The Continuing Church of God believes that its top priority needs to be to complete the work of Matthew 24:14 and Matthew 28:19-20. Is that what it should do?
To answer the question, JUST WHAT IS THE WORK?, Herbert W. Armstrong personally wrote:
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)" (Letter 11/19/76).
The PURPOSE for which Christ built the Church exemplifies its WORK...1) To ANNOUNCE to the world for its witness the coming Kingdom of God...2) To prepare the people to whom God adds to the Church...God has always worked with humans. He has worked with O N E M A N at a time...The WORK consists of proclaiming the Gospel, by radio, by television, in print (Armstrong HW. JUST WHAT IS THE WORK? PASTOR GENERAL'S REPORT - VOL.3, NO.6 February 6, 1981)
Many others since Hebert Armstrong, however, have said that the top priority is to 'feed the flock' and/or that Herbert W. Armstrong (HWA) completely 'finished the work' of proclaiming the Gospel. Who is right? (Note: Further in this article is a section titled The Final Phase of the Work--a separate article on that--with more details is also titled The Final Phase of the Work.)
Old Testament Example
Although the world's churches may teach otherwise, the Old Testament experiences are helpful for those of us near the time of the end. As Paul wrote, "Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come" (I Cor 10:11).
One of the works that was done in the Old Testament was the building of two temples. The first temple was essentially a headquarters' work. David saw a need and wanted to build a temple to God, but was prevented from doing so (I Chr 28:2-3). David collected building materials for it from the wealth of Israel (I Chr 28: 14-19), though his son Solomon built it (I Kin 6:2). This temple was magnificent and it was completely covered with gold (I Kin 6:19-22). This temple may be analogous to the ability of the WCG under Herbert W. Armstrong to get the Gospel out.
The second temple was different. First of all, there was a call to find out which of the children of Israel would be faithful to help do the work of rebuilding it (Ezra 1:2-3). Secondly, those whose spirit God moved from among his people went to do the work (Ezra 1:5). This suggests that not all of God's people responded. Thirdly, this temple was not as impressive as the first one. When the foundations of the second temple were laid, those who had seen the magnificence of the first temple did not rejoice, they wept (Ezra 3:12). There was a lull in construction due to opposition (Ezra 4). Even though King Darius the Mede eliminated the official opposition and admonished the people to be diligent to rebuild the temple (Ezra 6:3-12), they were not. "This people says, 'The time has not come, the time that the LORD's house should be built.' " (Haggai 1:2)--they did not feel they needed to do the work. But what did God think? "Then the word of the LORD came by Haggai saying, 'Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in paneled houses, and this temple to lie in ruins?' " (Haggai 1:3-4). God felt they should do His work first, " 'You looked for much, but indeed it came to little; and when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why?' says the LORD of hosts. 'Because my house is in ruins, while every one of you runs his own house' " (Haggai 1:9-10). This second temple may be analogous for the need to do the work of proclaiming the Gospel to the world as a witness after the dismantling of the prior efforts (an article of related interest may be The Temple and the Work).
Many have said something to the effect that since COG is not making the same impact as the WCG did when Herbert W. Armstrong was alive, that the COG's work isn't necessary--the relative impact is not the point. The point is that God at all times wants His people to do His work and not primarily look after themselves (Philadelphians, but definition love others).
What About Herbert W. Armstrong?
Many, in order to justify not doing the work of proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom as a witness have raised several arguments concerning Herbert Armstrong finishing the work.
One of the arguments that has been raised with me was that Joseph Tkach, Sr. reported that supposedly Herbert Armstrong told him that since he (Herbert Armstrong) had fulfilled Matthew 24:14, that the need to proclaim the Gospel to the world was gone. This is the same J. Tkach who said that WCG would teach the 18 truths that Herbert Armstrong restored to the Church of God, said that WCG was not teaching the trinity, and other such things. Thus, it matters not what J. Tkach Sr. said Herbert Armstrong said. Furthermore, here is proof that J. Tkach understood he still was to proclaim the Gospel, for this is what he authorized as WCG's position, "Personal Correspondence Department," in a standard letter about the 1290 and 1335 days Daniel, included these statements:
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) (Tkach J. Personal Correspondence Department Letter 61, February, 1989).
It should be noted that this is what was also sent out by WCG, but under Herbert Armstrong's name, during the time of Herbert Armstrong's was alive. Notice:
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 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." (Armstrong HW. Personal. Good News magazine January 1980, p. 23).
