There are many individuals and groups who call themselves "Church of God" (COG) these days. And while there are Protestant, Pentecostal, and even Catholic groups, that call themselves COG, they are not part of this article.
For purposes of this article, the COGs are defined as groups that once had ties to the old Church of God (Seventh Day) or the old Worldwide Church of God (WCG). The most faithful of which is the Continuing Church of God.
Some think that all those groups are about the same. Others suggest they fall into two categories: those that are somewhat 'independent' and those that are 'corporate Churches'. Most COGs claim that they are in some way special or unique from other COGs.
This article will mention a few differences and similarities between the COGs and "mainstream Christianity." All groups that profess Christ are not the same. Those that have the 'love of the truth' realize that this would seem to matter to God.
Most people would be shocked to realize that what now passes for 'Christianity' does not actually hold to "the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 3).
The Churches of God (COGs) are not Roman Catholic, Eastern/Greek/Russian Orthodox, nor Protestant, nor do those truly in them trace their history through any of these groups. The COGs strongly believe that they rely more on the Bible than tradition than those groups do (see also Where is the True Christian Church Today? and
Continuing History of the Church of God).
Unlike most Protestant churches, the COGs do not claim to have ever been affiliated with what is now considered to be the Church of Rome--the COG preceded the formation of the proven Roman bishoprics (which the best recorded history shows happened in the second century A.D.) and hence actually predate what is known as the Roman Catholic Church (for documented details, please see the article What Do Roman Catholic Scholars Actually Teach About Early Church History?).
We in the Continuing Church of God also believe that the historical record shows a different view of apostolic succession than the Roman or Eastern Orthodox Catholics normally portray. It is the true COG that has the only possible "apostolic successors" in the sense that early COG leaders can be traced through the apostles through leaders appointed by them and their successors (leaders that even the Catholics and Orthodox accepted as having "apostolic succession").
Like the Roman and Eastern Orthodox Catholics, we in the Continuing Church of God do not consider that Martin Luther was as faithful to the Bible as he should have been (please see the article Sola Scriptura or Prima Luther? What Did Martin Luther Really Believe About the Bible?), and hold many doctrinal positions that differ from his writings (please see the article The Similarities and Dissimilarities between Martin Luther and Herbert Armstrong).
Unlike some of the Protestant churches, the COGs believe that humans are intended to keep all ten of the commandments and that God will ultimately call nearly everyone, so that nearly everyone will be saved (please see the article Hope of Salvation: How the COGs differ from most Protestants).
Unlike the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Protestant churches, but somewhat like the Jehovah's Witnesses, we do not accept Sunday, Christmas, Easter, or other such non-biblical religious holidays (as the Jehovah's Witnesses do somewhat meet on Sunday, we differ from them there as well as elsewhere). Instead we observe the biblical holidays, like Passover, that were also observed in the early Christian church including the faithful once commonly known as Nazarenes.
Unlike the Jehovah's Witnesses, we in the Continuing Church of God believe that Jesus is God.
Like the Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, and Protestants, we believe that there have been major apostasies among those who profess Christ. However, we in the Continuing Church of God believe that we can essentially identify various ones who made up the true Church throughout history (from Acts 2 to present; see Continuing History of the Church of God) and who were never really part of the Greco-Roman confederation now known as the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches (please see The Churches of Revelation 2 & 3, Location of the Early Church, and History of Early Christianity) though those churches claim some of these leaders (the reason for the word claim is that they do not hold the same teachings as the early leaders that seemed to actually be part of the Church of God, hence those leaders were not Greco-Roman in that sense).
Like the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Protestant churches, we do believe in the biblical observance of Pentecost, but we have a more expanded understanding of what it represents.
Like the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Protestant churches, we believe that God is love. But unlike the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Protestant churches, we do not believe that Christians show love through violent military participation. While the scholars of the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Protestant churches know that early Christians would not participate in carnal warfare, they have tended to change on that point, while we in the Continuing Church of God have not (for more details, please see Military Service and the Churches of God: Do Real Christians Participate in Carnal Warfare?).
Like many Protestants, but unlike the Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox Churches, we in the Continuing Church of God do not accept idols, the sacramental focus for the ministry, or the necessity for celibacy for any of the ministry. Although the Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox scholars admit that the early church leaders taught millenarianism (called chiliasm in Greek), those churches no longer do, but the COGs still do.
We in the Continuing Church of God do believe in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. However, unlike the Roman Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant churches, we in the Continuing Church of God do not accept that God is a trinity as they define it (which was a concept not fully accepted by them until the late fourth century--this is easily provable, please see Did the True Church Ever Teach a Trinity?), but believe that both the Bible and early Christian history prove that the original Christian church held a binitarian view with a different type of threeness that most grasp today. Thus, the true COGs also disagree with unitarian groups, like the Jehovah's Witnesses.
Like the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches we in the COG claim to have the teachings of the original apostolic church. Unlike the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches, we can document how those groups changed many of those teachings while we, like the original Nazarene Christians, retained them (see also Continuing History of the Church of God). Some of this is documented in the articles Which Is Faithful: The Roman Catholic Church or the Church of God?, Nazarene Christianity: Were the Original Christians Nazarenes?, and Some Similarities and Differences Between the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Church of God.
Like the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches we in the Continuing Church of God recognize that the New Testament often used variants of the term "Church of God" as a name. Unlike most in the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches, we continued to follow the biblical tradition and have kept that expression as part of our name. It may be of interest to realize that The name “Church of God” is clearly stated in both singular and plural form in twelve different places in the New Testament—including Acts 20:28; 1 Corinthians 1:2; 10:32; 11:16,22; ;15:9; 2 Corinthians 1:1; Galatians 1:13; 1 Thessalonians 2:14; 2 Thessalonians 1:4; 1 Timothy 3:5,15. Throughout Christian history, the true church has used a version of the expression “Church of God” though often with another word, like a geographic region (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:2) or a descriptive the word like “living” (1 Timothy 3:15) or sometimes Church of Christ (Romans 16:16).
