Note: This article was originally written years before the death of Robert Elliot, who founded and ran this group. Robert Elliot died June 21, 2006 after a long battle with cancer.
There are numerous small groups that claim to be the only one following the teachings and practices of the Worldwide Church of God while Herbert Armstrong was alive. God's Church Worldwide (GCW) is another one of them, "God's Church, Worldwide - Holding Fast to the Herbert W. Armstrong Foundation" (GCW website); "Only GCW is consistent in its teaching by properly recognizing HWA and the work God did through him as it relates to the Bible" (Little, Mark. HWA and Philadelphia era. Email to COGwriter 5/31/02).
Quotes in this article primarily come from GCW's website or from emails from Mark Little, who was a supporter/minister with GCW until December 2007 according to another email I received. Those from GCW will be in italics.
This article will mention some similarities, but will primarily focus on how GCW differs from the teachings and practices of the Worldwide Church of God while Herbert Armstrong was alive.
GCW's founder was Robert Elliot. When you read this article further you may find it ironic that GCW seems to list the following as his most notable contribution before leaving WCG: "Mr. Elliott developed the Plain Truth 'blitz' newsstand program in 1986, which concentrated tens of thousands of Plain Truths in a small number of major cities for a six month period, before rotating them to another group of cities for another six months. The impact was significant in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, and a host of other U.S. cities. The Tkach administration canceled the program in 1988" (Pastor's Profile. GCW website, 6/2/02).
"The Purpose of God's Church, Worldwide--Herbert W. Armstrong completed his commission of taking the true gospel to the world as a witness. Only after the gospel had gone to the world, could the end come. As of January 1986 we have entered into the end-time. The Great Task before us is to get the Bride of Christ ready for Christ's return during this Laodicean Era. This means we must HOLD FAST to the truth first delivered by God's Apostle during the Philadelphia Era (Rev. 3:10)" (GCW website, 6/2/02). "As you know, we have been called by God and chosen by Christ to make ourselves ready to teach the remnant of mankind who survive the Tribulation and day of the Lord. They must learn from us God's way of doing things" (Elliot, Robert. GCW website, 6/2/02).
Although the specific statements shown above each have some truth in them, they imply (as will be shown later in this article) several dangerous beliefs which I feel clearly show to anyone with ears to hear that GCW is not being faithful to the old teachings and practices of WCG.
For example, while it truly is a great task for the bride to be made ready for Christ's return, it is not the biblically proper top priority for the Philadelphia era of the Church of God (for a related article, please read, Do You Believe God Used Herbert Armstrong to Raise Up the Philadelphia Era of the Church of God?). A quote from the August 1959 Plain Truth may be helpful for some,
"Revelation 3:7-13 'And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write; These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth.' The great door that God has opened to this work is the facility to go into all the world and preach the gospel; the door of radio, the door of the printing press, plus many other such doors. God has set before us an open door that no man can shut it, and He will when the work is finished and the Philadelphia Church goes to a place of safety" (What is the "Laodicean Church"? Good News. August 1959, p.10).
It should be noted that biblically speaking, the great task of making the Bride ready immediately before the return of Jesus Christ will completed by the Sardisians and the Laodicean's going through the tribulation (Revelation 3:3;18-19;12-17) and the Philadelphians (Revelation 3:10) being trained at a place in the wilderness (Revelation 12:14-16; called in COG circles, The Place of Safety).
And as far as Herbert W. Armstrong goes, GCW simply refuses to understand that he taught that the Church would proclaim the gospel to the world as a witness until 45 days prior to the abomination of desolation mentioned in Daniel 11:31:
And the abomination that maketh desolate set up." What is this abomination? This refers to Daniel 11:31 and Matthew 24:15...From this time (Daniel 12:11) to Christ's coming will be 1290 days. Now, verse 12, "Blessed is he that waiteth, and comes to the 1335 days." Never before have we understood these periods of 1260, 1290. and 1335 days. But it seems evident, now, a blessing is pronounced on us--GOD"S CHURCH--who wait and endure until the 1335 days--approximately 1335 days prior to Christ's coming. But since no one can know the day or hour of His coming, we probably shall not be able to know the exact day this 1335 days begins. But apparently that is the time when OUR WORK SHALL END. That will be a time when the UNITED Europe shall appear--the revival of the medieval "Holy Roman Empire." We shall then be warned, and readied to be taken to a place of refuge and safety from the Great Tribulation. Forty-five days later "the beasts armies" will surround Jerusalem. Thirty days later the Great Tribulation will probably start with a nuclear attack on London and Britain--and possibly the same day or immediately after, on the United States and Canadian cities. The GREAT TRIBULATION, we shall fully then realize, is the time of "Jacob's Trouble," spoken of in Jeremiah 30:7. And Jacob's name was named on Joseph's sons, Ephraim and Manasseh (Gen. 48:16). At that time a third of the people in our nations will die, or shall have died, by famine and disease epidemics; another third will dies of the war--our cities being destroyed (Ezek. 6:6), and the remaining third will be carried to the land of our enemies as slaves (Ezek. 5:12). Armstrong HW. The Time We Are In, Now. Pastor General's Report-Vol 1, No. 15, November 20, 1979, Page 2).
