Hebert W. Armstrong died on January 16, 1986, at age 93 1/2. Many never heard of him, but multiple millions did. His death seemed to mark the end of the predominance of the Philadelphia era of the Church of God and the start of the predominance of the Laodicean era instead. Many Laodicean groups have formed since his death.
Despite his claim that he would follow in his footsteps, Herbert Armstrong’s chosen successor in the old Worldwide Church of God, the late Joseph Tkach, Sr., did not remain faithful to the teachings that many of us believe God inspired Herbert Armstrong to restore to the church. Here are Some Quotes from Herbert W. Armstrong on Laodicea and Holding Fast to Doctrine.
Since Herbert W. Armstrong’s death, many who declared that they believed the doctrines he claimed to restore to the Church of God, either repudiated everything or at least several of those doctrines. Some others, improperly, somewhat idolized him.
But then there are those who still agree with the following teaching of Herbert W. Armstrong:
“Don’t believe me – BELIEVE YOUR BIBLE – BELIEVE GOD! I always say…check up! Listen without prejudice, with open mind, then check up–go to your BIBLE, and BELIEVE what you read there.” (Herbert W. Armstrong, Plain Truth magazine, Sept. 1963, Personal pg.1)
Herbert Armstrong made mistakes, and often big ones. He also had his own character flaws, though not all things written against him are true (see 15 Accusations and Truthful Responses About Herbert W. Armstrong).
But I do not want the focus of this post to be on the person of Herbert W. Armstrong, but on the biblically-correct teachings he claimed to restore to the Philadelphian portion of the Church of God that he claimed were lost through the ages by the time he encountered the Sardis era of the Church of God.
Herbert W. Armstrong wrote:
At least 18 basic and essential truths have been restored to the True Church since” the year 1933 (Mystery of the Ages, Dodd & Mead, 1985, p. 251.
The only Church of God group that specifically lists all of those truth, using his list, as part of their official beliefs is the Continuing Church of God. Notice that portion of the Statement of Beliefs of the Continuing Church of God:
1. True Gospel (An article of related interest may include The Gospel of the Kingdom of God was the Emphasis of Jesus and the Early Church.)
2. Purpose of God (An article of related interest may include Deification: Did the Early Church Teach That Christians Would Become God?).
3. God’s Plan through the Holy Days (Several articles of possibly related interest may include Is There “An Annual Worship Calendar” In the Bible?, Passover and the Early Church, and Did Early Christians Observe the Fall Holy Days?)
4. Proper Church Government (Two articles of possibly related interest may include The Bible, Polycarp, Herbert W. Armstrong, and Roderick C. Meredith on Church Government and Polycarp’s Letter to the Philippians.)
5. Who and What is God? (An article of related interest may include One God, Two Beings Before the Beginning.)
6. What and Why is Man? (Two articles of possibly related interest may include What is the Meaning of Life? and Did Early Christians Believe that Humans Possessed Immortality?)
7. Spirit in Man (An article of possibly related interest may include Did Early Christians Believe that Humans Possessed Immortality?)
8. Firstfruits In this Age (An article of related interest may include Pentecost: Is it more than Acts 2?)
9. Knowledge of What the Millennium Truly Is (An article of related interest may include Did The Early Church Teach Millenarianism and a 6000 Year Plan?)
10. Truth About the Holy Spirit (An article of related interest may include Did Early Christians Think the Holy Spirit Was A Separate Person in a Trinity?)
11. Christians are Begotten Now (An article of related interest may include Born Again: A Question of Semantics?)
12. Born-Again at the Resurrection (An article of related interest may include Born Again: A Question of Semantics?)
13. Identity of Physical Israel (An article of related interest may include Anglo – America in Prophecy & the Lost Tribes of Israel.)
14. How the Identity of Israel Opens Up Understanding of Bible Prophecy (An article of related interest may include Anglo – America in Prophecy & the Lost Tribes of Israel.)
15. Second and Third Tithes (An article of related interest may include Is Third Tithe Still Valid Today?)
16. Identity of Babylon and Her Daughters (Three articles of possibly related interest may include Europa, the Beast, and Revelation, Which Is Faithful: The Roman Catholic Church or the Genuine Church of God?, and Hope of Salvation: How the Genuine Church of God differ from most Protestants.)
17. Satan has Deceived the Whole World (An article possibly related interest may be The Day of Atonement–Its Christian Significance.)
18. We Are to Be Separate (Two articles of related interest may include Why Be Concerned About False and Heretical Leaders? and Overview: How Does the Church of God Agree and Disagree with Other Faiths Professing Christ?)
