The Falling Away: The Bible and WCG Teachings

By COGwriter

Is the falling away of 2 Thessalonians 2:3 a warning to Christians or a warning for the world?

Some have differing views. This article will focus on what the Bible teaches and how historically the old Worldwide Church of God tended to view this. (Here is a related link in Spanish/español: La Apostasía: Enseñanzas de la Biblia y de la WCG. There are also two YouTube videos on the subject that you can watch The Falling Away Part 1: From the Bible and Church History and The Falling Away Part 2: Positions Presented by Others.)

What Does the Bible Teach?

One reason for confusion seems to be that it could be interpreted that there are various “falling aways” discussed in the New Testament.

Fallings away apparently related to Christians are essentially discussed in 2 Thessalonians 2:3, Matthew 24:12-13, 2 Timothy 1:15, 2 Timothy 4:3, 1 Timothy 5:15, 1 Timothy 6:20-21, and 1 Timothy 4:1. There deceptions of others who will believe lies that is discussed in 2 Thessalonians 2:8-12, Matthew 24:23-24 and parallel accounts, and Revelation 13:4,8, to cite several examples (though I do not consider those to be a true “falling away’).

Let's start by looking at the first 10 verses of 2 Thessalonians 2:

1 Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, 2 not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come. 3 Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, 4 who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. 5 Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? 6 And now you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time. 7 For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way. 8 And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming. 9 The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, 10 and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. (2 Thessalonians 2:1-10, NKJV, unless otherwise noted).

Of course, as the above indicates, a type of falling away began in the time of Paul, and the above does not eliminate that there can be future fallings away.

In addition to looking at the Bible, primary concerns of the paper are four-fold:

1) What did the old WCG teach?
2) Was there a modern falling away?
3) Is there a future falling away?
4) Does the falling away in 2 Thessalonians 2:3 refer to Christians or non-Christians?

The Old WCG

Amazingly, once a falling away had seemingly began in the Fresno WCG congregation that I attended, the local WCG minister taught that 2 Thessalonians did not forecast a falling away from the truth before the end-time (that minister himself later fell away and embraced Protestant theology).  This, in the early 1990s, seemed to be a Tkach-era change and caused me concern at the time.

The fact that Gerald Flurry and others have misconstrued the falling away by incorrectly identifying one or both Tkachs as “the man of sin” is of no real relevance.  The fact is that there most certainly was a falling away during the time that the elder Tkach was in charge that continued under the administration of his son.  And because of the massive numbers involved, this may have represented the greatest known falling away in the history of the Church of God—especially one that did not also involved State-supported persecution.

Gerald Flurry (and others like him), however, made some errors related to this.  Specifically, while it is true that many Church of God attendees fell away, the fact is that neither Tkach leader was accompanied by “all power, signs, and lying wonders” (verse 9) and thus neither (J. Tkach Sr. or Jr.) is the “man of sin, the son of perdition” that Paul is referring to.

While in his Falling Away sermon produced on June 1, 2012 LCG's Dr. Winnail mentioned certain statements by Herbert W. Armstrong, certain other ones by Herbert W. Armstrong seemed to have been left out of Dr. Winnail’s sermon and writings that I have seen--the entirety of what he taught was missing.  Now it is true that when Herbert Armstrong discussed a massive falling away, he sometimes perhaps combined more than one “falling away” in a manner that perhaps he had not realized. At other times, Herbert Armstrong seemed to separate them.  The messages from HWA on these matters were not always clearly consistent. But looking at the entirety of his position could help those who have became confused about it.

In the radio broadcast he did titled End Time Falling Away,  Herbert Armstrong taught, that the New Testament shows there will be falling away related to the Church of God in Acts 20:28-29, as well as a massive turning aside towards fables for the world in 2 Timothy 4:3 (note, all oral quotes in this document are from my notes and may not always be verbatim):

Men to turn away from the truth…Acts 20:29 and 30…Paul…wanted to meet with the leaders of the church… What church?  The Church of God!... “For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock.  Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.  Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears.”

See what the prophecy was?  Falling away.  Departing from the truth! 

And then go to second Corinthians eleventh chapter and the 13th, 14th, and 15th verses.

For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. “And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light... Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.”  Many false prophets will deceive many…Second Timothy fourth chapter third verse…

For the time will come when they will not endure—THAT’S the PEOPLE the Western world—sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;  And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables”  the world will fall away after fables.   (Armstrong HW. End Time Falling Away,  HA103A.MP3)

Similarly, in his 1978 book The Incredible Human Potential, HWA taught that the falling away of 2 Thessalonians 2:3 was related to those supposedly actually part of the Church (pp. 161-162), whereas the 2 Thessalonians 2:7, etc. had to do with a rejecting of God and acceptance of the false church (p. 8).  Here is some of what Herbert Armstrong wrote:

To the Thessalonians, about A.D. 54, Paul wrote, "For the Mystery of iniquity doth already work . . ." (II Thes. 2:7). It was the Babylonian mystery religion, started by Simon the Sorcerer (Acts 8), a religion of iniquity - lawlessness - a religion rejecting the law of God...( The Incredible Human Potential, p. 8)

Few, even among professing converted Christians, realize the vital and supreme need to be conscious and constantly aware of Satan’s efforts to get to us, who already have turned from Satan’s way and to the way of the government of God. For this very reason, Satan has gotten to and overthrown many who have fallen away (2 Thessalonians 2:3)...

There is a reason why God allows those predestinated to be called now to have to withstand Satan and his rebellion against the government of God.  It is necessary—in order for us to qualify to become rulers (under Christ) in the Kingdom of God—that we not only reject Satan’s false way but strive against it until we overcome it, relying all the while on God for the power to do so. (The Incredible Human Potential, pp. 161-162)

Herbert Armstrong was referring to the Church of God in verse 3 and the world turning rejecting the law of God in verse 7.

For a lengthy discussion, about the Church falling away, notice what Herbert Armstrong earlier taught:

I have mentioned how the early Church GREW and MULTIPLIED in those God added to the Church. But soon the persecution came. Soon the false preachers came, with the different gospel – a different spirit. They came fomenting a spirit of criticism-- of DOUBT! They came saying Jesus' true apostles were preaching WRONG DOCTRINES.

They said to people: "Peter, and Paul, and those apostles won't admit they are teaching erroneous doctrines. Look how many are FALLING AWAY from them. Their credibility is at an all-time low. Don't follow them -- forsake them and the Gospel they are proclaiming, and COME OVER WITH US."

Yes, brethren, and THOUSANDS DID -- TO THEIR OWN ULTIMATE DESTRUCTION IN THE LAKE OF FIRE!

Look at the Fruits

But LOOK AT THE FRUITS! The work of the original apostles BORE THE TRUE FRUITS! The Worldwide Church of God has always produced the GOOD fruits -- ABUNDANT fruits...proclaimed the true Gospel of Christ -- the Gospel OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD to the world -- now GOING TO THE ENTIRE WORLD!

Prophecy says the END will not come until, also, there is a "falling away" first!

Jesus' parable (Luke 19:11-24) is for OUR TIME, now! It pertains to Christ going to heaven to receive the Kingdom officially and then returning. The "pounds" (English money) represent the SPIRITUAL GOODS Christ has entrusted to each of us now, while He is in heaven. When He returns, He will demand of each of us to show how we have used the GIFT of His Holy Spirit -- how much we have CONTRIBUTED to His Work -- the PURPOSE for which He put us in His Church NOW! He will demand of each of us to show how much we have grown spiritually in the way of GOD'S LAW – the way of CONTRIBUTING AND GIVING. Those who prove disloyal or drop out of the Work -- THE ONLY PURPOSE FOR WHICH YOU WERE CALLED NOW -- will find themselves in the position of the one described in verses 20 and 24. They will lose the very salvation they were trying to GET!

You are each admonished to "make your calling and election SURE!"

Today, as in the time of the first apostles, MANY DECEIVERS are gone out into the world. They will ACCUSE God's Church and His Work. It is Satan the devil who is the accuser of the true brethren (Rev. 12:10).

Christ's Warning

As it was in the first century -- the days of the original apostles, when the Church was MULTIPLYING itself in membership (Acts 6:1) -- so is it destined to be NOW!

Before Jesus answered His disciples as to WHEN the END of the age and His return would come, He warned them against FALSE MINISTERS, deceiving the many. If possible, He said, they would deceive the VERY ELECT -- YOU in God's Church.

As the Apostle Paul warned the elders at Ephesus, "For I know this, that...grievous wolves shall enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also OF YOUR OWN SELVES [the ministers in God's Church] shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw
away disciples after them. Therefore WATCH"! (Acts 20:29-31.)

Brethren, could this BE God's true Church, and such things not happen to us? This sort of thing DID HAPPEN to God's TRUE CHURCH in the very first century…

MUCH of the New Testament is WARNING God's people of these snares of Satan to hinder -- to attempt to DESTROY the very Work of GOD -- the very Work which is THE REASON God has called you NOW -- before He undertakes to SAVE THE WHOLE WORLD!  (Armstrong HW.  Coworker letter, February 21, 1974)

As far as the future timing, Herbert Armstrong taught that the “falling away” would happen prior to the time that Matthew 24:14 was totally fulfilled:

Just before His Second Coming, just before the END of this world, the very same Gospel He brought from God and taught His disciples was to be preached in all the world to ALL NATIONS, as a witness. But before this, (Mat. 24:4-5 and II Thes. 2:2-3), the great deception and falling away from the Truth was to come.  (Armstrong HW.  Coworker letter, December 18, 1952)

Hence he did not tie the timing in with the miracles accompanying the man of sin like some others improperly have.

It may be of interest to note that in 1979/1980, HWA did teach that a falling away could affect the Church:

But surely Satan is now endeavoring to scatter and even totally nullify the power God has given to His Church. There has been a falling away, though compared to the total number, it has been minimal. (Armstrong HW. The Time We Are In, Now.  Pastor General's Report-Vol 1, No. 15, November 20, 1979, p. 1; Armstrong HW.  Personal: The Time We Are In, Now. Good News.  January 1980, pp. 1, 23)

The above demonstrates that Herbert Armstrong applied a falling away to the Church. He called the above one minimal, not because it affected the Church, but because it was a very small amount of the membership at that time of the old WCG. While some may twist some of HWA's statements out-of-context, the reality is that while he knew that the world would fall for deception in the end time, on what the actually falling way of 2 Thessalonians 2:3 was, he specifically had his church teach that this was the departing from the Church of God.

