You may be surprised about what the Book of Revelation reveals concerning your responsibility during the millennium!
TWO MONTHS ago, while Mr. Armstrong was away from Pasadena, he called me by phone. During part of the conversation he asked me: "Have you ever considered what the responsibility of this Church is to be when the Kingdom of God rules this world? We're the only Church in centuries that has been used to restore the truth and the pattern of God's Government. Not since apostolic days," he continued, "has there been a HEADQUARTERS Church until now. And this Church — our Church — is promised in Revelation 3:12 a responsibility AT HEADQUARTERS — in Jerusalem — in the Government of God. Because we have restored the TRUTH we are also to be made spiritual 'pillars' in the Kingdom — in the administration of God's rule at Headquarters. "Why don't you do further research," said Mr. Armstrong to me, "to find why each church epoch in Revelation 2 and 3 is given a different promise — either a small or a great reward?"
What the Churches Are Promised
Let us all open our Bibles now to these very chapters in Revelation. In these two chapters is condensed almost 2000 years of history! Here are listed the five past epochs of the Church of God, together with the vital description of our Church today, and that of the not-far-distant Laodicean period climaxing this age. Notice that at the end of each of the seven stages in the history of Gods Church there is a definite promise for the Church which carries on God's WORK during that particular period. You will find these seven promises recorded in Rev. 2:7, 10 and 11, 17, 26 to 28; 3:4 and 5, 12, 21. Notice first that the only ones who have a right to these promises are OVERCOMERS — those who, through the power of the Spirit of God, overcome themselves, overcome the world about them, and overcome the wicked spirits who control the present world. Overcoming is the fundamental requirement of all Christians, but we cannot do it by ourselves alone. We need the added help of the Almighty. We must first be willing to resist — and actually to resist — the degrading pull of our human nature. Then whenever we need the added help of God to resist our foes, He will give that added power and deliver us out of our trials and temptations. It is time we remember that we will never gain eternal life unless we do some overcoming. Each one of us must be a conqueror of obstacles — a conqueror of human nature — if we are ever to receive any of the promises given here in Revelation 2 and 3. Notice, however, that to those who are overcomers in each Church epoch there are DIFFERENT PROMISES granted! That is, those who overcome are NOT ALL CALLED TO PERFORM THE SAME FUNCTION IN THE KINGDOM. Some Churches are promised a special duty. Consider the example of the Old Testament. God created the office of "king" over the nation Israel. God first selected Saul for that office. The people approved him. Had he been a conqueror of his human nature, he could have qualified to exercise that same office in the Kingdom. But Saul failed! Then God chose David — a man whom the people would not have chosen. David qualified. He admitted his sins and finally overcame them. He will occupy the office of king over Israel in the millennium (Ezekiel 37:24). But notice! Once David qualified for that office, no others can ewer occupy it! When Jesus called the apostles, He did not call them to the same office as David. He called them to occupy offices under David. Here are Jesus' own words to the apostles: "Ye are they which have continued with me in my temptations. And I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me; that ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel" (Luke 22:28-30). In Matthew 19:28 Jesus is quoted as saying to the apostles, "Ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel." Of the fourteen who accompanied Jesus, there were twelve who were ultimately chosen to rule over the twelve tribes. (See Acts 1:15-26.)
Other Offices Yet to Be Filled!