Similar to, but not the same as the Eastern Orthodox, although there were early Christians in Rome (and elsewhere) we do not trace the main early Christian church through Rome, but mainly through Asia Minor (please see the article Location of the Early Church: Another Look at Ephesus, Smyrna, and Rome). Also like the Eastern Orthodox, we in the Continuing Church of God believe that God intends to save most of humankind, that there is no purgatory, and that the Baptist concept of being born-again is somewhat in error. An article of related interest may be Some Similarities and Differences Between the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Church of God.
Like the original Christians, such as Serapion of Antioch and Polycrates of Ephesus, we in the Continuing Church of Godbelieve in being separate from the groups with origins in the Greco-Roman faiths (cf. Revelation 18:4; 1 John 2:18-19).
At risk of repeating some of what is discussed above, perhaps a brief overview will help people better understand that the COGs are all about.
Basically, we in the Continuing Church of God have a different, but exciting, perspective on Christianity than what passes for mainstream Christianity (for my views on them and non-Christ-claiming faiths, please see the article COGwriter Position on Other Churches and Religions).
Basically, love. Love to God (Matthew 22:37-38) and love to neighbor (Matthew 22:39). And that "the royal law according to the Scripture, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself" (James 2:8) and that we help show love towards God and neighbor by obeying Jesus and trying to fulfill Matthew 24:14; 28:19-20. We believe that God's commandments and Holy Days reflect love.
We believe that the Bible teaches that God made everything and it was “very good” (Genesis 1:31) and that "this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments" (1 John 5:3). And that God made humans upright (Ecclesiastes 7:29), but that humans felt that they could decide to disobey God’s commands (Genesis 3:6). Because of that disobedience, God stopped humans from having immediate access to the tree of life on their own (Genesis 3:22; John 6:44)–even though He had a plan of redemption from before “the foundation of the world” involving the Nazarene (Matthew 2:23) Jesus (Revelation 13:8, plus see the article Universal Salvation? There Are Hundreds of Verses in the Bible Supporting the Doctrine of True Apocatastasis).
We believe that learning so that we may always give love like God does is essentially the meaning of life (see What is the Meaning of Life?).
We in the Continuing Church of God believe that God gave humans 6,000 years to live their own way (please see the article Did The Early Church Teach Millenarianism and a 6000 Year Plan?). And that humans will mess things up so bad, “unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved” (Matthew 24:22).
But because God has a plan for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 13:38) and a God of love (1 John 4:8,16; John 3:16), that He will intervene and send Jesus to establish a millennial kingdom on earth (Revelation 11:15; 20:4). During this 1000 year reign the world will become beautiful again (Isaiah 35:1-10).
After this thousand year reign, all who ever lived will be resurrected. When those resurrected see how humans started out with a very good and beautiful earth and messed up and nearly completely destroyed it in their 6,000 years, they will realize that humankind that distanced itself from the true God cannot properly govern itself. However, when those resurrected see how when starting with a messed up and nearly completely destroyed earth at the end of the 6,000 years, that it was restored to being very good again because people obeyed the King of Kings, then nearly all who ever lived will repent of their ways, accept Jesus as the Christ, and will live God’s way of life.
Since God is love, we in the Continuing Church of God believe that His plan will result in nearly everyone who ever lived, no matter what their religion or background was, to be saved (this is is similar to what the Eastern Orthodox believe). And that there are hundreds of verses in the Bible that show this (documentation is in the article Universal Salvation? There Are Hundreds of Verses in the Bible Supporting the Doctrine of True Apocatastasis).
This differs greatly from much of what passes for mainstream Christianity as many teach that most who ever lived are such horrible people that God will torture them for all eternity. Unlike Calvinistically-minded ones, we in the real Church of God believe:
20 Our God is the God of salvation (Psalm 68:20).
Does it not make sense that "the God of salvation" has a plan of salvation that actually works?
We believe that the biblical Holy Days reveal God’s loving plan of salvation (see article Is There “An Annual Worship Calendar” In the Bible?), yet because most who profess Christ keep non-biblical days such as Christmas and Easter, many simply do not understand that God has a plan which will result in nearly everyone who ever lived to be saved.
We believe that the Ten Commandments are not a burden and were not changed. We believe that keeping them shows love to God and love to our neighbor (see The Ten Commandments Reflect Love, Breaking them is Evil). It is clear that those who originally professed Christ believed that they needed to keep them (see The Ten Commandments and the Early Church).
We believe that since God is a God of love that He wanted to reproduce Himself and share His joy to all that He could and that His plan of salvation accomplishes this. This concept of God “reproducing Himself” for us to be truly part of His family is not totally foreign to what passes for mainstream Christianity as even the Catholic and Orthodox “Saint” Athanansius (fourth century) taught of Jesus, “For He was made man that we might be made God” (Athanasius. On the Incarnation of the Word, Chapter 54, Verse3) (this idea is well documented throughout church history, please see Deification: Did the Early Church Teach That Christians Would Become God?).
Perhaps a statement that many may find to be radical, though intriguing, is: The Church of God gave the world the Bible. The Bible as we know it originally came through the Church of God in Asia Minor and not Rome. The fact that it took the Church of Rome centuries to finally settle on the books as the Apostle John finalized and his successors in Asia Minor verified basically proves that Rome was not the source of the Bible. For details, please see The New Testament Canon – From the Bible and History and The Old Testament Canon. Those truly in the Church of God have a higher regard for scripture than those actually outside of it.
I believe that the most faithful COG members are the 21st century Philadelphia-era remnant of the original apostolic church and that our doctrines and practices are those of the Bible and early post-apostolic church. But unlike others affiliated with Christianity, I believe that this can be proven to those willing to accept the truth (for some initial documentation, please read The History of Early Christianity).
