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--that was by the late COG evangelist Carl McNair (McNair C. Idols of the Heart. Sermon videotape VTE122, 3/24/01).
During Jesus' day, there were two main political-religious groups within Israel, the Sadducees and the Pharisees (plus others, some of which were not considered part of the Jewish 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?
Consider that 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, the changed WCG began to use a cross now as part of its identification which was on its property in Pasadena (I have seen it), before they sold it. And a cross is now part of their logo (including the one with their name change to Grace Communion Internationalo). 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 at least two 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 has been 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, people rely on human traditions more than the Bible and/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 away from the Bible. Laodiceans are simply not as zealous for the truth--though they will sometimes vehemently disagree.
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. They also have problems knowing what to hold fast to.
Furthermore, the 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.
The Jewish Encyclopedia of 1906 teaches:
SADDUCEES (Hebrew, ; Greek, Σαδδου καῖοι):
Name from High Priest Zadok.
Name given to the party representing views and practises of the Law and interests of Temple and priesthood directly opposite to those of the Pharisees. The singular form, "Ẓadduḳi" (Greek, Σαδδουκαῖος), is an adjective denoting "an adherent of the Bene Ẓadoḳ," the descendants of Zadok, the high priests who, tracing their pedigree back to Zadok, the chief of the priesthood in the days of David and Solomon (I Kings i. 34, ii. 35; I Chron. xxix. 22), formed the Temple hierarchy all through the time of the First and Second Temples down to the days of Ben Sira (II Chron. xxxi. 10; Ezek. xl. 46, xliv. 15, xlviii. 11; Ecclus. [Sirach] li. 12 , Hebr.), but who degenerated under the influence of Hellenism, especially during the rule of the Seleucidæ, when to be a follower of the priestly aristocracy was tantamount to being a worldly-minded Epicurean. The name, probably coined by the Ḥasidim as opponents of the Hellenists, became in the course of time a party name applied to all the aristocratic circles connected with the high priests by marriage and other social relations, as only the highest patrician families intermarried with the priests officiating at the Temple in Jerusalem (Ḳid. iv. 5; Sanh. iv. 2; comp. Josephus, "B. J." ii. 8, § 14). "Haughty men these priests are, saying which woman is fit to be married by us, since our father is high priest, our uncles princes and rulers, and we presiding officers at the Temple"—these words, put into the mouth of Nadab and Abihu (Tan., Aḥare Mot, ed. Buber, 7; Pesiḳ. 172b; Midr. Teh. to Ps. lxxviii. 18), reflect exactly the opinion prevailing among the Pharisees concerning the Sadducean priesthood (comp. a similar remark about the "haughty" aristocracy of Jerusalem in Shab. 62b). The Sadducees, says Josephus, have none but the rich on their side ("Ant." xiii. 10, § 6). The party name was retained long after the Zadokite high priests had made way for the Hasmonean house and the very origin of the name had been forgotten. Nor is anything definite known about the political and religious views of the Sadducees except what is recorded by their opponents in the works of Josephus, in the Talmudic literature, and in the New Testament writings. (Sadducees. Jewish Encyclopedia of 1906. http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/12989-sadducees viewed 11/19/14)
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 (see also The Bible, Peter, Paul, John, Polycarp, Herbert W. Armstrong, Roderick C. Meredith, and Bob Thiel on Church Government).
The Sadducees and Pharisees may have been prophesied. Notice what God inspired Jeremiah to write:
8 How can you say, "We are wise, And the law of the LORD is with us'?... 9 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:
15 The chief priests answered, "We have no king but Caesar!" (John 19:15).
They also would not teach the whole plan of salvation:
8 For Sadducees say that there is no resurrection--and no angel or spirit (Acts 23:8).
18 Then some Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Him... 24 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 The Bible, Peter, Paul, John, Polycarp, Herbert W. Armstrong, Roderick C. Meredith, and Bob Thiel on Church Government) nor do they really seem to believe that God intervenes as His word teaches (e.g. Numbers 12:9).
They are candidates to be modern Sadducees.
