The Apostle John battled false ministers in the first century. He instructed God’s people on how to discern these evil men from true ministers.
Claiming to be a prophet is quite bold. How can you know whether someone is a true prophet? How can you know whether his message is truly coming from God?
“Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1).
In the Worldwide Church of God shortly after Mr. Armstrong died, his successor, Joseph W. Tkach Sr., made a shocking statement. He said it was a mistake to believe that God’s Church has a “corner on the spiritual market.” Essentially he was saying that there is no one true Church. That is a very evil statement. Yet people followed him and evidently didn’t think much about it. We must think about this: If we don’t have a corner on the spiritual market, why are we here? Why not go to a different church? Elijah means “my God is God.” All the others are false gods.
God says we must be able to know when something is from God and when it is not. He elaborates in the next verse: “Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God” (verse 2). Do you know the Spirit of God? What does that mean?
How can you detect a counterfeit dollar bill? You can’t, unless you know exactly what a genuine dollar bill looks like. And you must profoundly know God’s Holy Spirit to detect a false spirit.
The tense of the Greek verb translated in verse 2 as is come actually means is coming. It could read “come and continuing to come,” or “is now coming.” We must know deeply and precisely where Christ is coming in the flesh!
What could be more important?
Try the Spirits
“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5). Christ is “coming in the flesh” through the Holy Spirit. We must let His mind be in us. Of course, He won’t force it. That is why there are so few in God’s “little flock,” or true Church, today! God leaves it up to you.
The Holy Spirit is the greatest gift in the universe. God gives it to us and then says we need to understand what sets true prophets apart from false ones. And in that same context, He says we must discern whether or not Christ is coming in the flesh. In other words, here is how to differentiate between true prophets and false prophets: Is Jesus Christ in that man or not? With the Holy Spirit, we can know.
Many false prophets are on the scene—even some who were in the Church of God and have now gone out into the world. Those are the ones we need to beware of most of all, because we have an affinity with them from the past. We cannot judge by looking at personalities. God commands us to “try [or test] the spirits” that motivate the personalities. We must be extremely careful, because there are different spirits. There is an evil spirit with great power—though mainly in the area of deceit. Many false prophets have gone out from God’s Church, and most of God’s people have followed them. Today we are left with less than 5 percent of God’s people who are loyal to Him.
What do those people usually do when they leave God’s Church? They often come after you, if you obey God. I believe that is an indication that this is God’s true Church and that they represent the devil. False prophets don’t just leave. They come back and attack. That makes it critical that we test the spirits.
God puts the burden of responsibility squarely on your shoulders. Do you know God’s Spirit? Which men are really stirred by the Holy Spirit? Which men are letting Christ live in them? You had better know! If you don’t, you will be deceived. But if you do know, any counterfeit will be plain to you. God’s very electcannotbe deceived (Matthew 24:24).
The test of the spirit is the ultimate test. No false leader comes right out and says Christ is not coming in his or her flesh. We must look at the person’s deeds. For example, there are leaders who served under Mr. Armstrong for years in high offices now saying they don’t believe he was the end-time Elijah. (Mr. Armstrong taught that he fulfilled this prophesied office, based on passages such as Malachi 4:5-6 and Matthew 17:10-11; for a more thorough explanation of this important office, read our free book Malachi’s Message.) They were too cowardly to say that while he was alive. But with God’s Spirit you can absolutely know that Mr. Armstrong was the end-time Elijah! And you know he didn’t do that work by himself—it was Christ in him doing the job. Christ is the one who prophesied it would be done. He then came in the flesh and did the work through Mr. Armstrong.
We are in a spiritual war. Are we following our commander, Jesus Christ, or are we following a false prophet?
If we follow Christ, He is coming in the flesh through us. That is the only way we can follow Him! This is the only way we can know who a false prophet is. Only Christ can reveal the difference between a true and a false prophet. We must follow men only if they are led by the Holy Spirit.
False ministers also have power behind them—the power ofSatan. They are subtle in their deceit. But they can’t deceive Christ—who is living in us!
Knowing the Spirit goes beyond hearing the words of a man. Get to know the Spirit of God as deeply as you can. Look at the “fruits.” The Spirit is coming in the flesh of God’s leader, His ministry and His people.