It now appears likely that God's present Work through us will come to an end 1,335 days before the approximate date of Christ's' return in supreme POWER and GLORY! It appears the Roman European armies will surround and take half of the city of Jerusalem 45 days later, and the GREAT TRIBULATION will begin 30 days after that. And the GREAT TRIBULATION, running parallel to the worldwide telecast of the TWO WITNESSES (Rev. 11), will last approximately 3 1/2 years. (Armstrong HW. The Time Has Come for Fasting and Prayer! January 1980, p. 2)
It should be obvious that HWA did not believe the work would end until it was just about time to flee, within weeks of the Great Tribulation beginning. Those who argue otherwise are missing what HWA really meant about the work. The work will end around the time of the place of safety (I am not convinced that it must be at the 1335 days, nor apparently was HWA, and it may be between the 1335-1260 days, inclusive.)
It is also true that Herbert. Armstrong had various discussions with with Aaron Dean (Herbert W. Armstrong's long-time personal aid) on this subject (and I personally discussed this in depth with Aaron Dean myself on many occasions). Recall that Herbert Armstrong himself never stopped proclaiming the Gospel over television, etc. and decided to publicly teach that the work of proclaiming the Gospel to the world should continue whether he was alive or not. Instead he taught:
...the rapidly growing work of the fledgling Philadelphia era required my full time. The present era was officially begun in October, 1933...By 1978 we went down to about 50 stations weekly. At that period following my heart failure while in Tucson, I once again took over TV broadcasting. We held steady while I was stuck in Tucson until 1981, when I came back to headquarters at Pasadena. From that time the TV program has produced steady growth, until today we are the second in the world in the religious category, with over 300 TV stations worldwide. Hopefully we shall soon be the largest. Since the beginning of 1985, we have averaged around 13,000 telephone responses per program (Armstrong HW. RECENT HISTORY OF THE PHILADELPHIA ERA OF THE WORLDWIDE CHURCH OF GOD. Worldwide News, June 24, 1985).
The telecast did become the largest (had the highest ratings in the U.S.A.) for a short period after his death.
Another argument raised against the need to proclaim the gospel now is this quote,
Also a door was to be opened for this leader and/or the Philadelphia era of the Church to fulfill Matthew 24:14: 'And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached to all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then the end shall come'...These prophecies have definitely been fulfilled (Mystery of the Ages, p.291).
From this statement, similar statements, and a few statements made after he had heart problems, some have argued that Herbert Armstrong felt that the preaching work was finished. That is simply incorrect. Jesus said he came to fulfill the law (Matthew 5:17)--does that mean it was over?
Of course not.
If this particular MOA quote (which was published mid-1985, but written before the June 24, 1985 quote above) meant that Herbert Armstrong felt the preaching work was finished, one would expect that he would have gone off all television and radio stations then. Instead, he remained on them until he died. In his last letter, all arguments about the work being over were rebutted:
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).
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 and he is still making television programs to proclaim the Gospel! Another evangelist who was preaching the Gospel in the French language over radio while Herbert Armstrong was alive, Dibar Apartian, continued to preach it until shortly before he died. When I asked him if Herbert Armstrong told him to stop doing this in the event of his (HWA's) death, Dibar Apartian responded, "To the contrary, he told me he wanted me to go on more stations."
This concept is confirmed by Herbert 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 Herbert 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!
The so-called Viligant Church of God goes so far as to claim:
Most of these compromised former WCG ministers pursue the consummation of Matthew 24:14, ignoring the words of the last apostle sent by Christ, who proclaimed that THE PROPHECY HAD BEEN FULFILLED IN ITS ENTIRETY before his death in January of 1986! (Viligant COG, About Us page, viewed 04/22/11)
Yet, not only does that group overlook HWA's other writings on gospel proclamation, they simply do not understand Matthew 24:14:
14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come. (Matthew 24:14)
The end spoken of above seems to be 75 days prior to the start of the Great Tribulation based what Jesus discusses in the verses that follow (15-21) as well as upon HWA's other writings related to his understanding of what Daniel 11 & 12 seem to teach. Again notice what he wrote:
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. (Armstrong HW. Personal. Good News magazine January 1980).
(See also Who is the King of the North?). And since we are not there yet, and certainly were not in June 1985, the gospel still needs to be proclaimed. As I have believed for over a decade, news coverage of certain of the most faithful will likely be how God will complete Matthew 24:14, but that does not mean we are not to do the work as best we can until then (cf. John 9:4; Matthew 9:37-38).