Those who will not accept proper biblical governance are mistaken because they do not know the Scriptures nor the power of God (for further information please read also the article Should a Christian Vote?):
23 The same day the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Him and asked Him, 24 saying: "Teacher, Moses said that if a man dies, having no children, his brother shall marry his wife and raise up offspring for his brother. 25 Now there were with us seven brothers. The first died after he had married, and having no offspring, left his wife to his brother. 26 Likewise the second also, and the third, even to the seventh. 27 Last of all the woman died also. 28 Therefore, in the resurrection, whose wife of the seven will she be? For they all had her."
29 Jesus answered and said to them, "You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God. 30 For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels of God in heaven. 31 But concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God, saying, 32 'I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living." (Matthew 22:23-32 )
Many in the COGs do not know the scriptures as they should nor the power of God (see also How To Determine If Someone is a True Prophet of God and Dreams, the Bible, the Radio Church of God, and the Continuing Church of God and The Bible, Peter, Paul, John, Polycarp, Herbert W. Armstrong, Roderick C. Meredith, and Bob Thiel on Church Government).
Few will believe:
Most seem to wish to be like the Sadducees who "are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God." They do not really believe nor understand how God works and governs, despite what His word really teaches.
Interestingly, many who reject God's governance also have denied God's system of financing and have done away with some teachings concerning tithing (see Tithing Questions and Some Answers). 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 and/or downplay the idea that there are different eras of God's Church (see also The Churches of Revelation 2 & 3).
Some do not teach that some of God's promises to Israel were fulfilled with the blessings given the the British descendant peoples (see also Anglo - America in Prophecy & the Lost Tribes of Israel).
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.
It should also be noted that the Bible teaches to "walk by faith and not by sight" (2 Corinthians 5:7). Yet, those in the Laodicean groups/fellowships seem to feel that it is better to walk by sight. They normally accept the fact that men ordained their leaders, but refuse to accept the fact that the Bible says that God reveals Himself to prophets via dreams (Numbers 12:9). True prophets of God are, from a hierarchical perspective, above evangelists and ministers per Ephesians 4:11 and 1 Corinthians 12:28. Yet, Laodiceans seem unwilling to believe God's word about these matters (see also Dreams, the Bible, the Radio Church of God, and the Continuing Church of God).
Sadly, many today seem to be in the Sadducees camp. There are groups that changed governance, misapply governance, and/or rely on traditions of men above the Bible. They are groups that I would put in this category (names such as UCG, LCG, COGWA, COGaIC, ICG, to cite several examples, come to mind, plus many of the independents and semi-independents).
And while some, like LCG, would argue that they accept proper church governance and have not rejected biblical truths, they are in more error than they think. Unless Laodicean groups change, including LCG, they will NOT possibly know when the Great Tribulation will begin (for details, check out a listing in the article The Laodicean Church Era).
What about the Pharisees?
Josephus, the Jewish first century historian, wrote:
For among Judeans there are three forms of philosophy. Now Pharisees are one sect, Sadducees another, but in fact the third, called Essenes, seems to be the most reverential discipline. --- Josephus, Jewish War 2.119
For now I wish only to explain that the Pharisees transmit to the people some rules in line with the fathers, which were not written in the laws of Moses. And because of this, the line of the Sadducees reject these things. They say that it is necessary to hold those rules that have been written but it is not (necessary) to observe what is (only) from the fathers' tradition. And, as a consequence, controversies and great disagreements have occurred between them. 298 The Sadducees persuade only the well-to-do and have no popular following. But the Pharisees have the masses as allies. -- Josephus, Antiquities 12.297-298
The Jewish Encyclopedia of 1906 says:
PHARISEES (Φαρισαῖοι; Aramaic, "Perishaya"; Hebr. "Perushim"):
Party representing the religious views, practises, and hopes of the kernel of the Jewish people in the time of the Second Temple and in opposition to the priestly Sadducees. They were accordingly scrupulous observers of the Law as interpreted by the Soferim, or Scribes, in accordance with tradition. ...
