How much do you really know about GOD'S CHURCH? Where has it been? Have you supposed it was re-established after 1900 years through the efforts of Herbert W. Armstrong? IT WAS NOT! You will be ASTONISHED to see the true history of GOD'S Church. This true history, authentically documented WITH NEW FACTS which our older members should re-read, is breathtaking. Here are the astounding facts! This surprising truth is bound up in the real meaning of the SEVEN CHURCHES IN REVELATION!
HERE — for two thousand new readers — is the TRUTH about our Church! Almost two thousand years ago a Messenger came to this earth bringing startling news of a coming world government! That messenger was Jesus Christ! Jesus came to DELIVER this message from God to man. He did NOT come to preach it PERSONALLY to the whole world. Instead, Jesus spent His ministry PREPARING THE FOUNDATION FOR THE CHURCH WHICH WOULD CARRY HIS GOSPEL OF THE KINGDOM to all nations.
Why Jesus Promised to Build Church
Jesus devoted His ministry to calling out disciples, teaching them the gospel, setting them an example by His own ministry. He authorized them with the greatest commission ever given to human beings — to preach the "gospel of the Kingdom of God in the whole world" (Matthew 24:14; Mark 16:15). Before Jesus ascended to the throne of God, He commanded the apostles and disciples to remain in Jerusalem until they were imbued with the Holy Spirit, which made them the begotten sons of God, put them into His Church (I Cor. 12:13), and endued them with the POWER OF GOD to carry out His work! JESUS FOUNDED HIS CHURCH BY SENDING THE PROMISED HOLY SPIRIT ON THE DAY OF PENTECOST, MONDAY, JUNE 18, 31 A.D. — a date ABSOLUTELY established by the exact and INSPIRED mathematical and astronomical computations of God's Sacred Calendar. It was an inspired Church, a Church in which Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, was living His life and THROUGH WHICH JESUS BEGAN TO PREACH AND PUBLISH HIS GOSPEL TO THE WHOLE WORLD.
What Is the True Church?
The true Church is the collective body of individuals, called out from the ways of this present world, who have TOTALLY surrendered themselves to the rule of God, and who, through the Holy Spirit, become the begotten sons of God (Rom. 8:9). The true Church is not some POLITICALLY ORGANIZED DENOMINATION which one joins or becomes a member of in order to be "saved." Jesus did not die for some one ORGANIZATION called a Church (Acts 20:28). You can't join the true Church; ONLY GOD CAN PUT YOU INTO IT! The Church is called the body of Christ because it is a SPIRITUAL ORGANISM whose LIVING, ACTIVE HEAD is Jesus Christ, in the same sense that the husband is HEAD of the wife (Eph. 5:23, 31). Notice that from the very beginning the Church was subject to the rule of God. It was not a government by the will of man or boards of men. Jesus is the Head of the Church. He rules the Church. Read the accompanying article in this issue.
Church Grows in Truth
Before He ascended to the Father, Jesus prayed that His Church would be kept ONE in the Father's name. "Holy Father, KEEP THROUGH THINE OWN NAME those whom thou hast given me, that they may be ONE, as we are" (John 17:11). The true church — "the Church of God" (I Cor. 1:2) — is not many divided quarreling denominations, but ONE Church, composed of many scattered members, ONE Church united in Spirit, mind, attitude and heart because its members have totally surrendered their wills to God and have yielded to correction and reproof from the Word of God. No denomination could be the true Church, because none has been willing to admit where it has been wrong, none has received God's correction, none has allowed the Holy Spirit to guide it into truth. The Church which Jesus is building is composed of those SCATTERED individuals who have God's Holy Spirit, who admit it when they are wrong, as the apostle Peter, did when he made a serious mistake (Gal. 2:11). Now notice Jesus' promise in John 16:13. He would send the Spirit of truth who "will GUIDE you INTO all truth." Here is the KEY which proves who are in God's Church. It is composed ONLY of those who are GROWING INTO TRUTH as God reveals it. The moment anyone ceases to GROW, but wants to retain only what he had five or ten years ago, FROM THAT MOMENT ON THE HOLY SPIRIT CEASES TO LIVE IN HIM.
