Chapter 9: The Hope of the Gospel
By Gerald Flurry
It is a sad time for God’s Church today. Because of the Laodicean rebellion, the stench of spiritual death is all around us. God says people are dying spiritually in this end time (2 Thessalonians 2). Most of God’s own people refuse to deliver God’s family vision. They have lost the vision, the hope of the gospel. “Where there is no vision, the people perish …” (Proverbs 29:18).
The Apostle Paul, when dealing with the Laodicean problem in the first century, gave us a way to ensure that we are not moved away from the spiritual vision God gives us. “If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister” (Colossians 1:23).
The gospel is the good news of the coming family of God which administers the government of God in the wonderful World Tomorrow. We must be grounded and settled in the hope of that future—the hope of the family of God.
Paul said that all of the Colossians and Laodiceans in the first century heard this gospel. He said they would be held accountable for that. We’ve heard it too. This is dangerous knowledge. We can’t run away and act like it didn’t happen, as God’s own end-time Laodicean Church is trying to do. God holds us accountable for every word.
The Mystery Hid From Ages
“Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints” (verse 26). A mystery was hid from the world for ages. The world doesn’t understand it; they don’t understand what Paul taught the first-century Christians—the mystery that we talk about today. There’s only one book that really explains the mystery of God. And who proclaims this mystery? Who really even wants that mystery? It was “made manifest to his saints.”
Where did that message come from? Mr. Armstrong said, about Mystery of the Ages, “In real fact, I feel I myself did not write it.” It was God Himself who made the mystery manifest to His people. Why did He make it manifest to us? So that we could have a large supply of that book out in our garage? Or on our library shelves? God has the answer to those questions.
Paul talked about this mystery while sitting in jail. At that time, ministers were turning most of God’s people away from the truth, just as they have done today. Understand what a tragedy that is: This mystery has been hidden from the ages! For 6,000 years man has not understood it. To actually have it revealed to us, and to understand it, is totally unique! In this evil world, God has given us the most illustrious revelation—the deepest revelation that man can comprehend. It didn’t come from Herbert W. Armstrong. It came from out in the cosmos—beyond the stars and galaxies! (And yet, when God’s people get it, so many of them then allow Satan to just take it away from them. They don’t want it enough to fight for it.)
Men have not understood this mystery throughout all the ages or generations back to Adam and Eve. Soon, though, they will all understand it. God has revealed it to us so that we can teach it to them—today and in the future.
Notice verse 27: “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.” God makes the mystery manifest to His saints, so He may then make it known among the Gentiles! Spiritually, that means the whole world.
Herbert Armstrong was commissioned “to reach the largest audience possible” with Mystery of the Ages! God commissioned us to complete that goal after Mr. Armstrong died.
This is a great prophecy about our work—even in this end time. As the Laodiceans turn away from this mystery, we make it known to the Gentiles. Those who are making it known are the only ones who really understand what God commands them to do.
This job will continue into the World Tomorrow, where a major textbook in all educational institutions will be Mystery of the Ages, by Herbert W. Armstrong. Anytime this mystery was revealed in the past, God wanted His very elect to make it known to the Gentiles. That is why God reveals it. He doesn’t reveal it so we can just sit there and look at it, or enjoy it ourselves. It is for the whole world! God will bring the whole world into His family. He is not doing all this work in vain! He gave us this mystery, and He says we’ve heard it, so we’re accountable. We are accountable for a great deal of knowledge! There’s no way we can escape that! We are accountable for delivering the message, or blood is on our heads. Soon, the whole world will be our classroom to teach Mystery of the Ages. What a responsibility that will be.
Those of us supporting this message today have a special vision that most of God’s own people do not have—to their own shame.
How many of the Laodiceans would fight for Mystery of the Ages in court? Paul was in jail because he preached this message! He was in jail trying to inspire and encourage God’s people about the great mystery that man has not known for all ages!
Now the Philadelphia Church of God has it. The Laodiceans are so confused, so foolish, so rebellious; they’re letting Satan take it away from them. If only they would stand up and love that message, nobody would ever be able to take it from them. And as long as there is a work to be done, we will struggle to freely give Mystery of the Ages. If people fight against us, they’re fighting the great Creator God! They will pay a heavy price for that.