Notice, for example, what the late Leroy Neff wrote specifically related to 2 Thessalonians 2:3:

In the last few months some few-just as Jesus prophesied-have fallen away. It is no strange thing when people who have been a part of God’s Church for years fall away. It happened in postapostolic days (II Thessalonians 2: 3). (Neff L.  Why Some Fall Away.  Good News, January 1961, p. 3)

And this is consistent with something that the late Dr. Hoeh wrote related to 2 Thessalonians 2:3:

Scarcely twenty years after the crucifixion of Jesus, the apostle Paul, in one of his first inspired letters, cautioned Christians not to be deceived by false preaching, or by false letters purporting to be from the apostles. “Let no man deceive you by any means; for that day”-the time of God’s intervention in human affairs when Jesus Christ will return to rule the nations--“shall not come except there come a falling away FIRST” (II Thess.2:3). The wholesale departure of Christians from the truth was the FIRST event prophesied to befall the true Church. (Hoeh H.  Why so many denominations?  Plain Truth. September, 1953, p. 3)

Notice also the following article 1968 by David Antion titled Will You Fall Away?:

LET no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, EXCEPT THERE COME A FALLING AWAY FIRST, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition” (I1 Thes. 2:3).  This is a prophecy for our time – the end time! It means there will be a falling away from the Truth of God. This also happened in the times of the early New Testament Church. But many hear the truth today. Many understand it and go along with it. Before Christ’s second coming there will be a great falling away. Are you being set up for a downfall? (Antion D.  Will You Fall Away?  Good News.  May-June 1968, p. 5)

All the above quotes were published under HWA's watch, and some were directly from him.  But my main point is that the old Radio/Worldwide Church of God did teach that the falling away of 2 Thessalonians 2:3 was something that was directed towards the Church and happened prior to the appearance of the end-time man of sin.  

There is a prophecy in Zechariah that may be relevant here. Notice:

7 "Awake, O sword, against My Shepherd,
Against the Man who is My Companion,"
Says the Lord of hosts.
"Strike the Shepherd,
And the sheep will be scattered;
Then I will turn My hand against the little ones.
8 And it shall come to pass in all the land,"
Says the Lord,
"That two-thirds in it shall be cut off and die,
But one-third shall be left in it:
9 I will bring the one-third through the fire,
Will refine them as silver is refined,
And test them as gold is tested.
They will call on My name,
And I will answer them.
I will say, 'This is My people';
And each one will say, 'The Lord is my God.'" (Zechariah 13:7-9)

While the above seems to have other applications, the fact is that two-thirds of those in the old WCG accepted total apostasy after the death of Herbert W. Amrstrong, and about one-third did not, makes the possible application of the Tkach apostasy seem to fit. The Bible also says that the Laodiceans need to be refined as gold (Revelation 3:14-18) and that what seems to be the Philadelphians and others will need to be refined and purified (Daniel 11:35), with fire involvement (Daniel 11:33), are other reasons to consider that the Tkach apostasy could be the main falling away that was warned about.

Might There Be a Future Falling Away?

Yet, some of those who have changed from the historical position on the falling away have contended that the expression “for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed” means that the falling away must happen at (or very near) the time that the man of sin is revealed.  Thus, some have improperly concluded that the falling away and falling towards the son of perdition is required by 2 Thessalonians 2:3 and could not apply to the Tkack-related falling away.

However, the overall time-frame of 2 Thessalonians 2:1-10 spans a very long time.

Why?

Because these passages mention that before Jesus returns, there will be a falling away, the man of sin will be revealed, and that Jesus will destroy this man of sin.  Since a man of sin persecutes the saints for at least 3 ½ years (Daniel 7:25), and is probably revealed some time prior to that (like around 3 ½ years or so, per Daniel 9:26-27, though it may take longer to know for certain), verse 3 seems to span no less than seven years.  Also, verse 3 shows the falling away happens “first,” before the final son of perdition is revealed.  Furthermore, since verses 6 & 7 show that something had begun by Paul’s time, nearly 2000 years are covered, in a sense, in these ten verses.  Over time “evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived” (2 Timothy 3:13).

Since the Greek does not clearly give the timeframe between each of the in 2 Thessalonians 2 events, I am not convinced that a particular length (long, short, or none) of a gap between the falling away and the revealing of the man of sin is required. 

The fact is that there will be some type of future falling away by believers in Daniel 11:29-36.  Herbert Armstrong, when citing Daniel 11:33-35, stated:

These are the people of God  (Armstrong HW. Falling away, part 2.  World Tomorrow radio broadcast, HA5406.rm).

If one or more of the COGs does balloon up in membership right before the end (as some have thought, and which may be consistent with certain Catholic prophecies as well as how John Ogwyn seemed to interpret Romans 9:28), then it is possible that a larger falling away from the Church of God will appear right around the time that the man of sin is revealed.  And if those two events are supposed to be concurrent, then this may better fit 2 Thessalonians 2:3 than the Tkach-apostasy.

Scofield’s Order

While we should not accept the interpretations of Protestants as proof, Scofield’s order seems consistent with what the passages suggest to me at least:

Scofield Reference Notes (1917 Edition)
Chapter 2…
2:3   Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;
for that day
The order of events is:
(1) The working of the mystery of lawlessness under divine restraint which had already begun in the apostle's time 2 Thessalonians 2:7
(2) the apostasy of the professing church 2 Thessalonians 1:3; Luke 18:8; 2 Timothy 3:1-8.
(3) the removal of that which restrains the mystery of lawlessness 2 Thessalonians 2:6,7...
(4) the manifestation of the lawless one 2 Thessalonians 2:8-10; Daniel 7:8; 9:27; Matthew 24:15; Revelation 13:2-10
(5) the coming of Christ in glory and the destruction of the lawless one 2 Thessalonians 2:8; Revelation 19:11-21

Thus, the idea that the lawless one may become known after the time of the falling away, is not unique to some in the COG. 

A Falling Away From What?

To me, the context on 2 Thessalonians 2:1-3, which is addressed to the “brethren” suggests that the falling away/the rebellion/the apostasy (the Greek term is apostasia) is against the true faith.  The abundance of other scriptures strongly support this belief.  Biblically, 2 Thessalonians is addressed to the Church in the same way Revelation's Church eras are addressed to the Church of God.  Even Dr. Winnail taught that 2 Thessalonians 2:1–13 applies to Thyatira in his earlier article of Seven Lessons From Seven Churches (TW, Jan-Feb 2010).

The Bible shows that Philadelphians are to “hold fast” (Revelation 3:11). 

Actually ten times in the New Testament (NKJV) Christians are specifically told to “hold fast” (1 Corinthians 15:2; 1 Thessalonians 5:21; 1 Timothy 1:13; Hebrews 3:6, 4:14, 10:23; Revelation 2:13;, 2:25, 3:3, 3:11); and three times it uses the expression “holding fast” as something Christians should be doing (Philippians 2:16; Colossians 2:19; Titus 1:9).  The Old Testament also tells those who are supposed to be God’s people to “hold fast” six times (Deuteronomy 10:20, 11:22, 13:4; Joshua 22:5, 23:8; Isaiah 56:4). 

De-emphasizing that the falling away has to be from the truth, but instead applies to non-believers without COG connection, diminishes the warning to those who hope to be in the COG that they are at risk.  Furthermore, as we all know, Laodiceans do not believe that they need to heed the warning (Revelation 3:17-18) or to hold fast (cf. Revelation 3:10-11), but according to Jesus they do (Revelation 3:19-20).

Also, similar to 2 Thessalonians 2:3, 2 Thessalonians 2:15 tells the “brethren” to “stand fast” and hold what they what they have learned.  Obviously, this is a warning to those who Paul considered to be among the Church of God brethren (cf. 2 Thessalonians 1:1).  Notice also three more times the term “stand fast” is shown (NKJV):

13 Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong. (1 Corinthians 16:13)

1 Therefore, my beloved and longed-for brethren, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, beloved. (Philippians 4:1)

8 For now we live, if you stand fast in the Lord. (1 Thessalonians 3:8)

Paul also warned, “him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall (1 Corinthians 10:12)—in Corinthians 10:1, Paul is addressing “brethren” who think that they are part of the actual Church of God (1 Corinthians 10:32), not some apostate group.  In Hebrews 6:4-6, it warns that those that partakers of the Holy Spirit that “fall away” cannot get it again in “the age to come.”  

Notice what Herbert Armstrong himself wrote about that:

“It is IMPOSSIBLE for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted of the good Word of God . . . if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh‘ (Heb. 6:4-6). Let it be a warning to ALL, and let all FEAR and TREMBLE before the all-powerful WORD OF GOD! Why, we would not be the true Church of God, unless a few had turned away from the truth! (Armstrong HW.  Why Local Assemblies? Good News, March 1954, p. 2)

In his letter to Timothy, the Apostle Paul referred to a departure of the faith in his time:

15 This you know, that all those in Asia have turned away from me, among whom are Phygellus and Hermogenes. (2 Timothy 1:15)

A departure from the faith is consistent with the prophecies for a falling away. He also wrote to Timothy about apparent believers turning to Satan and others leaving because of what is falsely called science:

14 Therefore I desire that the younger widows marry, bear children, manage the house, give no opportunity to the adversary to speak reproachfully. 15 For some have already turned aside after Satan. (1 Timothy 5:14-15)

20 O Timothy! Guard what was committed to your trust, avoiding the profane and idle babblings and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge — 21 by professing it some have strayed concerning the faith. (1 Timothy 6:20-21)

Jesus indicated that when He returned there would not really be many that were faithful:

8 Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth? (Luke 18:8).

Paul also indicated that when he stated:

5 Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? (2 Thessalonians 2:5).