Many, however, don’t know the Spirit. Some, for example, have foolishly said, “I came into the Worldwide Church and proved it was God’s Church, and I’m sticking with it!” That means spiritual disaster when you realize that righteous men can become evil. If you know the Spirit, you will know when they change and God moves His lamp. If you spend any time around people like that, you will know they are not who they used to be. When God’s Spirit has departed, many of them get bizarre. Most of God’s people have left Him in this end time, so we must try the spirits.
The Spirit of Antichrist
“And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is [coming] in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world” (1 John 4:3). Of course the spirit of antichrist is already in the world. But here John is also talking about it coming inside God’s Church. Then these deceived members, by their words and deeds, no longer say Christ is coming in the flesh.
One Laodicean evangelist said that it was a mistake to believe, as we did in the past, that Christ directly leads His Church. That is a destructive lie that will destroy God’s Church! We must see the depth of such evil. Of course Christ directly leads His Church! He is the Head. We experienced that for years under Mr. Armstrong. God leads His Church through one man. Many of us were taught that for years. If Christ doesn’t directly lead His Church, then how could any man be used to fulfill the pivotal Elijah prophecy and “restore all things”? (Matthew 17:11). Christ did it through His end-time Elijah. Christ prophesied it would be done and then did it by directly leading His Church.
That evangelist is saying Christ didn’t directly lead Mr. Armstrong, who led God’s Church, even though Mr. Armstrong had a gigantic work of impressive fruits.
That is another way of saying Christ isnot coming in the flesh,or Christ didn’t live in and directly lead Mr. Armstrong.
Mystery of the Ages is one example of how Christ directly leads His Church. Mr. Armstrong said of that book, “In real fact, I feel I myself did not write it. Rather, I believe God used me in writing it” (co-worker letter, Sept. 12, 1985). Is that true? God wrote it through him. That is how God comes in the flesh. Unlike the rebellious leaders, Mr. Armstrong was wholly submissive to God, and because of that, we have Mystery of the Ages. If Christ didn’t directly lead His Church, we wouldn’t have that book. And because Christ does lead His Work, we fought tenaciously for it in court and won!
Christ always directly leads His Church—if we submit to Him. This evangelist said God doesn’t directly lead His Church because he won’t let Christ directly lead him! God isn’t directly leading him because he is rebelling. And he is not producing any real fruits as Mr. Armstrong did so abundantly.
Anybody can discern whom Christ directly leads if they look at the fruits and try the spirits.
Why was the Worldwide Church fighting us in court? Is it too harsh to call that antichrist? It was trying to destroy the only Church that Christ is directly leading to do His Work. Only we are proclaiming the mystery of God as Mr. Armstrong did. So Christ labels it exactly what it is. Even some of the judges who ruled on our case could see the evil behind the wcg’s actions.
Joseph Tkach Jr. wrote that it was his “Christian duty to keep this book [Mystery of the Ages] out of print.” That thought is out of the mind of the devil! It is antichrist.
By making that statement, he is not just rejecting one of God’s doctrines, but all of God’s major doctrines. That book was a summary of Mr. Armstrong’s lifelong work! He restored “all things.” That book taught the foundational truths God restored through him.
Christ directly leads His Church, and He directly leads a man, or there would be no true Church! Can you see how satanic it is to say otherwise? If Christ doesn’t directly lead His Church, that means He is not coming in the flesh of each member. At best, these members are lukewarm Laodiceans and Christ is on the outside, knocking to get in (Revelation 3:20). Through God’s Spirit in the flesh, Jesus directly leads each leader and individual. Stating that Christ doesn’t directly lead His Church is a more dangerous and subtle deception than the wcg taking us to court.
This foundational lie opens the door so he can believe another lie!
That evangelist also said that God’s Church has different branches. He says that if you look at the history of the Church, that is how it has been in the past. Yes—that is how it was when churches were getting lukewarm or turning away from God and from their first love! But that was never the case with God’s very elect! How can you ever be “perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment” if you have different branches? (1 Corinthians 1:10). How could you ever have a people act “as one man”? (Ezra 3:1).
Look again at 1 John 4:2-3. It contrasts one group that does confess Christ is coming in the flesh with another that does not. The word confesseth really means to show that you follow Christ by words and by deeds. It means faith with works, or love with deeds.
How does someone confess that Christ directly leads His Church? By submitting to the government of God. By confessing that God leads His Church through one man. No one will be born into God’s Family until he professes that truth.