False Teachers Prophesied
Now let's notice what was prophesied to happen to the Church. Jesus warned that there would be a great falling away — MANY false ministers deceiving the MANY (Mat. 24:4,5). Paul earnestly warned THE ELDERS that from their own number some would depart from the faith (Acts 2:29,30). False apostles and false brethren arose within local church assemblies (II Cor. 11:13-15, 26). Soon they outnumbered the faithful who ALONE made up the TRUE Church of GOD. Not only did Jesus prophesy that false ministers would deceive the many, but He also said His Church would be SCATTERED and persecuted. The Church first became scattered in the days of the apostles (Acts 8:1). But that did not mean the scattered individuals were not part of the Church. They WERE the Church because they were joined to Christ through the Holy Spirit. Those who drove them out became the FALSE church — the church of the God of THIS world — "the synagogue of Satan." Notice what Daniel says about the Church: "And they that understand among the people shall instruct many: YET THEY SHALL FALL BY THE SWORD, and by flame, by CAPTIVITY, AND BY SPOIL, MANY DAYS. Now when they shall fall, they shall be holpen with a little help: BUT MANY SHALL CLEAVE TO THEM WITH FLATTERIES. And some of them of understanding shall fall, to try them, and to purge them, and to make them white, even to the time of the end" (Dan. 11:33-35). How plain! The true Church was forced out of the local organized congregations and scattered. False churches would arise professing to be the churches of Christ. False brethren would betray God's people. BUT JESUS PROMISED TO BE WITH THE FAITHFUL REMNANT TO THE END OF THE AGE — to guide His people into truth. Where has His Church been these 1900 years?
An Amazing Prophecy!
In the book of Revelation is an amazing prophecy. Almost no one understands it, yet it is so very plain. It is the Seven Churches of Revelation. Notice Revelation 1:12-13. John sees a vision of seven candlesticks and Jesus in their midst. The Bible interprets the seven candlesticks to mean seven particular church congregations (verse 20). Jesus Christ is pictured as dwelling among the Seven Churches As THOUGH THEY WERE A TYPE OF THE ENTIRE CHURCH. There is the answer. Jesus dwells in the entire Church. Since this vision pictures Him dwelling only in seven churches, THOSE SEVEN CHURCHES REPRESENT THE ENTIRE CHURCH! Jesus chose the seven because THEY FORMED A PERFECT TWO-FOLD PATTERN. First, they were typical of general conditions among God's people anywhere. That is why we today are admonished to hear what the Holy Spirit says to ALL THE SEVEN CHURCHES. SECOND, those seven churches, each with its own particular characteristics, were chosen because their location IN SUCCESSIVE ORDER on a, long mail route WAS TYPICAL OF SEVEN SUCCESSIVE STATES OF GOSPEL LABOR OF THE CHURCH OF GOD THROUGH ALL AGES.
Who ARE the Seven Churches?
WHY have all Bible students, until NOW, been unable to identify these churches? It is due to the fact that everyone has ASSUMED, erroneously, that these picture the seven stages of the visible, organized churches which have called themselves "Christian." In other words, it has been assumed that the churches of THIS WORLD are pictured in Revelation 2 and 3 as continuations of the true Church in apostolic days. Everyone, it seems, has SUPPOSED that, following the apostolic Church, these seven churches picture the course of history in the Greek and Roman Catholic and the Protestant churches — the churches of the god of THIS world! THIS IS NOT TRUE! These two chapters of Revelation picture, and convey God's message to THE TRUE CHURCH OF GOD — the Church in which CHRIST lives and works — the Church which is HIS BODY — HIS instrumentality — the Church HE USES! It is the Church that was scattered, persecuted, unorganized — many of whose members have been martyred. This Church is composed of members who, even though begotten by and led by the Holy Spirit, yet are human and therefore not perfect. In the message to each of these seven churches Jesus has a word of correction. In every case He points out things they need to overcome. But they are the people who have and are led by His Spirit, who put themselves under God's government instead of human traditions or self desire or the way that seems right to a man, and who have in the main THE TRUE GOSPEL, even though they often lost vital portions of it. Notice, chapter 2, verse 1: "These things saith He that holdeth the seven stars (the angels of the TRUE church) in His right hand, WHO WALKETH IN THE MIDST OF THE SEVEN GOLDEN CANDLESTICKS" (THESE SEVEN CHURCHES). Jesus Christ is IN these churches. They are HIS churches, not Satan's churches which falsely masquerade as "Christian." And remember the TRUE Church has not been politically organized, powerful and recognized by the world — but scattered, persecuted, SELDOM NOTICED by the world, and even then regarded as heretics. Now let's UNDERSTAND who they are, one by one.