Paul was not speaking to the world in that verse above.

Paul may also have been indicating a future falling away when he also wrote:

1 But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come…8 Now as Jannes and Jambres resisted Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, disapproved concerning the faith; 9 but they will progress no further, for their folly will be manifest to all, as theirs also was (2 Timothy 3:1,8-9).

Furthermore, this is consistent with Paul’s other writings.  Notice:

1 Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons…(1 Timothy 4:1).

Some, if not most, who left the old WCG and left the FAITH have succumbed to listening to doctrinal arguments that are certainly not scriptural, hence are mainly demonic in origin. 

Of course, any who leave the true church in the end to follow (or at least partially believe) the demonically-inspired son of perdition will also fit this prophecy as both the Beast and the false prophet are deceivers influenced by demons:

13 And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs coming out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. 14 For they are spirits of demons, performing signs (Revelation 16:13-14).

Notice also the following:

1 I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: 2 Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; 4 and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.  (2 Timothy 4:1-5)

The Apostle Paul is telling Timothy to preach to the brethren what he should for at some time they will listen to other teachers who promote fables.  Is not turning to Christmas and Easter “turning aside to fables” like many of those who supported some version of the Tkach apostasy did? 

Polycarp of Smyrna, who was apparently ordained by the Apostle John, warned Christians to not follow those who departed from the faith while referring to 2 Timothy 3:5 and 1 Timothy 4:1-2 (Polycarp's Letter to the Philippians, Chapter VI). Was not the Tkach -era apostasy the biggest one ever in the history of the Church of God--especially in peace time--a time without violent persecution? This is the type of falling away that the Apostle Paul, Polycarp of Smyrna, and the church of the late Herbert W. Armstrong warned about.

The Late Herbert Armstrong and the Late Dr. Herman Hoeh

And to take this one step further, on 1/29/13 I specifically asked Aaron Dean, who served as a personal aide to Herbert Armstrong in his latter years and probably spent more time with him then than any currently in any of the COGs how Herbert W. Armstrong viewed the falling away in his latter years. Aaron Dean specifically told me that it was Herbert W. Armstrong's view that the falling away would come as the result of his death and that at least 50% would fall away. Well, that did happen as the result of the Tkach-apostasy. Yet, some others wish to act like this is not really how Herbert Armstrong viewed the falling away--but it was (despite some proof-texting that Herbert Armstrong sometimes did).

Furthermore, please consider what the late Dr. Hoeh wrote:

“Let no man deceive you by any means; for that day”-the time of God’s  intervention in human affairs when Jesus Christ will return to rule the nations--“shall not come except there come a falling away FIRST” (I1 Thess. 2: 3 ). The wholesale departure of Christians from the truth was the FIRST event prophesied to befall the true Church…

The world doesn’t want to receive the truth, but would rather be lulled to sleep by false ministers who preach what the people want to hear…

In instructing the evangelist Timothy, the apostle to the Gentiles instructed him to “reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine. For the time will come that they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts”-the congregations wanting to do what they please--“shall they heap to themselves teachers”--elect ministers who will preach what they want to hear --“and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables” (I1 Timothy 4: 3, 4).

This was in the days of the apostles and evangelists, not at the Protestant Revolt! MANY who fellowshipped in the local congregations of the early church, after about two generations, did not endure sound doctrine because they had not repented and received the Holy Spirit.  (Hoeh H.  Why So Many Denominations?  Plain Truth, September 1953, pp. 3,4)

Hence, Dr. Hoeh applied this to the church.  But, at least once, as cited earlier HWA applied at least part of 2 Timothy 4:3-4 to the world’s churches (Armstrong HW. End Time Falling Away,  HA103A.MP3)—but HWA sometimes proof texted and cited the same scripture for different purposes.

It is the which Bible shows that 1 Timothy 4:1 and 2 Timothy 4:3-4 support that a departure from THE FAITH is prophesied—and it is the Bible, and not sometimes conflicting Radio/Worldwide Church of God positions, that must be the guide for those trying to be most faithful.  Both the terms for “the” and “faith” are in the original Greek in 1 Timothy 4:1. 

Some Protestant Comments and the Apostasia

This seems also to be the contention of some Protestant scholars, which, again, are not always relevant.  However, the following written by a Protestant Greek scholar provides a bit more rational for that view from the perspective of the New Testament Greek related to 2 Thessalonians:

Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament
Except the falling away come first (ean mh elqh h apostasia prwton). Negative condition of the third class, undetermined with prospect of determination and the aorist subjunctive. Apostasia is the late form of apostasiß and is our word apostasy. Plutarch uses it of political revolt and it occurs in I Macc. 2:15 about Antiochus Epiphanes who was enforcing the apostasy from Judaism to Hellenism. In Joshua 22:22 it occurs for rebellion against the Lord. It seems clear that the word here means a religious revolt and the use of the definite article (h) seems to mean that Paul had spoken to the Thessalonians about it. The only other New Testament use of the word is in Acts 21:21 where it means apostasy from Moses. It is not clear whether Paul means revolt of the Jews from God, of Gentiles from God, of Christians from God, or of the apostasy that includes all classes within and without the body of Christians. But it is to be first (prwton) before Christ comes again. Note this adverb when only two events are compared (cf. Acts 1:1). And the man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition (kai apokalupqh o anqrwpoß thß anomiaß, o uioß thß apwleiaß). First aorist passive subjunctive after ean mh and same condition as with elqh. The use of this verb apokaluptw, like apokalupsin of the second coming in Acts 1:7, seems to note the superhuman character (Milligan) of the event and the same verb is repeated in verses Acts 2:6,8. The implication is that the man of sin is hidden somewhere who will be suddenly manifested just as false apostles pose as angels of light (2 Corinthians 11:13), whether the crowning event of the apostasy or another name for the same event.

Thus, at least one Greek scholar seems to feel that the Greek is likely referring to the falling way from the true faith (though he grants a Gentile option), and that the “hidden” man of sin will (later as he is initially hidden) then appear.  Perhaps I should mention that one objected to the above as he said it did not prove my point and allowed that his could be correct.  I told him that I was trying to prove nothing from Protestant writers other than the fact that the Greek in 2 Thessalonians could be read the way I read it.

Continuing onward, as A.T. Robertson indicated, there is one other time that a slight variation of the word apostasia is used in the New Testament:

20 And when they heard it, they glorified the Lord. And they said to him, "You see, brother, how many myriads of Jews there are who have believed, and they are all zealous for the law; 21 but they have been informed about you that you teach all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children nor to walk according to the customs. (Acts 21:20-21)

Clearly, those who were referring to the falling away above were referring to what they thought was the only true faith.  And that is what apostasia conveys.

Now while some have claimed that the sequence in 2 Thessalonians makes the “falling away” happen at the same time that the son of perdition is revealed and can only happen when the false miracles are occurring, notice that a sequence Jesus taught that seems to be directly related shows otherwise:

9 "Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name's sake.  10 And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another.  11 Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. 12 And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.  13 But he who endures to the end shall be saved.  14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come. 15 "Therefore when you see the 'abomination of desolation,' spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place" (whoever reads, let him understand), 16 "then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.  (Matthew 24:9-16)

The above is discussing the falling away into lawlessness by those who were presumed to be real Christians (and HWA concurred with that in a 1976 sermon I heard).  Because Christians are advised to endure to the end, this suggests a gap of time between the time when the love of many will grow cold and the final appearance of the son of perdition.  There scriptures about false prophets rising up may include those that claim to be part of the COG (such as Gerald Flurry, William Dankenbring, and Ronald Weinland), and likely includes others who will not claim a COG background (Harold Camping comes to mind as he helped turn people away from Bible prophecy, as well as those who falsely claim that the world will end in 2012).

Yet, it should be noted that it is those who are currently outside the COGs that are basically condemned by Jesus for practicing lawlessness now per Matthew 7:23—and they do not need to wait for the son of perdition to become lawless.

But Jesus also had warnings for those who should have been faithful Christians:

22 Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful. (Matthew 13:22)

34 "But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly. 35 For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth. 36 Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man." (Luke 21:34-36)

And the above problems afflect many.

Could it Be a Falling Away from the Historical Position of Protestants that the Pope Represents the Antichrist?

In the past, some have suggested that the falling away is a rebellion by Protestants from some of their foundational beliefs (such as the Pope is antichrist). 

While intuitively I have major problems with this position (nor is it consistent with 1 Timothy 4:1), some of the latter verses in 2 Thessalonians 2 suggest that possibly a larger audience is being considered.

Particularly the statements in verses 11 and 12:

11 And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, 12 that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness (2 Thessalonians 2:11-12).

And the question is, “Who is that strong delusion sent to?”

While it certainly also includes the world (cf. Matthew 24:23-24), it would seem also to speak to some who appeared to be in the Church but who rebelled.

3 Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. 4 For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ (Jude 3-4).

While people like the Tkachs have apparently fulfilled Jude verse 4, the problem with applying 2 Thessalonians 2:3 to Protestants/Roman Catholics is that Protestants/Roman Catholics have never had the faith that was once for all delivered, hence it makes little sense that they could depart from something that they never really had. 

LCG's Dr. Meredith wrote that the Protestant/Catholic churches are already lawless:

People today are confused about the true religion of Jesus Christ. Those who profess Christianity are divided into hundreds of competing sects and denominations…The religion that assumed the name of Christianity adopted the pagan concepts and practices of the Babylonian Mystery Religion in direct violation of the law of God! In 2 Thessalonians 2:7, the Apostle Paul referred to this as the "mystery of lawlessness" (Meredith RC.  Searching for True Christianity.  TW, May-June 2002).

Therefore should it not be LCG’s view that Protestants/Catholics are unable to fall away from biblical truth because they already practice lawlessness? 

Furthermore, perhaps it should be mentioned that there will be a greater “falling away” from spiritual lethargy by around 1-1.5 billion Catholics when the son of perdition rises up, than Protestants coming to them.  The news the past Summer reported a rise in the number of atheists and the “non-religious” in Europe and Asia (Zaimov S. Asia and Europe see rise in atheism.  The Christian Post, August 9, 2012. http://www.christiantoday.com/article/asia.and.europe. see.rise.in.atheism/30442.htm), and those type of people have already rejected the “fundamentals of biblical Christianity” without waiting for the “sin of perdition” rising up accompanied by signs and wonders.  The reality is that instead of rebelling against their historical faith, more Catholics and others in the world will actually turn to a version of it.