Other Laodicean leaders have candidly admitted to experimenting with a form of government different from the one Mr. Armstrong established in the Church. That too is saying that Christ is not coming in the flesh. Did Christ not live in Mr. Armstrong while he established and taught the government of God? Did Christ not restore all things—at least 18 major truths—through Mr. Armstrong—including God’s government? (Request A Pivotal Sign of the End Time to learn about these restored truths.) We must remember what Christ taught through him!
Christ is coming in the flesh. He is directly guiding His Church. Does that mean He is whipping His leader into line, forcing him every step of the way? No—Mr. Armstrong explained it, in reference to Mystery of the Ages: “I believe God used me in writing it.” That is a humble man, speaking of willing submission to God’s Spirit. Most men would not have given God credit for such an achievement—which is why they weren’t in Mr. Armstrong’s position. In actual fact, Jesus Christwasthe end-time Elijah,throughMr. Armstrong! That is what it amounts to. That is Christ coming in the flesh and directly leading His Church. God works through a man. We must try the spirits and find the right man.
Led by the Spirit
In 1 Corinthians 3:6, Paul says that for everything the ministry does in the Work, it is God who gives the increase. What we are doing amounts merely to watering what God has planted. But you may have seen a plant that appears to be dead and then, after you water it, it springs back to life. That is exactly what has happened with many who have come to us from Laodicean churches. Once they yield themselves to God, the Spirit—which is typed by water—begins to flow again in their lives. They come alive spiritually! That’s the effect God’s Spirit should have on all of us.
Does God directly guide you? “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God” (Romans 8:14). The sons of God are led by the Spirit. God directly guides and leads them. He doesn’t force them; obedient sons voluntarily submit to their Father. Parents who love their children in the right way inspire a deep love from their children in return. That is what God is doing with us.
Christ set the example of obeying the Father. If He is coming in our flesh, He does the same in us.
It is not easy to know and be led by the Spirit of God. As we battle our own carnality and our own minds, we must know the Spirit. If we have inappropriate thoughts or attitudes toward God’s government or toward a decision that has been made, we must know the Spirit. When we watch television, or go to a movie, or watch sports—we must know the Spirit! We must think as if Christ is sitting right there with us. When single people date, they must date with Christ living in them—as if He were doing the dating. That will certainly influence your choices of whom you date and what you do on those dates!
“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15). If we get caught up in this world, we don’t love the Father as Christ did and does.
Is Jesus Christ really coming in the flesh through you? In everything you do? If so, He revolutionizes your life. That is what John is talking about.
“Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome [conquered] them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4). Do you fear anything in the world? God in you is greater than any threat you may face! You need to be concerned, but you don’t have to fear a threat because He that is in you is greater. His Holy Spirit of power is greater than any enemy you face.
Where have the Laodiceans failed? Revelation 3:21 exhorts them to overcome as Christ overcame. Thayer’s Lexicon says that means “absolutely to carry off the victory; come off victorious.” Matthew 4 and other scriptures show that Christ overcame the devil and gained the victory. The Laodiceans, on the other hand, are not conquering the devil! And let’s be practical: If you are not overcoming and conquering this world and the devil, what is the reason for that failure? You need more of God’s Holy Spirit. You need Christ coming in your flesh.
John wrote, “[G]reater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.” If Christ is in you, He will conquer Satan through you, as He did almost 2,000 years ago! The Philadelphians conquer as Christ did (Revelation 3:21). That is how we qualify to be kings and priests.
If you want life to get truly exciting, know the Spirit! Get to know it—get to know the mind of Christ—and the God Family will inspire you for eternity.
He That Knows God Hears Us
“We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error” (1 John 4:6). We must know not only truth and error, but “the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error.” It takes Christ’s mind in us to discern the spirit of truth and error. We can have the truth and still teach it in the wrong spirit. This is a profound statement. God wants me to understand the spirit that motivates me and others. God is taking us into the world of His Holy Spirit. We must understand as God understands. We have this greatest gift in the universe and must use it! We have mind-boggling power!
Here is another exciting part of this verse: “[H]e that knoweth God heareth us.” We are teachers to this world, even now. When people begin to know God, they want to be taught by Him, and they hear us. They allow us to teach them. Obviously we don’t all go out and teach people. But I do, and the ministry does. And those who are of God and know God hear us. Those who aren’t of God don’t hear us, and we don’t worry about that today. When Christ returns, everyone’s minds will be opened, and they will want to hear us! They are about to get sick of this world’s evil, and they will want to hear God!
