What is the History of the True Church?
Telecast Date: October 13, 1983
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   The following is a special presentation of "The World Tomorrow" with Herbert W. Armstrong.

I speak as a voice crying out in the 20th-century wilderness of religious confusion, showing what is soon coming on this world.

   The subject of Armageddon and the end of the world has been appearing in the public press more or less often, in the last 25 years. The disciples asked Jesus Christ for a sign of His second coming and the end of the world. And He replied, as you find in Matthew 24, and verse 14 (Matthew 24:14), "And this gospel of the Kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations, and then shall the end come," believe it or not?

   He was speaking of this very program to which you were viewing and listening. At this moment, I would like to show you the very gospel that Jesus did preach. It's recorded in Mark, the first chapter, and beginning with the very first verse (Mark 1:1), the beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, coming down to verse 14, (Mark 1:14-15).

   "Now after that, John, John the Baptist was put in prison. Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel", but what gospel? The gospel of the Kingdom of God. That's the government of God, the family of God governing the whole world, "And saying that time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand". And He said, "repent and believe the gospel."

   People have not been able to believe the gospel that has not been preached the gospel they never heard because it had not been heard for some 1900 years. Within 22 years after the church was founded, and it was founded in 31 A.D., the gospel of Jesus Christ was suppressed, and a different gospel was proclaimed—a gospel about Christ, but not the gospel of Christ. And there's all the difference in the world. We read in Galatians one, beginning with verse six (Galatians 1:6), "I am Marvel Paul wrote that you were so soon removed from Him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel." In 22 years, they were turning to another gospel, "which is not another, but there be some that would trouble you and would pervert the gospel of Christ".

   And I want you to notice something else that Jesus said back in Matthew 24 (Matthew 24:3-5). "And as Jesus sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him saying, Tell us when shall these things be, and what shall be the sign of thy coming and the end of the world? Jesus answered and said to them, Take heed that no man deceive you." This was to His disciples, 1900 some 50 years ago. "For many shall come in My name saying, I am the Christ, and shall deceive many." Many would come preaching about Christ, saying that Jesus is the Christ, and would deceive many. By about 50 A.D., a violent controversy was going on about whether the proper gospel to be preached was the gospel of Christ, which would be the gospel He preached—the Kingdom of God—or a gospel about Christ, talking about Christ as the messenger who brought the gospel. And we find that what has been preached from that time on has been merely a gospel about Christ, just believe on Christ. Oh, yes, it goes all around the world preaching Christ to the nations. It's going on today. There's a great deal of that—just believe on Christ—but they don't mention the gospel of Christ, the gospel He preached. They leave that out, and it gives no meaning to life, no purpose of God. And people don't know the purpose of God or the purpose of human life.

   Now, Jesus foresaw the future of the church in seven successive eras of time, seven spaces of time, one following the other from 31 A.D. when the church was founded up until the second coming of Christ, which is just a few years ahead of us right now at this time. And that is in the second and the third chapters of Revelation.

   The Book of Revelation records seven messages to seven churches that existed in Asia minor towards the end of the first century A.D. These churches—Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamon, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea—were located along one of the mail routes of the old Roman Empire. Riders would follow the route, carrying messages from town to town. The messages to the seven churches have words of both encouragement and correction, and they clearly show the dominant characteristics of each of the congregations at that time. But these messages were intended for a wider audience than the Christians in these small towns. They are a series of remarkable prophecies by which the future of the true church was predicted in outline form. From the day it began on Pentecost 31 A.D. until the second coming of Christ, the history of the church would fall into seven distinct eras, each with its own strengths and weaknesses and its own special trials and problems—just as a message could pass along the mail route from Ephesus to Laodicea, so, would the truth of God be passed from era to era? It was like a relay race in which the baton is passed from runner to runner, each one doing his part until the finish line is reached. It has not been an easy race. God's servants often had to run in the face of ridicule and persecution as they strived to keep alive the truth that had been entrusted to them. Through the centuries, the church pressed onward. And during the trials of the moment, always looking forward to the day when their faith and courage would be rewarded.