We in the real Church of God strive to preach the true gospel of the kingdom to the world as a witness (Matthew 24:14) as Jesus taught. We urge repentance in this age, explain the love of God, and warn the world of the results of its sins and God’s ultimate judgment.
Would you like to support that?
Please study your Bible and check out what we teach. For truly God is a God of love and has an exciting plan of salvation (two other articles of possibly related interest may include Hope of Salvation: How the Continuing Church of God differs from many Protestants and Which Is Faithful: The Roman Catholic Church or the Continuing Church of God?; a free booklet of interest may be Where is the True Christian Church Today?).
Appendix A deals with certain complaints, while Appendix B gives a brief overview of various COG-claiming groups.
Thiel B. Overview: Church of God. www.cogwriter.com/church-of-god-overview.htm 2012
Throughout the years I have often heard various non-biblical complaints against those of Philadelphia remnant Church of God from some in various COGs. Other than the Elijah and make-up excuses, most fall into one of ten categories (some, however, have more merit):
1) Don't believe my Church needs to teach all 18 truths restored to Philadelphia or don't believe in Church eras.
Those who believe that would not be interested in the Philadelphia remnant of the COG and I would not expect them to become part of any COG, like the Continuing Church of God, who did. A related article is Do You Believe God Used HWA to Raise Up the Philadelphia Era of the Church of God. Those interested in learning more about Church eras may wish to read the article on The Churches of Revelation 2 & 3. Those interested in learning the biblical doctrines that the early Church kept can find many of them at the History of Early Christianity page.
2) I have heard that the Church of God is a cult. I do not want to be associated with a small religious cult.
The original Christians were considered to be part of a cult. Notice that Paul defended himself against that charge:
2 When Paul was called in, Tertullus presented the charges against Paul in the following address to the governor: "Your Excellency...5 We have found this man to be a troublemaker who is constantly stirring up riots among the Jews all over the world. He is a ringleader of the cult known as the Nazarenes...
10...Paul said, "I know, sir, that you have been a judge of Jewish affairs for many years, so I gladly present my defense before you. 11 You can quickly discover that I arrived in Jerusalem no more than twelve days ago to worship at the Temple. 12 My accusers never found me arguing with anyone in the Temple, nor stirring up a riot in any synagogue or on the streets of the city. 13 These men cannot prove the things they accuse me of doing.
14 "But I admit that I follow the Way, which they call a cult. I worship the God of our ancestors, and I firmly believe the Jewish law and everything written in the prophets.
(Acts 24:2,5,10-14, New Living Translation ®, copyright © 1996, 2004 by Tyndale Charitable Trust.)
Christians with "Nazarene" practices have long been accused of being part of a cult (or "sect," Acts 24:14, NKJV/NJB) by persecutors of various types. But keeping the same practices that Jesus of Nazarus, the Nazarene ringleader called the Apostle Paul, and others throughout history does not make one part of an inappropriate "cult" (see also Nazarene Christianity: Were the Original Christians Nazarenes?).
The relatively small size of the real Church of God is consistent with the type of church that Jesus said He would have:
32 "Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. (Luke 12:32, NKJV)
32 Fear not, little flock, for it hath pleased your Father to give you a kingdom. (Luke 12:32, Douay-Rheims)
Note that both Protestant and Catholic renderings of Jesus' words demonstrate that His followers should NOT be afraid of the fact that His real flock will be little (see also Is the Church of God a Cult?).
3) My friends, relatives, and/or ministers did or did not go with GCG/LCG/CCOG after WCG changes and I am comfortable where I am.
Those who use this logic (and there are many in the COGs in this group) fail to heed Jesus's admonition to the Philadelphia era,
Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown (Revelation 3:11).
They also seem to misunderstand what Paul wrote,
For how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife? But as God has distributed to each one, as the Lord has called each one, so let him walk. And so I ordain in all the churches (I Corinthians 7:16-17).
One does not save their spouse through spiritual compromise. Sadly, unless the Laodiceans repent, they will not be subject to protection like the Philadelphians per Jesus (Revelation 3:7-22).
4) HWA finished the gospel proclaiming work, so that should not be the priority of the church--I would rather be in a church that primarily supports its members.
Those who hold to this logic simply did not understand HWA's messages or those of the Bible. Jesus makes it clear that the Laodiceans have a different work than that of the Philadelphians (different Laodiceans have different works, but none of them truly have the Philadelphia work).
Those who think that the church should focus on taking care of the bride, forget that having this as a primary focus makes for a selfish bride. Since Philadelphia means "love of the brethren", Philadelphians differ from Laodiceans as their focus is on helping others, and not mainly themselves.
Those who are confused about what HWA really taught on this subject (including what Aaron Dean has stated as well) and who wish to see more than a couple of out-of-context "sound bites" may wish to read the article Should the Church Still Try to Place its Top Priority on Proclaiming the Gospel or Did Herbert Armstrong Change that Priority for the Work?
5) I have heard bad things about Herbert W. Armstrong, other COG leaders, and/or Bob Thiel.
So have I.
However, I investigated them. For additional information, please read 15 Accusations and Truthful Responses About Herbert W. Armstrong. As far as some about Bob Thiel, please check out Who is COGwriter? The fact is that many did disliked Jesus, others complained about Paul, and some have lied about Herbert Armstrong (though he did make mistakes too), many have lied and/or made false accusations about me--and all humans have problems (cf. Romans 3:23).
If one looks at what happened in both the Old and New Testaments, God has allowed events to occur that involve His true believers that outsiders sometimes feel that God would not have (e.g. Aaron and the golden calf, Isaac lying, Samuel's sons being corrupt, Paul and Barnabas arguing, etc.).
Now the fact that one does not like aspects of the leading minister is not a biblical reason for non-support--look what Paul wrote,
"Do you look at things according to the outward appearance? If anyone is convinced in himself that he is Christ's, let him again consider this in himself, that just as he is Christ's, even so we are Christ's. For even if I should boast somewhat more about our authority, which the Lord gave us for edification and not for your destruction, I shall not be ashamed-- Lest I seem to terrify you by letters. "For his letters," they say, "are weighty and powerful, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible" " (II Corinthians 10:7-10),
Thus some vocal ones did not care for Paul either.