The Pharisees formed a league or brotherhood of their own ("ḥaburah"), admitting only those who, in the presence of three members, pledged themselves to the strict observance of Levitical purity, to the avoidance of closer association with the 'Am ha-Areẓ (the ignorant and careless boor), to the scrupulous payment of tithes and other imposts due to the priest, the Levite, and the poor, and to a conscientious regard for vows and for other people's property (Dem. ii. 3; Tosef., Dem. ii. 1). They called their members "ḥaberim" (brothers), while they passed under the name of "Perishaya," or "Perushim." Though originally identical with the Ḥasidim, they reserved the title of "ḥasid" for former generations ("ḥasidim ha-rishonim"; see Essenes), retaining, however, the name "Perishut" (='Αμιξία = "separation," in contradistinction to 'Επιμιξία = "intermingling") as their watch word from the time of the Maccabean contest (see II Macc. xiv. 37; comp. verse 3). Yet, while the more rigorous ones withdrew from political life after the death of Judas Maccabeus, refused to recognize the Hasmonean high priests and kings as legitimate rulers of the Temple and of the state, and, as Essenes, formed a brotherhood of their own, the majority took a less antagonistic attitude toward the Maccabean dynasty, who, like Phinehas, their "father," had obtained their title by zeal for God (I Macc. ii. 54); and they finally succeeded in infusing their own views and principles into the political and religious life of the people. ...
It is difficult to state at what time the Pharisees, as a party, arose. Josephus first mentions them inconnection with Jonathan, the successor of Judas Maccabeus ("Ant." xiii. 5, § 9). Under John Hyrcanus (135-105) they appear as a powerful party opposing the Sadducean proclivities of the king, who had formerly been a disciple of theirs, though the story as told by Josephus is unhistorical ("Ant." xiii. 10, § 5; comp. Jubilees, Book of, and Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs). The Hasmonean dynasty, with its worldly ambitions and aspirations, met with little support from the Pharisees, whose aim was the maintenance of a religious spirit in accordance with their interpretation of the Law (see Psalms of Solomon). Under Alexander Jannæus (104-78) the conflict between the people, siding with the Pharisees, and the king became bitter and ended in cruel carnage ("Ant." xiii. 13, § 5; xiv. 1, § 2). Under his widow, Salome Alexandra (78-69), the Pharisees, led by Simeon ben Shetaḥ, came to power; they obtained seats in the Sanhedrin, and that time was afterward regarded as the golden age, full of the blessing of heaven (Sifra, Beḥuḳḳotai, i.; Ta'an. 23a). But the bloody vengeance they took upon the Sadducees led to a terrible reaction, and under Aristobulus (69-63) the Sadducees regained their power ("Ant." xiii. 16, § 2-xiv. 1, § 2).
Amidst the bitter struggle which ensued, the Pharisees appeared before Pompey asking him to interfere and restore the old priesthood while abolishing the royalty of the Hasmoneans altogether ("Ant." xiv. 3, § 2). The defilement of the Temple by Pompey was regarded by the Pharisees as a divine punishment of Sadducean misrule (Psalms of Solomon, i., ii., viii. 12-19). After the national independence had been lost, the Pharisees gained in influence while the star of the Sadducees waned. Herod found his chief opponents among the latter, and so he put the leaders of the Sanhedrin to death while endeavoring by a milder treatment to win the favor of the leaders of the Pharisees, who, though they refused to take the oath of allegiance, were otherwise friendly to him ("Ant." xiv. 9, § 4; xv. 1, § 1; 10, § 4; 11, §§ 5-6). Only when he provoked their indignation by his heathen proclivities did the Pharisees become his enemies and fall victims (4 B.C.) to his bloodthirstiness ("Ant." xvii. 2, § 4; 6, §§ 2-4). But the family of Boethus, whom Herod had raised to the high-priesthood, revived the spirit of the Sadducees, and thenceforth the Pharisees again had them as antagonists; still, they no longer possessed their former power, as the people always sided with the Pharisees ("Ant." xviii. 1, § 4). In King Agrippa (41-44) the Pharisees had a supporter and friend, and with the destruction of the Temple the Sadducees disappeared altogether, leaving the regulation of all Jewish affairs in the hands of the Pharisees.