   Now, from about 50 A.D. to 150 A.D., a whole century, I call it the lost century because the history of what was going on in the church is missing. At that time:

   Scholars and church historians recognize that events in the early Christian church between 50 A.D. and 150 A.D., can only be seen in vague outline as if obscured by a thick mist.

   The noted English scholar Samuel G. Green in "A Handbook of Church History" wrote, "The 30 years which followed the close of the New Testament Canon and the destruction of Jerusalem are, in truth, the most obscure in the history of the church." In the course of Christian history, William J. McLaughlin wrote, "But Christianity itself had been in the process of transformation as it progressed. And at the close of the period was, in many respects, quite different from the Apostolic Christianity", in history of the Christian church. Philip Schaff wrote, "The remaining 30 years of the first century are involved in mysterious darkness illuminated only by the writings of John. This is a period of church history about which we know least and would like to know most."

   But if we look closely through this mist, we can begin to see what was happening. The world in which Christ founded His church was the world of the Roman Empire, the greatest and most powerful empire that had ever existed. It stretched from Britain to the far reaches of modern-day Turkey, encompassing peoples from many different backgrounds and cultures under one system of government. Rome's ruling hand was firm, but the subject peoples enjoyed considerable freedom within the compass of Roman law, providing all citizens and conquered peoples paid due homage to the Roman Emperor. They were also allowed to practice their religious beliefs and worship the gods of their ancestors.

   After the day of Pentecost, the Apostles began to follow Christ's instruction to go to all the world, preaching the gospel of the kingdom. Once Christianity spread from Judea to the gentile lands to the north, it began to encounter those who practiced the pagan religions of Babylon, Persia, and Greece. Many who called themselves Christians had not been truly converted. But throughout this period, all who called themselves Christians suffered greatly from the Roman authorities because they refused to worship the emperor.

   The Jews of Palestine finally rose in rebellion against the Roman authorities. The rebellion was suppressed, and Jerusalem was destroyed in A.D. 70. A small number of true Christians in Jerusalem fled over the mountains to the safety of Pella. Sometime during those first two centuries. The baton was passed from the Ephesian era to the people that God had called to the Smyrna era of His church—powerless, often persecuted, and rejected as heretics. The world lost sight of them.

   Instead, they emerged from the last century, a church that was steadily growing in popularity but growing further away from the gospel that Jesus taught. Persecution continued at various times under the Romans until the fourth century when Constantine recognized the church as an official religion of the Empire. But the church that he recognized was by now very different from the church that Jesus founded.

   Once Constantine recognized them, this church threw renewed energy into taking its message to the world. Teachers and preachers went to all parts of the Roman Empire with a message about Christ. Thousands, maybe millions, heard this gospel and believed it, but it was not the gospel of the Kingdom of God.

   So, we find the false church described in Revelation, the book of Revelation 17th chapter and verse five (Revelation 17:5), where it says, "Upon her forehead was a name written, mystery Babylon the great, the mother of Harlots and abominations of the earth."

   But the true church is described in the 12th chapter of the Book of Revelation as a small, fleeing, and persecuted church having to flee from the great church.

   Emperor Constantine died in A.D. 337 just over 300 years after Christ was crucified. He had given his blessing to a church that claimed to be the one that Christ founded. Now that they were free from fear of oppression, the persecuted became persecutors. Those who dared to disagree with their doctrine were branded as heretics worthy of punishment.

   In A.D. 365 the Council of Laodicea wrote in one of its most famous Canons, "Christians must not Judaize by resting on the Sabbath but must work on that day rather honoring the Lord's Day. But if any shall be found to be Judaize, let them be anathema from Christ." The small remnant of Christians of the Smyrna era fled once more to seek the religious freedom they needed to practice their beliefs. And so, the baton passed from the Smyrna Christians to those of the Pergamos era. These had been called to carry the truth through one of history's most difficult periods.

   The Middle Ages, the power and influence of the great universal church spread far and wide, driving those who clung to the truth of God ever further into the wilderness. 1000 years after Jesus had founded His church, the exhausted remnant of the Pergamos era handed over the baton. The Thyatira era got off to a vigorous start, preaching repentance throughout the Alpine valleys of southern France and Northern Italy. Many heard and were converted.