God has a group of people preparing to teach the whole world. We are training to become teachers. As Mr. Armstrong so often said, that is why we are here. We are not here just to get saved. God called us “out of season” to prepare to teach. Otherwise we would have been called after Christ returns with the rest of humanity. To qualify for God’s Kingdom, we must prepare ourselves to teach all people who ever lived! What a wonderful calling! God is calling you to be a king and a priest—in other words, a teacher! Priests must teach God’s truth! If we aren’t qualified to teach, we lose our crowns!
Mr. Armstrong was excited that we could send volunteers to Jordan to help handicapped children. He thought it was wonderful to teach them and to contribute money so they could be taught. He became so excited that he offered one of the administrators additional money to add more facilities. She responded, “No, Mr. Armstrong. We couldn’t do that because we don’t have enough teachers.”
If we are to teach the world, we must have enough teachers! There must be a lot of us who can teach people to know God. All other knowledge is worthless if we don’t learn that. We are about to confront a multitude of people who will have open minds but who will not know God. If we are not there to teach them, we won’t be able to expand God’s education to the whole world. They will all need personal attention, just as you do at this time.
Are you empowered by the Spirit? Could you lead congregations? Could you teach college classes? That is what you are called to do!
“Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born [it should read begotten] of God, and knoweth God” (verse 7). If we have been begotten by God’s Spirit, and know God, then we love each other. If we don’t have the Spirit, we won’t love each other. It all comes through the Holy Spirit.
“He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we mightlive through him” (verses 8-9). If you want to live, then this is the place to be! Without the Spirit, we are spiritually dead. The world doesn’t have real life. But God gives abundant, eternallifeto those who have His Spirit!
“God is love”—everything He does is motivated by love.
Mr. Armstrong was discouraged when he gave his last Pentecost message, six months before he died. He said to the Church, “Most of you don’t get it. We are here to train as teachers—get ready to teach or we have no future. I could stay until 1 a.m. and I think most of you would not get it!”
Reading between the lines, you could certainly believe that he thought the Church was Laodicean. He came about as close to saying so as a person could.
What Mr. Armstrong said was a prophetic thunderbolt! A few years later, 95 percent of God’s people had rejected this Pentecost vision.
Did Mr. Armstrong make even more revealing statements to some of the ministers in private?
At the September 1988 ministerial refresher, Harold Jackson, an evangelist, said that just before Mr. Armstrong died, he told Joseph Tkach Sr. a secret. But he was not to reveal it to the Church.
Several years ago, a lady in Belgium left the wcg and joined the pcg. She was upset with the wcg doctrinal changes. Her leaving also upset the wcg minister, who spent a lot of time with Mr. Armstrong when he visited Belgium.
According to this lady, her wcg minister told her that Mr. Armstrong revealed a secret to him before he died. He said the secret was “that the Church was Laodicean.”
She asked, “Why don’t you preach that to the people?”
“It would just discourage them,” he said.
In 1988, about two years after Mr. Armstrong died, there was a ministerial regional directors’ meeting. Herman Hoeh, one of the top evangelists, gave a lecture and said that the wcg had entered the Laodicean era.
This was a stunning clap of spiritual thunder. But shortly afterward he was silenced from repeating this statement.
Where did Dr. Hoeh get that idea? From Mr. Armstrong? Or perhaps it came through another leader or leaders who got it from Mr. Armstrong.
But more importantly, did it come from Christ, who gave it to Mr. Armstrong?
Perhaps Mr. Armstrong told Joseph Tkach Sr. to work at correcting a Church that had become Laodicean. And since Mr. Armstrong was dying, revealing too much to the Church could make a new leader’s job extremely difficult.
At the 1987 Feast of Tabernacles, there was a Behind the Work film. It portrayed a scene with two runners. One runner was passing a baton to the other. This indicated that the Church was passing from one era to another. That could only be from the Philadelphia era to the Laodicean (or lukewarm) era.
After airing at the Feast, this idea too was quickly hushed. Why?
Why did they make the film in the first place? Perhaps they didn’t think it through. After considering the implications, maybe they decided to avoid the subject.
There certainly are strong indications that Mr. Armstrong thought the Church was Laodicean. Christ could have sent a few thunderbolts and flashes of lightning to the leading ministers. After all, it is Christ’s Church, and He does want to awaken it without discouraging the people.
The Laodiceans have shown by their fruits that they don’t hear God’s Holy Spirit. God prophesied it would be that way (Revelation 3:20-22).
Christ is our leader. He is going to reveal what is happening in His own Church. But we must be willing to hear Him.
Read Revelation 2:7, written to the Ephesus era: “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches ….” Verses 11, 17 and 29, and Revelation 3:6 and 13, relate the same command to other eras. Verse 22, to the Laodiceans, also says, “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.” God repeatedly emphasizes this. The Spirit was talking to all these people! God reiterates it for every era. Hear what the Spirit says! Not what a man says! That is the only way you will ever understand!
Does Christ have something to say to you? Does the Father? You are His son. Is a parent concerned if a son or daughter is pursuing a disastrous lifestyle? Would he not say something to that child, to shake him from what he was doing? Is our Father any different? Or Jesus Christ? Would He stand idly by while His wife wandered into adultery? No! The Spirit has something to say! The question is, do you have the ear to hear?
“Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me” (verse 20). Christ isn’t coming in the flesh of these people. He is on the outside, beseeching them to let Him into their lives! They are throwing away the most beautiful relationship a person can ever have! They are not hearing the Spirit.
Christ speaks to the Laodiceans through His physical leader. He doesn’t want to see anyone go through the Tribulation. But they must hear His voice. What else can Christ do? Beyond teaching them, what can you do if your older teenager goes astray? God will never let you get into a spiritually fatal situation as long as you are listening to His Spirit.
Christ is coming in the flesh. He did so through Mr. Armstrong. Christ “restored all things” through him. Yet many Laodiceans and antichrists say Mr. Armstrong was not the end-time Elijah. Some even label him a false prophet. Why? Because they refused to see that Christ came in the flesh through Mr. Armstrong. But first they have rebelled against Christ coming in their own flesh.
“These things have I written unto you concerning them that seduce you” (1 John 2:26). People are being seduced and led astray in this last hour. John wrote this for you! These rebels are after you! That is Satan’s only real passion! He is doing all he can to destroy God’s people. He is trying to prove that those who say they are the very elect really aren’t—by deceiving them. He is committed to fighting God! We must know our enemy. He will continue to fight until God puts him into outer darkness and shuts his mouth forever!
The tragic theme of this age is one of losing people from God’s Church! Haven’t we lost enough? Overall, God is giving us growth in the Church membership. And yet we continue to lose people because of seducers!
But God’s very elect cannot be deceived. God will put those who know the Spirit and who know Him in His headquarters forever! What a reward for remaining loyal to God.
At this point, it seems that most of the persecution was coming from within! That is exactly what we are experiencing today: The severe persecution is coming from God’s own people who do not hear the Spirit.
However, we do expect to receive even worse persecution from the world just before the Great Tribulation.
“But ye have an unction [anointing] from the Holy One, and ye know all things. … But the anointing [same Greek word] which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him” (verses 20, 27). You don’t need a man to teach you, though Christ does teach through a man. Mr. Armstrong didn’t really teach us—Christ taught us! Mystery of the Ages was Christ teaching us! Obviously He uses a man, but you need to comprehend the Spirit that moves that man!
You must also know when Christ is not in the man! You must test the spirits. You must test the Spirit in me! And then let Christ teach you.
There is no excuse for letting a man deceive us. If I go astray, you should know it. When the ministers who took over from Mr. Armstrong went astray, the very elect knew. Verse 27 ends, “[I]t hath taught you ….” God is teaching you—each one of us—if we will submit. The Holy Spirit is our teacher.
We must have and use God’s Spirit to endure this last hour! That is the only way to survive.
We must reason as Christ’s kings and priests (Revelation 1:6). We have already been consecrated into the highest offices in the World Tomorrow! That is because we are being prepared to rule this world.
“For whatsoever is born [begotten] of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith” (1 John 5:4). The faith that conquers comes from the Holy Spirit. We are in a war, but if we live by God’s faith, we can conquer with God’s faith (Galatians 2:20). That is how Christ comes in the flesh.
“Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:5). John is talking about he who conquers! He is making it personal and direct to you—those who know all about the Family of God, with the Father and the Son.
“He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life” (verse 12). Only when Christ is living in us do we have life! He must come in our flesh. We must use the Holy Spirit to propel us forward spiritually, just as Jesus Christ did.
Mr. Armstrong said, “This means God injects His life—not only His life but also His mind and also His character, also His attitude of love, of cooperation, of giving, of concern for others as much as concern for self—selflessness. God is going to make us into His own children—into gods!”
That can only happen if Christ is living in us. That is an earthshaking truth. Let us always remember it.