Another problem with some who have taken some of Herbert Armstrong's quotes out of context, is that while it is true Herbert 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 even though it had been proclaimed within every nation. Why would God have all of them preserved if He did not want those who were faithful to keep up the work?
Some have brought up certain comments by Aaron Dean as an excuse to not place their top priority on proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom to the world as a witness. Some apparently believe that since Aaron Dean claims to have penned Herbert W. Armstrong's last letter, that this means that God did not intend for the church to first try to get the gospel out as a witness, but instead the focus should be to get the bride ready. Here is some of what Aaron Dean apparently wrote on November 23, 2005:
FYI, the simple answer is I did write his last letter for him - in his style of course. He was too weak to even dictate. I did read it to him however, and told him it wouldn't go out unless I knew he understood it. He squeezed my hand, and added a couple words, so I knew he got it. It was the truth as I knew it, and I felt we needed a send off more than "I did the work, so hang on till Christ comes". He really felt he had done the commission and that the purification of the bride was to be next. He didn't expect a great work to continue...I had asked if he could prove from scripture that that part of the work had been done, and he replied, "no"...
On October 24, 2012, Aaron Dean wrote the following in an email to dispel the anti-work pushers (and I personally spoke to Aaron Dean about this on 10/25/12 and he sent me his email):
I asked HWA in his final weeks if we should stop preaching the Gospel when he died. He said "no" because there was no place in scripture that said when he died that the work was over. (Remember, he picked the telecastor's that would replace him - something he wouldn't have done if it 'was over.')
The simple truth is that the Bible supports that the work of the Philadelphians was to continue to the end and this is what Herbert W. Armstrong's church always had taught.
So now, misusing Aaron Dean, those who are opposed to the Philadelphia work, will cite part of his letters as proof that they can ignore the Bible and what the old WCG stood for. The fact that Aaron Dean has been on the Council of Elders of the United Church of God for years has stated, "Personally, I think God is preparing the bride" (2005 letter) does not change what was previously written, nor the Bible.
Certainly God is preparing the bride, but to do that without placing a priority on proclaiming the gospel as a witness leads to a selfish, not Philadelphian, bride.
The plain truth is that I believe that God Himself wanted what was in Herbert W. Armstrong's last letter to be in that letter.
The fact that Herbert W. Armstrong had some possible doubts at the end of his life on the future direction of the church (recall that he appointed J. Tkach and he seemed to feel the end would be before the end of the 20th century) does not change any of the facts. Even John the Baptist had some possible doubts at the end of his life about Jesus being the Messiah (Matthew 11:2-3)--but that also did not change the fact that true believers were to follow Jesus.
Notice what Herbert W. Armstrong specifically taught about preaching the gospel, when that work ends, and preparing the church:
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 Herbert W. Armstrong 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 according to HWA, the gospel still must be preached.
Those who are relying on Aaron Dean's account as an excuse for the true church to not proclaim the gospel misunderstand Herbert W. Armstrong's intentions and are plainly in error. Perhaps I should add here that there are many small groups who use Aaron Dean's recollections as an excuse, and then turn around and claim that the work is essentially one of warning whoever they perceive to be Laodiceans in the COG, instead of getting the gospel message out to the world as a witness.
The record of the Bible and the writings of Herbert W. Armstrong that have been preserved clearly enough to teach that the top priority of the Philadelphia portion of the church of God is to continue to have the Philadelphia work--the work of going through the open door to proclaim the gospel. Would those that think otherwise teach that John the Baptist's followers should have rejected Jesus for the doubts that John raised at the end of his life?
Of course not!
Herbert Armstrong clearly wrote 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? Herbert Armstrong also 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).
At least four times in the Mystery of the Ages chapter titled, Mystery of the Church, Herbert Armstrong quotes or alludes to portions of Matthew 28:19-20. He never says that dual responsibility is finished or that he finished either part. . In his autobiography, he wrote,
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, p. 523).
He never wrote that the priority should be changed by the Church after he died. Instead, recall that Herbert W. Armstrong approved Richard Ames and others to continue to proclaim the gospel message on television after Herbert W. Armstrong died.
Jesus and Apostles
Notice what Jesus said:
19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Amen (Matthew 28:19-20).
It should be obvious that Jesus intended that the gospel would be proclaimed throughout the world until He returned. Some, citing John 6:28-29, seem to dismiss the need to truly do what Jesus said. Some forget, "faith without works is dead (James 2:20,26) and that Jesus gave the commision after responding to people who wanted to see the work of God then (almost 2,000 years ago, and before Jesus' crucifixion)--before the start of the New Testament church age.