The same could be said of Jesus, Moses, and many other biblical leaders;
Jesus said to them, "Have you never read in the Scriptures: 'The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone. This was the LORD'S doing, And it is marvelous in our eyes'?" (Matthew 21:42).
Is not interesting to note that Jesus says the following in the next verse,
"Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it. " (Matthew 21:43).
Or in other words, there are some who think they are God's people, yet have rejected God's representative(s), so Jesus is teachings that God will not use them but someone other than else to produce the fruits from proclaiming the Gospel.
6) I have heard that some member(s) or minister(s) in the Church of God has (have) made one or more mistakes.
This is true, though many who say things like this often do not have the whole story. The plain truth is that the Philadelphia remnant of the COG has less of these types of problems than WCG did while HWA was alive. We in the Continuing Church of God have thus far been spared from having made massive mistakes.
This is not to say that the COG should not try to improve, but that imperfection, per se, is not a biblically sanctioned reason to not be part of a legitimate COG group (though requiring one to believe something against one's conscience, would be a valid reason, cf. Acts 24:16).
7) I do not believe in hierarchical governance.
Those who state this clearly do not accept the 18 truths that HWA stated were restored to the Philadelphia portion of the Church of God.
HWA himself taught:
The PURPOSE for which Christ built the Church exemplifies its WORK...1) To ANNOUNCE to the world for its witness the coming Kingdom of God...2) To prepare the people to whom God adds to the Church...God has always worked with humans. He has worked with O N E M A N at a time...The WORK consists of proclaiming the Gospel, by radio, by television, in print (Armstrong HW. JUST WHAT IS THE WORK? PASTOR GENERAL'S REPORT - VOL.3, NO.6 February 6, 1981).
But to go on with the things that have been restored...The government of God has been restored to the Church, and the government of God has been placed in the Church. You read that in Ephesians 4 and I Corinthians 12. Christ is the head of the Church and under Christ in the administration of the government are an apostle or apostles, then evangelists, then pastors, then all are called elders, all ministers all the way up clear down to the lowest. So then there are teachers and elders both speaking elders and preaching elders, deacons and deaconesses. And the Church is restored in that form of government. The Sardis Church even didn't have the right form of government (Armstrong HW. Mission of the Philadelphia Church Era. Sermon, 12/17/83).
The government of God is of necessity government from the top down. It cannot be 'government by the consent of the governed' (Armstrong HW. Mystery of the Ages. p.49).
People who wish to live by every word of God should realize that God supports a hierarchical governance (see also The Bible, Peter, Paul, John, Polycarp, Herbert W. Armstrong, Roderick C. Meredith, and Bob Thiel on Church Government). The reality is that having a biblically proper form of governance helps protect people from various heresies and unstable doctrine (Ephesians 4:11-16).
8) The Philadelphia remnant is not nearly as large as the old WCG, so it is not obvious to me that it is the true replacement.
If one believes that we are now living in the Laodicean era of the COG, then one would realize that the remnant of the Philadelphia Church would not be as large as the old WCG was (even if it does temporarily expand, with a lot of non-Philadelphians at the end).
The work of God, the final phase of the work, will be done (Matthew 24:14), and it is the Philadelphians that go through the open door to proclaim the gospel (cf. Revelation 3:7-8; 2 Corinthians 2:12). And the group that is most faithful of the COGs is the Continuing Church of God.
Why Do You Affiliated Where You Do?
Some people do not seem to have given the matter much thought, others give some type of human reasoning, while some use biblical criteria.
When was the last time you asked yourself why you affiliate with who you do (or don't in many cases)? Since the Bible is to be the source of doctrine (II Timothy 3:16), it is from the Bible that information to help deciding where one should fellowship can be found. Perhaps the most fundamental is:
Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? (II Corinthians 6:14).
Jesus similarly taught that,
Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'" (Matthew 7:22-23).
Thus, one should not be part of a group that practice (or teaches lawlessness).
The Bible clearly indicates that one should not make their religious decisions on the basis of what family members decide (Luke 14:26).
Jesus also taught,
And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple (Luke 14:27).
Thus one probably should not chose one fellowship over another because one seems 'easier' to bear. The Bible indicates that financial reasons are also unacceptable (Matthew 13:22). The fact that one likes the preaching style of one minister (or group) more than another also does not seem to be biblically sanctioned (I Corinthians1:12-13), nor does the fact that one does not like aspects of the leading minister (II Corinthians 10:10).
The Bible Teaches that There are Multiple Groups
It should be added that those of us in the COG who still believe the Bible teaches Church eras, believe that there will be at least four different broad groups (not limited to any particular corporations) during the end time.
One puts up with paganism (Thyatira, Revelation 2:20-22). One that has a name that it is alive, but is dead (Sardis, Revelation 3:1), another who keeps Jesus' command to persevere (Philadelphia, Revelation 3:10), and the final one that is lukewarm where, apparently, the people rule (Laodicea, Revelation 3:14,16; note 'justice of the people' is how Smith's Bible Dictionary translates Laodicea)--and they flat-out do not have the same type of work that the Philadelphia Church did. There may also be some with characterisitics of the remaining three churches still around.
Herbert Armstrong taught that the Church of God, Seventh Day was part of the Sardis era, that the Philadelphia era taught the 18 truths and placed its top priority on proclaiming the Gospel, and that the Laodiceans did not hold fast to doctrine and did not place their top priority on proclaiming the Gospel. It should also be noted that a review of prophetic positions by those in Laodicean and Sardis groups makes it clear to those who will actually believe the Bible that, unless they repent, they will not know when the Great Tribulation will begin until it is too late. The main Sardis group believes it was a past event and the Laodicean groups have too many prophetic errors that are getting in their way to possibly see the truth on this, unless they repent (a list of those is in the article The Laodicean Church Era).Concluding Thoughts
The Bible teaches that there false and compromised religions. The Bible also teaches that there will be multiple groups or factions within the true Church of God. I strongly believe that most simply are not doing the Philadelphia work of placing their true priority on proclaiming the whole gospel and that most will simply not properly understand prophetic events which will catch them unawares (cf. Luke 21:24, KJV).