Additionally, it may be of interest to note that there is a related Greek word, apostasion (Strong’s 647), that means something separative, and all three times it is used in the New Testament, it is always specifically translated as “of divorcement” (NKJV).   The relative permanency of apostasion and its close relationship to apostasia suggests to me that the falling away (apostasia) is not a simple rebellion that Protestants may decide to change their minds about later (like when some of them respond to the two witnesses), but an intentional rebellion from the truth.

I also believe that the view 2 Thessalonians 2:3 is speaking about Protestants and/or Catholics is not correct because:

  1. We of the Philadelphia remnant should know who the son of perdition is well before the world totally falls after him.
  2. The son of perdition has not yet been fully revealed.
  3. The falling away is listed in scripture as to first precede the revealing of the son of perdition and I do not believe that the ecumenical movement per se (that many Protestants and Catholics are now part of) really fits this.
  4. There was a major falling away that preceded the revealing of the son of perdition during the Tkach-era.
  5. The Tkach-era falling away has preceded the final fulfillment of Matthew 24:14-16. 
  6. Lawlessness, by many, was the result of the Tkach-era falling away.
  7. A falling away from the world’s religions, such as Protestants and Catholics more directly again embracing Catholicism (which was the original faith of most of the Protestant reformers) would not be a departure from the true faith (1 Timothy 4:1).

While it is obvious that the whole world will worship the beast (Revelation 13:3-4), since this is not now God’s world (cf. John 15:19), I do not believe that the apostasia in 2 Thessalonians 2:3 can be referring to people of the world (though the fact that people will leave the truth shows that they are somehow worldly). 

There Are Changes to Two Groups

On the other hand, the true biblical position does not have to be an exclusive either or.  I do believe that a future falling away for the COG not only is possible, it will happen (cf. Daniel 11:33-35).  Whether it is the Tkach-era or the future departure from the faith was intended by God in 2 Thessalonians 2:3 will be known later.

The end time Philadelphia message identifying that the prince in Daniel 9:26-27 will be the King of the North and will cause desolation is one that will separate us in the Continuing Church of God from the other COG groups.  Circumstances, as well as persecutions that the King of the North partially institutes, will likely lead to some affiliated with the Philadelphia remnant will leave it (some in other COGs will also likely be affected as Satan’s servants will not always clearly discriminate).

Warning the World

While a falling away has occurred within the Church of God under the Tkach era and another will happen in the future, that does not mean that we should not warn the Protestants, Catholics, Orthodox, and others that they are going to be subject to deception.

However, instead of teaching that THIS deception of verses 11 and 12 is the “falling away” of 2 Thessalonians 2:3, I believe it is truer and more profitable that to teach that the ecumenical movement that has been embraced by many Catholics, Protestants, and Orthodox will lead to what is warned against by Revelation 13:4-8, 2 Thessalonians 2:11-12, Daniel 11:36-39, and Matthew 24:24, and that throughout history, people associated with the true Church of God have often “falling away” from the truth, and some will in the future (Daniel 11:32-35).

This, I believe, is the message that we should emphasize to the world, and to a degree has been done before.  There are warnings to two groups in 2 Thessalonians 2 and both need to be proclaimed.

One can believe that the falling away can be related to the falling away from the truth and still proclaim that the vast majority of humankind will be deceived by the signs and lying wonders of 2 Thessalonians 2:8-12.    

There is a tremendous opportunity to better document and explain how the Philadelphia remnant of the COG has retained original Apostolic Christianity, how and when the Greco-Romans lost it, and what the compromises of ecumenicalism will mean to the Protestants/Catholics/Orthodox than has been publicly been done before. 

Realize, for one small example, that if one of every 10,000 (0.01%) Orthodox pay enough attention to Christ’s end-time message about not supporting the ecumenical plans of Rome and instead supports the genuine COG, that this small percentage would mean over 20,000 people!  And while that may be unlikely (especially since the Russian Orthodox make up the bulk of their membership), it should give us some reasons to understand why we being more explicit in public warnings about the ecumenical movement for the Protestants (who have about twice the adherents of the Orthodox) and the also Orthodox. 

I perhaps should also state that there are possibly multiple millions of Roman Catholics who are skeptical of the ecumenical movement themselves—and that they can point to Catholic prophecies warning against an ecumenical Catholic leader who will accept “the errors” of the Orthodox and the Protestants—and we of the Philadelphia remnant, specifically the Continuing Church of God should not neglect trying to specifically reach them, as other COG-related groups have tended to do. 

And I believe that this is the time to emphasize all that.  And I believe that there are ways that this can be done and still be allowed to be on television, internet, and radio stations (such as referring to Catholic writings that warn against the rise of an ecumenical “antipope” for one example).

But, that still is different than applying the falling away on 2 Thessalonians 2:3 to the Protestants and Catholics and other unbelievers.

Thus, I do believe that the apostasia in 2 Thessalonians 2:3 seems likely to be referring to a COG falling away, like the Tkach-era one.  And that it may instead (or also, as there have been numerous “fallings away” from the truth throughout COG history) include another falling away of those affiliated with the Church of God at the time of the end—which will happen. I also believe that to imply that those who agree with this view have somehow been affected by Satan as two non-CCOG sermons I have seen indicates is terribly wrong. 

However, it perhaps should be mentioned that it would seem that the Protestant/Catholic/Orthodox/Others deception of 2 Thessalonians 2:8-12 is just one more step in them rejecting the need to live by the word of God and the original Christian faith, and not the falling away of 2 Thessalonians 2:3. 

There are warnings to two groups in 2 Thessalonians 2 and both need to be proclaimed.

Thiel B. The Falling Away: The Bible and WCG Teachings. 2012/2013/2014/2016 1031

There are also two YouTube videos on the subject that you can watch The Falling Away Part 1: From the Bible and Church History and The Falling Away Part 2: Positions Presented by Others.

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The Falling Away Part 2: Positions Promoted by Others

AKA Concerns about Statements from Dr. Winnail's The Falling Away Sermon

On June 1, 2012 Dr. Douglas Winnail recorded a “must play” sermon on The Falling Away that had many disturbing aspects to it.  After I mentioned a few of them to Dr. Winnail, he sent me a letter dated August 10, 2012 that stated the following:

The Council of Elders discussed this issue on a number of occasions over the last two years, and what I presented in the sermon was a compilation of what the Council had previously agreed upon.

Dr. Winnail’s sermon starts out by stating that some have a “narrow view” of the subject based on assumptions and reading things into scripture. 

Yet, the sermon seems to have sometimes done the same thing as it simply does not quote many scriptures that seem highly relevant. Dr. Winnail states that “a number of lines of evidence” that he will provide will make the right position understood.  But his “lines of evidence” are based mainly upon non-biblical sources and not the totality of scripture, which is a major concern (e.g. 1 Timothy 4:1; Matthew 24:12-13; 2 Timothy 4:3, etc.). 

Clearly Sets the Living Church of God Apart?

During Dr. Winnail’s sermon, there is a screen that displays the following:

Falling Away - Implications
Clarifying this issue and powerfully delivering this prophetic warning about a universal falling away from the fundamentals of biblical Christianity, led by a Beast, a Man of Sin and Miracles will clearly set the Living Church of God apart from false prophets and false apostles who preach the falling away has already occurred in WCG...

This is why a correct understanding of the Falling Away is important!

* Enable LCG to deliver a powerful warning about a major prophetic end time event that is coming in the years just ahead!

* Will set LCG apart from false teachers who are saying this event has already occurred.
(Winnail D. The Falling Away. Must-Play DVD DVE704, June 1, 2012)

It is unclear how teaching it Dr. Winnail’s way enables LCG to preach the warning message better than it could before.

In that sermon he orally stated (words may not be exact as they are from my notes), “This will be an issue that will clearly set apart the Living Church of God from others who will be teaching something very different...This is also going to set the Living Church of God apart from false teachers that say it has already happened.  It doesn't fit with the prophecies of Jesus Christ or the prophecies of Revelation...This perspective that 2 Thessalonians 2 only applies to the Church of God takes it out of its biblical and historical context.”

Are all of his assertions and conclusions justified based upon the totality of the related scriptures?  His sermon left out scriptures that seem to support a different view.  But he states that his view is what will set the Living Church of God apart from others.  This now a doctrine that defines the Living Church of God?

Numbers Are Problematic.  Does the Whole World Worship the Beast?

In the sermon, Dr. Winnail stated:

Revelation 13 says the whole world worships the Beast...its not going to affect everybody, but it is going to affect billions of people.

This is problematic for several reasons.  His sermon specifically teaches that BILLIONS  are going to fall away in order to support the False Prophet (a presumably Catholic “antipope”), and the likely (initially at least) nominally-Catholic Beast.   And he insists that these billions will fall away “from the fundamentals of biblical Christianity.”  This is also consistent with a recent 2012 statement from Dr. Meredith about billions.

Yet, the Church of God has never taught that billions have ever accepted “the fundamentals of biblical Christianity.” 

Repeatedly, the sermon asserts that the falling away of 2 Thessalonians 2:3 was not a past event involving the Church of God nor the past several decades of Americans falling further away from biblically-based morality. 

Instead Dr. Winnail refers to this as a future falling away, which he states, happens near the time when the False Prophet does miracles—which he further tie in with the Day of the Lord (quotes later in this paper).  Presumably, it would be the Europeans and others who support them that Dr. Winnail was referring to?

However, precisely who Dr. Winnail was referring to as actually composing the billions to fall away is hard to determine.  There are approximately 2.2 billion people with nominal ties to Christianity.   If we eliminate the Anglo-nations, there may not even be billions of nominal Christians on the earth (and if we eliminate various Catholics the number is even smaller—there are less than one billion Protestants, including those in the Anglo-lands).  It would seem that Dr. Winnail was not teaching that there will be a resurgence in the numbers who are not part of the Church of God, but who will hold to “the fundamentals of biblical Christianity” and later be part of the falling away.