We in the Continuing Church of God do not simply believe these truths because Herbert W. Armstrong came up with a list. We believe them because they are biblically accurate and, as applicable, consistent with aspects of church history.
Without going into more detail here, the second century writings of Theophilus of Antioch, for example, demonstrate that Christians believed that they were to be born again at the resurrection (Theophilus of Antioch. To Autolycus, Book 2, Chapter XV) and other early writings do demonstrate that there were those who professed Christ after the death of the original apostles that seemed to hold to those “restored truths.” Judeo-Christians of the first few centuries A.D. seemed to understand at least some of the identity of physical Israel and tried to get the gospel message to them (e.g. James 1:1).
Consider also, in his October 1979 Plain Truth article titled 7 Proofs of God’s True Church, Herbert W. Armstrong listed seven proofs that he felt that the Philadelphia portion of the true Church of God would have. These included knowing/teaching 1) Who and What is God?, 2) The Government of God and Creation of Holy and Righteous Character, 3) Who and What is Man?, 4) The Truth About Israel, 5) The True Gospel, 6) What and Why the Church?, and 7) The Priority of Teaching of the Reign of the Kingdom of God. He felt that the, then, Worldwide Church of God had all of those. We in the Continuing Church of God do as well.
Specifically related to those we teach:
1) The view that early Christians had on the Godhead,
2) The government of God (hierarchical with the Father as highest in authority and operates under His loving laws) and His goal of developing righteous character (Romans 5:4; Matthew 5:48) with doctrinal assistance from His ministry (Ephesians 4:11-16),
3) That God intentionally created humans physical (Genesis 2:7) and that those He calls (John 6:44) can become spiritual (1 Corinthians 15:45-48) in the family of God (Ephesians 3:14-19),
4) The identity of modern Israel and how that ties in with prophecy (cf. Genesis 48, 49; 2 Kings 12:19-20; 16:5-6; James 1:1; Daniel 11:39),
5) Christ’s gospel of the kingdom (Mark 1:14-15; Acts 1:1-3),
6) That the church does the work of God (Matthew 24:14; 28:19-20; John 6:29; Revelation 3:7-13; 1 Corinthians 12:1-31; 16:9; 2 Corinthians 6:14-18; Ephesians 5:25-32) in truth (Psalm 33:4; Isaiah 61:8; John 17:17; 2 Timothy 2:15),
7) The proper priority of proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom to the world as a witness (Matthew 24:14) and the soon-coming millennium (Revelation 20:4), while teaching disciples all things that Jesus commanded (Matthew 28:19-20).
After the death of Herbert Armstrong, his human successor entered into apostasy and renounced most of the unique Church of God doctrines. The true church continued as many left that organization and many other organizations have since formed. Apostasy has happened from New Testament times (e.g. 1 John 2:18-19) and is one reason why tracing true Christian church history can be difficult.
While many Church of God groups have leaders that claim most or all of those seven points, nearly all have failed to truly practice Herbert Armstrong’s points 2, 6, and 7, and have misunderstood some of the others. At least one group that believes it is a leader in 6 & 7 above, knowingly and intentionally, has made that proclamation with materials it knew contained doctrinal errors that were not the truth. That willingness to spread a false message shows that they are not leading the final phase of the work of God—the work of God MUST BE DONE IN TRUTH per Psalm 33:4. The LORD said, “I will direct their work in truth” (Isaiah 61:8), and those who knowingly publish and distribute doctrinal errors obviously are not accepting the LORD’s direction.
Many other groups discount points 6 & 7. Yet, here is also something that Herbert W. Armstrong wrote related to points 6 and to parts of point 7:
In Matthew 28:19-20, God’s order is 1) go and preach the Gospel (compare with Mark’s version, same words of Jesus, Mark 16:15); 2) baptize those who repent and believe; then after that, 3) teach them to observe the commandments” (Autobiography of Herbert W. Armstrong, p. 523).
PURPOSE of the Church, 1) proclaiming the coming kingdom of God to the world and 2) feeding the flock.
The “loner”–the “individual Christian,” who wants to climb up into the kingdom some other way than by CHRIST and HIS WAY through his CHURCH–is not being trained in CHRIST’S MANNER OF TRAINING, to rule and reign with Christ in his kingdom! (Mystery of the Ages, p.270).
Herbert Armstrong also taught, “with modern facilities for mass communication – the printing press, radio, television, even the telephone by which one may reach another in any part of the world in a matter of minutes or less – can reach more people by far than all of the first century apostles combined.” (7 Proofs of God’s True Church, Part 6. Plain Truth, August 1979).
