Chapter 8: The Elder
Where is God’s Work? Most of God’s people don’t even know. That is a staggering crisis with eternal consequences—no deceit is more deadly. John shows us how to be a vital part of God’s Work today and forever! Once you are a part of God’s Work, it should never end!
The last hour has struck. At the end of this hour Jesus Christ will return. The Earth and universe will know only peace, joy and abundance from that time forward! Nothing even remotely like it has ever occurred before. The Family of God will rule this Earth and the universe. Can your mind fully comprehend that this universe-shaking event is only an “hour” away?
Six thousand years of man ruling over man is about to end forever!
You would think this reality would have all of God’s people buzzing with excitement, wanting to do all they could to prepare for that event—to warn the world and fill people with hope.
But that isn’t the case. Most of God’s people have turned away and show little or no interest in Christ’s return!
Jesus Christ Himself started the first-century Church. And yet, by the time John (one of Christ’s original 12 apostles) was writing his epistles, the people were losing their first love! That illustrates what a battle it is to conquer our human nature.
Imagine the horror if one half of a large physical family died in a short span of time. Yet that would be trivial when compared with the spiritual. Fifty percent of God’s spiritual Family today will die forever! That is a mind-defying disaster. It may be the greatest single disaster ever in God’s Church!
When John wrote these epistles, it was a very dangerous time for God’s people, both physically and spiritually. They should have been more urgent spiritually—but, ironically, most of them were leaving the truth!
The Ephesus-era Church was dying, just as the Laodicean-era Church is today. Spiritual death was all around. Nothing else comes close to being as tragic as that kind of crisis.
Christ recently revealed these epistles to get our minds on the last hour. Why is the time factor so crucial? Because we are in an agonizing spiritual war, and it is almost over! That understanding gives us a more positive attitude. We know that Christ is going to give us the ultimate victory very soon.
Looking back on the history of the Philadelphia Church, perhaps God has revealed more truth for us from John’s epistles than any other New Testament book in the Bible. Why would God want us to study so deeply into these short writings, particularly in this last hour?
Part of the answer lies in John’s own attitude to the spiritual tragedy occurring around him. John was not depressed. He was greatly saddened by what was happening in the Church. But he makes clear in his epistles that he was rejoicing! He rejoiced through all his spiritual warfare, even though it was the worst he had ever faced. During these times, we need to learn from John’s spiritual success.
In his last sermon before he died, Mr. Armstrong made a profound statement: “Government is based on the principle of God’s love.” He was thinking very much like the Apostle John.
Love is surrendering to our Husband. It is keeping God’s law. It is obeying God’s government. At times, it even exposes the antichrist. How many people really understand that kind of love? The reason John talked about it so much was that practically nobody understood it at the time! Even the majority of God’s people were rebelling against God’s love. That is also true of God’s Church today.
John spent most of his first epistle talking about love. In his second and third epistles, John gets more direct and specific. Both of these epistles begin with the same words: “The elder.” Why? Because if we are going to understand God’s law of love, we need to find out where “the elder” is—the one who teaches God’s law. When you are talking about God’s law, you really are talking about “the elder” as well! God’s chosen leader always plays the key role under Christ!
Where are 95 percent of God’s Laodiceans stumbling most of all today? Again, the majority of God’s people are led by ministers who cause them to stumble at the law (Malachi 2:7‑8). That means they reject “the elder,” who teaches God’s law!
The massive falling away today revolves around God’s law—and God’s elder who teaches that law! Unless we can learn this lesson deeply, we are going to be led astray!
This is the fundamental lesson we must learn. This is why John opened his last two epistles with “the elder.” First he taught the members about God’s law of love. Then he zeroed in on “the elder” who was teaching that law.
He saved “the elder” subject until the end of his epistles. He wanted to be as gentle as he possibly could in teaching God’s saints.
In these last two epistles, John was emphasizing the serious government problems. Rebel leaders were coming who brought not this doctrine (2 John 10). And probably the worst rebel John faced was Diotrephes (3 John 9).