Hence, it is certainly clear that GCW is not being faithful to the Bible or the what HWA intended.
GCW seems to suggest otherwise when it writes, "The Church of God must prepare herself now (Rev 19:7)!" (GCW website, 6/2/02).
While it is true that to some degree the COG should also be preparing itself now, that actual verse, beginning with verse 6, says, "And I heard, as it were, the voice of a great multitude, as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty thunderings, saying, "Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns! Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready" ". Theses verses show that after Christ has returned and is reigning, which is after the Tribulation, His wife is ready. It astounds me that groups like GCW use Revelation 19:7 as their 'proof text' to justify eliminating the clear mission of the Church to first proclaim the Gospel (Matthew 28:19). Revelation 19:7 does not justify not proclaiming the Gospel now, nor does any other verse in the Bible that I am aware of.
The Work- HWA Quotes
Like many small COGs, GCW attempts to justify spending tithes on itself instead of publicly proclaiming the Gospel by teaching that since Herbert Armstrong got the Gospel out to the world as a witness, that this no longer needs to be done. In addition to what I have already discussed, GCW uses two approaches to accomplish this.
First it interprets certain quotes from Herbert Armstrong to mean something that Herbert Armstrong never intended:
""THE TRUE GOSPEL... HAS NOW GONE IN POWER INTO EVERY NATION..." (Herbert W. Armstrong, Mystery of the Ages, page 291 hardcover.) Did you believe these words when Herbert W. Armstrong wrote them in 1985?" (GCW website, 6/2/02)."They say they support Herbert W. Armstrong, but they refuse to take him at his word. In his last book Mystery of the Ages he wrote, The true gospel has been restored and has now gone in power into every nation on the face of the earth. The true gospel, for the first time in 1900 years, has finally been proclaimed and published into all nations of the earth. In spite of these clear statements, the spokesperson for one breakaway group from the WCG said the following about those of us who have taken Mr. Herbert Armstrong at his word. Do they think Herbert W. Armstrong really thought we should not get the gospel out? Obviously yes, since he confirmed in his last book that this aspect of the work had been accomplished by him. So, in Mr. Armstrong's thinking, what remained to be accomplished?...Mr. Herbert Armstrong wrote in the Good News, I have had to ask myself what has Christ been doing with my life since I was brought back in August, 1977? . . . My efforts as Christ's apostle since the heart failure have been almost wholly devoted to preparing God's Church. The spiritual temple to which Christ will come " (Do You Take Herbert Armstrong at His Word? GCW website, 6/2/02).
I do not believe that GCW takes Herbert Armstrong at his word.
Because they did not understand what HWA really taught and encouraged. Notice this quote from HWA,
"When this European empire is perfected, the great Work God is doing through this Church will be quickly completed--finished...The sign He gave was that which He is doing through us--proclaiming for the first time in 1900 years to the world the Gospel of the KINGDOM OF GOD (Matthew 24:14). But next, after our work, is to come the GREAT TRIBULATION (verses 21-22. That shall be ended, verse 29, by supernatural, frightful signs in the sun, moon, and stars; signaling the "day of the Lord"--see also Joel 2:31). Then quickly; the coming of Christ. See also Daniel 12:1. Events now occurring SWIFTLY in the world are SIGNS of the imminency of the Great Tribulation. No one will be allowed to proclaim Christ's Gospel then. The "Philadelphia era" or succession of God's Church will be taken on the "two wings of a great eagle"--whatever that symbolizes--to a place of protection where we are to be "fed"--provided for. We need now to begin to be ALERT, for this "flight" may happen suddenly. DO NOT BE DECEIVED BY THE NEGATIVE SNEERING OF EXCOMMUNICATED MINISTERS: Both Revelation 12:13 and 3:10 warn us. We, ourselves, are a sign (Matt. 24:14) of the very imminency of these things! I say again and again, it is later than we think. Fellow Ministers, God has made it our job to PREPARE His Church--that we may be "without spot or wrinkle...holy and withouth blemish" WHEN Christ comes! This means renewed dedication, more constant and intensive earnest prayer, "soul-searching," and determined preparation. This is a serious responsibility for all of us!" (Armstrong HW. Great Significance of Summit Conference. Pastor General's Report, Vol. 2, No. 26, June 27, 1980).
Notice that although HWA felt that the ministry had to prepare the church, the gospel still needed to preached until the European empire was perfected, and we flee to a place of safety. The European empire has not been perfected yet, nor have the Philadelphians fled to a place of safety, therefore, the gospel still must be preached.
Also, because GCW seems to reason around HWA's last three letters and his sermon on the Mission of the Philadelphia Church Era (12-17-83).
Actually, in a the notes of a sermon given 5/25/02, GCW's Mark Little lists as "COGwriter errors" the fact that I quote from Herbert Armstrong's last three letters! The sermon notes then say "Brethren, people like the COGwriter show their ignorance of what God is doing by writing articles saying that the gospel still needs to go to the world" (Little, Mark. Misunderstanding of COGwriter. GCW Sermon Notes, 5/25/02). Furthermore, to get around what those last three letters clearly state, he wrote, "Specifically, Mr. HWA's final 3 letters. When clearly understood through the eyes of time and biblical understanding they show God shut the door to preaching the gospel as a witness to the world at his death" (Little, Mark. HWA and Philadelphia era. Email to COGwriter 5/31/02).