We in the Continuing Church of God are utilizing 21st century methods for mass communication including the printing press, radio, YouTube television, the telephone, and of course the internet, which can even be faster than the forms of mass communication that Herbert Armstrong used. We have reached multiple millions with the gospel of the kingdom and have the type of proclamation and prophetic truths that Jesus said should be the criteria to know the true from the false in Matthew 7:15-18.
These truths are also listed in our free booklet Where is the True Christian Church Today?
But many once part of the old Worldwide Church of God no longer believe several truths.
Jesus warned the Philadelphians to “Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown” (Revelation 3:11), and this would seemingly have to include the doctrinal truths that were restored to the Philadelphia portion of the Church of God. The Bible also warns that people who seem to be believers will “fall away” from the truth and while that has happened in the past, it will again happen in the future (cf. Daniel 11:30-35; 1 Timothy 4:1). Some who once claimed to be Philadelphians have not held fast to that teaching either.
Herbert Armstrong ultimately believed that a dream, which had two proclamation parts, was a prophecy from God for him to enter the ministry, which he did, and he completed the first proclamation part of the dream. Thirty years after his death, the only group that has claimed to be working towards completing the second part of that dream is the Continuing Church of God.Three articles of related interest may include Dreams, the Bible, the Radio Church of God, and the Continuing Church of God, The Final Phase of the Work, and Should the Church Still Try to Place its Top Priority on Proclaiming the Gospel or Did Herbert Armstrong Change that Priority for the Work?
Most groups with leaders once part of the old Worldwide Church of God discount all dreams and have not placed the public proclamation of the kingdom of God to the world as their true initial priority (Matthew 24:14; 28:19), do not fully understand all of the restored truths, and have not valued the truth enough, hence they have shown that they are not the possessors of what has been called the “Philadelphia mantle” (leadership authority). The group with said mantle is also represented by the “woman” of Revelation 12:14-17.
The Book of Hebrews teaches:
1 Let brotherly love continue. (Hebrews 13:1)
Why bring that up here? Because the word translated as “brotherly love” is the Greek word Philadelphia. Philadelphia was to continue, even into this Laodicean time, as well as be present (to a degree) throughout the history of the Church of God. Philadelphians are deeply caring people.
Here is something from the late Herbert W Armstrong: about the 30% growth his church once had:
THE WORK of God, which the Church had been added to back up and assist, was started by myself, with only my wife as full time assistant. I started the radio broadcasting program in January, 1934, and The Plain Truth, in February, 1934. The Good News, as the organ for our members, had started earlier in 1933.
The Work GREW. God continued to ADD to His Church such as HE called to back up the GREAT COMMISSION, and to develop the godly, holy and righteous CHARACTER to qualify them to be made kings and priests UNDER CHRIST after His return to earth as KING of Kings at the beginning of the millenial rule.
For 35 years the WORK OF GOD grew steadily at the rate of approximately 30 percent a year. I do not know of any organization, secular or of God, that has shown so remarkable growth, starting from NOTHING financially (though we started with something greater — FAITH in the living Christ HEAD of the Church and the WORK). This Work was built literally on FAITH. The living Christ blessed it richly, even though there was carnal opposition and persecution from the beginning.
Read carefully now. As the Work grew, so did the human organization to work UNDER me in getting God’s Work done. Then, after this 35-year unmatched GROWTH with God’s blessing, I made a basic mistake, which I did not then realize was contrary to GOD’S form of organization. It was a detail that NONE in the Church realized was unscriptural.
It happened this way: As the work continued growing and growing, especially after the foundation of Ambassador College, my younger son, Garner Ted, had become converted. Mr. Roderick C. Meredith had entered Ambassador College as a student beginning its third year, fall of 1949. He was developing as a leader under me. He saw the rapid strides my son Garner Ted was making at the time, spiritually. My elder son, Richard D. (Dick), was growing spiritually too, but at a slower more steady rate.
Mr. Meredith began to urge me to make Garner Ted vice president under me, in the Work. I thought it a good suggestion. …
Christ built Work
Now to the CENTRAL TRUTH leading into today’s state of the Work. Brethren, READ THIS SERIOUSLY! Jesus Christ, the living HEAD of God’s Church, started this present era of His Work through me. I DID NOT BUILD THE WORK OR THE CHURCH — the living Christ built it, using me as His instrument and His apostle.
But I made the mistake, unrealizing that mistake, of allowing an office of authority to be injected BETWEEN ME AND THE MINISTRY AND CHURCH!
For the first 35 years of this Work, I was the sole human in supreme command, UNDER CHRIST. There was opposition and persecution — from without — but THERE WAS NO QUESTION OF WHO WAS IN CHARGE! During those 35 years the Church and the Work GREW AND GREW AND GREW! It had Christ’s BLESSING!