The Apostolic Age
The church at Ephesus pictured the APOSTOLIC CHURCH, a Church which patiently labored in the gospel, which met many false apostles but remained steadfast to the truth (Rev. 2:1-7). THERE WERE TWO 19-YEAR CYCLES IN THE HISTORY OF THE APOSTOLIC CHURCH DURING WHICH THE GOSPEL WAS CARRIED TO THE OLD WORLD. It was exactly 19 years from A.D. 31, when the Church was founded, to the time that Paul received the vision to go into Europe! In Acts 16:9 Paul had a vision of a man in Macedonia (in Greece) who shouted "Help us!" Paul described this even in II Cor. 2:12-13 where he wrote that "a DOOR was opened unto me of the Lord" by which he meant that a way was opened to preach the gospel in Europe. Paul went into Europe about the time of Pentecost in the late spring of 50 A.D. After a few months of preaching, he arrived in Corinth in the fall of that year (Acts 18:1) where he remained for a YEAR AND SIX MONTHS (verse 11). It was now the beginning of 52 A.D. An insurrection broke out against Paul when Gallio was deputy or pro-counsel of Achaia (verse 12). A recently discovered inscription in Greece states that Gallio held this position during 52 A.D., which proves that the gospel went to Europe in 50 A.D., just 19 years after the Church was founded! From 50 A.D. it was another 19 years until the fleeing of the Headquarters Church at Jerusalem in 69 A.D. Here is what happened in 69 A.D. on the Feast of Pentecost — exactly two 19-year cycles after the Holy Spirit came on the day of Pentecost: "Moreover," records Josephus, the Jewish historian, "at that feast which we call PENTECOST, as the priests were going by night into the inner court of the temple ... they said that in the first place they felt a quaking, and heard a great noise, and after that they heard a sound as of a multitude, saying, 'LET US REMOVE HENCE.'" (From WARS OF THE JEWS, bk. VI, ch. v, #3.) God's people did REMOVE HENCE! They fled to Pella, beyond the River Jordan. From that time forward the UNITED power of the Church of God to spread the gospel of the Kingdom ceased. No longer was there a Headquarters Church at Jerusalem to whom all churches could look as the standard of TRUTH. It now became A STRUGGLE TO STRIVE FOR THE FAITH ONCE DELIVERED (Jude 3). The many local churches soon LEFT THEIR FIRST LOVE. Shortly after John finished the book of Revelation, the remnant of the true Church was scattered over the length and breadth of the whole Roman Empire. This fulfilled Jesus' warning: "I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place" (Rev. 2:5). Thus ended the Apostolic Age typified by the "Church at Ephesus." The prophesied "Church at Smyrna" arises next. It appeared to be dead — nonexistent — yet it was alive, SUFFERING PERSECUTION. This pictures God's Church during more than four centuries under the persecuting Old Roman Empire. Besides the true Church there was also a "Synagogue of Satan" (Rev. 2:9) developing during this period.
The Synagogue of Satan — What Is It?