Still another argument raised is that Herbert Armstrong was God's apostle, he finished the preaching work, there are no apostles today, thus no one can do the type of work that he did, so no one should try. Well similarly it could be said that since Solomon was the wisest man there was (I Kings 4:31), the richest king there was (I Kings 10:23), and he built the most magnificent temple, no one can build a temple like he did, so no one should try. Well, as shown previously in this article, God told the people to build it anyway. There are also several interesting rebuttals to this argument in the New Testament.
However, first let us read what Herbert Armstrong actually 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).
Under Herbert W. Armstrong, It Was Always Taught that the Door Was Opened Until the Philadelphians Go to a Place of Safety!
Many once in WCG simply never understood what was taught about the open door:
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).
Our Work in the hands of Christ is NOT YET FINISHED, and He will not allow the Work to stop until it is finished!...when Daniel writes, in verse 7, "all these things shall be finished, he refers back to the subject of this 12th chapter mentioned at the beginning - when the archangel Michael shall stand up (verse 1) (as also mentioned in Rev. 12:7) and Satan shall be cast down - and the GREAT TRIBULATION (verse 1 and Matt. 24:21-22 , Mark 13 :19-20, Luke 21:22) from the beginning will be 3 ½ years. (Armstrong HW. Personal: The Time We Are In, Now. Good News. January 1980, p. 23)
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, Herbert W. Armstrong's writings clearly teach that the Philadelphia work was to continue until it was time to go the place of safety. As mentioned elsewhere, those who teach otherwise simply do not know what Herbert W. Armstrong really taught.
Also, remember it was Jesus who also said,
I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work" (John 9:4).
It is still 'day' (we are not fleeing), which means we are to do the work as long as we possibly can:
Just as the remnants of the Sardis era of the Church exist side by side with the Philadelphia era, SO WE WILL CONTINUE OUR WORK to the very "end time" when another group will appear -- a group not accounted worthy to escape the coming tribulation. Another separate work is yet to arise -- made up of begotten individuals who are spiritually lukewarm! WOE BE TO ANY OF US IF WE TAKE PART IN SUCH A WORK! Here is a work, yet to arise because of our preaching, which will say: "I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing." And Jesus will reply: "As many as I LOVE, I rebuke and chasten: be ZEALOUS therefore, and repent." It is time to WAKE UP! If you become complacent, lacking in zeal, looking upon a local church as a social club, instead of having your heart in the gospel, you, too, may find yourself in the "Church of Laodicea" left to suffer the impending, horrifying tribulation (A TRUE HISTORY of the TRUE CHURCH , 1959).
As we have not yet gone to 'a place of safety', we still must be diligent to do the work to proclaim the Gospel. It is Christ, and NOT the death of any man (including Herbert W. Armstrong), that shuts the door.
At risk of repeating myself, this concept was confirmed by Herbert 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).
Also, look at what Jesus said in Revelation 3:14-16,
"And to the angel of 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.'"
It should be noted that Jesus condemns the Laodiceans for their work, which is obviously a different work than that of Philadelphians (as He praises the Philadelphians for their works, vss. 8-10, and tells them to 'hold fast', vs. 11). Look at what Herbert W. Armstrong and his WCG taught:
'And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness and then shall the end come' --the end of the age! (Matt. 24:14.). Then follows the new age when the reign of Christ shall replace Satan (Armstrong HW. PREDESTINATION: Does the Bible Teach It? Ambassador College, 1975).
This is further evidence that the groups that say there is no need to continue to preach the Gospel as a witness DO NOT follow what Herbert W. Armstrong taught. After the Gospel is done being proclaimed the 3 1/2 year end (not a pre-end lasting over 20 years prior to the 3 1/2 years, as certain groups suggest) comes and Christ's reign begins. In order to justify their existence (and, in my opinion, keep enough tithes to support THEMSELVES), they reason around the necessity of proclaiming the Gospel--as they all know well that they will not have the means to do it--and use the Laodicean logic on trying to focus on twigs, and not the "trunk of the tree" that Herbert W. Armstrong told us all that we should do.
Final Herbert W. Armstrong note: ALL the COGs I know of teach that when Jesus talked about fulfilling the law (Matthew 5:17-18) that Jesus did NOT (as the Protestants teach) mean that no one still needed to keep the law. When Herbert W. Armstrong said he fulfilled proclaiming the Gospel to the world as a witness, he (1) Never stopped proclaiming it and (2) He wrote that he intended for others to continue to do it. Those who claim to be in the COG and also claim that Herbert W. Armstrong's completely fulfilled Matthew 24:14, simply are being hypocritical here.
