr. Armstrong create much of that “bias” Dr. Ward is talking about? Of course he did! Mr. Armstrong had to be the one! And they know it—but just won’t come out and directly say so.
Again, it’s the direction we must be concerned about—moving away from the Philadelphia standard.
Mr. Armstrong taught us to avoid educational areas such as psychology, sociology, the world’s theology and much of man’s law. We don’t hear the same caution coming from the present wcg leaders.
Dr. Ward also said this anti-educational bias “has been in the Church and college for years.” Sounds like Mr. Armstrong made a serious mistake for years that Church scholars must now correct! Not so! Actually, they are being “treacherous to the wife of your youth” and are moving away from “traditions,” or “instructions,” mentioned in 2 Thessalonians 2:15!
Read what Mr. Armstrong said in a special edition of the Worldwide News dated June 24, 1985 (emphasis mine):
It was then [late 1970s] that the matter of obtaining accreditation from the organized accreditation societies of secular education became a problem. The liberals at Pasadena wanted accreditation. They did not want to be accredited as a Bible college, but as a full competing college or university. As such the college would fall under rules of the secular accrediting society, which would more or less determine policy and curricula.
Finally this effort on the part of the liberals increased the enrollment of the college from the approximate 500 limit that I had set to about 1,400 and going up. [In early 1992, it was 1,500!] It was no longer God’s college. I had realized the danger of a student body in excess of 500 students in residence on campus, and had set that as a definite college policy. But during those years when I was absent from Pasadena headquarters most of the time, changes were being gradually made in college policies as well as Church doctrines.
Jesus Christ had founded this college through me as God’s college. I had realized the state into which higher education had drifted into materialism. Moral and spiritual values were being overlooked almost entirely in colleges and universities. I had realized the tremendous responsibility to avoid neglecting this missing dimension in education at the time of founding Ambassador College.
Here is another comment by Mr. Armstrong in a letter dated March 19, 1981: “We could now qualify for accreditation both at Pasadena and Big Sandy—but we shall not, because the government of the colleges would have to be according to that which is in force in this world’s educational institutions—God’s government would have to go. We already have the highest accreditation of all—that of Almighty God!” (emphasis his).
As you know, the college has now been accredited. That could help some Ambassador graduates get jobs. But no amount of benefits received could ever justify removing God’s government! And we must not forget that God would give far greater benefits to those who obey Him!
Watch and listen to news about Ambassador University. It is repeating the mistakes of the past. It has already accepted accreditation on the world’s terms instead of God’s! [Ambassador University closed in 1997.] In August of 1979, Mr. Armstrong wrote a Good News article titled “How Satan Injects False Doctrines” (emphasis his):
In God’s Church in our day, self-appointed “scholars” rose up in what they called a doctrinal committee, devoting themselves, not to discovering any new truth—but trying to disprove the true doctrines Jesus Christ put into His Church through His apostle, and inject false doctrines into the Church of God.
This very thing happened in the days of the Apostle Paul and the original apostles. And Satan did blind and deceive those who, with honest hearts, had accepted God’s truth!
Brethren, do we think we are so superior to those of the first, second and third centuries that Satan could not have tried to pervert God’s truth today?
Too many people today have drifted into a state of believing that God’s Church cannot be deceived. Mr. Armstrong warned against that attitude. God warns us not to put our trust in scholars who are going to be cut off!