Chapter 6

‘Man of Sin’

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

God’s Church has applied 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4 to the world for the most part. But it doesn’t apply to the world. There is tremendous biblical support to show it applies to God’s Church.

The “man of sin” is not a religious figure in the world. He sits “in the temple of God.” Even some commentaries, such as the Interpreter’s Bible Commentary, say: “The rebellion is, strictly speaking, within God’s Church.” If people in the world understand this, certainly God’s people should!

We have known for years that the temple of God is the Church.

If we look at 2 Thessalonians 2 carefully, we can see that the entire focus is on God’s Church—not the world. The subject is the return of Christ and the end of this age. It is at hand, or imminent. It could be very imminent!

“Now we beseech you, brethren, by [or concerning] the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God” (verses 1-4).

“That day” is the time of God’s intervention in human affairs when Jesus Christ will return to rule the nations.

First, take a look at what this does not say. It is not addressed to a worldly religious figure in a Jerusalem temple. Many of God’s ministers already believe the Arabs will never let a temple be built in Jerusalem. Even if a temple is built in Jerusalem, it will not be the temple of God! The Jews have not been commissioned to build God’s temple as Zerubbabel and Solomon were anciently. If they build a temple, it will be the Jews’ temple, not God’s temple—just as it was “the Jews’ feast of tabernacles” (John 7:2), not God’s Feast of Tabernacles.

The first verse of 2 Thessalonians 2 addresses the “brethren”—or God’s people. Verse 3 says, “Let no man deceive you ….” Mr. Armstrong always taught that you means God’s saints. In Matthew 24, verses 4 and 9, Christ says you when referring to His disciples. This is done repeatedly throughout the Bible.

There are two subjects discussed in 2 Thessalonians 2: the return of Christ and “a falling away.” What is being fallen away from? God’s truth (verses 10, 15). It’s an entire Church era falling away from God’s truth! It applies to God’s people—the Laodiceans. They had the truth but didn’t love it. Some are perishing spiritually because they don’t discern this evil. They don’t totally reject God’s truth, but they do greatly corrupt the faith.

What does the “falling away” have to do with a false spiritual leader in Jerusalem? Nothing directly.

There is a “falling away first” (verse 3). “First” is a key word (and it reads that way in the original Greek). The falling away is first—the return of Christ second. These are the two main subjects discussed in this chapter. Most of the emphasis is on the “falling away.”

The “man of sin” is a part of that falling away. If not, verse 3 would read something like this: “there is a falling away first, and a ‘man of sin’ second ….” But it doesn’t read that way. The subject of verse 3 is a falling away first; then what follows, the revealing of “that man of sin,” is a part of the falling away. God gives us this chronology to help us understand what happens within His Church just before Christ returns. “It [the Day of the Lord and Christ’s return] will not come till the Rebellion takes place first of all, with the revealing of the Lawless One …” (verse 3; Moffatt). It is a “rebellion” or “falling away” from God’s truth which must occur with the revealing of “that man of sin.” It is a gigantic rebellion against God’s government!

This chapter doesn’t have one verse that discusses a false prophet in Jerusalem. It’s all within God’s Church.

A false religious leader in Jerusalem would not fit with the rest of the chapter. Read the whole chapter carefully. It covers the falling away primarily—aimed precisely at God’s people throughout. The “man of sin” is revealed IN the falling away from God’s truth.

Paul says that God’s people could be “shaken in mind” and “troubled” (verse 2)—implying a violent unsettling. (In Acts 16:26, the word “shaken” is used to mean a shaking of the foundation of the prison by an earthquake.) “Troubled” is an even stronger word, like “terrified.” God’s people are entering into such times. Some could say that God has forsaken His Church. The truth is, God warned us almost 2,000 years ago of this tragic event, and He gave us some startling specifics.

This is a time when people are deceived within the Church (2 Thessalonians 2:3). The word translated “deceive” would be better translated “beguile.” The word means not only making a false impression but actually leading astray. Also, the word often carries the idea of willful deception. Are some of these doctrinal changes made when Laodicean leaders know better?

The last warning to the Philadelphia era was to let “no man take thy crown” (Revelation 3:11). These instructions were given just before Christ began to warn the Laodicean Church (verses 14-19). The Philadelphians heed that warning. Many Laodiceans are going to allow a man to take their reward—and some will even lose their crown, or eternal life.

It’s a powerful warning to all of us. A “man of sin” deliberately attempts to deceive God’s own people. (Of course, as with Joshua and “his fellows,” the man of sin has helpers.) False teaching will be spread among God’s own people by their leaders. All of this happens just before Christ returns—within God’s Church! Most commentaries call it a “great falling away.” As the story unfolds, you will see that this has to be true. It involves many people. Please remember that many people are involved—probably tens of thousands!

Some translations, including the Williams translation, call the “falling away” a “great revolt.” The rebellion is so large, God uses it as a sign. It is not some little, insignificant event. God gives one sign to the world that the end of this age is near (Matthew 24:14), and He gives an even more urgent sign to His people! Those members with the Philadelphia spirit will see and heed the sign. They will see who are the real rebels against God’s government!

The falling away from truth is a sign that all of God’s people can see—just before Christ returns! It ushers in the Great Tribulation and Christ’s Second Coming. Unfortunately, many will not heed this sign.