   The religious authorities quickly reacted to this challenge. Leaders of the true church were arrested, some were martyred. After the death of its first leaders, the church went into a temporary decline but emerged once more under the dynamic leadership of Peter Waldo. For several years in the 12th century, they flourished in the Alpine valleys, preaching what truth they had. Booklets and articles were written and copied by hand. This was still before the days of printing. Once again, persecution followed as the full force of the inquisition was felt in the peaceful valleys that had once provided a safe haven for the work of God.

   Meanwhile, the world was changing. Printing had been invented, and knowledge began to be increased. The Protestant Reformation plunged Europe into religious conflict as religious wars swept across the European continent. During the Middle Ages, many refugees fled to the relative safety and tolerance of England. Among them were members of the true church. They brought with them their doctrines and beliefs, especially the knowledge of the Sabbath.

   The strict Sunday-observing Puritans resisted, but in spite of a rising tide of opposition, in the early 17th century, there were several small Sabbath-keeping congregations in England. Jesus was raising up the fifth era of His church, Sardis. Protestant England became increasingly intolerant of dissenters, including Sabbath-keepers. The true church in England withered and all but died out.

   But across the ocean, men were beginning to discover a new world. Stephen Mumford, a member of a Sabbath-keeping church in London, left England for Newport, Rhode Island, in 1664. Finding none who kept the Sabbath, Mumford and his wife began to fellowship with the Baptist church in Newport. Several members of the Sunday-keeping congregation became convinced that they too should observe the Sabbath. They became the first Sabbath-keeping congregation in America.

   Others joined them in their belief as God began to call more to His work in the New World. By the mid-1800s, Sabbath-keeping congregations could be found throughout the Midwest. They moved their headquarters to Marion, Iowa, and then to Stanberry, Missouri. A magazine, "The Bible Advocate", was published. Their efforts bore some fruit. Small congregations sprung up across the nation.

   And so it was that sometime in the 19th century, a small congregation of the true church of God was established in the peaceful Willamette Valley in Oregon. They were farmers without formal education. They lacked trained ministers to teach and guide them, but they had the name Church of God, and they faithfully kept the Sabbath day.

   God's church had come a long way across the turbulent centuries since the day of Pentecost. It was weak and lacked influence. Years of persecution and compromise had taken their toll. Much truth had been lost, but they had stayed the course. In the Willamette Valley, they waited. It was nearly time for the baton to change again into the hands of those God would call to do His end-time work.

   As mankind neared the end of 6000 years of Satan's misrule of the earth, God's church had to be ready for a new and critical phase of the work. Jesus had prophesized that before the end could come, the true gospel of the Kingdom must be preached to all the world as a witness. As man's knowledge increased, the technology began to be developed by which a voice could indeed cry out and be heard around the world.

   And so, as God had raised up Elijah and John the Baptist as His special messengers, He now raised up a man to worked in the power and spirit of Elijah, preparing the way for Christ's second coming. Herbert W. Armstrong was born July 31st, 1892, in Des Moines, Iowa, of substantial God-fearing parents. He was the eldest son of Horace Elon Armstrong, who was the eldest son of Nathan Armstrong, who was the eldest son of Samuel Armstrong, who was married to Elizabeth Cope.

   The family genealogy has been preserved through the Cope Foundation and can be traced back to Princess Joan, the daughter of Edward, the first King of England between 1272 and 1307. And thus, through a royal line that can be traced back to King David of ancient Israel.

   As a young man, from age 18, Herbert Armstrong became unusually successful in the field of magazine and newspaper advertising. At age 25, he was married to Loma Dillon, an Iowa school teacher.

   I was successful in the magazine field in advertising and in journalism. And then the flash depression of 1920 followed by the Great Depression of 1929 just took away my business. And after a few years, I was reduced to absolute poverty.

   Then in that condition with financial success taken away, I was challenged in the autumn of 1926 on the subject of evolution and on the Bible's Sabbath. My wife had taken up with the Bible Sabbath which she had found in the Bible. I was furious. To me, I thought that was religious fanaticism, and I didn't want that in my home. I said, 'The Bible says Sunday is the day.' She says, 'Have you ever seen it there?' I said, 'No, but I know it's there because the churches can't be wrong, and all of the churches get their religion out of the Bible, and they observe Sunday.'