All who will look should realize that the Philadelphia remnant of the Church of God has taken Jesus' and HWA's admonitions to proclaim the Christ's gospel of the kingdom to the world as a witness and to go into all nations seriously.
New Testament Examples
In the parable of the talents (Mat 25:14-30), talents were given to the servants "according to his own ability" (vs. 15). The one with the least ability reasoned that the best thing he could do was to hide the talent and return it when the master returned. Instead of praising him, the master, "answered and said to him, 'You wicked and lazy servant...Therefore take the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents. For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth' " (vs. 26, 28-30). Jesus does not want us to be unprofitable servants, even if we have the least amount of talents (and are not apostles), He expects us to do our part in supporting the work.
Another interesting view is the story which immediately follows the one about the talents (Mat 25:31-46):
When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left...Then they also will answer Him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?' Then He will answer them, saying, 'Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me' (vs. 31-33, 44-46).
These are people who said they would have done the work if they understood that is what Jesus wanted, however they did not minister to those Jesus wanted them to minister to.
The Final Phase of the Work
It is the highly dedicated in the real Church of God that will finish the final phase of the work before (Matthew 24:14-15) and during (Revelation 11:3-14) the Great Tribulation and Day of the Lord--and the final phase will also involve dealing with the ecumenical religion that will rise up (cf. Revelation 13:4,8; 14:8-13; Matthew 24:14-15)--and those who do this should not be ignorant of Satan's devices (cf. Job 5:12; 2 Corinthians 2:11).
About a decade ago, evangelist R.C. Meredith and I were talking and he agreed with various points I was raising about the end time work. And back then, I was able to help lead him to essentially state that in the end it would not mainly be the message of the COG vs. the Protestants, but it would be the COG basically vs. the ecumenical religion that will rise up in the end that will likely (for a while) refer to itself as "Catholic." In 2005, during the Feast of Tabernacles in Clearwater Beach, after a private lunch, we and our wives met at his hotel room and I also discussed various aspects of the final phase of the work with him--and I had other meetings, discussions, and emails related to that with the other Charlotte evangelists through December 14, 2012. Yet, even though he and others in his church agreed to take many steps related to the final phase of the work, few, if any, of the promised steps were taken by his group--this is a major part of why the Continuing Church of God needed to form.
During the final phase of the work, the faithful in God's Church will take a stand against the views of those who will support the compromised persecuting religious power (cf. Revelation 17:1-6). And though aspects of this have occurred throughout history, in the end it will be a major testing of their patience (cf. Daniel 11:28-35; Revelation 14:8-12).
A bolder, yet truthful, willingness to "name names" and call out what is happening will need to happen than the official COG groups formed between 1986 and 2011 have done--and this would seem to have to be led by the Continuing Church of God. (I have emails from one or more LCG evangelists where they objected to doing parts of this themselves, as well as notes from a meeting where they told me, and one was Dr. Meredith, that they were afraid that I was could become too bold and that they did not want to take bold proclamation steps that could trigger the persecution that they teach is biblically prophesied.)
When the more faithful in the COG (which will be the Continuing Church of God and others who may somewhat follow that lead) publicly identifies the King of the North as well as keeps reporting about the final Pope/Antichrist (the initial reporting about the final pope will likely get lost in the media until later as many will write about the final pope) and media coverage gets generated, the Catholic scholars (probably getting some direction from the last pope) will tear through COG literature and attempt to challenge the credibility and the integrity of the COG message--this will initially cause "vigilante-type" persecution, but will also be followed by more institutionalized persecution (Matthew 24:-10; Daniel 11:28-35; 7:25).
This final phase of the work seemingly will consist of finishing proclamation of Christ's gospel of the kingdom as a witness along with persecution (Matthew 24:9-14), the rise and work of the two witnesses (Revelation 11:2-12) (which will likely overlap at least few days of Matthew 24:14), the likely assistance to the two witnesses by the scattered flock (cf. Luke 9:2-6), the three angels' messages (Revelation 14:8-11; and other angelic proclamations), and the witness of those persecuted and martyred for Jesus (cf. Revelation 17:6).