Now read Revelation 2:9. "I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan." Notice, this is a synagogue of Satan. A synagogue is merely the Hebrew word for church. Then Jesus is not speaking of a RACE, but of a CHURCH that belongs to the devil! This church claims they are Jews. Why? Because Jesus said, "Salvation is of the Jews" (John 4:22). "To the Jew first, then also to the Greek" (Rom. 1:16). In Romans 11:16-27 Paul explains that Israel and the Jews, to whom salvation belonged, were broken off because of unbelief. Gentiles were grafted in their place. But once grafted in, they were no longer Gentiles — "BEING IN TIME PAST Gentiles in the flesh" (Eph. 2:11). Now they were all one in Christ Jesus, "no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints" (Eph. 2:19). "He is a Jew," says Paul, "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" (Rom. 2:29). So here was a church made up of Gentiles, claiming salvation, claiming to be Jews inwardly, masquerading itself as a "Christian" church. This synagogue of Satan is the apostate church which developed after 80 A.D. and ultimately became recognized as the State Religion of the Roman Empire. That Church has had many Protestant daughters which are also Satan's churches.
The True Church Persecuted
The world at this time did not recognize which was the true Church. "The world knoweth us not" (I John 3:1). It is from the enemies of God's Church that we have scanty records of God's people, who were now maligned as heretics. For centuries, Catholic writers mention small remnants of the true Church within the bounds of the Roman Empire. Sometimes they were individuals, sometimes scattered families, and especially in the Near East there were still a few local congregations preaching the gospel and keeping the commandments. As late as the beginning of the fifth century in Asia Minor, the bishop Chrysostom bewailed members of the Catholic Church, who, upon learning the truth from the scattered remnants of the true Church, repented of their ways and began to observe "the feast of trumpets, the feast of tabernacles, and the feast of the great day of expiation" (Bingham's "Antiquities Of The Christian Church", bk. XVI, ch. VI). As a result of the Council of Nicaea (325 A.D.), Emperor Constantine commenced the Tribulation (Revelation 12:6) with full force. The true Church fled into the valleys and mountains in Europe and Asia Minor. Now notice what John writes to the "Church at Pergamos": "I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan's seat is; and thou holdest fast my name, and has not denied my faith" (Rev. 2:13).
A Miracle Occurs
The local church to which John wrote was situated in Pergamos, the capital of the Roman province of Asia in Asia Minor — Pergamos was Satan's seat of worldly human government for that province. Just as the local Church at Pergamos was situated in a city where Satan swayed human politics, so the next work of God's Church occurred WITHIN the bounds of Satan's government — the Eastern Roman Empire — where a small body of God's people was found. It was about 650 A.D. that God, as if by miracle, raised up among the scattered remnants of his Church in Cappadocia and Armenia a man who revitalized his people and spread the gospel. This well-educated man, by the name of Constantine of Manales, was given a gift of portions of the Bible. He was utterly amazed by the truth he found revealed in it after study. Soon he began, preaching and with the help of trained evangelists found such a fruitful harvest that there were tens of thousands converted to the truth. After twenty-seven years of ministry, he was stoned to death in 684 A.D., but an officer, Simeon, sent to destroy him, was so stirred by his death that he became converted and carried forth the gospel until he was burned at the stake six years later! Within another hundred years God raised up a third minister, Sergius, to guide his people who were allowing many false teachings to grow in their midst. The name given to these people of God by their enemies was the PAULICIANS. The reports circulated about these people were slanderous and false. It was not till almost the beginning of the twentieth century that a book called THE KEY OF TRUTH, containing many of their teachings, was translated into English by Fred C. Conybeare. This partially preserved record of God's people proves that THEY PREACHED THE GOSPEL OF THE KINGDOM; THAT THEY BELIEVED THE CHURCH WAS FOUNDED NOT ONLY UPON JESUS CHRIST, BUT ALSO UPON THE APOSTLES AND PROPHETS (Eph. 2:20); THAT THEY BAPTIZED BY IMMERSION; THAT THEY LAID ON HANDS FOR THE "RECEPTION OF THE SPIRIT" (p. CXXIV). THEY NOT ONLY "CONTINUED TO KEEP THE PASSOVER ON THE FOURTEENTH OF NISAN," BUT THEY ALSO OBSERVED THE SABBATH AND THE FESTIVAL OF UNLEAVENED BREAD (pages CLXII and CLII of THE KEY OF TRUTH). The devil was angry with these people who understood the gospel and kept the