It has been taught that the churches mentioned in Revelation 2 & 3 probably have at least three applications in that they represent seven contemporaneous churches, the seven successive eras of the New Testament Church, and probably seven successive eras in the Old Testament Church. One version of that latter teaching has the first Laodicean era beginning with the Maccabean revolt and existing at the time of Jesus (McNair, Carl. Idols of the Heart. LCG videotape VTE122, 3/24/01).
During Jesus' day, there were two main religious groups within Israel, the Sadducees and the Pharisees (plus others, some of which were not considered part of the Church). Since it is apparent that we are currently living during the Laodicean era, is it not likely that there are modern Sadducees and Pharisees?
The Maccabean's revolted because:
Antiochus polluted the altar by offering a sow upon it. He declared the daily sacrifices and other Mosaic ceremonies illegal and committed an abomination of desolation by erecting an image of Zeus in the holy place...Mattathias, father of five sons, refused to offer sacrifices in a profane manner...He and his sons fled to the mountains and began the famous Maccabean revolt (The Nelson Study Bible, 1997. Notes, page 1442).
In like manner, most rightly left WCG because of various abominations that they saw occur. For example, WCG now uses a cross now as part of its identification which was on the property in Pasadena (I have seen it), and is now part of their logo. Notice this historical parallel:
In 46 B.C., Roman coins show Jupiter holding a scepter terminating in a cross. This was his symbol (Babylon Mystery Religion, 1966, page 53).
It is of interest to note that Jupiter is simply the Roman name for the Greek god Zeus. Hence we see a similar parallel about the same type of abomination in both ancient and modern times.
Just like the Maccabean revolt ultimately ended with groups that did not hold fast to all the truth (hence they became Sadducees and Pharisees), the same type of thing seems to have happened in modern times. Might this explain much of what is happening within the Churches of God (COGs) today?
According to Strong's Greek concordance, Laodicea is a combination of two words, laos which it defines as "people" and dike, which is defined by Strong's as "right", "judgment", "punish", and "vengeance". Smith's Bible Dictionary defines Laodicea to mean "justice of the people". Might the term Laodicean convey that the predominant characteristic of this Church is that people rule, people judge, or, in fact that the people change the Church's direction? I personally have long felt that the term Laodicea conveys a difference in governance and direction.
Since the Philadelphians are admonished to "Hold fast what you have" (Revelation 3:11) and the Laodiceans are condemned for their work yet say, "I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing" (vs. 17) it would seem that most Laodiceans have rejected other restored truths as well. Furthermore, this concept of the people deciding seems to lead to Laodiceans who decide that relatively minor, inaccurate, and/or biblically unimportant matters are more important than being part of the Philadelphia work.
Smith's Bible Dictionary says that the Sadducees:
...were for the most part judges, and individuals of the governing class...The leading tenet of the Sadducees was the negation of the leading tenet of their opponents...The second distinguishing doctrine of the Sadducees was the denial of man's resurrection after death.
Halley's Bible Handbook says the Sadducees:
...were a priestly clique...irreligious...they were rationalistic and worldly minded.
In addition the historian Josephus wrote,
Sadducees...think it an instance of virtue to dispute with those teachers of philosophy whom they frequent...Sadducees...say... that they may act as they please...But the behavior of the Sadducees ones towards another is in some degrees wild; and their conversation with those that are of their own party is as barbarous as if they were strangers to them.
Thus the Sadducees were a mixture of independents and semi-independent individuals.
Scripture confirms that many of the Sadducees were associated with the priesthood and that they were somewhat hostile to the true Church,
Then the high priest rose up, and all those who were with him (which is the sect of the Sadducees), and they were filled with indignation, And laid their hands on the apostles and put them in the common prison (Acts 5:17-18).
There exists great indignation among many of the so-called independents of what they refer to a 'corporate churches'; there also exists a great deal of indignation among those who are ministers in various COGs to be under the authority of the primary one God is doing His main work through today.