Faithful Christians need to be "ready to give an answer" (1 Peter 3:15, KJV), "ready to give a defense" (1 Peter 3:15, NKJV) to those that will tend to support the power that God opposes. And they are not to be "ignorant" of Satan's devices (2 Corinthians 2:11). Part of the way that the more faithful will do this will be by better understanding the Bible, church history, prophecy, and Satan's plans and tactics. Educating the membership about this is part of the final phase of the work. This is something that the Continuing Church of God realizes and is working to accomplish.
And while the first part of the following has been cited before, carefully notice the time period:
14 And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached to all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then the end shall come. 15 "Therefore when you see the 'abomination of desolation,' spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place" (whoever reads, let him understand), 16 "then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. 17 Let him who is on the housetop not go down to take anything out of his house. (Mat 24:14-16).
The end has not yet come--the final phase of the work is not over. Jesus also does not want us to give up early:
Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his master made ruler over his household, to give them food in due season? Blessed is that servant whom his master, when he comes, will find so doing (Matthew 24:44-46).
(I should add that one person argued with me that since Jesus does not return until after the place of safety, that this verse does not mean we need to proclaim the Gospel now. Since it is likely that many of God's people will die before then, for them, the Master could come anytime. Remember that James 2:18-20 teaches, "Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe--and tremble! But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?." Thus it would seem more logical that the work should continue to be done now.)
Jesus had a few comments for those who felt it was not time to do the work,
Jesus said to them, "My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work. Do you not say, 'There are still four months and then comes the harvest'? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest! And he who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, that both he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together. For in this the saying is true: 'One sows and another reaps.' I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored, and you have entered into their labors." (John 4:34-38).
You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit (John 15:16).
It may be that prior to going to a place of protection (please see There is a Place of Safety for the Philadelphians. Why it May Be Petra), some Christians will flee out of the European (and certain other) lands dominated by the rising King of the North (and/or his sympathizers) prior to him moving into Jerusalem. This probably be during verses 28-30 of Daniel 11 as this is when the King of the North begins his anger against God's most faithful (and I believe that since God's faithful will understand these passages in Daniel 11 by then, some will not wait until verses 30 or 31 to flee from the north--and will most likely go to Judea).
Now at "the appointed time" (again PRIOR to going to the place of protection) something will trigger the King of the North going towards the south:
29 At the appointed time he shall return and go toward the south; but it shall not be like the former or the latter. 30 For ships from Cyprus shall come against him; therefore he shall be grieved, and return in rage against the holy covenant, and do damage. So he shall return and show regard for those who forsake the holy covenant (Daniel 11:29-30).
Note: the Hebrew term translated as "Cyprus" in the NKJV is a mistranslation. The KJV uses the term Chittim which can mean "Western lands." Hence the King of the North will apparently be temporarily stopped by a Western naval power (this also parallels Numbers 24:24 which also uses the term Chittim and is talking about an Assyrian/European power being troubled by a naval power).
Notice that the King of the North will be even further enraged by the people of the "holy covenant" and most likely try to stop the supporters of it from proclaiming the truth about his intentions and the gospel of the kingdom (c.f. Matthew 24:14). The King of the North will probably attempt to learn more about how to eliminate them by being nice to apostate members (those who "forsake the holy covenant")--apparently he attempts to get them to betray true Christians (Matthew 24:10). It strikes me as important that although a naval power stops the King of the North momentarily, the King of the North becomes apparently more enraged with the people of the holy covenant than the naval power.
Why would this be?
Most likely this occurs because the people of the holy covenant are proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom (Matthew 24:14, as that immediately precedes "the end") and teaching that the King of the North is fulfilling prophecies in Daniel 11. It is my belief that after the peace deal in Daniel 9:27/11:23 has been made and/or confirmed by “the prince to come,” that the group that best represents the “sect of the Nazarenes” (the remnant of the Philadelphia era of the church per Revelation 3:7–11) in the 21st century will begin to publicly identify the person who confirmed the deal (“the prince”) as the one who fulfilled Daniel 9:27/11:23-24. This apparently enrages the King of the North so much that he initially tries to eliminate these people through political pressure and selected persecution.
Notice that after the King of the North returns home, he decides to come back to the Jerusalem area, but this time with a much more determined military presence:
31 And forces shall be mustered by him, and they shall defile the sanctuary fortress; then they shall take away the daily sacrifices, and place there the abomination of desolation (Daniel 11:31).
The above event, which apparently will involve the King of the North sending in forces into Jerusalem, was spoken of by Jesus (Matthew 24:15) as a warning of the final end time. So after the gospel has been preached enough to the world as a witness (Matthew 24:14), Jewish sacrifices are stopped (Daniel 9:27), the abomination is set up (Daniel 9:27; 11:31), and a decree is issued (Zephaniah 2:1), the most faithful Philadelphians will flee per Jesus' statements in Matthew 24:15-16.