Other translations of 2 Thessalonians 2:3 read: “… for it [Christ’s return] cannot come unless the apostasy comes first” (Weymouth); “… for that cannot take place until the great revolt occurs” (Williams); “That day cannot come before the final rebellion against God” (New English Bible). “That day”—the return of Christ—cannot come until this falling away from God’s truth has occurred in the Church of God!

The expression “at hand” also means “has set in” (see the Interpreter’s Bible). The point is, an event “has set in” that connects DIRECTLY with the return of Jesus Christ! This “falling away” reveals that the return of Christ is imminent. In other words, when you see this “falling away” from the truth God taught us mostly through Mr. Armstrong, it’s time to think very seriously about Christ returning soon—very soon!

Again, it is not some little, insignificant event. It is a sign everybody in God’s Church will see—whether they understand it or not. Such a revolt from God’s truth is not something that can be hidden from members of God’s Church. It is gigantic. It’s a whole Laodicean Church era going astray—consoling themselves with their numbers! They are rebelling against the government of God! And it is all started by one man. Let “no man take thy crown.”

This “falling away” makes the problems of the 1970s hardly worth mentioning. At that time, some wcg leaders thought Mr. Armstrong was going to die. Consequently, we saw people change to a staggering degree. Their real character surfaced. But that was only a small type of what the Church is facing now.

What the Church has overlooked in the past is that this “man of sin” is revealed in that falling away from God’s truth. This is when and how he is “revealed,” or “uncovered.” The leader of the Laodicean Church is either leading this falling away or he is giving someone else great power to do so. The “man of sin” sits in God’s temple, or Church (1 Corinthians 3:16-17; 2 Corinthians 6:16; Ephesians 2:21; Revelation 3:12). He is sitting in God’s Church, using government to achieve his own goals, which are contrary to “past instructions” (2 Thessalonians 2:15; the word “traditions” in the King James Version is better translated “instructions” of the past).

If he is “showing himself that he is God,” the “man of sin” must be a very prominent leader. He is showing himself that he is God—not saying he is God. He has great power. He is using this power, not necessarily to tyrannize God’s people, but to deceive them!

However, those who oppose this “man of sin” by taking a stand for what Christ and Mr. Armstrong taught will be grievously oppressed—as long as they remain in the wcg! Remember, this power causes some of God’s people to be “shaken” or “troubled.”

This “man of sin” is getting people to look to him instead of God and the past instructions God gave us. He is leading many of God’s people toward the lake of fire! (verse 10). Nothing could be more serious!

‘The Son of Perdition’

The Bible calls the “man of sin” the “son of perdition,” the same label Christ gave to Judas Iscariotand only to Judas (John 17:12) until the “man of sin” spoken of in 2 Thessalonians.

Mr. Armstrong often talked about the Bible being a coded book. The correlation between Judas and the modern “man of sin” is a good example. Christ is telling us that the “man of sin” will commit a monstrous betrayal—just as Judas Iscariot did! And that betrayal is what the “falling away” is all about. Betrayal and falling away from God’s truth is also what the Laodicean Church is all about.

It is not a minor betrayal. It is a major betrayal—like Judas betraying Christ! An entire Church era will be betrayed and led astray. The disciples didn’t know about Judas Iscariot’s betrayal until the last night. Will the Church be in its “last night” when the “man of sin” is revealed?

How could this betrayal happen? “Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things? And now ye know what withholdeth [Greek, katecho meaning “restrains” or “holds back”] that he [the man of sin] might be revealed in his time. For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth [again, katecho meaning to “restrain”] will let [“restrain” or “hold back”], until he be taken out of the way” (2 Thessalonians 2:5-7).

The Phillips translation has verse 6 as, “You will probably also remember how I [Paul] used to talk about a ‘restraining power’ which would operate until the time should come for the emergence of this man.” Phillips renders verse 7, “… but its activities are restricted until what I have called the ‘restraining power’ is removed.”

The “restrainer” in verse 6 is spoken of in the neuter gender (“what withholdeth”)—referring to God’s Spirit. In verse 7, the “restrainer” is spoken of in the masculine gender (“he” who now lets, or restrains, not “what,” as in verse 6). Thus, in verse 7, the “restrainer” is personified, indicating a man “who” restrains. God’s Spirit is behind it all and is referred to in verse 6. The Holy Spirit is not a person, therefore the neuter gender. But God does use a man to do His Work, hence the masculine gender in verse 7. Clearly, we see a man being used by the Spirit of God.

There have always been people in God’s Church whom Satan can use unless they are controlled. God has now removed that control to show all of us who is who. No more mystery!

Who is the “he” to be “taken out of the way”? We know Christ is the main power here. But Christ is not taken out of the way. Christ used Paul to hold back this satanic force in his day, which is also shown in 2 Thessalonians 2.

Was there a conspicuous man, or “he,” in this end time who held back evil influences as Paul did? Of course, it was Herbert W. Armstrong who restrained the liberal forces, especially in the 1970s, and really during his entire spiritual life. Then on January 16, 1986, “he” was “taken out of the way.” Mr. Armstrong died—even though his doctor said he could have lived another 20 years.