Read for yourselves that in his last letter, Herbert Armstrong rebutted all arguments about the work being over as he specifically wrote,
"It may be that the Work that God has given me to do is complete, but not the Work of God's Church, which will be faithfully doing God's Work till Christ, the True Head of this Church, returns...Remember brethren, this is not the work of Herbert W. Armstrong...The greatest work lies ahead...Never before in the history of the Church has it been possible to reap so great a harvest. It has only been made possible through modern technology, beginning with the printing press, radio, television...Each of you must commit yourself to support God's Work...God's work must push ahead as never before. God is opening up new doors in television" (Letter, 1/10/86).
The greatest work being ahead and including news doors in television should clearly prove to anyone, that HWA did not believe that the work of Matthew 24:14 did not need to still be done.
And to be sure that this portion of the work would continue after he died, Herbert Armstrong insured that there were other men designated to continue to make television programs after his death. One of those men was evangelist Richard Ames, who remains faithful to this mission to this day, as he is still making television programs to proclaim the Gospel! Another evangelist who was preaching the Gospel in the French language over radio while Mr. Armstrong was alive, Dibar Apartian, continues to preach it to this day. When I asked him if Mr. Armstrong told him to stop doing this in the event of his death, Mr. Apartian responded, "To the contrary, he told me he wanted me to go on more stations". This concept is confirmed by Mr. Armstrong in his third to last letter,
"I thank God that he has organized this present work of his so thoroughly that regardless of the outcome of my present illness, the work will continue right on to the Second Coming of Christ" (Letter dated 12/23/85).
Thus it seems clear that Mr. Armstrong felt that he was the leader of the Philadelphia era, but that if he died prior to the time of the end, that he considered that the Church should continue to preach the gospel to the world!
Another problem with some like GCW who have taken some of Mr. Armstrong's quotes out of context, is that while it is true Mr. Armstrong seemed to feel that he personally succeeded in preaching the gospel of the kingdom to all the world as a witness, it is not true that he felt the true Church should stop placing its top priority on proclaiming. For example, in what appears to be the second to the last letter from Mr Armstrong, he wrote, "
It is now true that this Gospel has been proclaimed within every nation on earth by the Worldwide Church of God" (Letter 1/86).
He then listed that 90 million booklets, magazines, articles, and correspondence course lessons had been sent out in 1985 (and never mentioned the Worldwide News which was for members only). Instead of suggesting that the publishing portion of the work was over, he wrote (in the same letter),
"Now let's keep it up in 1986!" (Letter 1/86).
Therefore, all of the last three letters sent out by Herbert Armstrong stated that the work of publicly proclaiming the Gospel was to continue. Furthermore, and perhaps at least as importantly, Herbert Armstrong continued to proclaim the Gospel to the world as a witness until his death--he never stopped and never wanted the Philadelphia era of the Church to stop!
He also preached,
"Today's mission of the Church you will find in Matthew 24:14. 'And this gospel of the kingdom' that is the same gospel that Jesus preached 'shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come' " (Mission of the Philadelphia Church Era. Sermon, 12/17/83).
Thus, Herbert Armstrong did not feel that the mission of the Philadelphia era of the Church no longer included preaching the gospel to the world for a witness.
Mr. Armstrong earlier wrote about non-apostles preaching the Gospel,
"evangelists were used in carrying forth the message. Other leaders--ordained ministers--were stationary, yet even the local pastor of a church may hold evangelistic services in his area--not the 'soul-saving crusade' type, but lectures announcing and proclaiming as a witness the coming kingdom of God (the true gospel)! This entire great commission--proclaiming the good news of the coming kingdom, and 'feeding the sheep'--is a combined administration and function of the Church...it is done also by radio and television and in print" (Mystery of the Ages, pp.265-266).
Remember that Mr. Armstrong stated that the commission to the Church was to proclaim the gospel and "to provide the first actual harvest of mortal human beings" (Mystery of the Ages, pp.206, 232). How can this be done if the gospel is not being proclaimed? Mr. Armstrong wrote,
"God has given his Church dual responsibility: 1) 'Go ye into all the world' and proclaim the good news--announcement--of the coming kingdom of God. 2) 'Feed my sheep'. But in feeding the 'sheep', developing in them God's spiritual character, God has given them their part in supporting, backing up, the great commission: 'Go ye in into all the world' "(Mystery of the Ages, p.265).
GCW left out these valuable quote from the Mystery of the Ages. I do not believe GCW takes Herbert Armstrong at his word.
For further information, please read the article Should the Church's Top Priority be to Proclaim the Gospel or Did Herbert Armstrong Change that Priority?