These offices constitute only the nucleus of God's Government. Upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus has built His Church (Ephesians 2:20). The apostles and the prophets are therefore in superior authority to the Church built on them. That Church has existed these nearly 20 centuries. During these centuries God purposed to divide the Church into seven epochs — or periods of time. Each Church has its work to perform. Jesus says of each Church "I know thy works." Some perform their work better than others. They overcome more. They are therefore able to handle greater responsibilities in the Kingdom of God and are deserving of greater blessings. All who overcome are to inherit the Kingdom of God — they will constitute the Kingdom. But they will not all occupy the same position in the Kingdom. Jesus Christ does not occupy the same position as the Father. Yet both of them have eternally constituted the Kingdom of God. The "saints shall judge the world" (I Corinthians 6:2), but some will be qualified to judge greater matters than others. "We shall reign on the earth" (Revelation 5:10), but we shall not all reign over the same territory or people. We shall all be priests — Peter calls us even now "a royal priesthood' (I Peter 2:9) — but some will minister in greater capacity than others. It all depends on how we overcome — how we strive against the attractions of the world and the pull of human nature. When Christ comes to judge us, He will "give reward unto the... small and great" (Rev. 11:18). Some of us are smaller than others in God's sight. Some have not yielded themselves in conformity to the law of God as much as others. Some have not worked as hard on rooting out human nature as others — they have not let God's law govern their lives to the same degree as others. Remember what Jesus said to the disciples? — " Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the Kingdom o/ heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the Kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:19). In the history of the Church of God, some periods have been characterized by great zeal, great works, great knowledge of God's law. Other periods have been characterized with flagging zeal, incomplete or diminishing works, a partial neglect of God's law. In the Kingdom or Family of God there will be individuals of different degree. But for each individual there will be a responsibility, a job. Not the same job, of course! — for we are not all called to the same office. But every office is needed. An entire CIVILIZATION must be built on earth — built this time God's way and not man's way. It will take literally millions of different jobs to create civilization as it ought to be, YOUR JOB will be what you will find the most pleasure in doing. We do not all get the same pleasure out of the same thing. That is why God has not called us all to the same office. Notice, now, what this Church is promised — and this includes you if you continue as an overcomer and resist temptation and end up as victor in your trials.
What This Church Is Promised!
Open your Bible to Revelation 3:10-12. Here is what it says: "Because thou [this Church] hast kept the word of My patience" — we have patiently kept God's word in a gainsaying world — "I," responds Jesus, "also will keep thee from [he hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth." If we hold fast to the end, notice what the reward of this Church will be in the Kingdom of God: "Him that overcometh [this includes anyone, not just the ministry] will I make a pillar [or main support] 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, New Jerusalem: and... my new name." In Galatians 2:9 you will read that James and Peter and John seemed to be "pillars" in the early Church. 'I hey were leaders! That responsibility is what God promises to us in God's Church today. We can qualify — not for David's office. not for the apostles' offices — but to be spiritual pillars or leaders — the main supports in the "Church" [symbolically called "temple" in Rev. 3:12] for all eternity. A pillar is the main support in a temple! Notice, too, that Scripture reads "He shall go out no more." We are never to be removed from that reward and responsibility. Think of that! We are to be at headquarters — setting policies — teaching those who need to come to headquarters for decisions. (Compare Acts 15 with this.) Never has a Church had to "restore all things" as has this Church. Mr. Armstrong found that the truth had almost died from the earth during the Sardis epoch of the Church. And it is not yet all restored. But we have been willing to grow in the revealed knowledge of God and to keep what has been revealed. Yes, we are becoming fit — if we develop ourselves now — to be pillars in the Kingdom of God. Not every pillar is the same size or serves the same purpose, of course; and not all of us will be exactly alike either. But more than that, this Church — the Philadelphia era — is to have the name of the capital city of the universe — the headquarters of the world. That is where we are to be centered. The pillars of the Church ought always to be at headquarters so that all may appeal to it for decisions. All of you are being trained for this job now — even if it is only by learning to pray for the work at headquarters and by sending to headquarters your tithes for the conduct of the work of this Church. Never since apostolic days has the work of God been conducted from one centralized location as it is today. Always through the past centuries it has been a scattered work. Moreover, we are to have the name of God the Father and of the Son. God always places His name where He is. He will be dwelling in the New Jerusalem. So will we! That is why we will have His name! Maybe your responsibility in this age seems small. Maybe others seem so much more important than you do now. Let us not feel inferior — nor "let us... be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one mother" (Galatians 5:26).
Just Around the Corner!
Time is very short! In probably less than 23 years you will be in another world — the world tomorrow — and the present will have gone forever. Those who seem to be great now will have to give account of themselves as much as those who seem to be small. Let us all be comparing ourselves to Christ — and not one another — seeking to do our job the very best that lies within us. I would rather do my part in the work of God well than have the job of the greatest man on earth and fail it! — Wouldn't you? "He that is faithful in that which is least," Jesus said, "is also faithful in much" (Luke 16:10). So let us all hold fast to the responsibility given us and do it the very best we can. We are all to be judged according to what we have. Many who seem to be small now will become great spiritual pillars tomorrow — and for all eternity. And some who seem to be greater today may not appear to be so great tomorrow. God is no respecter of persons. Now compare the goal of this Church with that of the "Church of Thyatira" — the persecuted Church of the Middle Ages.