The Sadducees may have been prophesied. Notice what God inspired Jeremiah to write,
How can you say, "We are wise, And the law of the LORD is with us'?...Behold they have rejected the word of the LORD; So what wisdom do they have?" (Jeremiah 8:8-9).
The Sadducees apparently considered human governance and position more important than God's as John wrote,
The chief priests answered, "We have no king but Caesar!" (John 19:15).
They also would not teach the whole plan of salvation:
For Sadducees say that there is no resurrection--and no angel or spirit (Acts 23:8).
Then some Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Him...Jesus answered and said to them, "Are you not therefore mistaken, because you do not know the Scriptures nor the power of God?" (Mark 12:18,24).
There are many today whose leading tenet seems to be the denial of the doctrine of God's governance (see also Polycarp, Herbert W. Armstrong, and Roderick C. Meredith on Church Government ).
They are mistaken because they do not know the Scriptures (for further information please read the article Should a Christian Vote?). They are candidates to be modern Sadducees.
Interestingly, many who reject God's governance also have denied God's system of financing and have done away with some teachings concerning tithing. The most common rejection of tithing comes from those who claim that the governments of the world have taken over caring for the needy, and thus they do not believe they need to pay third tithe (here is an article Is Third Tithe Still Valid Today? which addresses many of the arguments against third tithe). This clearly is a worldly attitude.
Like the Sadducees of Jesus' day, modern Sadducees also do not teach the whole plan of God and they often disagree amongst themselves on specifics. Some will not teach that we are to be born again to be part of God's family. Some do not teach that we are begotten by God's Spirit. Many deny that there are clearly eras of God's Church. Some do not teach that some of God's promises to Israel were fulfilled with the blessings given the the British descendant peoples. Most do not consider that the top priority of the Church should be proclaiming the Gospel to the world as a witness. Some observe birthdays. Some do not teach there is a place of safety, or if they do, they teach the place is not Petra (an alternative view is in the article There is a Place of Safety for the Philadelphians. Why it May Be Petra). Some are independent of all organized efforts to proclaim the Gospel. Some are irreligious, and like the Sadducees of old, they just do not know the power of God and will not let it rule their lives. Others have only one or two of these characteristics.
But sadly, many today seem to be in the Sadducees camp.
What about the Pharisees?
Halley's Bible Handbook states the:
Pharisees were the most numerous and influential of the religious sects of Jesus' day. They were strict legalists. They stood for the rigid observance of the letter and forms of the Law, and also for the Traditions.
According to Smith's Bible Dictionary,
The fundamental principle of the Pharisees...is that...there was an oral law to complete and explain the written law, given to Moses.
A biblical example of that would be Matthew 15:1-2,
Then the scribes and Pharisees who were from Jerusalem came to Jesus saying, "Why do Your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread".
The Pharisees were quite concerned about 'the tradition of the elders' even though there was no biblical requirement to wash hands before eating bread. Some modern Pharisees seem to focus more on traditions, such as their interpretation of some teaching of Herbert Armstrong, than the Bible.
Some have even suggested that some of Mr. Armstrong's teachings are at least equal to scripture. While I believe that God used Herbert Armstrong to restore much truth to the Church, the Bible and not Herbert Armstrong must be the ultimate standard for the Church (II Timothy 3:16).
The Pharisees of old said, ""Teacher, we know that You are true, and care about no one; for You do not regard the person of men, but teach the way of God in truth" (Mark 12:14), but they did not do what Jesus taught. Some modern Pharisees say that Herbert Armstrong should be followed, but they will not follow his example of proclaiming the Gospel.
Jesus often called the Pharisees hypocrites (Mat 15:7;16:3;22:18;23:23,25,27,29; Mk 7:6). According to Strong's Exhaustive Concordance, the Greek word Jesus used that was translated as hypocrite means, "an actor under an assumed role." Likewise, modern Pharisees may often pretend they are part of the Philadelphia era, while they are actually a part of the Laodicean era.
Though they have a form of governance, they reject the true messangers that God is primarily working through. Notice what the Bible teaches about them:
There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, "Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him." (John 3:1-2).