GCW Changed Prophetic Interpretation for Jusitification
Well, even though they claim they are faithful, they have declared HWA was wrong about this,
""Satan showed his cleverness soon after Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong died, when through the Tkach administration, he persuaded ministers to avoid prophetic subjects! Typically Satan mixes some truth with error. It was said that the Church had made some mistakes - that Mr. Herbert Armstrong had set times and dates which proved to be incorrect. In fact, Mr. Herbert Armstrong, with his natural enthusiasm to finish the work, was wary about predicting events with exactitude. He couched his remarks with phrases indicating the possibility rather than certainty of any such events happening at a particular time. Yet the Church was in error in respect to end-time chronology, specifically with regard to the 1260, 1290, and 1335 days of Daniel 12. By placing the thirty days of 1290 plus the forty-five days of 1335 prior to the beginning of the 1260 days, the Church left no room for the day of the Lord, which follows the 1260 days of the tribulation. By this reckoning, the millennium would begin at Christ's Second Coming. The argument for placing the thirty days, plus forty-five days ahead of the start of the tribulation was based upon the theory that the Church would require a total of seventy-five days to get to a place of safety, which it was thought then would be Petra in Jordan. Today we understand that the Church will be taken almost instantaneously to a place of safety (Lk. 17:34-37; Matt. 24:17-21, 36-41). With that misunderstanding corrected, we can now see that there are 1260 days of tribulation followed by thirty days for Christ to subdue the nations and a further forty-five days to prepare Jerusalem and the Messianic temple for the commencement of the millennium on the 1335th day, the Feast of Pentecost. The Church further compounded this error, in respect to end-time chronology, by pushing the three and one-half years for the tribulation back to two and one-half years, to make room for one year to include the day of the Lord, yet the Bible clearly gives a full three and one-half years for the tribulation and today we know the day of the Lord lasts thirty days. God's Church, Worldwide has understood this revised chronology since 1995. This also made us different. Apart from this Church group, I know of no other which has this understanding." [Elliot R. GCWW. Hold Fast Letter June 2003].
Why else might GCW change the order? Because as quoted earlier, when Mr. Armstrong gave the order he stated that the the Church's WORK (to proclaim the gospel) would continue right up until going to the place of safety [Armstrong HW. The Time We Are In, Now. PASTOR GENERAL'S REPORT - VOL.1, NO.15 NOVEMBER 20, 1979].
In case GCW wants to argue that Mr. Armstrong meant something else for the WORK, perhaps this quote will be helpful,
"Philadelphia has little strength to do this great work that God has given it to do. God has opened the door, and yet look how insignificant, how weak, how little strength we as a Church have to do that work...Revelation 3:7-13: "And to the angel of the Church in Philadelphia write these things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that OPENETH, and no man SHUTTETH; and SHUTTETH and no man openeth." The great door that God has opened to this work is the facility to go into all the world and preach the gospel; the door of radio, the door of the printing press, plus many other such doors. God has set before us an open door and no MAN can shut it. God can shut it, and He will when the work is finished and the Philadelphia Church goes to a place of safety. ...The Laodicean Church is not going to he worthy to escape to a place of safety. When it is too late, they will find that the Church of Philadelphia has gone to safety. "(What Is the "LAODICEAN CHURCH"? Good News, August 1959 Vol. VIII, Number 8).
Mr. Armstrong's written and authorized position always was that the work of proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom to the world as a witness would continue until the time to prepare to go to a place of safety. As that has not happened yet (even the GCW literature quoted above verifies that), there is NO justification of the position that HWA felt that the Church was to stop its efforts on public proclamation.
The Work - J. Tkach Sr.
Instead of relying of Herbert Armstrong's or the Bible word, another reason GCW gives is to rely on what Aaron Dean implied that Joseph Tkach, Sr. was told by Herbert Armstrong:
"Continuing the Legacy of Herbert W. Armstrong, Preparing the Bride" (GCW website, 6/2/02). "What is the work of God's Church today and what is your part in it? Herbert W. Armstrong commissioned Joseph Tkach, Sr. to get the Church of God ready for Christ's return. Instead Mr. Tkach led God's people back into "mainstream Christianity." However, the Commission remains! Prepare the Bride for Christ's return!!!" (GCW website, 6/2/02).
"What was the primary instruction HWA gave Joe Tkach Sr. as his mission for being the leader of God's Church? 1. Purification of the Bride 2. Continue to follow and maintain the doctrines" (Little, Mark. Misunderstanding of COGwriter. GCW Sermon Notes, 5/25/02).
While it is true that apparently HWA did not want J. Tkach to personally be a tv or radio presenter, it is not true that HWA felt that the Gospel should not continue to be preached as a witness (otherwise HWA would not have had the replacement presenters, such as Richard Ames, appointed). Thus it appear to me that GCW is saying that they would rather follow J. Tkach Sr.'s interpretation of what he felt HWA would have had him do, instead of relying on the Bible, the last three letters from HWA, or the fact that HWA continued to get the Gospel out on tv and radio after he felt he had gotten it to the world as a witness. Astounding.