Furthermore, his statement “its not going to affect everybody” is also problematic.

Revelation 13 states:

7 It was granted to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them. And authority was given him over every tribe, tongue, and nation. 8 All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. (Revelation 13:7-8)

So this looks like a conflict between that scripture and one of the sermon statements.  A few years ago, Dr. Winnail seemed to tell me that it was only the area of the revived Roman empire that would worship the Beast.  When I disagreed, he told me that others agreed with him.

Although I did ask who are the billions who fall away, what do they fall away from, and does this include the whole of the unconverted world? This was never answered 

Herbert Armstrong

The written portion of the presentation states:

HWA Quotes II Thes. 2:3

Jesus and the apostles foretold...a falling away from the truth on the part of the great Majority.  Prophesying a popular, universal falling away from the faith once delivered, to the Thessalonians Paul stated...PT about Easter, HWA, 1957, 1973 ed.

And then in the oral presentation, Dr. Winnail was essentially reading the above then stated that HWA “then quoted 2 Thessalonians 2:3.”

Yet in the above booklet HWA quoted 2 Thessalonians 2:7, not 2:3 as the heading showed and Dr. Winnail stated.  By showing what was shown and stating what is stated, it gives a specific view that is not accurate.  Considering that this is a project that he was working on for years, this type of error suggests making assumptions about details.

Dr. Winnail after referring to another HWA writing states that “he (HWA) is not applying 2 Thessalonians 2:3 to the Church of God... 2 Thessalonians 2:3...he (HWA) did not apply it only to the Church of God.” 

In that “must-play” sermon, he specifically refers to the November 11, 1949 co-worker letter and shows something that says that HWA was quoting 2 Thessalonians 2:3 in it, etc. 

HWA Quotes II Thes. 2:3

Yet, while it was apparently alluded to, the quotations marks in that letter are from 2 Thessalonians 2:7, not 2:3. 

Furthermore, while Dr. Winnail’s interpretation of the co-worker letter gives one impression, a literal read of the actual letter is consistent with the view that there is a falling away from the truth and that to this day the popular churches already teach a false message: Herbert Armstrong wrote:

He prophesied there would be a GREAT FALLING AWAY from Christ’s true message.  He was inspired to write that the popular churches would turn away from the TRUTH and believe FABLES.  John, in Revelation, was inspired to foretell that ALL NATIONS
would be deceived. And so today the churches preach their OWN “gospel” about the PERSON of Christ… (Armstrong HW.  Co-worker letter, November 11, 1949)

While HWA may have combined aspects together, in the above, HWA separated the idea of falling away from the truth and the whole world being deceived.

Dr. Winnail stated that HWA quoted 2 Thessalonians 2:3 in a March 1960 Good News article titled,  How You Could Commit the Unpardonable Sin!  Yet, I could not find it.  Why? That article did not actually quote 2 Thessalonians 2:3.

Every single time when the sermon screen showed "HWA Quotes II Thes. 2:3" in not one of those written citations all of which I have read, did I ever find that HWA actually quoted 2 Thessalonians 2:3.

Now, there was a radio citation from Dr. Winnail that I had not found, but that was emailed to me on August 6, 2012 as follows:

“Listen!  ‘Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day [the day of the coming of Christ] shall not come, except there come a falling away first.’  Has that falling away happened?  That doesn’t mean a few people, it doesn’t mean a few radicals or fanatics.  The whole world was to be deceived.  There you are.  Now my friends, there is the prophecy… Now we’ve grown up in the doctrines and practices of this deceptive world, a deceived world, in this great delusion, this great deception, this great falling away that your Bible said is coming.”  [HWA 1983 Radio Broadcast over KIEV, Glendale]

The above is a quote of 2 Thessalonians 2:3.  And, yet it seems, to me at least, that HWA has combined that with verses 8-12 as he had sometimes done in the past.  And that does not mean that the Apostle Paul was not trying to get the message of 2 Thessalonians 2 to Christians.  Scripture, and not sometimes combined statements by Herbert Armstrong, should be the criteria. 

But as far as Herbert Armstrong personally went, realize that he and/or his church repeatedly taught that the falling away was an event that would affect those with ties to the Church of God. And to take this one step further, on 1/29/13 I specifically asked Aaron Dean, who served as a personal aide to Herbert Armstrong in his latter years and probably spent more time with him then than any currently in any of the COGs how Herbert W. Armstrong viewed the falling away in his latter years. Aaron Dean specifically told me that it was Herbert W. Armstrong's view that the falling away would come as the result of his death and that at least 50% of the WCG would fall away. Well, that did happen as the result of the Tkach-apostasy. Yet, some others wish to act like this is not really how Herbert Armstrong viewed the falling away--but it was (despite some proof-texting that Herbert Armstrong sometimes did).

Getting back to the falling away sermon, the written portion of the presentation, which Dr. Winnail also orally mentioned, states:

HWA did not apply “the” falling away to church members who know the truth and fall away.

And while we can argue about the word “the” above, in The Incredible Human Potential on pages 161-162, Herbert Armstrong directly ties 2 Thessalonians 2:3 to Church of God members, and on page 8 tied 2 Thessalonians 2:7 to the world.  There is no writing that I found from HWA or published under his leadership that specifically taught that 2 Thessalonians 2:3 did not apply to those who thought that they were part of the true COG.  As shown in the first part of this paper, certainly the church he ran did.  The fact that HWA sometimes combined them does not mean that  “HWA did not apply “the” falling away to church members who know the truth and fall away.

Protestants, Catholics, and Others

The written portion of the presentation states:

The Falling Away...some assume the “falling away” can only be from the Church of God, and cannot apply to Protestants and Catholics since they have already fallen away from the Truth.

Well, the Protestants and Roman/Orthodox Catholics have never had enough of “the Truth,” and thus while they may have different forms of rebellion against God, since they have not been granted “the love of the truth” (2 Thessalonians 2:10) they are not “falling away” from it.

LCG's Dr. Meredith wrote that the Protestant/Catholic churches are already lawless:

People today are confused about the true religion of Jesus Christ. Those who profess Christianity are divided into hundreds of competing sects and denominations…The religion that assumed the name of Christianity adopted the pagan concepts and practices of the Babylonian Mystery Religion in direct violation of the law of God! In 2 Thessalonians 2:7, the Apostle Paul referred to this as the "mystery of lawlessness" (Meredith RC.  Searching for True Christianity.  TW, May-June 2002).

His co-worker letter of May 18, 2012 stated:

From this turmoil, a powerful leader will emerge whom your Bible calls the “Beast” in Revelation 17. As stated in the news release quoted above, this will be “a return to the Holy Roman Empire”! Also, because of the financial, political and religious chaos in Europe, a powerful resurgence of the Roman Catholic Church will take place. It will be truly stunning. And it will be powerful! For a charismatic, miracle-working pope will arise. All kinds of “miracles,” visions of the Virgin Mary and other strange sights and events will begin to take place—startling many and causing many to return to the historical “mother church” of Rome. Many tens of millions will return to their Catholic heritage throughout Europe.

A return is not a falling away. Actually, I would add that those who do end up embracing a type of end time ecumenical Catholicism will conclude that they are turning towards the Christian faith, not falling farther away from it. Most in Europe are quite secular and they will actually change and embrace a faith claimed biblical ties, not be going away from it in their minds.

The written portion of the presentation states:

Nelsons New Christian Dictionary - 2001
apostasy -- (G. falling away) total renunciation of the Christian faith

The above, which Dr. Winnail endorsed and applied to those outside the COG, is additional proof that there are scriptural concerns here.  It is the faithful Church of God position that a False Prophet, with ties to Rome, will rise up and do miracles.  And that, at first at least, the Beast and False Prophet will lead people to follow some version of Roman Catholicism (even though their supporters will later betray that church per Revelation 17:16-17).  And while I am not endorsing that religion, it is improper to suggest that those who turn to it because of miracles are endorsing “a total renunciation of the Christian faith” in the context that Dr. Winnail is suggesting.  The people who will follow the False Prophet and the Beast, at least initially, will tend to feel that they are returning to their understanding of “the Christian faith.”

The written portion of the presentation, which Dr. Winnail also orally mentions, states:

Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible -1963
apostasy -- defections from the tenants of a religious group

After showing this, he specifically stated, “It (the term apostasy) is not just limited to the truth as we understand it.”

Yet, most of those who will apparently be deceived by the signs and lying wonders (2 Thessalonians 2:8-12), like the Europeans, have already defected from the tenants of a religious group (with many totally rejecting any religious ties).  So, is this supposed to be referring to a defection from Islam, Hinduism, atheism, agnosticism?  It would not biblically seem to make sense.

Furthermore, the Bible shows that God will turn them over to this, not that they will fall away. 2 Thessalonians 2:11: God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie. They will not be falling away, but embracing additional lies. Why? Because as 2 Thessalonians 2:10 states, they had insufficient love of the truth. Thus, they are not falling away for the truth, which they never really had, but embracing lies as they were never truly desirous of the truth of God.

The Context and Timing and Apostasia

The written portion of the presentation, which Dr. Winnail also orally mentions, states:

The content of II Thes. 2:3 indicates “the great rebellion against God” will occur in conjunction with the activities of “the man of sin” at the end of the age, just before the return of Jesus Christ.

Dr. Winnail also then states that it is an assumption that the falling away could come well before the revealing of the son of perdition.  Yet, the passage in 2 Thessalonians 2:3 states that the falling away comes first, then the man of sin is revealed and it is not until verse 8 that signs and lying wonders are specifically mentioned—Dr. Winnail’s use of the term assumption seems to be odd .  Again, notice what Herman Hoeh wrote:

“Let no man deceive you by any means; for that day”-the time of God’s  intervention in human affairs when Jesus Christ will return to rule the nations--“shall not come except there come a falling away FIRST” (I1 Thess. 2: 3 ). The wholesale departure of Christians from the truth was the FIRST event prophesied to befall the true Church.
(Hoeh H.  Why So Many Denominations?  Plain Truth, September 1953, p. 3)

The falling away is not specifically listed as happening after the signs and lying wonders, but according to the Bible, before.  Though, another could come closer to it if the future falling away in Daniel 11:32-35 is the same one that Paul was referring to in 2 Thessalonians 2:3.