The Colossians in the first century fought with Paul—the Laodiceans fought against him. So it is today. The Philadelphians fight for the truth Mr. Armstrong taught us, while the Laodiceans are either doing nothing or fighting against it.
Our attitude toward Mystery of the Ages reveals a great deal about our conversion. It reveals a lot about you. We have all heard the mystery. Nobody can hold on to God’s revelation if they don’t stand up and fight like any son ought to fight for his father. Don’t be fooled: God will let the enemies take it away from you if you don’t love it! And we’ll die spiritually if we don’t love this truth.
Jesus Christ doesn’t want a bride who says, Mystery of the Ages—I could take it or leave it. No, He wants a bride who says, the only thing to do is to take it, deliver it and proclaim it to all of the Gentiles, because that’s my job—to gather in the whole world.
How much do we really care about Mystery of the Ages? How much do you want to proclaim it and give this excitement to the world? This has been hidden from the whole world for all ages! We must make this known among the Gentiles. This applies, in principle, to all of Mr. Armstrong’s literature. God commands that we make it known to the world, to give them an opportunity to know God and to know about what this mystery is! It is “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” If Christ lives in us, we will love and fight for His truth.
Christ in you is the hope of glory! How much is Christ in you? Well, how much hope do you have? We should be filled with hope. We all need more. We live in a world that is getting more hopeless as time goes on. This world needs hope, and there is only one hope: “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” We must think like Christ. How much of our thinking is surrendered to Him? (2 Corinthians 10:5). We all have to grow in that.
We are the family of God in embryo. What a vision! Jesus Christ died for this world—and God gave His only begotten Son—to bring this hope to them, to develop man’s incredible potential.
“Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus” (Colossians 1:28). Is your number-one goal helping to present every man perfect before Jesus Christ?
This verse presents God’s work as happening in a particular order. First, it says, we preach, which means to declare plainly and openly or aloud. Mr. Armstrong did that as a witness to the world. Then it says we warn; that’s what we’re doing in this phase of the work—warning the world. Of course, these things will run concurrently as well. But we have them listed here in this order.
After the preaching and the warning, then we teach every man—gathering in the whole world, man by man, woman by woman, child by child.
This is God’s family vision about the future. One day we will reach every man! That must be done one by one. That is where you enter the picture. You will counsel, teach and guide people in the wonderful World Tomorrow. You will warn them, too, when they go in the wrong direction. You will teach them very clearly about the mystery of God—the God family vision, or the gospel.
We will warn and teach until every man has been taught. And then we will take that program out into the universe. What a magnificent vision this is! How could we allow such a vision to be lost? We are called sons of God! What a calling God has given us. What a prophetic plan God reveals here in Colossians!
Laboring From Jail
“Whereunto I also labour, striving according to his working, which worketh in me mightily” (verse 29). Paul was laboring from jail. Surely, when Paul’s adversaries threw him in jail, they thought they had finally silenced him. But how wrong they were! He worked even harder! Why? Because he knew it would stir God’s people. They knew who Paul was. And they labored as hard as possible for the work of God while Paul was imprisoned.
Teaching the Mystery of the Ages got Paul thrown in jail. Can you imagine that? His writings were canonized to make up a hearty portion of the Bible—14 books. A major part of those epistles came right out of prison. Paul knew something the world didn’t know. Although he was in jail, he knew that his message would go far beyond this Earth. He was imprisoned physically, but not spiritually.
The fact that Paul was a convict reveals a lot about this world. They don’t really understand what they did to Paul. One day, though, they will be convicted and see. All of a sudden, this hope will come alive in their minds, and they’ll be inspired, moved and stirred! No doubt they’ll shed a lot of tears—especially those who had Paul incarcerated and later killed. Likewise, there are many Laodiceans today who will shed tears profusely because of what they are saying about Mr. Armstrong—if they repent and make it into God’s family.