Those in the real COG believes they need "to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 3) and that unity is only possible if we "all speak the same thing" (I Corinthians 1:10) and are all committed to doing the Philadelphia work. The most faithful are essentially are the Nazarene Christians living into the 21st century as the representatives of the Philadelphia portion of the Church of God.
I personally believe I was called to support the Philadelphia portion of the Church of God. And am part of the most faithful portion, which is the Continuing Church of God.
Some articles of related interest may include:
Do You Believe God Used Herbert Armstrong to Raise Up the Philadelphia Era of the Church of God?
What is a True Philadelphian?
Should the Church Still Try to Place its Top Priority on Proclaiming the Gospel or Did Herbert Armstrong Change that Priority for the Work?
The Thyatira Church Era
The Sardis Church Era
The Philadelphia Church Era
The Laodicean Church Era
Are the Laodiceans the Modern Sadducees and Pharisees?
There are many COG groups. This section will breifly discuss the main ones and the main categories that they tend to fall into.
Those Who Left Prior to Herbert Armstrong's Death
The groups that left the WCG prior to the death of Herbert Armstrong often do not believe in Church eras nor accept all the 18 truths that were restored to the Philadelphia Era of the Church of God. Thus, they generally do not teach they are part of the Philadelphia era of the Church of God. And I believe that they either misunderstand or minimize certain critical aspects of biblical prophecy.
For information on several at one time related leaders and groups that left prior to HWA's death, please read the articles on the Church of God, International (Garner Ted Armstrong and Ronald Dart were once part of this group, as was David Antion), Church of God of Southern California (David Antion), Intercontinental Church of God (Mark Armstrong), and Christian Educational Ministries (Ron Dart).
Another group to also leave prior to HWA's death, but was not related to CGI, is the Christian Biblical Church of God (Fred Coulter) and they also have changed certain teachings.The Largest COG Formed After Herbert Armstrong's Death
The United Church of God (UCG) is the largest group to form after Herbert Armstrong's death. Its teachings allow for the belief in Church eras, but this subject is considered a matter of interpretation by UCG. UCG does not teach that it is the remnant of the Philadelphia era of the Church, but rather that it is a continuation of the Church of God. It has had major governance issues and lost at least 174 of its ministers/elders in 2010 and 2011 (most ended up forming another similar group see Concerns about Church of God, a Worldwide Association, COGWA).
UCG has specifically repudiated one of the 18 truths (governance, as seemingly has COGWA), says that part of one is no longer necessary (third tithe though some in its leadership support it), and will not clearly officially teach at least two others (upon conversion one is begotten by the Holy Spirit and born-again at the resurrection). UCG does not place its top financial priority on proclaiming the Gospel (nor has COGWA, which has even less focus that way) and in most years since it formed it has spent more money on its form of governance/administration than on 'public proclamation.' For detailed documentation of UCG changes, please study the article Differences Between the United Church of God and Living Church of God.
Thus, it is my opinion, that any who consider that they are part of the Philadelphia era of the Church of God would not, given a choice, regularly fellowship with UCG nor COGWA.
To the best of my knowledge, none of the other groups whose members were at one time primarily affiliated part of UCG (COGaic, COG Big Sandy, etc.) puts their top financial priority on proclaiming the Gospel either. Also, most of the groups descended from UCG do not have clear enough doctrinal statements to show what they believe all the 18 truths. An article of related interest may be Church of God, an International Community (COG aic)--this is the group led by David Hulme, who was the first UCG president. Another article of possible interest may be In Their Own Words: Doctrinal Differences Between the old United Church of God and the old Global Church of God which mainly compares some of UCG's original changes, while David Hulme was its president, with the old Global Church of God. The essential minimization and/or misunderstanding of critical aspects of biblical prophecy (like Church eras and Daniel 9 & 11) will result in major problems for those who remain part of these groups.
The Living Church of God Had Been the Most Faithful
The Living Church of God (LCG) was the second largest group, but with the formation of COGWA, LCG seems to be the second or third largest COG. Like the old WCG, believes that the book of Revelation reveals a succession of seven churches, sometimes called "church eras," which show certain characteristics of the true church throughout history--as far as I can tell this differs from the official positions of groups such as UCG and COGWA.
However, regarding other COGs, LCG was initially unique in other ways.
Like GCG, LCG initially took up the 'Philadelphia mantle' (Revelation 3) by placing its top priority on proclaiming the Gospel while also teaching the 18 truths that Herbert W. Armstrong (HWA) claimed were restored to that era--no other large COG did both (others have improperly changed the work, while some will not teach all the 18 restored truths).
The Living Church of God contains a mix of people. Back in/near 2009, despite it still then (in my view) holding the 'Philadelphia mantle,' when I was asked if I felt that the majority in LCG were Philadelphian, I responded with "No." But, I felt then, as I do now, that although there are scattered Philadelphians, that LCG has more Philadelphians in terms of number of people than any other group--but over time I do not believe that LCG will.
Why? Many events from late 2011 through late 2012 demonstrated that a different approach on many matters was taking place in LCG. For more information, please see What About the Living Church of God? and Why Bob Thiel Left the Living Church of God.
By the end of 2012 it became apparent that because of doctrinal change, tolerance of errors, making publicly improper accusations, etc. that LCG had truly lost the Philadelphia mantle and further attempts to support it would be futile. So, on 12/28/12 the Continuing Church of God was formed.