Henceforth Jewish life was regulated by the teachings of the Pharisees; the whole history of Judaism was reconstructed from the Pharisaic point of view, and a new aspect was given to the Sanhedrin of the past. A new chain of tradition supplanted the older, priestly tradition (Abot i. 1). Pharisaism shaped the character of Judaism and the life and thought of the Jew for all the future. True, it gave the Jewish religion a legalistic tendency and made "separatism" its chief characteristic; yet only thus were the pure monotheistic faith, the ethical ideal, and the intellectual and spiritual character of the Jew preserved in the midst of the downfall of the old world and the deluge of barbarism which swept over the medieval world. (Pharisees. Jewish Encyclopedia of 1906. http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/12087-pharisees viewed 11/19/14)
Here is another report:
The Pharisees (/ˈfærəˌsiːz/) were at various times a political party, a social movement, and a school of thought in the Holy Land during the Second Temple period, beginning under the Hasmonean dynasty (140–37 BCE) in the wake of the Maccabean Revolt. After the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE, Pharisaic beliefs became the liturgical and ritualistic basis for Rabbinic Judaism (commonly known as simply Judaism). ...
Josephus (37 – c. 100 CE), himself a Pharisee, estimated the total Pharisee population prior to the fall of the Second Temple to be around 6,000 ("exakischilioi"). Josephus claimed that Pharisees received the backing and goodwill of the common people, apparently in contrast to the more elite Sadducees. Pharisees claimed Mosaic authority for their interpretation  of Jewish Laws, while Sadducees represented the authority of the priestly privileges and prerogatives established since the days of Solomon, when Zadok, their ancestor, officiated as High Priest. Josephus' statement 'common people' strongly indicates that most Jews were 'just Jewish people' by separating them, and making them independent of the main liturgical groups. ...
The Pharisee ("separatist") party emerged largely out of the group of scribes and sages. Their name comes from the Hebrew and Aramaic parush or parushi, which means "one who is separated." It may refer to their separation from Gentiles, sources of ritual impurity or from irreligious Jews. The Pharisees, among other Jewish sects, were active from the middle of the second century B.C.E. until the destruction of the Temple in 70 C.E. Josephus first mentions them in connection with Jonathan, the successor of Judas Maccabeus ("Ant." xiii. 5, § 9). One of the factors that distinguished the Pharisees from other groups prior to the destruction of the Temple was their belief that all Jews had to observe the purity laws (which applied to the Temple service) outside the Temple. The major difference, however, was the continued adherence of the Pharisees to the laws and traditions of the Jewish people in the face of assimilation. As Josephus noted, the Pharisees were considered the most expert and accurate expositors of Jewish law. (Pharisees. Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pharisees viewed 11/20/14)
Halley's Bible Handbook states:
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.
I would state that they were not truly legalists, but that they found ways to reason around the law and obey their own rules above the Bible (see Were the Pharisees Condemned for Keeping the Law or Reasoning Around it?).
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, warning against that, would be:
1 Then the scribes and Pharisees who were from Jerusalem came to Jesus, saying, 2 "Why do Your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread."
3 He answered and said to them, "Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition? 4 For God commanded, saying, 'Honor your father and your mother'; and, 'He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.' 5 But you say, 'Whoever says to his father or mother, "Whatever profit you might have received from me is a gift to God" — 6 then he need not honor his father or mother.' Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition. 7 Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying: 8 "These people draw near to Me with their mouth, And honor Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. 9 And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.'"
10 When He had called the multitude to Himself, He said to them, "Hear and understand: 11 Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man." 12 Then His disciples came and said to Him, "Do You know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?" 13 But He answered and said, "Every plant which My heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted. 14 Let them alone. They are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind leads the blind, both will fall into a ditch."
15 Then Peter answered and said to Him, "Explain this parable to us." 16 So Jesus said, "Are you also still without understanding? 17 Do you not yet understand that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and is eliminated? 18 But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. 19 For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. 20 These are the things which defile a man, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man." (Matthew 15:1-20)
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.
Now, it is not that paying attention to the ministry is not important. Notice that it clearly is:
11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head — Christ — 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love. (Ephesians 4:11-16)
The problem is that the Pharisees, while claiming to listen appropriate elders, the Pharisees accept doctrines from men above the Bible. Although Lucifer was an important and powerful leader--the god of this world at the time (2 Corinthians 4:4), Jesus did not accept his misinterpretation of scripture:
1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry. 3 Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, "If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread."
4 But He answered and said, "It is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.'" (Matthew 4:1-4)
Pharisees think that they are living by the word of God, but they are not. Inside, they should realize that, but they tend to overlook facts and turht.