And during this time, the northern King will apparently corrupt the corruptible and continue to be responsible for persecuting the people of God:
32 Those who do wickedly against the covenant he shall corrupt with flattery; but the people who know their God shall be strong, and carry out great exploits. 33 And those of the people who understand shall instruct many; yet for many days they shall fall by sword and flame, by captivity and plundering. 34 Now when they fall, they shall be aided with a little help; but many shall join with them by intrigue. 35 And some of those of understanding shall fall, to refine them, purify them, and make them white, until the time of the end; because it is still for the appointed time (Daniel 11:32-35).
It is possible that this short work (cf. Romans 9:28) will temporarily swell the ranks of the Church of God (including some Philadelphians, but perhaps with many Laodiceans and many others not truly faithful—though some of the first will be last and the last first, cf. Mark 10:31). Some will be faithful and bear fruit, while many others may leave (cf. Matthew 13:18 -23; 2 Thessalonians 2:3) once the persecuting tribulation that seems prophesied to occur prior to the Great Tribulation hits (cf. Matthew 24:9-10;21). Then the end will come.
Without going into to all the reasons, let me state that the Church of God has long also cited non-biblical sources to support gospel proclamation when appropriate (Acts 17:28; Hill, David Jon. Will you be deceived by Antichrist? Good News magazine of the Radio Church of God, October 1964, pp. 9-12,18; Hill DJ. Christ or Antichrist. Good News magazine, Radio Church of God, April 1961, pp. 10-11). The that the Apostle Paul referred to pagan writings to reach his audience at times (cf. Acts 17:22-34; Titus 1:12), and since real Christians are not to be ignorant of Satan's devices (2 Corinthians 2:11), those who actually believe the Bible more than their own "traditions" should realize that knowing how Satan has planned to deceive the world is an important aspect of being able to complete the final phase of the work (as doctrines of demons will be part of it, cf. 1 Timothy 4:1). Dealing with false prophecies has long been something that God's leaders (cf. 1 Kings 18) and prophets (e.g. (Jeremiah 28:15-16) have had to do.
But the Apostle Paul wrote an interesting reason for doing so that some simply have overlooked (or at least partially misunderstood):
19 For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; 20 and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; 21 to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law; 22 to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. 23 Now this I do for the gospel's sake, that I may be partaker of it with you. (1 Corinthians 9:19-23)
In 1 Corinthians 9:19-23, the Apostle Paul showed that he was willing to tailor his message in order to reach more people. I would suggest that this is what we in the Continuing Church of God are doing as well. We are reaching people of all types of background with COGwriter.com, ccog.org, radio interviews, our magazine (CCOG announces Bible News Prophecy magazine), our daily e-newsletter, our BibleNewsProphecy YouTube channel, our ContinuingCOG YouTube channel, and various books. These, sometimes bold, approaches have been effective and will be helpful in completing the "final phase of the work." Some details of results thus far are also in the news posts CCOG met COG proclamation goal and More on CCOG’s proclamation statistics.
It is likely that the remnant of the Philadelphians are the ones who are strong and will carry out something important--and that will be part of the final phase of the work. And this seems to have to be led by the Continuing Church of God as we are the ones who are willing to be properly bold, while also actually reaching millions. It should be noted that the words great exploits in the NKJV (Daniel 11:32) do not literally appear in the Hebrew text; but perhaps these faithful Christians have the types of signs that Jesus mentioned in Mark 16:15–18, in addition to the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), as well as the prophesied work of martyrdom (cf. Revelation 6:11). Fruits, in terms of numbers of believers, will also apparently become more evident.
That type of fruit needs to be produced at all times, and especially will be during the later part of the final phase of the work--a great multitude will respond (Revelation 7:9-14), some of whom will likely have heard at least part of the message prior to the 1260 day rising of the two witnesses. For more details on this, please see the article The Final Phase of the Work.
Is the Rank of Apostle Necessary?
Lack of high rank is not an excuse. Jesus sent non-apostles out to heal the sick and preach about the Kingdom of God (Luke 10:1-12), and they even cast out demons (Luke 10:17). God used a deacon (Stephen), one who was only supposed to serve tables, to get His message out and even get a vision from God (Acts 6-7).