commandments. Knowing that he could not overthrow their faith by force, he corrupted them by introducing false teachers who taught the "doctrine of Balaam" (Rev. 2:14). In turning to Numbers 31:16, you will see that Balaam induced the Israelites to practice idolatry and commit spiritual fornication. Once again Satan, in his wiles to overthrow the Church, introduced false teachers among God's people. These teachers induced many in the Church to celebrate certain IDOLATROUS pagan holidays, particularly Epiphany, the original birthday of Nimrod, supposedly in honor of Christ's birth and baptism. Satan also caused many in the Church to take part in worldly politics in the hope of safeguarding themselves. Mixing with the politics of this world is called "fornication" in Revelation 17:2. God's Church is to be a virgin and remain pure and SEPARATE FROM THE WORLD, waiting for the marriage to Christ (II Cor. 11:2). As a result of these sins, Jesus warned his Church: "Repent; or else I will fight against thee with the sword of my mouth" (Rev. 2:16). Most took the warning lightly until it was too late. Trusting in their worldly political alliances with neighboring Arabs, instead of relying on Jesus' protection, they were betrayed and slaughtered — one hundred thousand of them! The faithful few who escaped were driven to Southeastern Europe and called Bogomils. "There they throve for centuries, and ... spread their tenets into Bohemia, Poland, Germany, Italy, France, and even into England" (p. CIV).
The Church in the Wilderness
John was inspired to commend the "Church at Thyatira" because THE LAST WORKS of the Church were MORE THAN THE FIRST. But in the local Church there was a false teacher (symbol of the Catholic Church) who taught some to practice idolatry. Jesus warned He would cast them into great tribulation and "kill her children [Protestants] with death" unless they repented (Rev. 2:18-29). Now let us notice how this description fits exactly the next great expansion of God's people. As a result of the evangelization of the Alpine regions by the Paulicians and Bogomils of Bulgaria, as God's people were called, there arose numerous ministers and faithful congregations. One of these men was Peter de Bruys who preached the gospel of the Kingdom in the south of France (Jones' CHURCH HISTORY, ch. 4, sect. 3). Two other preachers of the time were Arnold and Henri. They were charged by the Catholic Church with remaining faithful to the whole law of God and of observing the sabbath ("Ecclesiastical History", by Peter Allix, pp. 168-169). The Lutheran historian Mosheim says of other congregations of the Church in the twelfth century that they held "a notion that the observance of the law of Moses, in everything except the offerings of sacrifices, was obligatory upon Christians ... they abstained from those meats the use of which was prohibited under the Mosaic economy, and celebrated the Jewish Sabbath. The second tenet which distinguished this sect was advanced in opposition to the doctrine of three persons in the divine nature." Yes, they knew that God was not a trinity, but a family! A crusade was instituted against many of these people in Southern France. Thousands perished. But when it seemed that the FIRST WORK WOULD SOON BE ENDED, there arose an even GREATER leader among God's people. It was the close of the twelfth century. In Lyons, France, lived an astonishingly successful and wealthy merchant, Peter Waldo. "One day, while in the company of some of the leading citizens, one of his friends fell lifeless at his side. Terrified by the event, he said to himself: If death had stricken me, what would have become of my soul?" Being a Catholic, Waldo asked one of these theologians what is the PERFECT way. "Ah! answered the theologian ... here is Christ's precept: 'If thou wilt be perfect, go, sell that thou hast and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven; and take up thy cross and follow me.'" (Comba, "History Of The Waldenses," p. 21). Waldo disposed of his property by distributing to the poor. But from his wealth he also had a translation of the Scriptures made. In this translation he noticed the command to the apostles to preach the gospel of the Kingdom of God. His mind began to understand the Scriptures. God was using Peter Waldo. Comba says that "he brought to the study of the Scriptures that practical common sense which had guided him in his business transactions ... The word of Christ was clear enough; for Waldo it was simply a question of furnishing a literal translation" (p. 243 of Comba's "History"). The humble remnant of the Church of God listened to him. Soon many new disciples were coming to repentance. "His disciples became almost as many CO-WORKERS for him" (p. 26). The world called them Waldenses. God's Church was once again spreading the gospel! A SCHOOL FOR MINISTERS WAS ESTABLISHED TO PROVIDE THE TRAINED HELP TO CARRY THE GOSPEL.