The Improperly Titled Philadelphia Church of God
One of the larger COGs is the Philadelphia Church of God (PCG)--it is the fourth largest (LCG seems to be the third largest after UCG and COGWA). Unlike UCG, PCG does, at least publicly claim to teach the 18 truths that were restored to the Philadelphia Era of the Church of God (though I am not sure that it knows what they are as its earlier writings seemed to have been based on the Tkach list--though its later writings acknowledge that the Tkach list dropped at least two of the truths).
PCG has three basic teachings which, in my opinion, disqualify it from being Philadelphian.
First, it requires that to be a member one must declare that Herbert Armstrong was Elijah and Gerald Flurry is 'that prophet'--this is not a requirement that WCG ever held, nor is it one I can find in any Bible I have ever seen.
Second, it declares that a publication called Malachi's Message was given to Gerald Flurry by an angel and is the 'little book' of Revelation chapter 10--since Gerald Flurry changed Malachi's Message, it is not logical that an angel of God gave him this message (Gerald Flurry's understanding of Revelation 10 also differs from Herbert Armstrong's teachings about Revelation 10).
Third, like certain other COG's, PCG has changed the emphasis from a warning message to the world to a warning message for what it defines to be Laodiceans (thus it does not seem to clearly teach the restored truth about the Gospel). PCG has other teachings that differ from WCG when Herbert Armstrong was alive.
Additionally, PCG misunderstands so many parts of the Bible and biblical prophecy that its members will simply not be prepared to flee prior to the Great Tribulation (There is a Place of Safety for the Philadelphians. Why it May Be Petra).
For actual quoted documentation on PCG's positions, please read the article Teachings Unique to the Philadelphia Church of God.
Smaller COGs Who Claim to Be Faithful
There are many, many small groups who claim to be a part of the Philadelphia era of the Church of God. Most of these groups tend to make the same types of errors. They are normally one-pastor operations (though some have other elders and support staff, and at least two have evangelists--like Charles Bryce's Enduring Church of God) that are unwilling to accept governance under those of higher ordained status (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:28; Ephesians 4:11). Nearly all the ones I am aware of have at some point 'reasoned around' placing their top priority on proclaiming the gospel to the world as a witness. Instead, they tend to emphasize less critical matters. The essential misunderstanding of critical aspects of biblical prophecy (like Church eras and Daniel 9 & 11) will result in major problems for those who remain part of these groups.
These groups tend to place a their higher priority on supposedly 'being faithful' or 'feeding the flock' than in proclaiming the gospel. Any who have that opinion should read the article, Should the Church's Top Priority be on Proclaiming the Gospel or Did Herbert Armstrong Change that Priority? Or one can simply read Jesus' words in Matthew 28:19-20.
Two areas where some of them tend to emphasize are 1) make-up and 2) the identity of Herbert Armstrong as Elijah.
The truth is that Herbert Armstrong changed his position on make-up multiple times (not just twice as they allege--I have lived within driving distance of Pasadena (the location of the old WCG) since 1976 and seem to be aware of some matters that these groups simply do not seem to know). Please read the article Make-up and the Philadelphia Portion of the Church of God.
The other truth is that while Herbert Armstrong did do an 'Elijah-type work,' he privately expressed reservations that he may not have been 'the' Elijah and never taught that there could be no one in the future to fulfill that role.
In addition, publicly, Herbert W. Armstrong specifically wrote,
"Also Malachi 4:5-6 pictures the Elijah to come at the very end of the Church age" (Mystery of the Ages. 1985, p. 349).
All should understand that the Church age has not ended--thus CCOG's teachings on this are consistent with Herbert Armstrong's actual beliefs on this subject (an article of interest may be The Elijah Heresies).
These COG's tend to forget that what Herbert Armstrong actually did was to be used to raise up the Philadelphia era of the Church of God. He taught that this era had two primary distinctions--the at least 18 restored truths and the emphasis on proclaiming the gospel:
At least 18 basic and essential truths have been restored to the True Church since" the year 1933 (Mystery of the Ages, Dodd & Mead, 1985, p. 251).
It's been seeming more and more to me, as the years go by, that the Bible was written primarily for the Philadelphia Era of the Church. Today's mission of the Church you will find in Matthew 24:14. And this gospel of the kingdom that is the same gospel that Jesus preached, shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come...This gospel of the kingdom has been restored and shall be preached in all the world for a witness to all nations (Armstrong HW. Mission of the Philadelphia Church era. Sermon 12/17/83).
After HWA listed the restored truths in a sermon he stated:
Well, brethren, all those things have been restored and there is a mission for this Church that never applied, and has never been done by any other Church (Armstrong HW. Mission of the Philadelphia Church era. Sermon 12/17/83).
It is important to note that Herbert Armstrong in December of 1983 still felt that part of the mission of the Church was to insure that the Gospel still needed to be preached as a witness. Also in his last letter he wrote,
Remember brethren, this is not the work of Herbert W. Armstrong...The greatest work lies ahead...Never before in the history of the Church has it been possible to reap so great a harvest. It has only been made possible through modern technology, beginning with the printing press, radio, television...Each of you must commit yourself to support God's Work...God's work must push ahead as never before. God is opening up new doors in television (Armstrong HW. Letter, 1/10/86).
The small 'faithful' COGs do not want to accept those teachings. For further documentation, please see the articles It's Not Stedfast (Arlen Berkey), Why Not the Restored Church of God (David Pack), and God's Church, Worldwide (GCW) (the late Robert Elliot).
Other small COGs (like CG21, by the late Raymond McNair who also changed governance, please see his written statements in the article The Elijah Heresies) seem to make the same basic errors (simply check out their websites as they tend to have documentation that proves my point).