The written portion of the presentation, which Dr. Winnail also orally mentions, states that the context of 2 Thessalonians 2 cannot refer to events that are decades before Jesus returns.  Dr. Winnail stated that the Tkach-era falling away occurred in 1995, and the falling away could not be 15 or 20 years later.

Yet, Jesus' own words state the signs that Christians should watch out for will happen during the time of a particular generation:

34 Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place.  (Matthew 24:34)

Jesus probably would not have used the expression generation if all the events were quite imminently closely connected.  While Jesus’ words above do not prove that the Tkach-era falling away is the one of 2 Thessalonians 2:3, and perhaps it was not, they most certainly do not disprove it as Dr. Winnail seems to be teaching.

However, even if the events of 2 Thessalonians 2:3 and the miracles associated with the son of perdition are as closely tied together as Dr. Winnail insists, this does not preclude the possibility that the falling away will not mainly be from the Church of God.

Dr. Winnail, while claiming that parts of 2 Thessalonians 2:3 cannot have a time gap of any significance based upon some Protestant commentators, then goes out and essentially states that these two things dominate the beginning of the Day of the Lord.

But, the position of the Church of God has been that the Day of the Lord lasts one year (Isaiah 34:8; 61:1-3) and happens 2 1/2 years after the beginning of the Great Tribulation.  Thus, his words seem to be contradicting that COG teaching—unless Dr. Winnail means that it happens during the Day of the Lord.  It is unclear to me if LCG changed its Day of the Lord teachings on this as well as this was not answered.  If not, it is confusing as to why parts of his position shared as part of the Council of Elders' meeting in May 2012, an article placed in the TW, and this “must-play” sermon put together for all to watch.

The written portion of the presentation, which Dr. Winnail also orally mentions, states:

NT Scriptures - “apostasia”
“Apostasy” and “Falling Away” are not used exclusively to refer to a falling away from the Truth or the Church

Yet, the only two times a version of Strong's word 646 “apostasia” is used in the New Testament it seems to be referring to the truth--either the truth as the Jewish religious leaders understood it (Acts 21:21) or as the brethren (2 Thessalonians 2:1,3) were to understand it.  And for the Truth of the Church this can be confirmed by other NT writings, such as 1 Timothy 4:1.

Additionally, it may be of interest to note that there is a related Greek word, apostasion (Strong’s 647), that means something separative, and all three times it is used in the New Testament, it is always specifically translated as “of divorcement” (NKJV).   The relative permanency of apostasion and its close relationship to apostasia suggests to me that the falling away (apostasia) is not a simple rebellion that Protestants/Catholics may decide to change their minds about later (like when some of them respond to the two witnesses), but an intentional rebellion from the truth.

The written portion of the presentation, which Dr. Winnail also orally mentions, states:

The falling away in WCG was significant for the COG, but barely a blip on the world's radar.

While his sermon makes a big deal of the fact that the world barely noticed this, please understand that not only is the letter of 2 Thessalonians 1:1 addressed to “the church,” but in chapter 2:1 the “brethren”  are specifically being admonished--these words are Christians, not the world.  The world will notice later that they are supporting the Beast/Great Monarch and the False Prophet/Antipope, but most of them will not (probably until sometime after the start of the Day of the Lord) consider that they have fallen away from the Roman Catholic version of “Christianity” when they do so.  Yet, later Dr. Winnail seemingly dismissed the COG falling away because the world did not notice it—but the world will not consider itself falling a religious leader doing miracles as “the falling away” either. 

Contrary to what the sermon stated, it matters not that the world did not consider the Tkach apostasy to be much.  Prophecy, according to Paul is for believers, not unbelievers:

22...prophesying is not for unbelievers but for those who believe. (1 Corinthians 14:22) 

Non-believers are already deceived (Revelation 12:9) and will also be further deceived during the end times (Matthew 24:24; 2 Thessalonians 2:8-12).

Dr. Winnail, slightly before that, but after the mentioning the “blip,” mentioned Matthew 24 and stated that Jesus was discussing things that would be increasingly happening in the world essentially for most to see.  Yet, he did not quote Matthew 24:12-13 which specifically refers to events affecting mainly the little flock (Luke 12:32) of true Christians:

12 And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. 13 But he who endures to the end shall be saved. (Matthew 24:12-13)

Matthew 24:12-13 is clearly speaking about those who had contact with real Christians and had real exposure to the truth.

Raymond McNair’s 1967 writing about Matthew 24:8-13, as was David Antion’s in 1968, is consistent with my own position, as well as that of HWA:

Christ sounded a fearful warning! “All these are the beginning of sorrows. Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you [referring to the terrible end-time persecutions, culminating in the Great Tribulation!]; and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake. And then shall many be offended and shall betray one another. and shall hate one another. . . . And because iniquity shall abound, THE LOVE OF MANY SHALL WAX COLD” (Mat. 24:8-12)! Have YOU taken this warning from your very Saviour personally? Have you made an inventory of your life lately to be sure you are not guilty of this charge? Christ also solemnly promised the overcomers: “He that shall ENDURE unto the end, the same shall be saved” (verse 13). (McNair R.  Will Your Love Wax Cold? Good News, April 1967, p. 7).

Notice His Mt. Olivet prophecy in Matthew 24… Jesus said, “And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold’ (verse 12)… “But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved” (verse 13). If only we can hold on through this terrible time of persecution, of sin, of false prophets!... Then Jesus says to yon: “And everyone that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; AND IT FELL: and great was the fall of it” (Mat. 7:26-27). (Antion D.  Will You Fall Away?  Good News.  May-June 1968, pp. 5, 21)

So, the above clearly shows that the old WCG did teach that Matthew 24:12-13 was referring to the church.  But Dr. Winnail’s sermon did not discuss that.

Referring to Protestants and Catholics as Christian

The written portion of the presentation, which Dr. Winnail also orally mentions, states:

Every American college (except one) prior to Revolutionary War was founded by a Christian Church.

Before the civil war, 92% (167 of 182) colleges and universities were founded by Christian Churches.

Obviously, Dr. Winnail was not trying to say that they were real Christians (which if he did, that goes against historical COG teachings), so why did he presented it as he did seems odd.

Dr. Winnail also orally declared:

Many of those colonists were Christians.  The majority of them were Christians...

There were relatively few actual Christian colonists.  He really should have used the term professing before Christian.  This type of thing happened many times and there is no point in quoting all of them. 

But there is one more point to make related to that.

Dr. Winnail actually indicates that having less people say “Merry Christmas” shows that people are falling away. However, an LCG commentary from December 24, 2011 states: “True Christians are forbidden from adopting pagan customs to honor God (Deuteronomy 12:29-32, Jeremiah 10:2, 2 Thessalonians 2:15)...”

So, I found many aspects of the sermon were disturbing.

Assertions and Charts

Dr. Winnail later stated, “Neither the falling away in WCG...neither of these can be the falling away of 2 Thessalonians 2:3.”

Dr. Winnail then showed a chart that says Matthew 24, but did not discuss the departure of faith by real Christians in that chapter.  

Dr. Winnail later stated that people have been deceived today into thinking that the falling away has already occurred.  However, since it is possible that the Tkach-era falling away could be the largest falling away of real Christians in the generation that could see Christ's return, it seems wrong to state that those who hold that view are deceived.   He perhaps should not have claimed that differences of opinion on this matter are equated to being deceived by false leaders--and yet he does.

The written portion of the presentation, which Dr. Winnail also orally mentions, states:

Ezekiel 3 & 33

Our job as watchman is to WARN about the Great Falling Away or Great Rebellion against God that is coming in the days just ahead.

            Assuming  - the Falling Away has already happened will prevent us from
delivering this important end time warning!

The above appears problematic on many levels, only a few of which I will mention here.  All Philadelphia-remnant Christians that I am aware of who believe that the Tkach-era falling away fulfilled 2 Thessalonians 2:3 still also believe that the portion of the world that does not have the love of the truth will be deceived (2 Thessalonians 2:8-12) and needs to be told about this as well as the gospel message.  My books 2012 and the Rise of the Secret Sect and Fatima Shock! warn that the Bible shows that all but the elect will be deceived by the signs and lying wonders, as 2 Thessalonians 2:8-12 and other passages of scripture (e.g. Matthew 24:24; Mark 13:22) teach.

While some groups claiming to be COG have used the Tkach-era falling away as justification for not doing the warning job they are irrelevant here.  For Dr. Winnail to boldly make the assertion here that believing/proving/assuming the one PREVENTS the other is illogical and not disagrees with the facts as I understand them.

The written portion of the presentation, which Dr. Winnail also orally mentions, states that teaching his view on the falling away will:

Enable LCG to deliver a power warning about a major prophetic end-time event that is coming in years just ahead!

The old WCG and I (at COGwriter, CCOG.org, plus in two-three published books) warn that the world is going to be even more deceived and sadly will follow false signs and lying wonders.  Dr. Winnail’s view does not ENABLE this as he is indicating as neither the old WCG nor I had that view.  Actually, perhaps my biggest concern is that the logic Dr. Winnail used in his LCG-studio scripted, and apparently officially-approved “must-play sermon” provided evidence that scriptures have been overlooked, church history has been misconstrued, and that the Philadelphia mantle had been dropped. 

Assumptions and the COG

The written portion of the presentation, which Dr. Winnail also orally mentions, states:

Why the Confusion?

Some assume that the Falling Away only applies to events that have occurred in the COG

While discussing this (as well as one time later), Dr. Winnail seemingly hints that this is why there is a lack of unity in the various COG groups.  It is much more than that.

The written portion of the presentation stated the following about the view that the falling away is COG related:

This perspective takes II Thessalonians totally out of its biblical and historical context!

Since most of the scriptures are included earlier in this paper, I will not repeat them here, but it seems that much of the biblical context was missing in that sermon.