Futhermore, J. Tkach knew that HWA wanted him to continue to proclaim the Gospel or he would not have had this as a letter under his name from Personal Correspondence dated 2/89,
"Since no one knows the day of Christ's coming (Matt. 24:36 ; Acts 1:17) , we may not know the exact time when the 1335 days begin. Apparently, however, at that time, the organized efforts of God's Work to proclaim the Gospel to the world will end. Forty-five days later, or 1290 days before the return of Christ, the beasts armies will surround Jerusalem. Those who are worthy will have been warned and taken to a place of refuge God has provided for them (Rev. 12:14-16)."
This quote, of course, is based on the earlier 1979 PGR report from HWA, and thus clearly shows that J. Tkach believed that Mr. Armstrong wanted the Church to continue to proclaim the Gospel to the world as a witness!
GCW's Beliefs List
GCW claims to believe the 18 Truths that God Restored to the Philadelphia Era of the Church, its website beliefs include some COG standard beliefs (its first two and the Sabbath), but most of GCW's list seems to be based on the Tkach list of 18 truths, not Herbert Armstrong's (which can be accessed here: 18 truths).
"God's Church, Worldwide retains truths revealed in the Bible and taught by Herbert W. Armstrong including:
Jesus Christ as Savior
Government of God
Gospel of the Kingdom of God
The Nature and Purpose of God
Man and the human spirit
The Church is only the firstfruits
The Church is not yet the Kingdom of God
The Holy Spirit coming into us only begets us
The identity of modern Israel as a key to understanding prophecy
Authority of sacred calendar, preserved by Jews Tithes
The resurrection of judgment
Only those whom God the Father calls and draws to Him can be converted now
God's Sabbath and annual holy days (Passover, Unleavened Bread, Pentecost, Trumpets, Atonement, Feast of Tabernacles, and Last Great Day)" (GCW website 6/2/02).
Gospel Message Behind the Times
"You also gloss over the fact that Christ not only opens the door of opportunity, but He shuts it as will. Look at the pitiful efforts of all those who say they are going to take the gospel to the world and combined aren't doing a drop of what WCG under HWA's leadership did. Therefore, these man made operations aren't doing any good because their message is 17 years behind the times" (Little, Mark. HWA and Philadelphia era. Email to COGwriter 5/31/02).
I would like to comment that I feel that GCW glosses over the fact that the Bible never says that the open door will be closed to the Philadelphians by Christ. Furthermore, I feel that the Bible is clear that the Gospel message is for all times and is not "17 years" behind the times! Since HWA died over two decades ago, I presume GCW might believe that HWA went a little bit too long (which is consistent with other quotes in this article).
Governance - GCW Apparently Rejects Evangelist's Authority
"Based on God's pattern, the government in the Church of God is from the top down: Christ is the Head of the Church, then the pastor is under Him. Below the pastor are the elders, followed by the deacons and the laity. The structure is intended to avoid confusion and to help create cohesion and unity. In any given situation, it is important to know who is in charge. The pastor is the person in charge, but he can then delegate certain responsibilities to others. This was the structure that Moses was advised by his father-in-law to adopt to avoid wearing himself out...Is it not amazing, brethren, that the same ministers of God you thank for holding fast to the truth in today's Church chaos suddenly become ogres when they contest the wisdom of your decisions. Sadly, that is a reality. If it has not happened to you yet, it is only because you have not yet been confronted by a minister who gets in the way of your plans" (Elliot, Robert. To Whom it May Concern. GCW website, 6/2/02).
But GCW's website states "Mr. Elliott was approached by some twenty Church members who did not want to take the Passover under the direction of ministers who either accepted or taught the so-called new doctrines. They regarded Mr. Elliott as a minister who was holding fast to the truths God had inspired Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong to understand; doctrines which the Worldwide Church of God had followed for half a century. These Church members asked Mr. Elliott to lead them in taking the Passover and to be their pastor, which he agreed to do. At the same time Mr. and Mrs. Elliott decided to start a housecleaning business to provide for themselves and to help their two daughters through college. The Elliotts had already resolved it was not necessary to join any of the breakaway groups from the Worldwide Church of God, since both of them had been baptized into the true Church (a spiritual entity) many years before" (Pastor's Profile. GCW website, 6/2/02). Robert Elliot also wrote, "God requires unity in His Family, so Satan incites division" (Elliot Robert. Hold Fast Letter. May 2002. GCW website, 6/6/02).
Why would he and his wife resolve not to become part of any COG if he believes in unity? It appears that Robert Elliot is saying he accepted former WCG members' authority for him to begin GCW and that now they must accept his authority, but apparently he has decided to not accept authority above his pastor level! I think GCW would agree that there are no apostles or prophets they accept as such today, but what about evangelists? Does GCW accept the authority of any of the evangelists that were ordained by Herbert Armstrong? No, it has rejected all of them so that it does not have to submit to Philadelphia era governance! Remember the Bible teaches, "And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, For the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ" (Ephesians 4:11-12).