Then the Pharisees went and plotted how they might entangle Him in His talk. And they sent to Him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, "Teacher, we know that You are true, and teach the way of God in truth" (Matthew 22:15-16).
When morning came, all the chief priests and elders of the people plotted against Jesus to put Him to death (Matthew 27:1),
Then Judas, having received a detachment of troops, and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, came there with lanterns, torches, and weapons (John 18:3)
...they had handed Him over because of envy (Matthew 27:18).
The Pharisees eliminated the competition so-to-speak instead of supporting the one that taught the truth of God and did the work. Likewise, the modern Pharisees know that Herbert Armstrong began a work, but they come up with various non-biblical traditions to not support the most faithful remnant that are doing it.
Notice the following passages:
But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass by justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone (Luke 11:42).
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone. Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel! (Matthew 23:23-24).
There are those today who focus on insignificant points, yet overlook more important ones. The larger Pharisaical COG-related groups I am aware of truly misunderstand justice and mercy (and most likely also faith). The Pharisees tended to focus on unimportant and insignificant traditions, like some now do with makeup.
Have they not read the following?
Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness (Matthew 23:28).
Notice what Mark was inspired to write:
"For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men--the washing of pitchers and cups, and many other such things you do." And He said to them, "All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition..." (Mark 7:8-9).
According to Strong's, Philadelphia means "fraternal affection", "brotherly love", "love of the brethren", "fond of the brethren". While the Philadelphians show the love of God by placing their top priority on proclaiming the Gospel to the world as a witness, the modern Pharisees do not. They like the old-time, "Pharisees and lawyers rejected the will of God for themselves" (Luke 7:30).
Many modern Pharisees often quote Herbert Armstrong and claim that only be following their interpretation of his teachings can one be a Philadelphian. Herbert Armstrong warned against those who had twigs but not the trunk of the tree. In his November 19, 1976 letter Herbert Armstrong wrote,
It is true that Baptists, fundamental Methodists, and other Protestant denominations, do teach some things as we do--but they have the branches and twigs of the tree--NOT ONE OF THEM has the real TRUNK of the tree--with its MAIN BRANCHES...But Christ said to His Philadelphia era Church, that because we have but little strength, He would OPEN THOSE DOORS TO US (Rev. 3:8).
Furthermore, you cannot read anywhere in the Bible where it suggests that the top priority of the New Testament Church should not be proclaiming the Gospel. For further proof, please read the article Should the Church's Top Priority be Proclaiming the Gospel or Did Herbert Armstrong Change that Priority? This article proves that Herbert Armstrong did not change this priority as many modern Pharisees have claimed. God condemned the Laodiceans for having a different work than the Philadelphians--He commends the Philadelphians to holding fast to the work they had--He NEVER tells the Philadelphians to change the focus of the work. Like the Pharisees of old (John 16:14), many modern Pharisees are lovers of money, hence this is one reason that they tend to have their priorities wrong.
The modern Pharisees seem to place their interpretation of what Herbert Armstrong wrote ahead of the Bible, they focus on twigs, miss the weightier matters of the law, do not have the love of God in any major way, and do not obey the Bible when it comes to proclaiming the Gospel as a witness as their top priority. Although the modern Pharisees seem to all have these characteristics, they seem to have separated based on their interpretation of HWA's writings--essentially human tradition--and they like the Pharisees tend to argue that their traditions are true and important--but this does not change the fact that they really are relying on their interpretations. The modern Pharisees are at best lukewarm as they, like the Pharisees of old, thought they were strict, when in reality, they rejected the true work of God.
The modern Pharisees simply are not focusing on fulfilling Matthew 24:14. They do not have the same work as the Philadelphia Church did under HWA. And they seem not to realize why Jesus condemned the Laodiceans or the Pharisees of old.
Many Laodicean groups, especially those who publicly consider themselves to be Philadelphian or the most faithful to HWA's teachings, fail to realize what Jesus the main reason was that He condemned the Laodiceans for.