Here are a few quotes from these groups:
"THE TRUE GOSPEL... HAS NOW GONE IN POWER INTO EVERY NATION..." (Herbert W. Armstrong, Mystery of the Ages, page 291 hardcover.) Did you believe these words when Herbert W. Armstrong wrote them in 1985?... The Purpose of God's Church, Worldwide Herbert W. Armstrong completed his commission of taking the true gospel to the world as a witness. Only after the gospel had gone to the world, could the end come. As of January 1986 we have entered into the end-time. The Great Task before us is to get the Bride of Christ ready for Christ's return during this Laodicean Era" (GCW website, 4/16/02).
Perhaps GCW should re-read the 01/10/86 letter from Herbert Armstrong (note: they seem to wish to rely on some later statements from Aaron Dean, which I believe they misunderstand--Aaron Dean's comments are addressed in the article What Herbert Armstrong actually did was to be used to raise up the Philadelphia era of the Church of God).
Stedfast (before it disbanded) claimed:
We are a part of Gods Church who are holding fast to all the doctrines, "major" and "minor" instilled into the Church by God through Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong...Our Goals 1) To reach the Church with a warning message about it's condition. But, more importantly, we want to show the Church why it is in the Laodicean condition and how to come out of it. Most groups do not believe they themselves are in a Laodicean condition, but all the other groups are. The Bible says the majority are in this condition and they don't even realize it.(Rev. 3:17) We desire to help as many as possible repent of the Laodicean condition before the tribulation, and return to the full truth which we had been taught through Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong. We wish all would repent, but scriptures reveal this probably won't happen. They still need to be warned although the scriptures reveal the majority will not repent at this time. Getting the Church back on track and unifying once again should be the priority for the leaders of the Church at this time (SCG website 4/16/02).
Whereas Restored has claimed:
The Restored Church of God is dedicated to holding fast to the full truth of God taught to us through Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong. We were taught hundreds of distinct doctrinal truths. We are absolutely determined to uphold all of them in their exactness and precision (RCG website 3/29/02).
While these statements have an appeal to some who claim to be faithful to HWA's teachings, the truth is that HWA taught that the Philadelphia era of the Church of God was faithful to the at least 18 restored truths and places its top priority on proclaiming the Gospel--this is clear from The Mystery of the Ages as well as his sermon Mission of the Philadelphia Church Era. Furthermore, while he was alive, I personally heard him warn people not to be distracted by minor points--he said to stick to the trunk of the tree. Perhaps I should also add here that in spite of claims of "precision of doctrine" RCG itself has major problems understanding the Philadelphia work and even the complete gospel as its many of inaccurate charges demonstrate. Furthermore its 'false apostle' has been proven to not understand matters of prophecy as various assertions/prediction he made did not come to pass (please see the article Why Not the Restored Church of God).
Remember that Laodicea means the 'people decide' or 'rights of the people' so it is no wonder that various groups have come up with their own (not the Bible's nor HWA's criteria) for what they should be about. Actually the other amazing thing about these types of groups (including PCG, RCG, LCG) is that they all claim to believe in the restored truth about governance, but everyone of them has rejected the authority of the only proper anointed prophet in Christ's church (see also How To Determine If Someone is a True Prophet of God).
The Church of God (Seventh Day)
In terms of numbers of people, by far the largest COG is the Denver-based Church of God (Seventh Day). This group seems, to a degree, to represent the Sardis era of the Church of God. CG7 does not have the 18 truths that HWA said that were lost by the time he had affiliation with an earlier version of this group. Although I personally get along with at least two former CG7-Denver presidents and CG7 members that I have actually met, CG7 seems to be losing much biblical knowledge, especially in the area of prophecy (see also The Dangerous Rise of Preterists).
While I do believe that there are true COG members within CG7, Jesus warnings to the Sardis era of the Church of God suggested that the actual amount would be very few within it (Revelation 3:1-4). More on CG7-Denver can be found in the article Church of God (Seventh Day): History and Teachings.
There are groups such as the Church of the Great God (John Ritenbaugh), Church of the Eternal God (Norbert Link), Eternal Church of God (Art Braidic), Church of God-Faithful Flock (Don Billingsley--who has since declared that the door to preach the gospel was closed, but is now open for him), Church of God Fellowship Northwest (Harold Smith), and some others who basically believe most (and possibly all) of the restored truths, but who also do not make the priority of proclaiming the Gospel to the world as a witness as their top priority for a variety of reasons (normally finances are considered too tight, there is a teaching that the two witnesses will take care of that, or they are afraid their group will break up if they merged with others). They all also have rejected that any evangelist/prophet has possible authority over them. Church of God-Established in Modesto (Steve LeBlanc) claims to place its top priority on proclaiming the gospel, but it has a history of rejecting the authority of any evangelist/prophet and its members, on several occasions, have defended the use of the Tkach list of restored truths to me via emai as opposed to using Herbert W. Armstrong's list (an article of related interest may include The 18 Restored Truths: Do You Know What the First Changes the Tkach Administration Made?)--it less clear now, however, what list they use.
I, of course, disagree with those groups and would suggest all read the article, are you in the COG for the right reason Unity, What COG for You?
The essential minimization and/or misunderstanding of critical aspects of biblical prophecy (like Church eras and Daniel 9 & 11) that all of them seem to have will result in major problems for those who remain part of these groups.
There are a lot of independent individuals and small groups claiming to be part of the COG; no doubt many are. However, nearly every doctrine has been changed by one or more of them. Some of the more obvious are sacred name groups (such as Worldwide Assembly of Yahweh), calendar groups (such as Church of God, In Truth) and even some that teach against the deity of Jesus (Christian Churches of God); Ron Weinland has declared himself to be one of the two witnesses and even denies that Christ existed prior to the incarnation (Church of God-Preparing for the Kingdom of God).
Norman Edwards, publisher of Servant's News, has done away with tithing (as have many independents). Although some independents have some internet impact, I am aware of none that are having much of an impact in other media. In addition, Legacy Institute (Leon Sexton) has essentially stated that the COG has always misunderstood that it is the Gentiles who mainly should be being called today, but with this being financed by those who are descendants of Israel.