Furthermore, here is what HWA wrote about that,
"To administer these many operations, God--not a vote of the members--"hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers." Or, as stated in more detail in Ephesians 4:11 (RSV): "And his gifts were that some should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers." An apostle is "one sent forth" with Christ's gospel message, including the supervision of proclaiming that message to the world by means and persons other than himself. Also an apostle was given supervision over all the local congregations or churches (I Cor. 16:1). The apostle Paul had oversight over the churches of the Gentile world (II Cor. 11:28). The prophets set in the foundation of the Church are those of the Old Testament, whose writings were used to form a considerable part of New Testament and gospel teaching and functioning. No prophets are mentioned as having either administrative, executive or preaching functions in the New Testament Church. Evangelists were leading ministers, proclaiming the gospel to the public, even raising up local churches and having supervision over some churches under the apostle. Therefore an evangelist may hold executive functions under the apostle in the Church headquarters or work today. An evangelist is not necessarily stationary. Pastors are stationary pastors over a local church or contingent group of local churches. Then there were placed in the Church teachers--not necessarily preachers" (Mystery of the Ages, pp. 244-245).
And although GCW might wish to argue that there are no apostles today--HWA made it clear that he expected Church members to follow an evangelist after his death as they followed him while he was alive (as he followed Christ of course).
Furthermore Herbert Armstrong taught,
"The government of God has been restored to the Church, and the government of God has been placed in the Church. You read that in Ephesians 4 and I Corinthians 12. Christ is the head of the Church and under Christ in the administration of the government are an apostle or apostles, then evangelists, then pastors, then all are called elders, all ministers all the way up clear down to the lowest. So then there are teachers and elders both speaking elders and preaching elders, deacons and deaconesses. And the Church is restored in that form of government" (Mission of the Philadelphia Church Era. Sermon, 12/17/83).
GCW and others like it, seem totally unwilling to submit to higher levels of governance. Thus, I find it impossible to believe that GCW's leaders actually accept the truth about governance (they seem to reject governance above them, though not below).
For those of you who wonder about that, please recall that HWA spent much of the last decade of his life emphasizing the importance of governance (there is also a whole lot about governance in the Mystery of the Ages). GCW and other COGs should think about what Paul wrote in this context, "For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears" (Acts 20:29-31). HWA spent much of the last several years of his ministry pleading to us to accept Philadelphia era governance--GCW has rejected that.
"The Philadelphian era of God's Church was provided an open door to proclaim the gospel (Rev. 3:8). After the door was shut by Christ, the Head of the Church, they were commanded to Hold Fast (Rev. 3:7, 11). Hold fast to what? What they were first given by Herbert W. Armstrong (Rev. 3:11)" (Has the Gospel Gone to the World?, GCW website, 6/2/02).
GCW almost gets it right. The first statement is right and the last statement is right. But if you believe the first and last statements, you cannot believe the middle statement. I will quote Revelation 3:7,11: "And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write, 'These things says He who is holy, He who is true, "He who has the key of David, He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens...Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown". Where did Christ say He shut the door? He never said it. GCW and others seem to read what is not there. Perhaps it is because they left out verse 8,
"These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth.' The great door that God has opened to this work is the facility to go into all the world and preach the gospel; the door of radio, the door of the printing press, plus many other such doors. God has set before us an open door that no man can shut it, and He will when the work is finished and the Philadelphia Church goes to a place of safety" (What is the "Laodicean Church"? Plain Truth. August 1959, p.10).
Thus Jesus said He set an open door for the Philadelphia Church; He never indicated that He was going to shut it if any man died. Not only is that consistent with verse 8, it is also consistent with the portion of verse 11 warning to not let any man take our crown.
I should probably add that the first time I was contacted by Mark Little, he mentioned that GCW gave a sermon against my article What is a Philadelphian? which was published in the Living Church News in the summer of 2001. But I do not recall any specifics other than GCW taught against proclaiming the Gospel.
Place of Safety and Laodiceans
"This present study is devoted to proving where God has chosen to place them during the three and one-half years of soon-coming tribulation. When God acts, He tends to go against the conventional wisdom of human kind. For example, in a hurricane where is the most tranquil place? The eye of the storm! In the tribulation where is the eye of the storm? It is a place that men would not naturally think of as a place of safety. Daniel 12 confirms that God's true servants will be afforded protection: And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered [escape without trouble or difficulty], every one that shall be found written in the book (Dan 12:1). But where is this place of deliverance? Before going into this in-depth we need to be reminded that not all Christians are going to be blessed with physical protection during this most terrible of times. As noted in Bible Study 6, some Christians are left behind because of lukewarm attitudes (Rev.3:15-19; Rev. 12:17). They must suffer and die in the tribulation to build the character necessary to enter God's kingdom, to rule with Christ. A careful reading of Revelation 12:17 and Revelation 13:7, coupled with Revelation 3:14-19, shows those who must endure the tribulation give up their physical lives because of a lackluster attitude towards God and His word. Those Christians who do receive protection, are encouraged in Revelation 3:10-11, to hold fast to what they were given; the inference being that those who must endure the tribulation will have let slip the truths they received when God called them, or mixed them with the doctrines of mainstream Christianity. "
"There is a way that seemeth right unto a Laodicean! But the end thereof is the way of death in the tribulation! Have you met a Laodicean recently? Probably not. You don't find any volunteers for that designation do you? Since this is the last era of God's Church, there ought to be a lot of Laodiceans in existence, don't you think? Of course, the Bible describes them as blind, blind to themselves, in Revelation 3:17. They think they are spiritually rich, and increased with goods, but in God's sight they are spiritually wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked -- in other words, sinful and unaware. Christ counsels them to buy of Him gold tried in the fire of the tribulation, that they may be truly rich. Indeed, He rebukes and chastens those He loves, so . . . repent is Christ's message. But alas, since we cannot find any Laodiceans this appears impossible! What a conundrum! Well, what about you? Are you just a little afraid that you might be a Laodicean? Are you concerned that in reality you are not yet spiritually mature? Do you have doubts? Do you feel uncertain? If so, there is hope for you because in fact Laodiceans don't think this way. Real Laodiceans would never admit to such possibilities. Arrogance is the hallmark of this mindset. Oh yes, there is a way that seems right to the Laodiceans now; but later, in the tribulation they will repent, and at the cost of their lives gain their crowns of victory. This is good news, but the lesson is a hard one. Philadelphian Christians who repent now will, in contrast, be protected and nourished by Christ throughout the entire three and one-half years of the tribulation. You have a choice, but time is running out fast. ACT NOW! Don't rely on the false security of being associated with a large group. The majority is generally wrong!" (The Laodicean's Way. GCW website, 6/2/02) Then ironically it states "For more information, CLICK HERE!" which brings you back to its official purpose, which is a Laodicean purpose!