Dr. Winnail also orally stated it slightly differently (again all oral comments from my notes so perhaps not exactly verbatim):

This perspective that 2 Thessalonians 2:3 only applies to the Church of God...takes it totally out of its biblical and its historical context.  It doesn't agree with what Jesus was talking about and it doesn't agree with what Paul was talking about in...1 Thessalonians 5, 2 Thessalonians 2, and Revelation 13.  They are talking about the same major event.

In 1 Thessalonians 5, Paul is warning the brethren that they do not need to have the day come upon them unawares as the world does.  Revelation 13 teaches that the world will worship the Beast.  Yet, they of themselves are not directly tied to 2 Thessalonians 2:3, but happen later as I have tried to explain in this paper.  

Then Dr. Winnail properly mentioned that 1 Thessalonians 5 and 2 Thessalonians 2 were warnings to the Church.  That is true, but that does not mean his conclusion about 2 Thessalonians 2:3 being mainly for the world must be true.

Around this time, and throughout the sermon, Dr. Winnail used the term the “Great Falling Away.”  But the term for “great” is not in the original Greek.  And while I would agree that a GREAT deception happens in Revelation 13 and 2 Thessalonians 2:8-12, the falling away in 2 Thessalonians 2:3 does not use that term.  Throughout the sermon, Dr. Winnail warns about making assumptions, yet his use of the term GREAT in conjunction with 2 Thessalonians 2:3 is an assumption.  And while from a COG perspective, the Tkach-era falling away was large/great, and the future one that Daniel 11:32-35 is referring to probably will be as well, neither are GREAT in the sense that, we at this time, do not expect that BILLIONS of COG members will be falling away.

Dr. Winnail also showed another chart indicating the Matthew 24 needed to be understood in the context of 2 Thessalonians 2, but did not discuss the departure of faith by real Christians in Matthew 24—both are in Matthew 24 (cf. 24:12-13 and 24:24) and both are in 2 Thessalonians 2.   FWIW, in a sermon that HWA gave on 1-30-76, he said that Matthew 24:13 applied to the Church.

Dr. Winnail then said that what he was teaching in that sermon is “the position of the Church.” But that he meant the Living Church of God, which I am no longer a part of as I could not accept this teaching and certain others.

Dr. Winnail mentioned that God did not give us a spirit of doubt but has given us a Spirit of a sound mind, etc.  He then said that if one is close to God one cannot be under any condition of doubt.  He indicated that therefore all should embrace what he taught without doubt with the implication that his are the only appropriate conclusions.  Yet, the Bible is clear that even the “great” (Matthew 11:11) John the Baptist had doubts and was not sure about everything (Matthew 11:2-3; nor did Paul, cf. Acts 27:10, 21-26), and did not complete understand his role (cf. John 1:21; Matthew 17:12-13) (nor always did Peter, Acts 10:17, or others).

Dr. Winnail then talked about holding fast, referred to Titus 1:9, and claimed that Herbert Armstrong did not apply the falling away to the Church of God (which obviously he did in The Incredible Human Potential and his coworker letter of February 21, 1974).  Notice also below:

To Peter and the others, He said: “And I will give unto thee the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven” (Mat. 16:19).  But He prophesied apostacy. “Many false prophets shall rise,” He said, “and shall deceive many.” Paul foretold the great “falling away” from God’s Truth and Christ’s Gospel, turning unto FABLES (I1 Thes. 2:l-9; II Tim. 4:l-4).  It had even begun in Paul’s day (I1 Thes. 2:7). (Armstrong HW.  Seven Keys to Understanding the Bible.  Good News, July 1949, p. 3). 

But the point here really should be, what does the Bible teach?  And some of Dr. Winnail’s positions here seem outside of it.

Dr. Winnail then said people need to study the scriptures and hold fast to what is true.  I have tried to do by being led by the Spirit of God as he then stated.  He also stated, while showing 1 John 4:1-6, 2 Peter 3:17-18, and Luke 21:36, that:

You must be able to discern the spirit of truth from the spirit of error.

..do not be led by the error of the wicked...These are admonitions we find in the scriptures...Jesus said you will know the truth and the truth will set you free...

Watch and pray that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.

The above seems to be teaching that those who disagree are following the spirit of error, and hence not Christians (he also made other comments between those shown above that did so as well).  This is what most concerned me about this sermon, and that combined by a statement Dr. Winnail made in a sermon DVE727 titled Watch and Get Ready. After referring to why Protestant commentaries support his position on the "falling away," he stated that those who do not agree are "blinded to the reality" of what he is teaching. The repeated statements suggesting that one is being influenced by Satan or not part of the COG made it clear to me that if this was his church's position, that this was not appropriate for me. And various others have also began to realize that.

Earlier, Dr. Winnail made a big deal about similar grammar construction to try to demonstrate a lack of time gap between the falling away which the scripture states happens first, and the appearance of the man of sin who will do miracles.   Dr. Winnail shows and quotes a Protestant source related to the falling away and the revealing of the man of sin, that “these two happenings are conceived of as within day of the Lord and not prior to it...because these two conspicuous phenomena will dominate the day's opening phase.” 

Dr. Winnail stated these events would dominate:

 …the Day of the Lord's opening phase, these two things.  This rebellion against God will culminate then..and will pull the world away from God.  This is the great falling away. 

But again, in my view, that differs from the historical position on the Day of the Lord.

After mentioning the spirit of error condemnation, Dr. Winnail stated:

The Great Falling Away will occur just before the return of Jesus Christ.  It will be driven by the miracles of this Great False Prophet.

So, now Dr. Winnail seems to be teaching that the event listed in 2 Thessalonians 2:3 that Paul wrote happens first, instead happens after events (signs and lying wonders) that are not listed as occurring until 2 Thessalonians 2:8.  Thus, this again shows that his insistence that the Greek grammar forces no possible gap between the falling away and the revealing of the man of sin does not hold up with all that scripture is saying.

Winnail Summary

Dr. Winnail cited many Protestant sources, and relatively little scriptures.  And while his written presentation showed “Matthew 24:3-8, 9-13,” he never read Matthew 24:12-13, which perhaps he should have discussed.  It seemingly teaches something he seems to have overlooked.

A summary of my concerns about the sermons basically is:

Dr. Winnail made many statements that seem to be incomplete as far as the Bible, the historical WCG writings, and Church of God doctrine show.  Dr. Winnail claims his teaching is what now sets the Living Church of God apart from other COGs.  And since he received backing from the Council of Elders of LCG, this clearly is a position that LCG has taken.

Dr. Meredith's Must Play Sermon

On May 18, 2013, many in LCG watched a "must play" sermon titled "The Great Rebellion," also known as the "falling away" (which is a term also often used in that sermon) by its top leader, Roderick C. Meredith. The reason of this degree of emphasis by him for this is that many people still clinging to LCG do not agree with the incorrect position that LCG has said will set itself apart from other COGs.

LCG's position, as now repeatedly and publicly espoused by two of its top Charlotte-based evangelists, is that the "falling away" of 2 Thessalonians 2:3 is not a departure from the true faith, but a further departure from God by "billions" who do not accept otherwise the truth of the Bible.

In the "must-play" sermon, Dr. Meredith cited at least three Protestant commentaries for proof. But oddly, when the text of one was shown, one of those commentaries that Dr. Meredith was referring to correctly taught that the falling away meant, "the falling away from the faith."

Of course, that contradicts the position that Dr. Meredith was espousing as he specifically taught in that same sermon that the "falling away" is not a departure or falling away from the true Christian, Church of God, faith.

During that sermon he also pointed to his longevity in the ministry as a major reason he was correct--and while longevity can be helpful, is not properly teaching and obeying the word of God what God really wants?

In his "must-play" sermon, Dr. Meredith claimed that a reason that some did not agree with his position is that they started reading 2 Thessalonians in chapter 2, and that if they started reading earlier in 2 Thessalonians, they would supposedly realize that the Apostle Paul was not writing about brethren falling away from the Church of God. Yet, one of my points on this has specifically long been that 2 Thessalonians 1 and other passages make it clear that Paul was writing to true Christians and warning them not to leave the true faith.

Notice, for example, how 2 Thessalonians begins:

1 Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy,

To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:

2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Thessalonians 1:3-4

3 We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is fitting, because your faith grows exceedingly, and the love of every one of you all abounds toward each other, 4 so that we ourselves boast of you among the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that you endure, (2 Thessalonians 1:1-4)

2 Thessalonians is clearly a book written to people that the Apostle Paul felt were in the true Church of God. If one reads the entirety of chapter 1 of 2 Thessalonians, this confirms it even further.

Also notice the following:

15 Therefore, brethren, stand fast...(2 Thessalonians 2:15)

The Apostle Paul is clearly telling the brethren to "stand fast"--these are the same brethren we warned not to be part of the "falling away" in 2 Thessalonians 2:3.

Notice also three more times the term “stand fast” is shown in the New Testament (NKJV):

13 Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong. (1 Corinthians 16:13)

1 Therefore, my beloved and longed-for brethren, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, beloved. (Philippians 4:1)

8 For now we live, if you stand fast in the Lord. (1 Thessalonians 3:8)

Many are staying with LCG despite the fact that it repeatedly is insisting as defining itself by a doctrinal change that is simply inaccurate. This, combined with its erroneous 'man of sin' teaching and other matters should tell all that are truly part of the Philadelphia remnant that the mantle left LCG by the end of 2012. Yet, most seem to think it is fine to accept improper and unbiblical teachings if an organization says to do so.

Back in March 1960 in a Plain Truth article on the second commandment, Dr. Meredith called that type of loyalty to an institution as idolatry as he wrote, "One of the most common forms of modern idolatry is the making of an idol out of one’s church..If you blindly obey the dictates of your family, your church or society instead of the direct commands of God, you are guilty of IDOLATRY. That group or institution becomes an IDOL to you in place of the true God!...You must study God’s Word-willingly be corrected by it-and TREMBLE before its authority over your very life!" (Meredith RC. Second Commandment. Plain Truth, March 1960, p. 27). Nowadays he seems to think such obedience to his church over scripture is loyalty. (For details on proper church governance, see also The Bible, Peter, Paul, John, Polycarp, Herbert W. Armstrong, Roderick C. Meredith, and Bob Thiel on Church Government.)