Called the "Church of God"
Their enemies admitted that these people proclaimed the gospel of the Kingdom of God, that they baptized repentant believers and obeyed the WHOLE law of God. But just as there was a false teacher, Jezebel, in the local church at Thyatira, so now there were many FALSE teachers and FALSE brethren among these people. Some rose up among the Waldenses teaching that it was right to have Catholics and Protestants baptize their children and to attend IDOLATROUS mass once in a while. Others committed spiritual fornication by meddling in politics in the hope of avoiding persecution. To correct his people God caused a frightful crusade to pass over them 300 years after the death of Waldo. Only a faithful remnant escaped. Once again we see the repeated fact that after a few generations, the local congregations are no longer composed of truly converted brethren, but of unconverted children and halfhearted believers who either go aside into total error in the face of persecution or else are forced to give up their lives for the faith, as Daniel prophesied. But in 1315 A.D., long before the crusade against the Waldenses occurred, the truth of God was carried to England by a German Waldensian preacher, Walter Lollard. Now let's notice what John wrote to the "Church at Sardis."
The Church in England and America
The "Church at Sardis" had a name that it was alive but it was dead (Rev. 3:1). Only a minute fraction of its people were really surrendered to God and holding to the faith once delivered. This is just the picture of the Church of God for over 600 years after the preaching of Walter Lollard. Through the preaching of Lollard and other helpers, hundreds were repenting. Thousands were learning for the first time that Catholic religious holidays came from paganism and that Sunday was not the Sabbath. But within sixty years after the coming of Walter Lollard, a reform movement under John Wyclif arose in England and nearly engulfed the teachings of the original Waldensian preachers. After a period of persecution, there remained only a few who kept the faith and observed the Sabbath and the annual festivals. When confronted with imprisonment for their faith, several ministers gave up the faith even though some of their followers remained steadfast (Cox's "Sabbath Literature", Vol. 1, p. 162). It was not until about 1650 that there were enough Sabbath keepers to establish local congregations. They called themselves the Churches of God, but the world termed them Sabbatarians and Sabbararian Baptists. From England the Church of God spread to America. In 1664, Stephen Mumford, sent to Newport, Rhode Island, raised up a small church mainly from Baptist converts. One by one new churches were established through continued help of the churches in England. But as always happens, after several generations the children take truth for granted and never really surrender their wills and their lives to God. In less than one hundred and fifty years, the English churches almost disappeared, having cut themselves off from God by TURNING FROM his truth, and by adopting the name "Seventh-day Baptists." In America the NUMBER OF CHURCHES gradually increased as the gospel was spread from state to state. But so nearly dead were these congregations that in 1802 many began to ORGANIZE THEMSELVES together into a General Conference instead of submitting to the government of God for the carrying out of the gospel. At this serious juncture, MOST of the local churches JOINED THEMSELVES TOGETHER to form the Seven-day Baptist General Conference. Some began teaching the Trinity doctrine and the immortality of human souls. Several congregations did not become members of the Conference. For another half century they maintained the truth they possessed, although most of them did not go all the way in obedience to God. John aptly described this period: "Be watchful, and establish the things remaining, WHICH ARE ABOUT TO DIE: for I have not found thy works perfected before my God" (Rev. 3:2).