I knew that GOD’S FORM OF ORGANIZATION IS FROM THE TOP DOWN. I DID NOT REALIZE that allowing an office of authority to be interjected BETWEEN me and the Church was contrary to God’s form of human organization.
WHAT RESULTED? Great confusion grew in the Church — especially in and around headquarters. “WHO IS REALLY IN AUTHORITY?” many wondered, perplexed. The Work STOPPED GROWING. (Christ Puts Church On Bible Form Of Organization. Good News, June 5, 1978)
The Continuing Church of God has exceeded the 30% growth per year that the old Radio/Worldwide Church of God used to claim it had for decades. Many of those that we have with us did NOT have a WCG background as we reached people others had not. (As far as church governance goes, check out the article The Bible, Peter, Paul, John, Polycarp, Herbert W. Armstrong, Roderick C. Meredith, and Bob Thiel on Church Government.)
For more details, check out the article CCOG’s Four Years and God Revealing Philadelphia?
Part of Herbert W. Armstrong’s legacy is that he took the Bible to be the word of God and taught:
…the Bible tells us to PROVE all things (Armstrong HW. The RESURRECTION was NOT on Sunday. 1952).
Which of course, it does as the Apostle Paul wrote:
21 Prove all things; hold fast that which is good (1 Thessalonians 5:21, KJV).
More on Philadelphia-era doctrines and priorities can be found in the article The Philadelphia Church Era.
Those interested in learning more about Herbert W. Armstrong, should read the article Who Was Herbert W. Armstrong? How is He Viewed Today?
Several items of possibly related interest include:
Who Was Herbert W. Armstrong? How is He Viewed Today? Includes quotes from the 1973 edition of The Autobiography of Herbert W. Armstrong and explains how he is and should be viewed today.
15 Accusations and Truthful Responses About Herbert W. Armstrong He, even after his death, keeps being improperly maligned–here is the truth on these matters.
CCOG’s Four Years and God Revealing Philadelphia? Has God been revealing Philadelphia since CCOG formed? What has been happening? Can you see the hand of God in this? A related sermon is titled CCOG: Four Years Revealing Philadelphia?
18 Truths Restored to the Churches of God Herbert W. Armstrong wrote that he felt he had restored at least 18 lost truths to the Church, here is Herbert W. Armstrong’s list given 12/17/83. This articles also has links to show that these truths were believed by professors of Christ in earlier times, hence they were not some invention of Herbert Armstrong.Here is a related link in Spanish/español: Lista de Herbert W. Armstrong de las 18 verdades restauradas. Here are links to a related two-part sermon: The 18 Restored Truths: 1-8 and The 18 Restored Truths: 9-18.
Do You Believe God Used Herbert W. Armstrong to Raise Up the Philadelphia Era of the Church of God? Nearly everyone while in WCG used to believe this, most do not seem to anymore.
The Final Phase of the Work What is the final phase of the work? Who will lead it? Do you have the courage to support it? Here is a related YouTube video titled The Final Phase of the Work. The written article has been translated into Spanish La Fase Final de la Obra.
Leading the Final Phase of the Work Matthew 24:14 teaches “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 ” will be fulfilled and RCG is not the group doing this. Who is leading the final phase of the work? What did Herbert Armstrong and the old WCG teach about that and about prophets? Does Bob Thiel meet the criteria that the Bible and the old WCG set? What is the proof? What has the Continuing Church of God been doing? This is a sermonette length video.
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? Some say the Church should mainly feed the flock now as that is what Herbert W. Armstrong reportedly said. Is that what he said? Is that what the Bible says? What did Paul and Herbert W. Armstrong expect from evangelists?
Here are Some Quotes from Herbert W. Armstrong on Laodicea and Holding to Doctrine.
Continuing Church of God The group striving to be most faithful amongst all real Christian groups to the word of God.
5. The Sardis Church Era was predominant circa 1600 A.D. to circa 1933 A.D. Discusses early history of the Seventh Day Baptists, Seventh-day Adventists, and COG-7th Day.
6. The Philadelphia Church Era was predominant circa 1933 A.D. to 1986 A.D. The old Radio Church of God and old Worldwide Church of God, now the remnant of that era is basically the most faithful in the Church of God, like who hold to the beliefs and practices of the Continuing Church of God.
7. The Laodicean Church Era has been predominant circa 1986 A.D. to present. The Laodiceans are non-Philadelphians who mainly descended from the old WCG or its offshoots. They do not properly understand the work or biblical prophecies and will face the Great Tribulation if they do not repent. One video of related interest is 17 Laodicean Errors in Prophecy.