Mr. Armstrong wrote in the Worldwide News, June 24, 1985: “A final personal word. In a few days I will be 93 years of age. For some years now, there have been some, like vultures, waiting for me to die. They would like to come back and take over the leadership of the Church in my stead. I have been deeply concerned about this, but in no sense worried. This is the Church of God, not of any man. Jesus Christ is the living Head of this Church. I am not” (emphasis mine throughout).

He continued, “Brethren, put your faith in Christ and the living God and not in me. If Christ should remove me ….” Christ did remove Mr. Armstrong—he was “taken out of the way” by death.

It is a “mystery of iniquity” (verse 7) because it was hidden. It dared not show itself because of “he” who restrained it. He was a man who was seen and whose authority was feared—Herbert W. Armstrong.

The Jamieson, Fausset and Brown Commentary translates verse 7 this way: “… the continuance of the mystery of iniquity working is only until he who now withholdeth be taken out of the way. Then it will work no longer in mystery, but in open manifestation.” When Mr. Armstrong was “taken out of the way,” then the mystery of iniquity began to work openly!

The mystery “doth already work.” It was at work before Mr. Armstrong died—but not openly. For example, the Work of God in Australia never got “back on track” after the 1970s rebellion, as most other areas did. That is because the real problems were concealed from Mr. Armstrong. The Philadelphia Church has received numerous letters from Australians detailing this deception that took place before Mr. Armstrong died. This is an example of what God means when He says the mystery “doth already work.”

The Spirit of God doesn’t hold this “man of sin” back. That is his problem. What held him back was someone who was taken out of the way—someone who restrained him and others for years! It was God’s Spirit working through Mr. Armstrong that held back the “man of sin.”

God will destroy the work of the Laodiceans! (verse 8). It is a three-fold plan of God. First, the “man of sin” is revealed. How? “At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes” (Matthew 11:25). God has revealed His truth unto babes. Truth is revealed from God. God’s truth is not something men can understand apart from God. It must be revealed.

But God will only reveal it to “babes”—saints with a childlike attitude. So first of all, God must reveal the “man of sin.” God has done that through Malachi’s Message. This is why wcg leaders fear Malachi’s Message. God’s revealed truth will destroy their evil deceptions. Many wcg members are studying Malachi’s Message and seeing that the wcg is off track. This message is causing a disturbance in the lives of many who have stayed in the Worldwide Church and has caused many wcg members to leave the Laodicean Church and attend the Philadelphia Church of God.

In the second stage, “the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth” (2 Thessalonians 2:8). So the wicked plot is revealed and consumed with God’s mouth—His truth. This is done by the teaching and preaching of God’s revealed truth (much of it through Malachi’s Message). In Hosea 6:5, God says, “… I have slain them by the words of my mouth …” (see also Isaiah 11:4). First God reveals the error, then He begins to consume it. At first it is a gradual process. Many will see what is happening. However, it appears that the majority won’t accept God’s truth about the “man of sin” until the Tribulation (Ezekiel 33:31-33).

Then in the third stage, God “shall destroy [the evil work] with the brightness of his coming” (2 Thessalonians 2:8). The word “destroy” could be translated “render ineffectual” or “render powerless.” All that remains of the wcg’s evil work will be replaced or destroyed when Christ returns. Those who fail to repent in the Tribulation will lose their salvation. Even God does not yet know who will repent and who won’t, because He has chosen not to know.

The Laodicean work of rebellion is destined to be smashed. It can end no other way, because God is against it.

A “falling away” happened in Paul’s day too—but only as a type of what is happening today. Could these verses in 2 Thessalonians 2 apply only to Paul’s time? No, this “falling away” is a sign to alert God’s people that Christ’s return is very near (verses 1-3). It’s the same “wondrous sign” (Soncino) mentioned in Zechariah 3:8—Joshua’s falling away—which points to Christ’s imminent return. This “falling away” is to happen in the very end time, after Mr. Armstrong’s death.

Also, the “man of sin” sits in God’s Church. It’s a major event within God’s Church that has never occurred before—only at the very end time! As indicated by the story of Joshua (Zechariah 3), this event also occurs just before Christ returns. Both Joshua and the “man of sin” are influenced by Satan (Zechariah 3:1; 2 Thessalonians 2:9).

We see from Malachi 2:14-16 that someone treacherously leads the Church away from its “traditions” (2 Thessalonians 2:15), from the traditions and instructions God taught us by “Elijah” (Mr. Armstrong).

We also see how Revelation 3 shows the Laodicean Church turning away from the Philadelphia standard.

All of these scriptures refer to the Laodiceans who turn away from the “trunk of the tree,” which was established by Christ—through Mr. Armstrong. If you examine these scriptures closely, they all reveal a “betrayal”—just like the betrayal in 2 Thessalonians 2.

This is the big overview we must remember.

Signs and Lying Wonders

“Even him [the ‘son of perdition’], whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders” (2 Thessalonians 2:9). The word “signs” is rendered “pretended signs” in the Revised Standard Version. This “son of perdition” is heavily influenced by Satan. Satan also had a grip on Zechariah’s Joshua (Zechariah 3:1).

According to Vincent’s Word Studies in the New Testament, “signs and wonders of a lie” is the literal translation. “Of a lie” characterizes the two words “signs” and “wonders.” Both bear the stamp of “fraud.”