The Adventist Movement
During this time the advent movement among SUNDAY-OBSERVING CHURCHES was begun by the uninspired William Miller. In 1843 several followers of Miller in Washington, New Hampshire, became acquainted with the truth of the Sabbath. It was not until after the miserable disappointment of 1844, however, that the general body of adventists had the Sabbath called to their attention. A small number accepted the Sabbath and soon UNITED WITH THE FEW REMAINING CHURCH OF GOD BRETHREN who refused to be affiliated with the Seventh-day Baptist Conference. They called themselves the "Church of God" and began publishing "The Advent Review and Sabbath Herald." Their first songbook was dedicated to "The Church of God scattered abroad." With each passing year, new and different doctrines were being introduced to explain away the adventist failure of October 22, 1844. Finally, a meeting was held in Battle Creek, Michigan, September 28 through October 1, 1860. "This conference also took into consideration the subject of a name by which our people should be called," wrote Loughborough on page 351 of the "Great Second Advent Movement." "This again called forth a diversity of opinions, some pleading for one name and some for another. The "Church of God" being proposed, objected to on the ground that it gave none of the distinctive features of our faith, while the name "Seventh-day Adventist" would not only set forth our faith in the near coming of Christ, but would also show that we were observers of the Seventh-day Sabbath. So unanimous was the assembly in favor of the latter name that when PUT TO VOTE only one man voted against, and he soon afterward withdrew his objection." In the spring of 1861 another conference was held in an unscriptural effort to reorganize local congregations. The following covenant was recommended for this new church organization: "We, the undersigned, hereby ASSOCIATE OURSELVES TOGETHER AS A CHURCH, TAKING THE NAME OF SEVENTH-DAY ADVENTIST Once again men forgot that they cannot organize themselves INTO the Church of God. They can only organize themselves OUT OF the Church of God!
A Remnant Remains!
When this new name was being forced on the churches, there appeared an article in the April 9, 1861 issue of the "Review and Herald" in which a few brethren from Ohio wrote that they would not give their offerings for any other purpose "than the advancement and extension of the truth and the 'Church of God.'" Within the space of sixty years, two major departures from the church of God occurred. The ministers would not strengthen that which was ready to perish! FOR ANOTHER SEVENTY YEARS conditions remained almost unchanged. The remaining brethren retained the name "Church of God." Among local congregations only a few individuals repented and strengthened the truth that was ready to perish in their midst. But most of the ministers resorted to organizing evangelistic work on the pattern of state conferences rather than yielding themselves to God's government and direction in the carrying of the gospel. In fact, instead of the true gospel, most ministers taught a "third angel's message," which they had accepted from the adventist people.
Today's Church Prophesied!
Notice the amazing description of the next event in the history of God's people. John writes to the "Church at Philadelphia": "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" (Rev. 3:8). Here is a Church with little strength, few in numbers, but which has kept the word of God; one which has not denied the truth. Here is a Church which is preaching the gospel because Jesus promises to set before it AN OPEN DOOR until the work of the Church is completed. Here is a Church which Jesus loves despite its weakness! Here is a Church to which He says: "Because thou hast kept the word of my patience [which Jesus interprets in Revelation 14:12 as KEEPING THE COMMANDMENTS and the faith], I also will keep thee FROM THE HOUR OF TEMPTATION, WHICH SHALL COME UPON ALL THE WORLD, TO TRY THEM THAT DWELL UPON THE EARTH" (Rev. 3:10). This verse pictures a Church which is carrying the gospel just prior to the last great time of trouble that will engulf all the world. THIS IS THE CHURCH OF GOD TODAY!