GCW correctly teaches that those that do not hold fast will not be protected in a place of safety. However, it neglects to see that holding fast includes "walking the walk" and not just "talking the talk". GCW does neither when it teaches against proclaiming the Gospel and when it claims to accept Church governance but will not submit to Philadelphia era governmental authority. GCW spends its tithes on itself, instead of giving to proclaim the Gospel of the Kingdom to the world as a witness. (For those with interest, here is an article titled, There is a Place of Safety for the Philadelphians.)
Furthermore, GCW forgets what WCG used to teach,
"It is the Church of Laodicea who had no vital part in the work of God today even though they live today and are part of that generation which will see Christ return...The Laodicean Church is not going to be worthy to escape to a place of safety. When it is too late, they will find that the Church of Philadelphia has gone to safety...Judging from the parable of the ten virgins, if you are found in the Church of Laodicea, you probably don't know it. You may think you are in the Church that will go to safety. When you find out it will be too late. Now is the time to prepare. Now is the time to be zealous. Now is the time for good works--the time to obtain more of the Holy Spirit of God. Now is the time to keep repentant, to change our lives. Let's not be a part of the Laodicean Church!" (What is the "Laodicean Church"? Plain Truth. August 1959, p.10).
The Elijah Question
Was Herbert Armstrong the Elijah to come? This is probably GCW's second biggest excuse for why it does not support Philadelphia-focused goals (RCG, SCG, PCG hold similar positions). GCW's position is "Brethren, Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong, and Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong alone, restored from the Bible what was necessary to gain salvation...Even though the great falling away of II Thessalonians 2 has happened, as prophesied, those who have held fast faithfully still retain those restored truths. We still have them, therefore we don't need another restorer to come. Elijah has come, and his name was Herbert W. Armstrong!" (Elliot, Robert. Was Herbert W. Armstrong the Final Elijah? HOLD FAST LETTER -March 2001, GCW website, 6/5/02).
The first problem with the above is that as the article has clearly documented, GCW has not held fast, does not even seem to use the right restored truths lists, rejects Philadelphia era governance, and teaches against proclaiming the Gospel. The second problem is part of that statement is blasphemous--although God used HWA to raise up the Philadelphia era, what he restored WAS NOT THAT WHICH WAS NECESSARY FOR SALVATION, but what was true and in accordance with God's plan for His Church and humankind! Perhaps GCW needs to re-read Acts 4:10-12, "Let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole. This is the 'stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.' Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved."
Thirdly GCW on the Elijah issue, ignores what HWA himself wrote,
"Also Malachi 4:5-6 pictures the Elijah to come at the very end of the Church age" (Mystery of the Ages, p. 348).
Since even GCW admits this is now the time when the Laodicean era is now predominant, logic would dictate that it would admit that the Church age was not ended!
I should add that although HWA felt he probably fulfilled the Elijah role, he was not sure. He specifically told Dibar Apartian that and Mr. Apartian confirmed that with me. I believe what LCG's Roderick Meredith stated on this subject is consistent with history, the Bible, and the facts,
"I am not that Elijah...It will probably be a younger, better looking, man...Herbert Armstrong died over fifteen years ago...Malachi 4 teaches...vs. 5, 'Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD'... Mr. Armstrong himself went back and forth on this issue...Elijah may be one of the two witnesses. He (Herbert Armstrong) told Dibar Apartian that he (Mr. Armstrong) was not the Elijah...He (Mr. Armstrong) did not change any major doctrines, such as the Sabbath...but did change positions on other matters...Our policy and practice in the Living Church of God is to honor Herbert W. Armstrong as a teacher, minister, and as an Apostle...,raising up an era of the Church...The greatest minister, perhaps, in the past 1800 years...Mr. Armstrong certainly did do the greatest work in radio, television, and all that...We feel he did an Elijah-like work...We are to follow him as he followed Christ..He could have been the Elijah to come, but I don't think we should be dogmatic and appoint him...They (the two witnesses) have power to shut up heaven, like the original Elijah did...These two men are a definite type of Elijah and Moses. And one of them may be the end-time Elijah" (Meredith, Roderick C. The Elijah Question. VTE 131, May 19, 2001).