Paul uses the same two words, “signs” and “wonders,” in some of his other books. For example, in 2 Corinthians 12:12 it says, “Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds.” Here Paul discussed signs and wonders of an apostle. Generally, the world didn’t accept Paul as an apostle who performed signs and wonders. But God’s people did.

Did the Apostle Herbert W. Armstrong perform signs and wonders? Of course he did. His whole work was a miracle from God! There were many signs and wonders.

“For I will not dare to speak of any of those things which Christ hath not wrought by me, to make the Gentiles obedient, by word and deed, Through mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God; so that from Jerusalem, and round about unto Illyricum, I have fully preached the gospel of Christ” (Romans 15:18-19).

Here Paul used the same two Greek words, signs and wonders—manifested by the power of God’s Holy Spirit.

“How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy [Spirit], according to his own will?” (Hebrews 2:3-4).

Again we see the same two Greek words—signs and wonders. God’s Work is always accomplished through His Holy Spirit. It is a miracle with signs and wonders. However, the world generally doesn’t see it that way.

In 2 Thessalonians 2, Paul discusses signs and lying wonders of a false leader, or lying apostle (Revelation 2:2). This leader is in charge of God’s Church, but his signs and lying wonders are not of God’s Holy Spirit. His deeds are deceitful, inspired by Satan the devil.

If we let the Bible interpret itself, it is clear what the meaning is. Many people assume these two words must mean spectacular signs and wonders in heaven or something like that. The Bible reveals that is not so. If you would like to study these words more, see Strong’s Concordance, number 4592 (signs) and 5059 (wonders).

It’s all a monstrous fraud that is spiritually deceiving many of God’s people—it would seem at least 144,000 eventually! They are all victims of a satanic fraud occurring within God’s Church.

The Joshua of Zechariah chapter 3 and the “man of sin” are not the same person. The “man of sin” is leading a wholesale rebellion against God, just before Christ returns, and he does it through a leadership role in God’s Church. So does Joshua. But the man of sin appears to be here when Christ returns.

“Then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth [His truth] and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming” (2 Thessalonians 2:8; New American Standard Bible). This “man of sin” does not have to be doomed to eternal death, but he and his work are going to come “to an end” when Christ returns. He could possibly even repent of this terrible sin of leading God’s people astray. He is a type of Judas. The Bible doesn’t say that Judas lost his eternal life.

It is even conceivable that this man was never converted. (Mr. Armstrong said he believed that one of the leading evangelists who left in the 1970s was never converted.) So the “man of sin” could possibly be destroyed physically (and not spiritually) when Christ returns—just as many others will be. However, we know that, generally, these sinners of 2 Thessalonians 2 are being destroyed spiritually. They must repent to avoid the lake of fire. We know that many will repent in the Tribulation.

Primarily, God is saying in 2 Thessalonians 2 that He will destroy the work of the “man of sin.” That would certainly include the manif he fails to repent.

The Moffatt translation gives a slightly different view: “… the Lord Jesus will destroy with the breath of his lips [or His words] and quell by his appearing and arrival” (verse 8). “[T]hat all may be doomed who refuse faith in the Truth …” (verse 12). So all of these sinners of 2 Thessalonians 2 are doomed—but only if they refuse to repent. They are being warned and given a choice by God through the Philadelphia Church of God.

Several translations call 2 Thessalonians 2 the “great and final rebellion.” Revelation 3, Zechariah 3 and the book of Malachi reveal that this has to be the Laodicean Church. To understand 2 Thessalonians 2, our main focus needs to be on the Laodiceans.

God Sends ‘Strong Delusion’

Many of God’s people will be captured by Satan’s deceit, if they don’t wake up! God is allowing and sending “the full force of evil’s delusion” (2 Thessalonians 2:11; Phillips) and “powerful heresies among them” (Norlie).

Can you understand “the full force of evil’s delusion”? The next few months and years will be very revealing—to God’s people and to God.

Please analyze the following words by Mr. Tkach in the October 10, 1989, Worldwide News: “Whom did Jesus call children of the devil? Those who thought they had a corner on the spiritual market. Those who thought they were the only ones who could have a relationship with God. Their attitude of pompous spiritual superiority made them partakers of the attitude of the devil.”

If we think we have “a corner on the spiritual market,” are we “children of the devil”? You never heard Mr. Armstrong make such a statement! That’s because he knew that we do have a “corner on the spiritual market.” Does that make Mr. Armstrong a “child of the devil”? Jesus Christ agreed with Mr. Armstrong. Only those begotten sons of our heavenly Father have God’s Holy Spirit and God’s calling (John 6:44). God has called a “little flock” today to receive His Spirit. Baptized members of God’s Church are the ONLY ONES who can have a truly spiritual relationship with God—the rest of the world doesn’t have God’s Holy Spirit. That’s not the “attitude of the devil”—that is reality! That is the truth of God!

We all had better watch such confusing and misleading statements coming from the wcg. They are leading some to a frightening end!

“Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy [Spirit] shall not be forgiven unto men. And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy [Spirit], it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come” (Matthew 12:31-32). Who says we have “a corner on the spiritual market”? God’s Holy Spirit does! The Holy Spirit is what makes us begotten sons of God—and such a rare people on this Earth. The Holy Spirit established a great work through Mr. Armstrong. The Holy Spirit was used to “restore all things” and give us a “corner on the spiritual market.” To deny that is getting dangerously close to blasphemy!

Have some in the Church forgotten who they are? How unique the firstfruits are?

Mr. Tkach’s statement is in the category of “strong delusion.” God is sending strong delusion nowat this very momentfrom the wcg leaders! Watch closely what you read, because that kind of statement made by Mr. Tkach is commonly seen today in the wcg’s literature.

A wcg minister spoke out against Malachi’s Message. The taped message was sent to several wcg congregations. It involved 2 Thessalonians 2. He said, “God doesn’t send strong delusion to His people—not the merciful God. Mr. Flurry’s God must be a harsh God that the Protestants talk about—not my God. There is no evidence of this.”

Yet the Apostle Paul said, “And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish [are perishing]; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie” (2 Thessalonians 2:10-11).

No evidence? Please read verse 11 again. It says “God SHALL send them strong delusion”! And verse 10 says that people ARE perishing spiritually—present tense! (New International Version). They have the truth but don’t love it. This could never apply to the world. The world has never had God’s truth. This is talking about God’s Church! And many wcg members are being deluded—failing a test given by God.

What could be more plain? God is sending “strong delusion” to people who have the truth! His very own people! And most of them are perishing spiritually. Why? Because they don’t love God’s truth! It’s God’s way of testing how much we love His truth. Soon, many will understand that the Laodicean leaders are going in the wrong direction.

So it’s a “falling away” (verse 3) from the truth—mainly truth given by Christ through Mr. Armstrong. The “very elect” who love God’s truth cannot be deceived (Matthew 24:24). Why does this deceived minister say it would be wrong for wcg members to even read what I write? Why are Laodicean leaders so fearful? Isn’t it the truth they fear? They don’t condemn other churches’ literature that way.

The wcg is asking its people to follow a minister—not God’s Word.

This misleading minister also said, “Well, God is really weak. I thought God could keep control of His Church better than that.” He said, “You don’t have to worry about God deserting the Church. If God doesn’t want a leader, He will take him out of the way.”

Now please read your Bible and see what it says. In Revelation 2 and 3, God discusses five Church eras that went astray. God didn’t desert them—but they deserted God! And God did not remove the leader—He removed the lamp. Christ quit leading them because they deserted Him. Then He raised up another Church or another era.

God says He will send “strong delusion” to test His people. God wants to know if they love Him and His truth more than a man, a church or even their own lives (Luke 14:26). That is what 2 Thessalonians 2 is all about!

Brethren, I hope you realize the dangerous direction of the Laodicean Church. Some people are going to be lost forever. Those of the Laodicean Church of God must awaken! Or they will slumber right into the Great Tribulation.

Throughout the Bible, God says that only a tiny group of firstfruits are called in this age. In light of Mr. Tkach’s quote above, remember that Zerubbabel (Mr. Armstrong) used the “Spirit” to do God’s Work (Zechariah 4:6). This verse is a part of the Zerubbabel inset. No such statement is made in the Joshua section of the book of Zechariah. Is that because Joshua lacks a proper understanding about God’s Holy Spirit? Is that because he truly doesn’t have “a corner on the spiritual market”—which he should have?

Let’s consider what Mr. Armstrong thought about the Church having a unique relationship with God and “a corner on the spiritual market.” He wrote this in Mystery of the Ages, in the chapter titled “Who and What Is God?”:

The billions now living on Earth not only are ignorant of the most important knowledge—who and what God is—they seem NOT TO WANT TO KNOW! They are willingly in ignorance of this most important knowledge and relationship possible in human life!

Astonishing—but true!

And why have humans been WILLINGLY ignorant of man’s most important relationship? One explanation, only, is possible! All nations have been DECEIVED (Revelation 12:9). And the FACT of this universal deception makes certain the fact of a super deceiver!

Isn’t it clear that only God’s Church can have a spiritual relationship with God? The whole world is deceived. Mr. Armstrong was God’s end-time Elijah. The name Elijah means “my God is God.” The rest of the world worships a false god or no god at all.

Please read the entire chapter in Mystery of the Ages titled “Who and What Is God.” Throughout that whole chapter, Mr. Armstrong said exactly the opposite of the quote by Mr. Tkach!

Was that chapter part of the “many significant errors” the wcg leaders saw in Mystery of the Ages? Is that chapter the main reason that book was canceled?

God says He is sending “strong delusion.” God’s people have to decide who has the attitude of the devil! And what a monumental decision it is. So much is determined by that choice.

Dr. Ward gave a sermon on December 2, 1989, in Big Sandy. This scripture was used: “Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me …” (Malachi 3:1). He said John the Baptist was the messenger who prepared the way for Christ’s first coming. He made no mention of Mr. Armstrong being the man who was the modern-day John the Baptist. He said that we are all “sons of Levi” (verse 3)—that we are all messengers. Sounds good, but that is not biblically correct. The prophecies point to one messenger, whom we all support. Dr. Ward’s statement is just more “strong delusion” to deceive Laodicean members about God’s end-time Elijah and John the Baptist—Herbert W. Armstrong.

Dr. Ward explained how the wcg is changing its views about giving to hurricane and other disaster funds. This goes deeper than just giving to disaster victims—who do need help. This is a changing of the Church’s commission established by Christ—through Mr. Armstrong. Instead of spending money to warn the people why disasters are happening, the wcg helps them financially. Soon the world will be literally flooded with disasters! God will bring it to pass as punishment. Tithes and offerings will be spent in vain if they continue this approach.

Dr. Ward said the Church has had a self-righteous attitude in the past. He said that Church members have “boasted” of our knowledge of prophecy. I disagree. It really was not boasting about prophecy; it was fulfilling our God-given commission.

Dr. Ward said Mr. Armstrong established the law, but today the Church “emphasizes the spiritual application on an individual basis.” As if Mr. Armstrong didn’t! Brethren, I hope you see how that statement condemns what Christ did through Mr. Armstrong. God calls it “strong delusion”!

Then Dr. Ward spent the usual time on how much “love” the wcg is building today. Ezekiel says, “[W]ith their mouth they show much love …” (Ezekiel 33:31). They don’t show love to Mr. Armstrong and what Christ taught through him! They don’t love the truth of God as they should (2 Thessalonians 2:10). “They have refused to love the truth” (Phillips).

The Laodicean leaders “have need of nothing” (Revelation 3:17). They are the self-righteous ones—arrogantly pushing aside truth that God has established in the Church—just the way God prophesied it would occur!

God is sending “strong delusion”! God’s people are being tested right now.

Why can Satan get to God’s people? Because some don’t love the truth. It looks as though they do—that is why it is called a mystery. Anyone who has this wrong attitude will be deceived by Satan!

No amount of wishful thinking will change these mighty prophecies of God!

How to Stand Fast

“Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle” (2 Thessalonians 2:15). Thayer’s Lexicon says the word “traditions” can be rendered “instructions” or “the substance of the teaching.” “Traditions” is also rendered “teaching” and “the rules” in other translations.

It’s all in the context of the true gospel (verse 14), which is about the return of Christ. Paul said we should be concerned about keeping the gospel pure.

“Traditions” are truths that were given both verbally and in writing. The concern here is about “traditions” or “instructions”—passed from one era to another. The leader’s job is to pass God’s instructions—not his own—to the people.

The SDA Commentary says this of the word “traditions”: “The word means things delivered, handed over, or transmitted by way of teaching or doctrine.” Clarke’s Commentary says the Greek “signifies anything delivered in the way of teaching.” The point is, we are talking about revelations from God that are being rejected by the “man of sin.” This is precisely what the Laodicean Church does. God is telling us to stand fast by holding on to past instructions. This is how we hold fast. This is our spiritual anchor. These are instructions given by Jesus Christ—not Herbert Armstrong.

The Revised Standard Version says “stand firm.” If we fail to cling to our past instructions, we can’t stand firm! It is precious knowledge God has given us to withstand Satan’s attack. With this knowledge, we are God’s very elect who cannot be deceived (Matthew 24:24). Without this knowledge, we can’t avoid being deceived! Satan is too subtle for us without this spiritual armor (Ephesians 6:11-19).

This is what the “falling away” is all about. Either we hang on to what we learned, or we lose our eternal life! The betrayal revolves around rejecting “traditions,” or “past instructions,” of one who was “taken out of the way.” It’s the same story as Zechariah 3 and 4, Revelation 3 and the entire book of Malachi! All these scriptures tell of one colossal event within God’s Church—the falling away from truth! A great rebellion against God’s government!

“Man of sin” and “son of perdition” are horrendous titles. God gave these titles because no sin is greater than leading God’s people astray! “But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea” (Matthew 18:6). The leader who is willing to lead God’s people astray is appropriately named a son of perdition, or destruction. He destroys what God has created and is creating.

This prominent person, the “man of sin,” must be revealed by Christ before He returns.

“And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish [‘are perishing’ spiritually is the correct translation]; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved” (2 Thessalonians 2:10). God is talking about people who “are perishing” spiritually! People who are being “saved” or not being “saved”! They have a chance to be saved, but fail to achieve it. They are perishing. Why? Because they “received not the love of the truth.” They received the truth—but they do not love it enough to hold on to it. “[T]he love of many shall wax cold” (Matthew 24:12). Only God’s people have true love. The world has never had God’s truth or love. Only God’s people can fall away from God’s truth.

We are talking about a Judas-type betrayal that is one of the worst in the history of God’s Church! God removed most of the resistance to this deceit when Mr. Armstrong died, making the betrayal and leading astray of the brethren much easier.

The Betrayal

“There is no man who can fill his shoes, but, Father, we aim to follow his example.” Mr. Tkach made this statement at Mr. Armstrong’s funeral. What happened to that attitude? Many today wonder how two leaders of the same organization can think so differently. Today, the story of Mr. Armstrong’s life is used mainly for history of the Work—not as an example to follow. Yet Mr. Tkach ought to know more than anyone else on Earth how to walk in Mr. Armstrong’s footsteps.

God promised to reveal the “man of sin”—“in his time,” or “in his season” (2 Thessalonians 2:6). Has that time come? That time was set by God, not man. Without a special revelation by God this truth cannot be known!

The wcg isn’t drifting into a Laodicean attitude—it is being forcefully and deceitfully “driven away” from God with cruelty! (Jeremiah 23:2; Ezekiel 34:5). (Request our free book Ezekiel: The End-Time Prophet.) All the restraints have been removed. No strong spiritual leader is on the scene to stop it. That’s why the changes are coming so fast—in spite of protests from many ministers.

Mr. Tkach sat at Mr. Armstrong’s feet for seven years before Mr. Armstrong’s death. He watched Mr. Armstrong get the wcg “back on track.” He was right there by Mr. Armstrong’s side helping him do it. Is there any man in the wcg more accountable for what is happening? He was considered Mr. Armstrong’s closest confidante and most loving and loyal friend, so much so that Mr. Armstrong entrusted Mr. Tkach with control of God’s great Work. Mr. Armstrong trusted Mr. Tkach more than any other man in the Work. Like Judas, Mr. Tkach was an innermost disciple—more so than other Church leaders—in those last seven years of Mr. Armstrong’s life.

The leadership discussed in 2 Thessalonians 2 must be in Pasadena today. It all began to surface once Christ took Mr. Armstrong out of the way by death.

Mr. Armstrong’s greatest fear was what would happen to the wcg after he died. Some of his worst fears have been realized. Still, we know it’s all done according to God’s master plan. Christ is still very much in control. We shall soon see this demonstrated forcefully! Christ raised up the Philadelphia Church to trumpet the warning to the wcg.

Much of our love for the truth revolves around Mr. Armstrong and his work—inspired by God.

Paul prophesied that a great deception would occur in the end just as it did in the first century. “For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears” (Acts 20:29-31).

Laodicean leaders will say these verses refer to the Philadelphia Church of God ministry, but they are the ones doing the drawing away. They are the ones leading God’s people away from the truth which Christ restored through Mr. Armstrong. They are the ones “drawing away disciples” after themselves and their deceitful changes. You must prove from your Bible who is right—and you can do so!

These same verses show that Paul recognized his own ministry and physical presence as a restraining influence. The same was true for Mr. Armstrong. All God had to do was take Mr. Armstrong out of the way, and the submerged “mystery of iniquity” surfaced again and began to flourish because the restraints had been removed. We saw this demonstrated in the 1970s also. Now it’s even worse. We should have learned from history! If we fail to learn from the past, we are destined to repeat the mistakes of the past.

God has chosen not to know the outcome of the Laodicean members who are being tested. He tested Abraham to see if he would kill his only son. After God saw that Abraham would obey, He said, “[N]ow I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me” (Genesis 22:12). It was the hardest test of Abraham’s life. And God didn’t know until after the test what Abraham would do. After this test of 2 Thessalonians 2, God will know a lot more about all of us!

When Mr. Armstrong was in charge, there was iniquity present in some people that was kept under the surface where it could not be seen and evaluated by others. So God removed Mr. Armstrong, and that iniquity has surfaced and now is becoming obvious to God’s very elect—who cannot be deceived (Matthew 24:24). The rest of God’s people will be deceived. This trial revolving around the “man of sin” is all part of God’s master plan to separate His Philadelphian elect from the Laodiceans. The elect must reject this satanic deception in order to receive the Philadelphian reward. This separation of the Philadelphians from the Laodiceans won’t be as easy as many in the Church previously imagined!

The “man of sin” is called “the son of perdition” for good reason. The Greek word for “perdition” means “destruction, damnation, perishing, waste, utter ruin.” It is often used in the New Testament to refer to individuals who have fallen away from the truth (Matthew 7:13; Philippians 3:19; 1 Timothy 6:9; Hebrews 10:39; 2 Peter 2:1; 3:7).

The word “deceive” in 2 Thessalonians 2:3 means “to lead astray.” Don’t forget that. It clearly indicates that a leader is spreading or allowing false teachings among God’s people! The Interpreter’s Bible says the word deceive “carries the idea of willful deception.” This is a Judas-type betrayal. Did Judas know what he was doing? He had to understand much of what he did!

God says, “Let no man deceive you by any means …” (2 Thessalonians 2:3). “By any means”! All kinds of means will be used to deceive, but let “no man take thy crown” (Revelation 3:11).

This “man of sin” sees the truth and falls away from it. That’s how he becomes the “son of perdition.” Eternal life or eternal death is at stake for many of God’s people! Many of them will follow him!

The context of this Judas-type betrayal indicates that it revolves around the “man of sin” and “he” who is “taken out of the way.” Paul warned us to hang on to the “traditions,” or “past instructions.” Many of these instructions were obviously received from Mr. Armstrong—then “he” was “taken out of the way.” 2 Thessalonians 2:15 says to “stand fast” and “hold” on to the truth. The literal translation from the Greek means “to hold firmly and surely, by the greatest exertion of strength.” Hold on to these divinely inspired truths of God. This is how we become established (verse 17) in God’s precious Word so that we shall never fall!

It doesn’t say “a man of sin,” but “the man of sin.” That is because he takes the Work of God and gives it over to the control of Satan! (verse 9; Zechariah 3:1-2). We are told in 2 Thessalonians 2 how the change occurs from the Philadelphian era to the Laodicean era.