“For I would that ye knew what great conflict I have for you, and for them at Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh” (Colossians 2:1). Paul had a great conflict over what? Over the Mystery of the Ages! It was a conflict with God’s own people. As Paul sat in jail, ministers were out there betraying God’s great apostle—getting into heresy and saying that he had gone off the deep end.
We won our first court battle over Mystery of the Ages, and the Worldwide Church of God appealed it. Then we appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. If Paul fought the battle from jail, we certainly can keep fighting in court. God says this work must be done—this world must be warned.
The tragedy of the Church in the first century, and the tragedy of the Church today, is this: All of the dirty work was done from within. Like Paul in the first century, Mr. Armstrong’s labor has been scorned. Many horrible things have been said about Mr. Armstrong. Who is behind all that?
The faithful Colossians labored with Paul, and we ought to labor for the truth that God revealed to Mr. Armstrong. If we let Christ live in us, we’re reflecting that glory. We cannot rebel against that mystery, or even be neutral. We cannot say, I don’t believe we should be involved in court cases in this world. What does God say? What have we heard?
This is not an easy message to escape. As Mr. Armstrong said repeatedly, this is dangerous knowledge. Doesn’t the fact that 95 percent of God’s people are dying spiritually reveal how dangerous? Yet we ought to hunger and thirst after it, and work hard to get it. You will find your effort greatly rewarded.
“That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches [the real wealth] of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgment of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ” (verse 2). The mystery has to do with the Father and Christ and the family of God. It’s about you being born into that family.
The Laodiceans don’t honor their Father. If only they would deliver Mystery of the Ages with us, they’d be honoring their Father and their Husband—the whole family of God. They would have all of these riches. But they are involved in physical things—they are rich and increased with goods, or things (Revelation 3:17). They don’t know what true, spiritual wealth is anymore.
Paul talked about how wealthy he was, how rich he was, while in jail. He had tremendous vision. Could you be that inspiring if you were in jail? It’s easy to read these words. But can we imagine and feel Paul’s pain? This experience really happened to him! We must be prepared for whatever God allows us to face. How real to you is the fact that you are the family of God in embryo? As real as it was to Paul?
“And this I say, lest any man should beguile you with enticing words” (Colossians 2:4). There’s always some man around who knows how to use words deceptively. Only the very elect will not be led away from God by enticing words. “As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving” (verses 6-7). Be rooted and established in this illustrious vision, so deeply that nobody can ever take you away. That’s what makes you part of the very elect! You are like a giant oak tree with deep roots that no storm can remove.
I believe this is the subject we are weakest in today in the Philadelphia Church of God—the God family vision.
We are the family of God. And we ought to have a love that the world has no knowledge of. We must have a great passion and a great desire to be filled with this vision, to get grounded more deeply in it. There are storms on the horizon. Storms such as this world has never seen before. When things get too bad, we know God will take His very elect to a place of safety to be protected, but we must be able to weather the trials before that time.
Our families and marriages reflect how well we understand this vision. If both parties in a marriage understand this, they ought to have the greatest marriage ever! They both must be grounded in this—it takes two to work in a marriage and in a family to make sure it reflects God’s vision.
“Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ” (verse 8). “Rudiments of the world” means ruling spirits of the universe. Satan so often deceives through people who use a great, philosophical, scholarly presentation to turn people away. That’s how he deceives the Laodiceans. They had revealed to them what had been a mystery for all man’s history, and still they are more interested in philosophy and psychology! The ruling spirits of the universe have gotten to them. Soon God will put a stop to that!
“And not holding the Head, from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God” (verse 19). Get a strong grip on the Head—Jesus Christ. He is the Head of the Philadelphia Church of God. He should be the Head of the Laodiceans. We cling to the Head so we can be “knit together.” We’re all family—all being knit together into one family by Christ.
A Door of Utterance
“Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving; Withal praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds” (Colossians 4:2-3). How inspiring! Paul said he was in jail for proclaiming this mystery—and at the same time he was asking God to open a door for this mystery to be proclaimed even more! This great man of God was in jail, and his most urgent request to the people of God was to be praying for an open door so they could proclaim that mystery to the world.