As Mr. Armstrong always said, government is everything. That is what John was discussing. Throughout the Bible, God has worked with one man at a time in this office of “the elder.” It is not “an elder”—it’s the elder of God! There is only one man that Christ, the Head of this Church, uses at any given time in that leadership role. This is truly fundamental. That is not my idea—it is the foundational truth of God! We are about to take this gospel out into the universe—this truth about the Family of God administering the government of God—the same government God’s man has always been teaching!
Remember, these epistles were written for the last hour. If we are to understand God’s love, or God’s law and government, we must find “the elder” in the last hour.
Why was the Ephesus Church losing its first love? Because the people weren’t looking to “the elder.” Why is the Laodicean Church casting God’s truth to the ground today? Because its members don’t look to “the elder” to whom God is revealing His truth. They simply won’t let God love them!
If you want to know about God’s love, this is right at the heart of it: finding the government of God! There you find where God is loving His people, pouring out His Spirit and revelation. If we don’t learn about “the elder,” we will let God’s truth dissipate and will become Laodicean.
Lucifer failed to administer God’s government. God then decided that He had to re-create Himself in mankind. That is the only way He could ensure that His government would be administered. Now God’s Church is being tested to see if we can qualify to rule with God forever—where Lucifer failed.
That awesome future is directly tied to submitting to God’s government today. God’s true ministers are always reminded to keep the members looking to Christ and the elder—not just with words, but also with deeds. That is where God’s government always breaks down. It is where we find the supreme test.
Unless we factor in “the elder,” God’s Church gets lost in endless human reasoning.
You can trust God to be correcting, shaping and molding that elder. And if the elder rebels and God can’t mold him, then he will be replaced. Recent history in the wcg illustrates that foundational lesson.
John began his second and third epistles with “The elder.” Why? John was emphasizing God’s government because so many members and people in the world were attacking it!
This is prophecy for God’s Church today. We see the vast majority of God’s people rebelling against and attacking God’s government. The cause of our Church crisis in this end time was prophesied in John’s last hour epistles!
The Ephesus Church was losing its first love for a definite reason. They were rejecting God’s government through the elder. And in this last hour, God’s people are also rejecting God’s government, which is administered through the elder.
Reject the elder and you are pushing Christ out of the picture. This is the worst catastrophe of all. Study your Bible and you’ll see God has always led His Church that way—with one man.
This is not just a lesson for you to follow God’s government—it is a lesson for me to implement it as well. There are times when I don’t want to, just as there are times when we don’t want to submit to it. That is the way we are humanly. But if we are going to make it through this last hour, we must think with Christ’s mind.
John was talking to people who were falling away all around him, and so am I. The vast majority of God’s people have fallen away, and God says He is so sickened by them that He will spew them out of His mouth! (Revelation 3:16). Fifty percent of them will be lost forever because they refuse to follow Christ—and His elder.
I’m sure there were people who criticized John for referring to himself as “the elder.” Look at the way this guy is exalting himself; as if he’s the only one God is using. We have to be careful of the evils of one-man rule. Certainly Diotrephes was saying such things. And sadly, many of the people of God believed him!
I believe this is a prophecy of what will be the biggest problem among the pcg membership in this last hour!
It would be so easy for us to push this truth aside. That is what the Laodiceans are doing. They are stumbling at God’s government and law. God’s government is a prerequisite to establishing the law in God’s true Church.
Our battle in the last hour is going to get increasingly fierce and ferocious! And I know where the worst attack will be focused. As long as I serve God and His Work, there will be people trying to destroy and discredit me. And there will be cases where we will be under fire, and I won’t have time to sit down and say, Let’s negotiate. I will have to make some difficult decisions, and you will have to know, deep down, that God is using “the elder”! We must learn this lesson of government, or we won’t survive the last hour!
Many people are trying to disparage me even today. You need to know whether to listen to them or not. Throughout these epistles, John says you can know who Christ’s leader is. If you don’t know, a black future awaits you.