A Different Promise Altogether
That Church was a great body. Jesus says of it: "I know thy works, and charity, and service, and faith, and thy patience, and thy last works are more than the first" (Rev. 2:19). What a contrast to our Church. Jesus said we today "have little strength" (Rev. 3:8). Never has the Church been smaller than today — yet we have the greatest door ever opened to any Church. But in the Middle Ages the Church of God was a powerful Church — its last works were even greater than its first. It grew. It overcame. True, there were certain serious faults allowed from time to time. The symbolic "Jezebel" — another picture of the fallen woman of Rev. 17 — was sometimes allowed to teach in the local assemblies. And Jezebel's children — those who came out of her in protest — were there, too. In other words, the false teachers were sometimes fellowshipped, instead of being excommunicated! Those who overcame the teaching of the false ministers who crept into the local churches achieved a great reward. "And he that overcometh and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father," says Jesus. "And I will give him the morning star" (Rev. 2:26-28). Those in that Church age are not to rule over Israel, but over the nations — ethnos in Greek, meaning "nations" or "tribes." In the millennium the tribes of Israel will inherit the Gentiles (Psalm 2:8). Under David and the twelve apostles will be those in that Church who will exercise dominion over the great Gentile families — Russia, China, Germany, the Latin American countries, African tribes — just as today Gentile nations such as Pakistan, India and Ceylon recognize the authority of the House of David ruling today in London, England in the person of Queen Elizabeth II. That Church will not have the same responsibility as we will have. They will be in authority out in the field. They are not to be at headquarters as we shall be. If there are major problems among the nations under their authority, the case will come to us for decision — as in the example recorded in Acts 15. Those who constitute that Church will shine in glory with the radiance of "the morning star" (Rev. 2:28). The brightest heavenly body next to the sun and moon — as we view the heavens.
The Church in Laodicea
You ought all to be familiar with the graphic description of the lukewarmness of the work which will climax this age. It is not this work — it is the work of another body of believers. They will be heirs to the riches of spiritual understanding which God is revealing through this Church — but they will become spiritually smug. Nothing good can be said about them. Though they may have been begotten, they have not allowed Christ to live His life through them. Jesus pictures himself as having stood at the door of their hearts knocking. They are not promised deliverance from the coming time of trouble and religious persecution — whereas we are promised deliverance. If they become zealous and repent, if they "love not their lives unto death," then they will receive a good responsibility. But they have first a great period of trial and test to meet. Jesus will send the punishment on them because He loves them. If they change their ways, He will not figuratively spue them out of His mouth as one who spues out nauseating lukewarm water. To them Jesus says: "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" (Rev. 3:21). Notice that they are not called spiritual "pillars"; neither do they have their own thrones as do those of the Church of Thyatira. They are only qualified through much tribulation to sit with Christ on His throne — assisting Him directly in the personal administration of His office. Here you see yet a different responsibility in the Kingdom of God! Now contrast these overcomers with those of the other Church epochs. Notice the rewards of the remaining Churches.
What Is Their Responsibility?
Consider the Sardis era of the Church of God. Jesus said of that Church — the one which immediately preceded this present Philadelphia era — "thou hast a name that thou livest," but thou "art DEAD" (Rev. 3:1). Their works have not been perfected. Their ministry failed to proclaim the gospel as it ought to have been preached. Only a few individuals — "a few names" — were overcomers in that era. As a Church they have no special responsibility. Only a few individuals within the Church will walk with Christ in white — a symbol of righteousness (Rev. 19:8). God merely promises each of them that He "will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels" (Rev 3:5). There is no responsibility — no definite office mentioned here — only a promise of eternal life. Even the overcomers of that era barely escape with their lives. Indeed, sometimes the righteous scarcely are saved (I Peter 4:18). But remember that the saints shall rule or judge the world — and that includes these individuals of the Sardis era. They, as individuals in that Church, will have their offices (mentioned elsewhere in the Scripture), but as an organized Church they receive no joint responsibility! The same thing is true of the other Church eras. In the Church era typified by the Pergamos Church, there were no small number who accepted erroneous doctrines of the "Nicolaitans."
Who Were the Nicolaitans?
The doctrines of this body of heretics has never ceased to puzzle Church historians. They have always imagined that the Nicolaitans had to be a small sect which separated from the great worldly body of professing Christians. It has never occurred to the scholars that the Nicolaitans might he that great body of professing Christians which has departed from the true Church of God! What does the word "Nicolaitan" mean? It has nothing to do with the deacon Nicolas (Acts 6:5), as some have assumed. The original Greek word "Nicolaitan" means one who is "a follower of Nicolas." Who was that Nicolas of whom they were followers? God reveals that He hates the doctrine of that man (Rev. 2:15). But what does the name "Nicolas" come from? It comes from two Greek words — nikos and laos. Nikos means "conqueror" or "destroyer" and laos means "people." The original Nicolas was the conqueror or destroyer of the people! That was merely the Greek word for Nimrod — the original arch-rebel who conquered the people and founded man-made civilization within two centuries after the flood! And is it a strange thing that even today the followers of the Nicolaitans still hallow the name of "St. Nicolas" on December 25? Yes, Santa Claus — just a shortened form of Nicolas, the Greek name for Nimrod — is Nimrod deified. It is he — and not Jesus Christ — whom the professing Christians serve to this day, and whom they honor at Christmas! And [here were individuals in the Church of God in those days who tolerated such practices and even indulged in them! Is it any wonder that no special responsibility was given to that Church? Notice the promise: "To him that over cometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna" (see John 6:48-63), "and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saveth he that receiveth it" (Rev. 2:17). Here is no promise of a special office — such as the one to which we are called — but only a promise of eternal life to individuals. The white stone (Rev. 2:17) was the tessera of ancient times, "well known in Asia Minor as a passport to heathen banquets. To each guest invited to the idol feasts, a stone was given with the name of the person written on it; and specimens... are to be now seen among the Greek antiquities of the British Museum" (The Messages to the Seven Churches of Asia Minor, by Andrew Tait, p. 252). The promise to that epoch symbolized by the Church in Pergamos is a promise to attend the "marriage supper" of Jesus Christ. The overcomers will be in the Kingdom of God, but they did not qualify for any special function. The same is true for the Churches of Ephesus and of Smyrna. The faithful poor of Smyrna are promised a "crown of life" (Rev. 2:10), and that they "shall not be hurt of the second death" (verse 11). The Church of Ephesus is given the promise: "To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God" (verse 7). In none of these cases are there any particular offices to which that Church age was being called. Only the promise of eternal life in the Kingdom of God is directly extended. But that does not mean they will have no responsibility! No, indeed! They may not have been called to be pillars in the Kingdom of God; they may not have been called to rule over whole nations; they will not be in the place of the apostles and of David, or in the place of the prophets teaching the world. But there is a place for them — an office which Jesus mentioned in His parable in Luke 19:11-27.
Who Will Rule Over the Cities in the Millennium?
The great parable of Luke 19 is dual. The ten servants represent the ten tribes of Israel — the citizens represent the House of Judah. In accordance with what the tribes of Israel have done during these past centuries, so will they be given power over the Gentile 'cities — just as some of them now exercise power over primitive people. But the prophecy is DUAL. Christians are also now the bondservants of Jesus Christ. Some overcome more than others — some develop their spiritual ability more than others. Some are to be given rule over many cities during the millennium in the Kingdom of God. Others will have qualified to rule over only a few cities — or perhaps only over one! Who are those who rule over these cities? Certainly not the prophets or the apostles — or the Churches of Philadelphia or Thyatira or Laodicea. The answer seems very plain. The responsibility to guide and control the development of civilization in every city on earth will be vested in those Christians in general who have not been called to other duties. Here, then. is the responsibility — the office — open to those who overcome in the Churches of Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos and Sardis. Some of the individuals in those Churches may have grown immensely — they may even exercise immense authority over many mighty cities, whereas some in the other Churches — Thyatira, for example — may rule over only minor nations or tribes. Some in those Churches may do greater works over giant metropolitan areas than will some in our Church who will be small pillars in the Headquarters of the world. That depends on YOU! That depends on whether you willingly let God make you into His image, or whether you tend to resist His corrections! God will not make of you what you are not willing to become! What wonderful truth about the Government of God which lies hidden within these seven small letters! What wonderful promises are open to us — undreamed of powers to remake the world and to be happy doing it! And to think that God extends to this Church as a body the positions of "PILLARS" in His Work. Not everyone called to be an apostle was an overcomer — Judas departed from the faith. And not every one of you will succeed. But God's promise stands firm. We CAN — if we overcome ourselves — STAND TOGETHER AS PILLARS IN THE FAMILY OF GOD.