   She says, 'Well, do they get the religion out of the Bible? Why don't you look into it and see?' And so, I did. I went into an intensive in-depth study of both the subject of evolution and the Bible. I studied Darwin, Huxley, Haeckel, and other evolutionists of the time. Finally, however, to make a long story short, I proved that evolution was a false thing altogether, a false theory. I proved the existence of God Almighty. Furthermore, I proved the absolute authority of the Bible as the very word of God to us, to mankind today as an authority that is infallible and can be relied upon.

   In the end, I had to, as they say, eat crow. My wife was right. I found the Sabbath was in the Bible. I researched history. I found one of the things that has just been quoted to you back in the Council of Laodicea, and I was brought to see how wrong I had been. I was brought to a real repentance. I not only accepted Christ as my savior, I gave myself to Him.

   Now, I was led into contact with that little group of Sabbath-keeping people in the Church of God in the Willamette Valley up in Oregon. I was baptized in the spring of 1927, precisely 100 time cycles from the time that Jesus began teaching his disciples. And now Jesus began teaching me in the Bible because Jesus is the personal word of God, and the Bible is the same word of God in writing. And I was taught by the same Christ that the early Apostles were.

   Then I began working with this Church of God, and I was ordained in June of 1931, precisely right down to practically the day and the very month of the time that there, 100 time cycles after the original Apostles had been ordained in Jerusalem in 31 A.D. And this was in 1931.

   Now, out of that humble beginning, that remnant of the Church of God has emerged. Finally, the Worldwide Church of God. For 35 years, this church grew at the rate of 30% every year for 35 years. And through it, God has restored the truth of the Bible, which tradition had mutilated. Through tradition, it had been destroyed, but God has preserved His truth in the Bible, and it is absolute authority. It has been preserved. And today, the Kingdom of God is being preached to the world, the gospel of the Kingdom of God, the only true gospel of Jesus Christ. And it is being preached on this program.

   Now, before I close, I want to offer you a booklet on the true Gospel because the false gospel has been preached. I have a very small booklet here. "What Is The True Gospel?" The world has been deceived. You'll read in the 12th chapter of Revelation that Satan the devil has deceived all nations and all religions, incidentally. And we're in a time of religious confusion today; the Bible straightens it all out. The Bible is the faithful word of God. Jesus Christ is that word, and the Bible is just Jesus Christ in writing.

   Now, also, I'd like to send you a one-year subscription to "The Plain Truth" magazine. Now, over 6 million copies monthly, here is the latest number. "YES There Is Life Out There!". Everyone is wondering, Is there life way out in outer space? Yes, there is. The trouble is people have been looking, looking for the wrong kind of life. You'll be interested in this article, many articles on world conditions making even biblical truth plain and giving you the meaning of today's news that you'll never get on news reports or newspapers.

   Now, there's no subscription price there is no request for money. What we have we want to give. We'd like to have you receive these publications, the booklet, "What Is The True Gospel" and "The Plain Truth" magazine. Just send your request to me, Herbert W Armstrong Pasadena, California. That's all the address you need. Just Herbert W Armstrong Pasadena California 91123. Or go to the telephone and call toll-free 800-423-4444. There's no charge for that call. Just call 800-423-4444. Now, if you live in California or Hawaii or Alaska, you'll have to call another number. Just dial collect area code 213-304-6111. Area code 213-304-6111. So, until a week from now, once again, this is Herbert W Armstrong. Goodbye friends.

   For the free literature offered on this program, write, Herbert W Armstrong Pasadena, California 91123 in Canada Box 44, Vancouver BC or in the continental United States, you may call this toll-free number 800-423-4444 in California, Alaska and Hawaii call, collect 213-304-6111. If the lines are busy, please try again. The preceding program and all literature were produced and sponsored by the Worldwide Church of God.

Please Note: The FREE literature offered on this program are no longer available through the Address and Phone Number given, please visit www.hwalibrary.com for all FREE literature offered on this program.

Telecast Date: October 13, 1983
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