Jesus taught, in Luke 6:46 "But why do you call Me 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do the things which I say?"
GCW can call HWA Elijah all day and night, but it does not do what HWA taught. More on the Elijah matter is included in the article The Elijah Heresies.
I also believe that Mattew 24:5 also applies, "For many will come in My name, saying, 'I am the Christ,' and will deceive many" as I believe although GCW calls Jesus 'Lord', that by telling people that they do not need to support the effort to proclaim the Gospel, GCW is encouraging the deception of many.
Famine of the Word
On August 17, 2013, I noticed the following from GCW at its website:
The true gospel has gone to the world and been rejected. The subsequent falling away from God's truth by His Church is a reality, as is the famine of the word and the scattering of His people. Can you see this or are you blind? http://www.gcww.org/signs_of_the_end_times.htm
But it is GCW that has the blindness. In a sermon on November 27, 1982 titled “U.S. of Europe is Coming,” Herbert Armstrong stated:
“Anyway this whole United States of Europe, when it goes together, is going to trigger nuclear World War III. Now let me tell you what else it's going to do. It's going to END OUR WORK! OUR WORK WILL BE THROUGH of getting the gospel to the world. That is, very shortly after it goes into force and effect; because they will move in such a way that it will end it. And then I'll tell you what will happen. As you read here in Amos, the 8th chapter and verse 11 of Amos. Amos 8:11 ‘Behold, the days come, saith the Lord GOD, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread ... but of hearing the word of the LORD.’ ”
In a Nov. 22, 1982 co-worker letter, he wrote: "... brethren and co-workers, the prophesied Great Tribulation (nuclear World War III) will start soon after the European unification. That means OUR WORK OF SPREADING THE GOSPEL OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD WILL BE FINISHED! We have not now much more time. Soon shall come a FAMINE of hearing the Word of the Lord (Amos 8:11). God says, work while it is day, for the night is coming when no man can work – in the Work of God! Nothing else is important in our lives, now, but this all-important Work of God." (http://cog-ff.com/html/pcomments_07_04_08.html)
GCW is overlooking the Bible and what Herbert Armstrong really taught. The famine of the word is still a future event.
GCW teaches, "Brethren, prove all things and hold fast that which is good" (Little, Mark. Misunderstanding of COGwriter. GCW Sermon Notes, 5/25/02). It is good to hold fast to the truth (Jude 3). It is good to proclaim the Gospel (Matthew 24:14;28:19). Since GCW's Robert Elliot claims responsibility for the "Plain Truth Blitz Program" which occurred after HWA's death, one can only assume that he later changed his mind about getting the Gospel message out.
There are probably a lot of relatively minor doctrinal points where GCW differs from the old WCG. But as I do not listen to its sermons, I have mainly been limited to what it has posted on the net.
GCW can try to insist on out-of-context quotes from Herbert Armstrong, but the reality is that he would never have agreed with GCG that the gospel proclamation was to stop this early. See also Should the Church Still Try to Place its Top Priority on Proclaiming the Gospel or Did Herbert W. Armstrong Change that Priority for the Work?
Those in various COGs need to understand that it is logical to conclude the Philadelphians are to mee the two criteria Jesus set for that Church in Revelation 3:7-13 1) by going through the open door by placing its top priority on proclaiming the Gospel to the world (vs. 8) and 2) holding fast to the at least 18 truths that were restored to that era (vs. 11). In a sermon given 12-17-83 titled Mission of the Philadelphia Era Church, Herbert Armstrong stated those as the standards for the Philadelphia era Church. Nor have I even heard of any other COG that claims to meet both criteria (GCW does not). The Bible makes clear that simply being among those "who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ" (Revelation 12:17), does not make one Philadelphian. "Let'a hold fast and maintain the identifying marks. . .Church of Philadelphia. Let's not be among those that God will have to separate from His living Church today" (What is the "Laodicean Church"? Plain Truth. August 1959, p.10).
Although it has been reported that "The doctrinal differences among the Churches of God are minuscule. You can't get a knifes edge between us on doctrines" (Dart, Ron. CEM Founder Talks About Bickering, Bridges, the Future. The Journal. July 31, 1999. p.6), this author does not believe that one can examine the teachings of groups, such as GCW, and come to that conclusion (nor apparently would Herbert Armstrong, for proof please check out some quotes from HWA on holding fast to doctrine). Here is a related article of possible interest: What is a True Philadelphian?
Laodicean Warning for God's People If you have read this far you are probably a current or former member of one of the Churches of God and may be interested in reading this warning article.
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Continuing Church of God The group striving to be most faithful amongst all real Christian groups to the word of God.
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