Notice Jesus' own words to
...the church of the Laodiceans write, 'These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God: I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth" (Revelation 3:14-16).
Jesus condemned the Laodiceans for their work. Not because it was no good (cold), but because it was not hot.
Is it because the Laodiceans continue the work of the Philadelphians? Is it because they place the same priority, the same financial emphasis on continuing the work of the Philadelphia era?
No, to both questions.
Why? Because this is what Jesus said to "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": I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it; for you have a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name" (Revelation 3:7-8).
The Laodiceans have a different work. Yet it is the Philadelphians that continue the SAME WORK until the end. That is what HWA's COG used to teach:
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).
Notice what Herbert Armstrong taught:
Our work in the hands of Christ is NOT YET FINISHED, and He will not allow the Work to stop until it is finished. And when will that be?
... since no one can know the day or the hour of His coming, we probably shall not be able to know the exact day that 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 beast's" 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 United States and Canadian cities (Armstrong HW. The Time We Are In, Now. PASTOR GENERAL'S REPORT - VOL.1, NO.15 NOVEMBER 20, 1979).
Next, when our Great Commission is in God's sight completed, we are to be taken--symbolically flown on the two wings of a great eagle--we shall be taken to a place of protection from the Great Tribulation (Armstrong HW. Looking...PASTOR GENERAL'S REPORT - VOL.3, NO.4 January 23, 1981).
Thus HWA's writings clearly teach that the Philadelphia work was to continue until it was time to go the place of safety. Those who do not have the same priorities in proclaiming the gospel today simply do not know what HWA really taught.
Many today believe that simply keeping the law and serving God as they see fit is fine. So did ancient peoples:
How can you say, "We are wise, And the law of the Lord is with us?" Look, the false pen of the scribe certainly works falsehood. The wise men are ashamed, They are dismayed and taken. Behold, they have rejected the word of the Lord; So what wisdom do they have? (Jeremiah 8:8-9).
The parallels are undeniable. The Maccabeans started out intending to be faithful, but then drifted to become the Sadducees, Pharisees, and others which were apparently not part of the Old Testament Church. Many of those that originally left WCG, left for valid reasons as well, but then drifted. There are many individuals and groups which were once part of WCG which appear to fall into the camp of the Sadducees and Pharisees. Of course, in all groups that profess Christ there are likely to be Pharisaical individuals, but there are certainly many that were one part of the old WCG who seem to be.
Interestingly, here is something that Herbert Armstrong wrote,
Suppose He had tried to join with, and work with the Pharisees, the Sadducees and the hypocritical Scribes of the days of His earthly Ministry. JESUS DIDN'T DO THAT! He called young men -- fishermen, taxcollectors -- took them into HIS OWN PRIVATE SCHOOL -- so to speak -- taught them the TRUE Gospel God had sent Him to proclaim, trained them for carrying on GOD'S WORK! (Letter, February 1, 1965).
The Pharisees, Sadducees, and many others in Jesus' day, simply would not back doing the work. Sadly, this same situation occurs today.
Articles of related interest may include:
Attending the Church of Choice This article discusses whose choice is important to worship God; should you attend the church of your choice or the church of God's choice?
Unity: Which COG for You? Why so many groups? Why is there lack of unity in the Churches of God? Has it always been this way? What can/should be done about it?
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 HWA's list given 12/17/83.
Do You Believe God Used Herbert 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.
Polycarp, Herbert W. Armstrong, and Roderick C. Meredith on Church Government What form of governance did the early church have? Was it hierarchical? Which form of governance would one expect to have in the Philadelphia remnant? The people decide and/or committee forms, odd dictatorships, or the same type that the Philadelphia era itself had?
Old Testament Church Eras Are there seven church eras in the Old Testament? Do they parallel those in Revelation 2 &3?
Thiel B. Are the Laodiceans Modern Sadducees and Pharisees? (C) www.cogwriter.com 2003/2006/2007/2010/2011/2012 0915
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