Draw Close to the Ministry
God gives us His government for a foundational purpose. We must take advantage of it.
It is easy for people to think they can solve their own problems, when really they need help. We all have the tendency to rely too much on ourselves. We must learn to ask for help when we need it.
People cannot be in God’s Church and remain aloof from His ministry. When that is the case, we can be certain there is some kind of sin in their minds! (There are some very rare cases, among God’s very elect, where the ministers are wrong and must be dealt with. Be assured Christ will take care of the problem in time.) What is going on with people who don’t really want to be close to God and His Family ministers? That is not a small problem.
Many times I have seen people leave this Church who, perhaps only a week before, told me, “I’m 100 percent behind you.” I’m sure that most of the time people say that with a good attitude. But when you get down to it, what do words mean if they are not backed by deeds?
The Elect Lady
“The elder unto the elect lady and her children …” (2 John 1). We are “the elect lady.” We are the royal Bride of Jesus Christ. The word elect means chosen of God. We didn’t select our Husband or our Father. Our Father selected us as the Bride for His Son! He chose you after a lot of thinking and pondering to determine whether you had the potential He wanted in His Son’s future wife—the only wife Christ will ever have throughout eternity! What an “elect lady”! The biggest challenge we have is remembering who we are!
Do you really want to turn away from that because you don’t like God’s government or His law? We should be filled with excitement and wonder because of our imminent marriage to Christ. Isn’t that how two people feel as they prepare for their marriage in this world? Yet those physical marriages are nothing compared to this spiritual marriage, where we become the royal Bride of the King of kings!
This calling should fill us with excitement, wonder and awe. Do we really get it? Pray fervently that you do. God’s Family is the greatest royalty on Earth by far!
The Church is “the mother of us all” (Galatians 4:26). A mother nurtures and feeds her children. If we are going to be nurtured and fed new revelation by God, we must be in the true Church of God—the elect lady.
Love in the Truth
“The elder unto the elect lady and her children, whom I love in the truth; and not I only, but also all they that have known the truth” (2 John 1). John had to emphasize “love in the truth” because so many were talking about a phony love, contrary to God’s truth.
So many were turning away from God, and yet John still loved them in the truth! We need to understand John’s depth of love, or we will become Laodicean.
Do we love each other “in the truth”? God won’t force this on us. He doesn’t want a bride who doesn’t really want this marriage. What husband wants a wife who doesn’t love him? Christ rejects those people who don’t have true, lawful love. He wants to be loved by His people! He has done everything for us, and now it is our turn to do something for our Husband.
The end of 2 John 1 in the Revised Standard Version reads, “all who know the truth.” If you know the truth, you know where this elect lady is. If you don’t know the truth, John doesn’t even address his epistle to you. You don’t know what love is if you don’t love the elect lady. You must know and love this lady of truth.
“For the truth’s sake, which dwelleth in us, and shall be with us for ever” (2 John 2). One trillion years into the future, when we are beautifying the universe, God’s precious truth will still be with us.
“Grace be with you, mercy, and peace, from God the Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love. I rejoiced greatly that I found of thy children walking in truth, as we have received a commandment from the Father” (verses 3-4). The Father and Son have been grounded in this truth forever. It’s an inspiring God Family love.
They received “a commandment from the Father”—a command that we must walk in His Family truth.
Some of the Laodiceans no longer understand that they are to be born again into that Family. Others even believe in the trinity now. That means they have lost the God Family understanding—the gospel.
The United Church of God left the wcg and said it would experiment with a new government—different from what Mr. Armstrong taught. That meant those Laodiceans were turning away from the Father’s rule and turning to another father—another god!—the god of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4). No wonder God is going to spew them out of His mouth.
“And now I beseech thee, lady, not as though I wrote a new commandment unto thee, but that which we had from the beginning, that we love one another” (2 John 5). John uses the word lady because he is addressing the whole Church. God’s Church is typed by a woman in the Bible.