The Gospel Goes to All the World
Jesus chose Paul, who was highly educated, for spreading the gospel to the Gentiles. He later raised up Peter Waldo, a successful businessman, to keep his truth alive during the Middle Ages. In these last days WHEN THE GOSPEL MUST GO AROUND THE WORLD, Jesus chose a man amply trained in the advertising and business fields to shoulder this mission — Herbert W. Armstrong. Paul was struck down. Waldo was shocked by the sudden death of his friend. In like manner God three times swept away Mr. Armstrong's business in order that he might come to understand the truth. Shortly before this event, God had opened the mind of Mrs. Armstrong to understand the Sabbath truth from an elderly Church of God woman. After six months of study, in a persistent effort to prove Sabbath-keeping unscriptural, Mr. Armstrong also SURRENDERED HIS WILL TO GOD and accepted the Sabbath. From this moment forward, God opened the minds of Mr. and Mrs. Armstrong to understand one truth after another. The Church of God brethren with whom they associated became so intensely interested that Mr. Armstrong soon found himself speaking at their insistence — then PREACHING to small groups in Oregon! Not long after his ordination, a momentous juncture occurred. A movement was under foot to organize the local congregations of the Church of God under human government — a financial board of seven men. By 1933 certain leading ministers demanded that no more NEW truth be preached to the brethren. They were refusing to repent and allow the Holy Spirit to work through them to establish the truth that was ready to perish! Most of the congregations succumbed to error. The age of the Church of Sardis was over. THE CHURCH PERIOD OF PHILADELPHIA WAS TO BEGIN!
A DOOR Opens
The time had come for the gospel to go AROUND THE WORLD! Having tested and proven that Herbert and Loma Armstrong would remain faithful and subject to His government, God opened before them and a few faithful brethren the marvelous DOOR of radio and the printing press to carry forth the gospel. From a minute beginning in Oregon, in 1934, the work of God spread to cover much of North America in 19 years. In 1953 it leaped to Europe and the world! This is very significant. God gave the Apostolic Church just two nineteen-year cycles to carry the gospel to the Old World. He opened a DOOR to the apostle Paul AT THE BEGINNING OF THE SECOND NINETEEN-YEAR CYCLE by which the gospel went to Europe (Acts 16:9; II Cor. 2:12-13). So now just before the second coming of Jesus Christ, God has given His Church — THIS CHURCH — JUST TWO 19-year cycles in which to carry the gospel to the world! The first cycle HAS ALREADY PASSED. God opened the door for the second cycle in January 1953, and the gospel is now going to all the world! Do you catch the significance of this? It means that this work, this MISSION to which God has called us ALL, is a DIVINE WORK, a DIVINE MISSION! — not the work of some one man. WE ARE THE CHURCH OF GOD to whom Jesus committed the GREATEST task ever to fall upon mortal man — the carrying of His gospel, the good news of the Kingdom of God, to ALL nations. We are a people with "little strength," but God has set before us an OPEN DOOR WHICH NO MAN CAN SHUT. We must use that door. We must become zealous, working, praying, studying, giving tithes and offerings as we have never given before, so that this gospel can go IN POWER around the world.
Future Is Dangerous
This is the time of the end when prophecies hidden for ages are being revealed. TRUTH is being restored, knowledge is rapidly increasing. But knowledge brings RESPONSIBILITY; it becomes DANGEROUS if not rightly handled. Now notice Jesus' LAST WARNING to His Church. At the very close of this age, when the work of spreading the gospel is almost finished, Jesus addressed yet another Church work — the Church at Laodicea: "I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: ... I WILL SPUE THEE OUT OF MY MOUTH" (Rev. 3:15,16). This frightful condition lies just ahead of us. Just as the Sardis era of the Church existed side by side with the Philadelphia era, SO WE WILL CONTINUE OUR WORK at the very same time that another work will develop. Another separate work is yet to arise-made up of begotten individuals who are spiritually lukewarm! WOE BE TO ANY OF US IF WE TAKE PART IN SUCH A WORK! Here is a work, yet to arise because of our preaching, which will say: "I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing." And Jesus will reply: "As many as I LOVE, I rebuke and chasten: be ZEALOUS therefore, and REPENT." It is time to WAKE UP! If YOU become complacent, lacking in zeal, looking upon a local church as a social club, instead of having your heart in the gospel, you, too, may end up in the "Church at Laodicea." Jesus, then, will NOT deliver you from the impending, horrifying tribulation. Notice Jesus' admonition in Luke 21:36. "WATCH ye therefore and PRAY ALWAYS, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape ALL these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man." Let's PRAY and WORK, TOGETHER to carry this gospel to all nations so Jesus will say to each of us, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant."