Chapter 3: The Key That Identifies the Church
When Christ gives the key of David vision to a man, the people supporting that man must hold on to it. If that man dies, the vision must be preserved by those left behind—through another man whom God chooses.
Christ always reveals truth through one man at a time.
Let’s look at a companion verse to Revelation 3:7. “And the key of the house of David will I lay upon his shoulder; so he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open” (Isaiah 22:22). In Bible prophecy, a key unlocks knowledge to human understanding. The key of David vision involves a message for all mankind. This verse speaks of laying that key upon the shoulder of one man, but the message wasn’t meant to be given to only him. It was meant for the whole world. Thus, a work had to be done in order to deliver the message. That one man could not do such a monumental job alone.
Herbert Armstrong was Christ’s end-time messenger. Christ used him to raise up a work to deliver the message. It was his responsibility to give Christ’s message to the whole world (Matthew 24:14). And this commission was supported by those who worked under him.
As we discussed in the last chapter, Jesus Christ opened the door for Mr. Armstrong to preach His message. Mr. Armstrong faithfully fulfilled his commission. While he was alive, those under him followed his lead. Mr. Armstrong died in 1986. Unfortunately, those leaders left behind rejected the message.
We ask, if the messenger dies, should the message be buried with the messenger? This is the number one question that must be answered by God’s people in this end time. Only a few today understand that the message must be kept alive.
Mr. Armstrong repeated key facts from The United States and Britain in Prophecy in his most important book, Mystery of the Ages. So Mystery of the Ages also teaches the key of David vision. A legal battle took place over this book. The wcg wanted to use its copyright to suppress and stop the distribution of Mr. Armstrong’s book. This is something God and Mr. Armstrong never intended. Mr. Armstrong repeatedly warned the Church not to allow his message to be stopped or suppressed. Why? Because it is Christ’s message! Mr. Armstrong fully understood this fact. The majority of those with him did not.
Christ’s Own Vision
Jesus Christ not only owns the message, but He also opens the door for the preaching of the message. Isaiah 22:22 and Revelation 3:7 both state clearly that no man can shut the door! If Christ holds the key and then gives that key to a human messenger, should we not also keep the key?
Ever since Jesus Christ walked on the Earth as a human, men have been trying to stop His message. Jesus Christ’s own life is proof that the message can’t be stopped until God allows it. Christ faithfully preached His message for 3½ years, and then God allowed Him to be killed. Scripture is clear on this fact. “Then cried Jesus in the temple as he taught, saying, Ye both know me, and ye know whence I am: and I am not come of myself, but he that sent me is true, whom ye know not. But I know him: for I am from him, and he hath sent me. Then they sought to take him: but no man laid hands on him, because his hour was not yet come” (John 7:28-30). Jesus Christ brought God the Father’s own message, yet men wanted to stop that message. They even killed Christ. The message wasn’t stopped, however. Through the apostles, it spread even wider.
Mr. Armstrong was given Christ’s message to deliver. He fulfilled prophecy as the Philadelphia messenger. He did his part, and Christ praises him highly for having done so. “I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name” (Revelation 3:8). Mr. Armstrong did a great work, but he always gave God the credit for what was accomplished. When Christ opened a door, Mr. Armstrong walked through it in faith. For about 60 years he lived that way.
He never claimed perfection in his work; he recognized his own human shortcomings. He was known for admitting error when it was proved to him. But one thing was certain: He always kept the message that was delivered to him. Why? He knew Christ was behind the message. Christ’s authority always reigned supreme!
One Vision of the Future
How many visions of the future are there in the Bible? There is really only one: the key of David vision. It is holding true to this vision that makes one a Philadelphian. Can you imagine how bleak the future would be without this vision? The key of David vision holds humanity’s only hope.
Only God’s true Church is willing to teach this vision to the world. Thus, it identifies Christ’s very elect. The Laodiceans refuse to teach it. It is an embarrassment to them. Yet the greater evil they commit is that many of them want to suppress the knowledge of it! They do not want anyone on Earth to learn about the key of David. That thinking is out of the devil’s mind! They are trying to close the door that God has opened.
How does God answer the Laodiceans? “Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee” (Revelation 3:9). The Laodiceans act like they really have it all together spiritually. They “say they are Jews.” This is referring to their spiritual, not their physical, genealogy. The Apostle Paul stated that “he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God” (Romans 2:29). (We will discuss this subject in detail in this book.) Christ says the Laodiceans are liars. They are lying to themselves and others about their true spiritual condition. They are very sick spiritually.
The Laodicean era followed the Philadelphia era in this end time (Revelation 3:14-20). The Laodiceans turned away from God. But there were serious problems in the 1970s, before the Laodicean era. This was a sign that the Laodicean problem was extant before Mr. Armstrong died. The synagogue of Satan was the Laodicean era in embryo!
God inspired the term synagogue of Satan in verse 9 because they WERE spiritual Jews, but they have been led astray by Satan. There is still hope for them (verse 19). They have turned away from the key of David vision. Their only hope is for God to correct them severely. They will go into the Great Tribulation unless they repent soon.
The only hope for today’s Laodiceans is to get back to what Christ revealed to Mr. Armstrong and what He is revealing to God’s very elect today. The key of David vision includes not only a message about the future, it is a message that must be believed now in order for us to take part in that future! The Laodiceans will have to admit that Mr. Armstrong was Christ’s messenger. And they will have to believe the message the way Mr. Armstrong did. This is the intended meaning of the expression, “I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee.” The Laodiceans will have to prove to God that they believe what He revealed through a man. They will have to give up their lives for the message Mr. Armstrong taught and what the Philadelphians are proclaiming today. If they cannot prove that to God, then there is no future for them.
The key of David vision summarizes the royal gospel. It places special emphasis on the firstfruits’ government role in God’s coming Kingdom. Remember, the true gospel of Christ focuses on the coming Kingdom of God, which involves a king, a throne, a ruling Family of God, a set of laws, a government to implement those laws, a territory and a people over which the royal government will rule.
Satan’s greatest attack against the Laodiceans involved turning them away from this vision! This began to happen even while Mr. Armstrong was alive. Satan has now blinded them to this incredible truth.
Jesus Christ says, “Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked” (Revelation 3:17). Christ labels the Laodiceans as spiritually destitute—wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked.
Which group of people is truly connected to Christ? The group that is connected to Christ’s message.
Several groups today claim to carry the mantle of Herbert W. Armstrong. But the group that is connected to Mr. Armstrong must hold great respect for him and what he taught. That must mean direct quotes and references to the original works by Mr. Armstrong. We fought a six-year court battle to win Mr. Armstrong’s writings and we are the only church that proclaims and gives these works to the world. The location of Mr. Armstrong’s mantle should be clear, even to the casual observer.
For their failure, the Laodiceans are promised rebuke and punishment. “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent” (verse 19). The words rebuke and chasten indicate severe correction and punishment.
The Philadelphians are promised a royal office. “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. To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne” (verses 20-21). This is referring to our glorious future as kings and priests—as we share David’s throne with our Husband, Christ. More specifically, it refers to the Philadelphians who fully support Christ’s message during the Laodicean era.
Those who remain loyal to Christ and His message during this Laodicean crisis will share Christ’s throne, which happens to be the throne of His father David. This is the point where the key of David vision takes on thrilling reality. Christ warns us in verse 11 to never let a man deceive us into giving up our crown.
Only the Philadelphia Church of God is knocking on the Laodicean door for Christ. We are promised a place at Christ’s headquarters, on David’s throne. “Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name” (verse 12). God’s temple is His headquarters. The Philadelphians are promised pillar status at God’s temple. This means we will be given significant positions in the coming Jerusalem and the new Jerusalem at the end of the Millennium. We shall have the glorious honor of sharing Jesus Christ’s rule and direction over the entire Earth and, ultimately, the universe! This verse says that we “shall go no more out.” This means we will hold our positions at headquarters forever. This promise is mind-numbing in its scope and magnitude!
The real spiritual tragedy in all of this is that the Laodiceans could reserve their place on David’s throne, but they fail to do so. We know that the Laodiceans who repent in the Tribulation will share Christ’s rule, but they will not have headquarters positions. Through the pcg, Christ is giving them ample warning. “And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God; I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth” (verses 14-16).
Christ reveals Himself to the Laodiceans as the “faithful and true witness.” This is Christ’s way of emphasizing their disloyalty and deceit. They have been unfaithful and untrue! They have fallen into this sad spiritual condition because they have lost the key of David vision.
The Laodicean era is the final era of God’s Church. Because of their sins, God has to spew the Laodiceans out of His mouth into the Great Tribulation. This is a prophecy that the majority of God’s own people would go astray in this end time! But why? How could this happen? They lost the vision God revealed from the beginning. Verses 20-21 reveal the vision they have lost.
Remember, these are God’s own people. At one time, Christ was inside their lives. They have moved the great God outside their spiritual house. Is there any greater tragedy? Spiritually, this is the most colossal tragedy of all! This is why God says the Laodiceans are blind. They are so blind that they don’t see the ultimate spiritual disaster that has struck their lives.
Spiritual-sounding talk is all meaningless unless we have this key of David vision inside us. The Laodiceans talk endlessly about Christ and love. But their words have no real substance because they have rejected Christ’s own vision. They have rejected Christ. They want to tell Him how to lead His Church.
The Laodiceans are talking back to God. “I have loved you, saith the Lord. Yet ye say, Wherein hast thou loved us? Was not Esau Jacob’s brother? saith the Lord: yet I loved Jacob, And I hated Esau, and laid his mountains and his heritage waste for the dragons of the wilderness” (Malachi 1:2-3). These verses are just one example from the book of Malachi of how the Laodiceans talk back to God. Study the entire book. You will find many more examples of Laodicean disrespect. (Request a free copy of Malachi’s Message to fully understand the book of Malachi and the Laodicean rebellion.)
Christ in You
Unless Jesus Christ is living in us, our spiritual talk is empty. Paul taught the Colossians that Christ living in us is one of the greatest mysteries revealed in the Bible. “To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). How can we expect to have Christ living in us if we reject His message? Any talk of love has a hollow ring unless this great Being is living in us. The Bible is Christ in print—we must eat and digest the Bible to let Christ live in us.
When Christ is living in us, we are always growing and changing. Peter expected this of all Christians. “But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18). Mr. Armstrong taught emphatically that spiritual growth was one of the signs of the true Church. God’s Church would be constantly growing in knowledge and grace. All those who have remained close to what Mr. Armstrong taught have joined the pcg. We are continuing to change and must change deeply. New truth is consistently revealed to us.
What does it mean when we say Christ is in us? It should mean the same thing that Christ meant when speaking of His Father. “Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works” (John 14:10). Jesus Christ was completely under His Father’s authority.
When we personally claim that Christ is in us, we are saying that we have unconditionally surrendered to Jesus Christ and His government. It means that He rules us totally. Having Christ rule our lives is the only way we can truly grow and make the necessary spiritual changes. We must know that our spiritual growth is not meant just for this time. Our spiritual changes now are leading to the ultimate change—from that of mortal man to becoming God—a son of God! This will be a universe-shaking change.