If we turn away, our own history condemns us—what we “heard from the beginning.” In this last hour, that expression has Herbert W. Armstrong written all over it, since he restored all things.
“Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward” (verse 8). Is God trying to hurt us? No—He is saying, you must examine yourselves or you won’t receive a full reward! Most of the people around John were not receiving a full reward. Today, those who repent in the Tribulation will be in God’s Kingdom but lose their eternal headquarters reward. And that failure will be a part of their history forever. All John wanted for these people was for them to have a full reward for all eternity!
Do you want a full reward? Then do not lose all you have “wrought,” or worked for. Take the Holy Spirit and examine yourself. See where you are sinning and change. God wants you to have a full reward! He wants you at headquarters with Jesus Christ forever!
If we only examine ourselves with our human minds, we will never see what we are doing wrong spiritually. It requires taking the Spirit of God and examining yourself, on your knees, asking God for His view. Let the Holy Spirit guide you in everything you do. This is all in the context of Christ coming in the flesh.
We have the opportunity to rule from headquarters for all eternity! That is the full reward God is offering today!
God is not harsh, but He does test us. But He wants us to know that if we stay with “the elder” and the government of God, if we really love our Husband, we will have a full reward! God is trying to give us the ultimate reward.
The stakes could not be much higher. God wants us to have some of the highest positions in God’s Kingdom. And those offices last forever!
Angel of Light
“Whosever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son” (2 John 9). The Father and the Son are one. John kept emphasizing the Family unity that the Father and Son have had for all eternity.
“If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed” (verse 10). This applies even more to the last hour. There are vicious wolves out there, and you have a heavy responsibility. What “doctrine” is this talking about? You urgently need to know! If someone comes to you who doesn’t bring this doctrine—perhaps a friend or even family member from a Laodicean church—you can’t think, I must be careful in how I reason this; I can’t let them take advantage of me, because I could get into trouble if I don’t really use my human reasoning. If you begin to think that way, you’ve already made a serious mistake! John tells us to just shut the door! Obey God’s government in this—listen to “the elder.” The elder and ministry are placed here to “watch for your souls”—your eternal lives! (Hebrews 13:17).
There were people in John’s day saying they loved God and loved the Church—while they were destroying the Church! It is so easy to get seduced by words. We want to think, They love me, and I love them. But they don’t love God! And they don’t love you! If they did, they would submit to Christ and His ministers! John says we must realize the danger here! Eternal life is at stake, and John is labeling people antichrists! They are talking about love while they fight against the God who is love!
We cannot flirt with that danger. You could have the wisdom of Solomon and still be seduced! You must realize who is behind that person. Satan is much smarter than you are if you don’t stay close to God.
The main focus here is on the antichrists—those who “went out from us.” They come as “angel[s] of light” with another doctrine. They are not seeking the truth. Their goal is to entrap you. And they are so dangerous that you should just politely close the door.
Does that seem harsh? Remember, your eternal glory is at stake!
“For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds” (2 John 11). Don’t even bid them God speed, or you are guilty of their sins. We must see how dangerous this spiritual war is. These Laodiceans have moved from God’s camp to the devil’s work. And they desperately want you to join them. Deep down they know they are wrong. Getting more partners in crime makes them feel a little more secure in their delusion.
There is danger from the world’s religions. But there is far more danger from those members who knew God and then rebelled against Him. They are called antichrists because they fight against the Christ who was at one time their Head.
Even if they seem to be or are repentant, they should be directed to God’s ministers. They are usually dangerous deceivers preying on your eternal life. They are dying spiritually and want you to join them!
The only safe way is to obey God’s Word. This is how God protects His Family. This is about living or dying for all eternity!
Some commentaries call these rebels secessionists. But God calls them antichrists. Only He and His true Church understand how truly dangerous they are.
The Ephesus era began with more glory than any other era. Christ personally founded it. But that era was humiliated and destroyed by the devil. He deceived some of the greatest intellects in God’s Church. Let’s not take these words of God lightly.