How about that for courage? How about that for having a positive attitude in a trial? Paul saw something with a passion that few men have ever seen. Nevertheless, he was human. He asked them to remember his bonds (verse 18)—to keep him in their prayers.
Perhaps Paul was doing a greater work in jail than he would have done out of jail, because it stirred up so many more people, giving the Church more power. There was a reason why God did that. Sometimes God will go to extreme measures to stir up His people, because they are His family. They are the very elite of this Earth. Most of God’s family today have forgotten that!
Like Paul in jail, we must bear down and do even more as times get tougher. If we let up in this battle, our trials will begin to bog us down. It is the vision we receive from doing God’s work that enables us to bear up under the trials that come upon us in this world.
Here is the reward that we don’t want to forget. Colossians 3:4 states, “When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.” We will one day appear with God in glory. That is no small reward. Think and pray about that.
The Harshest Ending
As we covered in the last chapter, the book of Malachi begins by talking about a serious family dispute that ends in tragedy. It is probably the saddest beginning of a book in the Bible. Now notice the ending.
“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse” (Malachi 4:5-6). This is speaking about eternal lives being lost in this end time. (Write for a free copy of Malachi’s Message for more explanation.) He’s talking about many ministers who will lose their eternal lives. That’s the ending of the book.
Notice: Why will the Laodiceans lose it all? Well, those verses talk about turning the heart of the fathers to the children and the heart of the children to their fathers. The Laodiceans will die eternally because they lost the God family vision!
This is a hard message to take. We must warn the Laodiceans how disastrous their ending will be, both physically and spiritually, if they don’t repent. It doesn’t have to be so bitter! God has laid it all out for us!
“Remember ye the law of Moses my servant, which I commanded unto him in Horeb for all Israel, with the statutes and judgments” (verse 4). Remember the law. Bring the judgments into that equation; there are judgments made in every age. So that means you must have the government of God and the law of love, if you are to have the mystery.
Who taught us the law? Who taught us the government? We must remember. I can’t think of a single major judgment that Mr. Armstrong made that the pcg has changed since his death in 1986. Of course, new judgments have been built upon the old. We all have to submit to this wonderful law and government of love, which makes it possible for God to feed us spiritual manna. That’s the only way to get the spiritual bread. The only way. We need to understand this more deeply than anything else.
The Family Name
“Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another: and the Lord hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon his name” (Malachi 3:16). What name is that? It’s Elohim—the family name. The very elect thought upon the God family name.
“And they shall be mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels [more accurately, special possession or family]; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him” (verse 17). God reminds us about His family when He compares Himself to a man sparing his son. He will protect His family from what is coming upon the Earth. The scriptures prophesy, though, that it will take a nuclear tribulation to wake the majority of God’s people, because they won’t accept God’s law and government of love now.
Everything is built upon the foundation of this God family vision. That vision separates the Philadelphians and the Laodiceans. The Laodiceans today are sons, yes—but rebellious sons. The Philadelphians are those sons with whom God is well pleased.
In Revelation 3, Christ is talking directly to the Laodiceans: “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 …. 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: I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see” (verses 14, 17-18). Christ says some people of God are very blind—a despicable spiritual condition. He is talking about the time you and I live in now.
“As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: Be zealous therefore, and repent” (verse 19). God rebukes and chastens us because sometimes that is exactly what we need. But He always does it in love. He is always trying to bring about our repentance.
“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). This is about eating spiritual food. Christ wants to dine at the same table with His spiritual family!
“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” (verse 21). Christ mentions His Father, because the Laodiceans’ biggest problem is they’ve gotten their mind on things and off God, their Father. Their spiritual father, the physical head of God’s Church, Mr. Armstrong, lived in the worst kind of poverty for 28 years—during which he said that he and his wife had never before been so spiritually rich. What hard trials he had to endure. But he had the God family vision. He saw the Father. He was thrilled and excited to know Him—to know that he could be called a son of God!
We are sons of God! The God beyond the galaxies—who created the universe—He is the God who calls us His sons!
We need to understand this vision more deeply, and then we will be more inspired by God than ever before. “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches” (verse 22).