If we follow Mr. Tkach’s lead in not applying scriptures to personalities, then major prophecies of the very end time will be misunderstood. Many of God’s people will be deceived, and Satan’s supreme goal of deceit will be achieved. Satan is the primary deceiver. He is the real culprit—the super deceiver Mr. Armstrong warned us about.

Two of God’s very end-time leaders are discussed in 2 Thessalonians 2. One of them is removed. The “man of sin” refers to the one who led the great falling away.

That is one big reason why 2 Thessalonians 2 couldn’t have applied in the 1970s. The liberals weren’t in charge then. Now they are.

I beseech you, brethren—seek God as you never have before! “Cursed be the man that trusteth in man” (Jeremiah 17:5)—any man, and that certainly includes me.

In the near future you are going to see events that will shake this world as never before. Time is running out! The signs all point to the catastrophic end—which will come very soon! The same God who is sending you this message is already moving dramatically to BRING THIS WORLD TO ITS KNEES!

Mr. Armstrong led the wcg and was “taken out of the way.” Mr. Armstrong obviously gave control to the next leader. Otherwise, how would the leader get the position? We don’t vote in God’s Church! That is why this is such a heinous betrayal of Christ by those who were supposed to follow Mr. Armstrong’s instructions! Everything looked great until Mr. Armstrong was removed by death. That’s when the apostasy was to occur—not before.

This “man of sin” has replaced Christ as the head of the wcg! He exalts himself above Christ and what He taught through Mr. Armstrong. Like Judas, the “man of sin” proves to be a false apostle (Revelation 2:2).

Leaders of the wcg call all the recent changes “growing in love.” God calls it a “falling away”—or “a great rebellion” (New Living Translation). It is of great magnitude—many thousands of people! The “love of many shall wax cold” (Matthew 24:12). This is agape love, or the love of God—not human love. Only God’s people have this love. This is a prophecy for the wcg and other Laodicean groups today!

Satan entered into Judas the last night of Christ’s life on Earth (Luke 22:3; John 13:27), but there were other indications of Satan’s influence. “Then saith one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, which should betray him, Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor? This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein” (John 12:4-6). Judas was the treasurer. He wanted to appear as though he had boundless love. But his motives were evil. He had twisted priorities when it came to money spent in the Work. He and Christ didn’t agree, and Christ doesn’t agree today with the manner in which much of the money is being spent by the Laodiceans. The attitude of Judas is in the leadership of God’s own Church today. God says so! That is why Christ uses the title “son of perdition”!

When 2 Thessalonians 2 discusses the “son of perdition” (Judas Iscariot’s label), it is for good reason. Study the example of Judas and you will understand a great deal more about what is happening within the Worldwide Church of God and other Laodicean groups today.

God’s people must be warned!

Christ chose Judas, who became a thief, a liar and a traitor (John 6:70-71). That is also the message of 2 Thessalonians 2!

Could such a great rebellion occur without God warning His Church? Never! The greatest warning in the end is given to God’s people—not the world. “A mystery … signifies a truth once hidden but now revealed or to be revealed; a truth which, without special revelation, would be unknown” (Vincent Word Studies in the New Testament). This test is revealing truth about all of us—now! God will know exactly what we believe and where we stand spiritually. This test is how He does it.

In Paul’s letters, a mystery is something that has been hidden or unknown—but has now been revealed (Romans 16:25; Ephesians 3:3, 9; 6:19; Colossians 1:26). God has to reveal our spiritual condition to us and to Himself!

If Malachi’s Message is revealed knowledge, it must be from God! If you see it as such, God also must have revealed that to you. Appeal to God for understanding! These truths are too momentous to neglect!

One minister kept the old Systematic Theology Project (stp) manual that was written by the liberals in the 1970s. He said, “We are doing the same thing again.” It’s the 1970s all over—even worse. It’s totally inexcusable! Every Laodicean minister ought to see what is happening—and act accordingly. You must act! That’s what faith is all about.

What does it mean to have a “belief of the truth”? (2 Thessalonians 2:13). This signifies real faith. It may mean giving up a physical or spiritual family for the truth! It’s not just coming out of the Laodicean Church. That could be done in rebellion. But if we have a strong “belief of the truth,” it will bring us out of any deceived group! The Laodiceans are making major changes about government, the end-time Elijah, healing, Church eras, the Sabbath, “born again,” salvation by grace alone, marriage, the trinity, the Family of God and prophecy, to name just a few examples. (Request a free copy of our booklet God’s Family Government for more information.) They are rejecting God’s truth and God’s leadership! Our “belief of the truth” demands that we refuse to follow such changes away from God’s truth.

God’s truth is sometimes very hard to receive. But there is no other choice when you consider the alternative.

Judas betrayed Jesus Christ. Laodicean leaders today are not just rejecting the work of Mr. ArmstrongTHEY ARE BETRAYING JESUS CHRIST! Mr. Armstrong was a human being who made mistakes like all of us. Mr. Armstrong is now dead, but Jesus Christ is not dead—He is very much alive! He is still the Ruler of the Philadelphia Church of God. And He will correct Laodicean leaders and their followers for their sins. He will correct those who are rebelling against His government! This is a serious warning to all of us. God will force His people to choose between Himself and “strong delusion.” Are you close enough to God to make the right choice?

Continue Reading: Chapter 7: ‘Prophesy Not’