Sadly, the modern Pharisees often hold to misinterpretations of scripture and decide this is acceptable because some living or dead leader held to that view. Accepting tradition is fine as long as it is in accordance with the Bible and truth. Otherwise, this is a mistake.
Some have even suggested that some of the late Herbert W. 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 (2 Timothy 3:16). Oddly, many of those who give excessive credence to Herbert W. Armstrong's writings, violate the teachings of some of them as well as to also fail to understand what he really meant.
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 (Matthew 15:7;16:3;22:18;23:23,25,27,29; Mark 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 messengers 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).
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).
Outward appearance and show is very important to many. More so than mercy, judgment, and faith.
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. But even if some think he did, it is the Bible and not traditions based upon interpretations of Herbert Armstrong which is important--the Philadelphian work of proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom needs to be done now per Jesus words in Matthew 24:14.
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.
Various modern Pharisees teach that the faithful must consider that Herbert Armstrong was the Elijah--but the Bible does not teach that (see also The Elijah Heresies).
Now modern Pharisees think that since they are careful about certain matters privately, that they are not all about outward appearance, and hence not like the Pharisees of old. But that is a misunderstanding. While the ancient Pharisees were very careful about outward appearances, they did hold to their own brand of righteousness. Notice what Jesus taught:
23 "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. 24 Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel! 25 "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence. 26 Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also. 27 "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness. 28 Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. (Matthew 23:23-28)
Today, many modern Pharisees miss not only aspects of mercy, judgment, and faith, they miss the work of God, do not havve the focus on integrity, and miss other key points of Philadelphian Christianity.
Some of the modern Pharisees seem to place their interpretation of what Herbert Armstrong wrote ahead of the Bible. Many 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 most of 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.
But sadly, various ones today seem to be in the Pharisees camp. There are groups that have the wrong emphasis, changed/misapply governance, and/or rely on traditions of men above the Bible. They are groups that I would put in this category (names such as PCG and RCG come to mind, but there are a lot of smaller groups in this camp). It should be noted that those who tend to be more Pharisaical tend to have more of the view of governance that the Sadducees of old held. The labels, thus, are not perfect, but the basic idea fits.
Also in this category are various independents, as well as those who have an improper focus on the calendar (see also Calculated or observed calendar?) and 'sacred names' (see Was the New Testament Written in Greek, Hebrew, or Aramaic?).
Pharisees seem to also tend to lack self-control (2 Peter 1:6) at times when it comes to criticism. Their vanity persuades them that they need to be more disagreeable than they should be (e.g. Romans 12:18). It is not that there is not a time to call out error and sin (cf. Isaiah 58:1), but they often seem to lack wisdom in this (cf. James 1:26; 3:5-6).
The Pharisaical Laodiceans have a zeal and think that means that they are NOT Laodicean, but their lack of proper love and improper focus is something that they need to repent of.
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:
7 "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": 8 "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 and/or properly rely on the word of God. Sadly, this same situation occurs today.
Both the Laodicean Pharisees and Sadducees will not properly repent of their sins--mainly they do not think that they have them, or that the ones they have are not that important to be concerned about.
Jesus told the Laodiceans:
17 Because you say, 'I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing' — and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked — 18 I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. 19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. 20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. (Revelation 3:17-20)
In the end time, MOST Christians will be Laodicean.
Heed Jesus' words. Do not be a Laodicean Pharisee or Sadducee.
Items 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.
The Bible, Peter, Paul, John, Polycarp, Herbert W. Armstrong, Roderick C. Meredith, and Bob Thiel 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? What are some of the scriptural limits on ecclesiastical authority? Do some commit organizational idolatry? Here is a Spanish language version La Biblia, Policarpo, Herbert W. Armstrong, y Roderick C. Meredith sobre el gobierno de la Iglesia.
Why Bob Thiel Left the Living Church of God Several have speculated reasons, but here is the truth. (En el idioma español: ¿Por qué Bob Thiel dejó la Iglesia del Dios Viviente?)
Continuing Church of God The group striving to be most faithful amongst all real Christian groups to the word of God. Here is a link to its website in Mandarin Chinese: http://www.ccog.asia (0ther language sites are in progress).
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 2003/2006/2007/2010/2011/2012/2013/2014/2015/2017 0913
Back to home page