Christians are to be loyal to the Bible and to obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29), if there is a conflict. And in LCG there certainly is.

Despite all of this on the falling away from LCG and Dr. Meredith, he oddly wrote the following in a member and co-worker letter dated July 12, 2016:

Several of our ministers in the field have mentioned that, although people are not “falling away” or anything serious, yet there is a sense of spiritual malaise, a kind of a “take it easy” Laodicean attitude that is certainly creeping in. Our people are not “on fire” as much as they have been in the past.

The 'falling away' comment is interesting as that is not the type of 'falling away' that LCG officially (and improperly) believes that the Bible teaches. In two official, must-play, sermons, LCG condemned those who believed that the falling away had to do with leaving the Church of God, yet that is what Dr. Meredith now seems to be implying that he and some of the ministry believe.

Overall Conclusions on the Falling Away

This paper has touched on a variety of prophetic points that we need to pray about and hopefully can agree upon. 

It now seems to be the official position of the Charlotte-based evangelists of the Living Church of God that the falling away of 2 Thessalonians 2:3 is not limited to those who have or will fall away from the truth.

Dr. Meredith wrote the following to the ministry which was included as part of the Weekly Update of May 10, 2012:

Greetings dear fellow servants,

It was really great to see nearly all of you at our recent General Ministerial Conference! It was so wonderful to renew old friendships, make new ones and have the loving fellowship and inspirational talks that we did. Many, many of the older ministers expressed their feelings that it was the “best ever” conference even going back to Worldwide days...

Please follow through by doing all you can to build, to strengthen and inspire our brethren around the world to draw closer to God and to do their part in this vital Work which Christ has given us to do! Please help them think through these “upgrades” in our understanding of the Wedding Supper, of the timeline of final events and also the great apostasy. This is a vital challenge for all of you, and I hope that you can be alert to anyone’s misunderstanding and help them—or help your local elder to work with them to come to understanding on these basic issues and help them realize that these changes are, in fact, simply “updates” of our understanding...

We have always indicated—at least Mr. Armstrong, and I—that the apostasy would be much broader than just the falling away of a few people in the Worldwide Church. As I indicated at the conference, over 99% of the world never even heard about the Worldwide Church and certainly nothing about that falling away. So the really huge apostasy is still ahead of us—as we have explained—and will affect billions of human beings before it is all over!

The above seems to be teaching that the falling away teaching is a slight update, is now the position of the Living Church of God, and is basically what Dr. Meredith and Herbert W. Armstrong always taught.  But that disagrees with other writings.  This claimed update is a change to prior teachings of both Dr. Meredith and Herbert W. Armstrong.

Notice something Dr. Meredith wrote:

Paul wrote the Thessalonian Christians: “Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition” (I1 Thes. 2 : 3). He said: “For the mystery of iniquity (the original Greek means LAWLESSNESS) doth already work” (verse 7 ).

Thus we know that even in Paul’s day the falling away from the truth had already begun, and disobedience to God’s law (Or LAWLESSNESS) in a professing“Christianity” was becoming popular.

The doctrines of antichrist were developing! The truth as we can well see from all these prophecies is that God is permitting mankind to go his own way during this age, rejecting Christ’s true message, persecuting those who remain faithful to the truth, and substituting in its stead a religion labeled “Christianity” but actually based on the “traditions of men” which Jesus condemned.

Where is the Truth?

This brings us up to the present time when men in this chaotic, confused, wartorn world are seeking to find the way out of their troubles and many are seeking at last to find the true God. As we look about over the hundreds of diverse, disagreeing, and conflicting denominations and religious sects, it seems difficult indeed for one to determine whether each or any of these is actually preaching and teaching Christ’s message and being used of God as His church.

We know Jesus promised: “I will build my church” (Mat. 16.18).  (Meredith RC.  The Antichrist is here!  The PLAIN TRUTH June, 1956)

Thus, Dr. Meredith appeared to be teaching that the falling away of 2 Thessalonians 2:3 was from the church that had the truth (he also taught something similar in later sermons himself). 

Notice that Roderick Meredith admitted it was a change on April 17, 2013:

One of the most vital yet neglected prophecies in all of the Bible is found in 2 Thessalonians 2. After setting the stage in chapter 1 by describing Christ returning with “flaming fire” and “taking vengeance” on those who do not obey the Gospel, the inspired Apostle Paul warns Christians not to let anyone deceive them by teaching that Christ is coming without the most massive anti-God rebellion in human history occurring first. The Apostle Paul was inspired to write, “For that Day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, proclaiming himself that he is God” (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4, RSV)...The idea that this coming total rejection of God is simply an “apostasy” from some teaching of some church or group of churches is simply not indicated here! Even many of us in the past have assumed this—but that is not the case when you understand the original Greek language in the whole context which involves the entire world rebelling against the true God!

His appeal to the Greek language does not change the doctrine. The world is already in rebellion against God, and thus 2 Thessalonians 2:3 remains are warning to those who think that they are part of the true Church of God. There are many issues with the Living Church of God.

Herbert Armstrong in 1949 and 1984 taught:

Jesus Christ gave His apostles the keys of true UNDERSTANDING, which unlock the door to the KINGDOM OF GOD. To Peter and the others, He said, "And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 16: 19). But He prophesied apostasy."Many false prophets will rise up," He said, "and deceive many" (Matthew 24:11). Paul foretold the great "falling away" from God's truth and Jesus Christ's Gospel, turning unto FABLES (II Thessalonians 2: 1-12, II Timothy 4:1-4). It had even begun in Paul's day (II Thessalonians 2:7). (Armstrong HW.  Seven Keys to Understanding the Bible.  Good News, January 1980, p. 8).

Since HWA applied Matthew 24:13 to the Church, this seems to be supportive of my understanding on this, despite combing matters together as HWA sometimes did.

The original Radio/Worldwide Church of God position seems to have been that the falling away of 2 Thessalonians 2:3 was related to falling away from the truth and that 2 Thessalonians 2:8-12 affected billions of the world (though sometimes this was combined).   Of course, it is scripture that needs to be the final light in which to view this.

It is true that HWA himself did not limit the use of the term “falling away” to genuine church members as he sometimes used the term for emphasis in different manners.  Some of this may be semantics, but HWA’s church did mainly apply 2 Thessalonians 2:3 to the brethren while mainly applying later verses to the world.  The context of the statements published under his leadership suggested two types of “fallings away.”  But of course, scripture should be the real guide here.

In the July-August 2012 edition of Tomorrow’s World magazine is the following quote from Dr. Winnail:

Mistaken Assumptions

As many readers of this magazine know, the organization led by Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong for more than 50 years underwent a terrible crisis in the early 1990s, as his successors abandoned long-held doctrines of God’s Church and tried to bring the organization into “mainstream Christianity.” Scores of thousands left the Worldwide Church of God as its doctrines were changed. That organization even changed its name, acknowledging openly that it no longer considers itself a “Church of God.”

So, could that have been the “falling away” prophesied by Scripture? No less an authority than Mr. Armstrong himself would disagree with that assertion.

To conclude that Herbert Armstrong would not consider that the massive falling away that occurred after his death could have been the Tkach is an assumption/conclusion that does not agree with the totality of the writings published under the time of his leadership, including his own writings.  The Tkach-era falling away is exactly the type of falling away that Herbert Armstrong was worried that would happen after his death and fulfill (at least partially) 2 Thessalonians 2:3.

While it is true that HWA expected the world to be deceived by the false prophet, etc., he also supported the teaching that there was a specific applicability to the Church of God.  And that is something that the above article and the “must-play” sermon acts like was not the case.

In the Weekly Update of June 28, 2012, Dr. Winnail wrote:

As Christians, we are to be subject to government (within and without the Church—Romans 13:1-2), treat each other with respect, be humble and not conceited in our own opinions (Romans 12:10-18). Let’s strive to develop true humility, because this is a key to promoting unity.   

Humility, and proper respect for God's government and His word, is needed by both Church members and leaders.  Actually, no human is likely to ever be humble enough in this age.  It makes little biblical sense to me that LCG would want to identify the falling away of 2 Thessalonians 2:3 as billions of non-COG individuals from “the fundamentals of biblical Christianity” to following the Beast and False Prophet.  The billions who will believe that lie (cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:8-12) simply are not currently being called and chosen and hence will not truly be falling away.  But this is now a doctrine that LCG defines itself by.

Those in LCG should realize that. LCG has, for some apparently carnal reasons, chosen to define itself by a doctrinal change that is wrong and in conflict with scripture. Why would any choose to overlook this? Is this not institutional idolatry?

And those that are not part of LCG should hopefully realize why that is not a doctrine that should define those who wish to "hold fast" as Jesus warns the Philadelphians to in Revelation 3:11.

It has been my experience that about a third of those in LCG realize that LCG has significant integrity, hypocrisy, and/or doctrinal issues. Yet, most dismiss them as insufficiently important for many reasons. They rationalize that since LCG does have a major media presence, does have more congregations to attend than CCOG, and has a ministry that they are comfortable with, etc. that somehow God will work it out and they do not have to be that concerned themselves.

The Bible, of course, teaches, "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling" (Philippians 2:12). And I believe that God has worked it out--it is just that many do not realize that God does not always work things out the way humans, even in the COG, think that He will (the Tkach succession comes to immediate mind here).

As this two-part message has tried to convey, the falling away is from the truth, there are repeated warnings throughout the New Testament that Christians should not fall away from the truth, and believing something else is sadly part of falling away from the truth.

The Continuing Church of God is faithful to the biblical truth about the falling away of 2 Thessalonians 2:3, but, LCG, officially, no longer is.

(Here is a related link in Spanish/español: La Apostasía: Enseñanzas de la Biblia y de la WCG. There are also two YouTube videos on the subject that you can watch The Falling Away Part 1: From the Bible and Church History and The Falling Away Part 2: Positions Presented by Others.)