Most of the independents seem to violate Paul's admonition to 'speak same thing.' They have also seemed to rejected governance such as that which Herbert Armstrong restored to the Philadelphia era of the Church. It is also of interest to note that Herbert Armstrong warned about being an 'independent' Christian as well (Mystery of the Ages. p. 270), but wanted Philadelphians to be "A TEAM TOGETHER" to "carry out the work of God" (pp.266). For more information, please see the article on HWA and 'Independents'.
And then there those who still think that they need to be connected to the anti-COG WCG. Since the Bible teaches, "Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever?" (2 Corinthians 6:14-15), they are not paying enough attention to scripture. And this was a problem with Thyatira (which is the era that they seem to be a spiritual remnant of). Two articles of possible interest would be Comments on the Teachings of Ron Wallen, Philip Neal, Kenneth W., GRUMPS, Jesse Arellano, and others who Profess(ed) that WCG has God's Authorityand In Search of Thyatira.
Total "independents" very much misunderstand aspects of biblical prophecy. And those who hope to be protected from the Great Tribulation would do well to heed the writings in the Bible such as the following:
1 Gather yourselves together, yes, gather together,
O undesirable nation,
2 Before the decree is issued,
Or the day passes like chaff,
Before the LORD's fierce anger comes upon you,
Before the day of the LORD's anger comes upon you!
3 Seek the LORD, all you meek of the earth,
Who have upheld His justice.
Seek righteousness, seek humility.
It may be that you will be hidden
In the day of the LORD's anger (Zephaniah 2:1-3).
Since many "independents" are not truly gathered together, most simply cannot expect to be protected (see also There is a Place of Safety for the Philadelphians. Why it May Be Petra). Most independents seem to reject aspects of God's government and do not seem to understand the biblical role of various leaders God appoints for the Church (Ephesians 4:11-16).
King of the South
Without going into all of the details here, let me state that some of the groups that came from the old Global Church of God (CEG, CGFnw, GCG-uk) do not teach what the old WCG taught about the future king of the South. They also tend to have other prophetic misunderstandings. But the Continuing Church of God does hold to the teachings about a coming King of the South.
This is also true of PCG and to a degree apparently UCG and other groups. All of this is documented in the article Is There A Future King of the South?
Church of God History
History shows that there have always been problems with people and groups in the Church of God. This is true from the Book of Acts to present. Some have tended to discount or eliminate the Church of God because of that. They should exercise better judgment as many would have eliminated Peter, Paul, and others in the New Testament for similar reasons.
Learning more about church history may help understand why the Church of God is as it is today. Here are some booklets and articles related to church history that you may find to be of value:
Where is the True Christian Church Today? This free online pdf booklet answers that question and includes 18 proofs, clues, and signs to identify the true vs. false Christian church. Plus 7 proofs, clues, and signs to help identify Laodicean churches. A related sermon is also available: Where is the True Christian Church? Here is a link to the booklet in the Spanish language: ¿Dónde está la verdadera Iglesia cristiana de hoy?
Continuing History of the Church of God This pdf booklet is a historical overview of the true Church of God and some of its main opponents from c. 31 A.D. to 2014. Two related sermon links would include Continuing History of the Church of God: c. 31 to c. 300 A.D. and Continuing History of the Church of God: 4th-16th Centuries. In Spanish: Marque aquí para ver el pdf folleto: Continuación de la Historia de la Iglesia de Dios.
The History of Early Christianity Are you aware that what most people believe is not what truly happened to the true Christian church? Do you know where the early church was based? Do you know what were the doctrines of the early church? Is your faith really based upon the truth or compromise?
The Churches of Revelation 2 & 3 Do they matter? Most say they must, but act like they do not. This article contains some history about the Church of God (sometimes referred to as the continuation of Primitive Christianity) over the past 2000 years. It also discusses the concept of church eras.
What Do Roman Catholic Scholars Actually Teach About Early Church History? Although most believe that the Roman Catholic Church history teaches an unbroken line of succession of bishops beginning with Peter, with stories about most of them, Roman Catholic scholars know the truth of this matter. Is telling the truth about the early church citing Catholic accepted sources anti-Catholic? This eye-opening article is a must-read for any who really wants to know what Roman Catholic history actually admits about the early church.
Nazarene Christianity: Were the Original Christians Nazarenes? Should Christians be Nazarenes today? What were the practices of the Nazarenes.
Location of the Early Church: Another Look at Ephesus, Smyrna, and Rome What actually happened to the primitive Church? And did the Bible tell about this in advance?
Apostolic Succession What really happened? Did structure and beliefs change? Are many of the widely-held current understandings of this even possible? Did you know that Catholic scholars really do not believe that several of the claimed "apostolic sees" of the Orthodox have apostolic succession--despite the fact that the current pontiff himself seems to wish to ignore this view? Is there actually a true church that has ties to any of the apostles that is not part of the Catholic or Orthodox churches? Read this article if you truly are interested in the truth on this matter!
Early Church History: Who Were the Two Major Groups Professed Christ in the Second and Third Centuries? Did you know that many in the second and third centuries felt that there were two major, and separate, professing Christian groups in the second century, but that those in the majority churches tend to now blend the groups together and claim "saints" from both? "Saints" that condemn some of their current beliefs. Who are the two groups?
Continuing Church of God The group striving to be most faithful amongst all real Christian groups to the word of God?
If one reads the Bible from beginning to end, one will realize that humans have flaws and that God has used flawed humans anyway throughout history. There were bickerings and disputes not only in Moses' time, but throughout the New Testament. Yet, the true Christian church still exists, and one group does best represent it. If youare wiling to believe the truths of the Bible and facts of history, God will lead you to it if you will truly trust in Him with all your heart (Proverbs 3:5-6), prove all things, and hold fast to that which is good (1 Thessalonians 5:21).
Of course, most will not do that. But Jesus foretold that this would be the case and few would find the true way (Matthew 7:13-14). What about you?
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