As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison. Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word (Acts 8:3-4)
Those everywhere preaching were not just apostles. Interestingly, Paul started preaching (Acts 9:19-20) BEFORE he was made an apostle (Acts 13:2). Timothy was an evangelist (II Tim 4:5), apparently with prophetic gifts (cf. 1 Timothy 4:14), and not an apostle (II Cor 2:1), yet Paul wrote,
Now if Timothy comes, see that he may be with you without fear; for he does the work of the Lord, as I also do (I Cor 16:10).
There simply is no biblical restriction that preaching the Gospel must be limited to apostles (see also How To Determine If Someone is a True Prophet of God).
What About "Feeding the Flock" and "Making The Wife Ready"?
Some claim that they do not need to place a priority on proclaiming the Gospel of the kingdom to the world as witness, they claim they are tasked primarily with 'feeding the flock' in order 'to get the wife ready'. Some who do not believe the preaching work is necessary often focus on this verse,
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 (Revelation 19:7).
They seem to feel that making themselves ready should now be the goal of the Church. But, when Jesus was asked about the sign of His coming, His focus was to preach to the nations, then the end would come (Matthew 24:14)--He did not say to stop doing the work after any man died and then just take care of one's self. Jesus also said,
For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel's will save it (Mark 8:35).
It is true that to some degree the COG should always be preparing itself. Yet, not only is 'the wife being ready' only mentioned once in the Bible, it is mentioned in the context of Revelation 19:6,
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" (Revelation 19:6-7).
Theses verses show that after Christ has returned and is reigning, which is after the Tribulation, His wife is ready. It astounds me that some COG group 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. Biblically speaking, the task of 'the wife being ready' before the return of Jesus Christ appears to be completed by the Sardis and the Laodicean COG members actually 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).
Let's see what Jesus said about the order of priorities,
And as you go, preach, saying, 'The kingdom of heaven is at hand.' Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give (Mat 10:7-8).
He did not say to stop giving after He died, to the contrary He taught,
And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, 'All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you and lo, I am with you always even to the end of the age' (Mat 28:18-20).
Notice that Jesus told the disciples to do both, as Herbert Armstrong also wrote, but to first go to all the nations. James wrote,
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves (James 1:22).
Actually Feeding the Flock
Weekly Sabbath services, other information (like BibleNewsProphecy YouTubes and magazines), annual Holy Day services, providing assistance, member letters, contending "earnestly for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 3), and many other such things help demonstrate that if a COG is trying to 'feed the flock' (which is something that the Continuing Church of God also does). An emphasis on faithful 'servant leadership' and attempting to truly 'restore apostolic Christianity' also shows a group is trying to 'feed the flock' (which helps make the wife ready as well).In addition, is not the flock fed from actions to proclaim the gospel? Does not the flock derive spiritual benefits, not only for giving to proclaim the gospel, but from watching/hearing this witness? Does this not help the wife make herself ready? Is not this combination of proclaiming the gospel and feeding the flock the best way that the Church can feed the flock? Is this not consistent with the practices and writings of the Church when Herbert Armstrong was alive?
The Priority Remains
Jesus also taught, "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (Matthew 6:21).
Jesus also taught, "You will know them by their fruits (Matthew 7:16).
Also notice what Herbert Armstrong wrote:
...this small remnant of the original true Church of God began to take on new life as the Philadelphia era… This era of the Church was to produce fruit…" (Armstrong H.W. Mystery of the Ages, pp. 289-290).
Does the Philadelphia remnant have those fruits?
Certainly! And that remnant is now best represented by the Continuing Church of God which reached (according to radio estimates and actual internet data) over 2,000,000 million people since it officially formed.
The fact that these priorities were repeatedly confirmed in writing (and deed) by Herbert Armstrong shows that he personally did not feel that the priority of proclaiming the Gospel was changed by his death.
The Bible teaches that the Church must put its priority on proclaiming the Gospel (Mat 28:19-20). No matter what out-of-context statements attributed to Herbert W. Armstrong that are raised, the biblical priority to proclaim the Gospel remains.
Here are some related articles of possible interest:
What is a True Philadelphian?
Continuing Church of God The group striving to be most faithful amongst all real Christian groups to the word of God.
Who Was Herbert W. Armstrong? How is He Viewed Today? Includes many quotes from his true (1973) Autobiography
The Thyatira Church Era was predominant circa 1050 A.D. to circa 1585 A.D.--but some are still in it.
The Sardis Church Era was predominant circa 1585 A.D. to circa 1933 A.D.--but some are still in it.
The Philadelphia Church Era was predominant circa 1933 A.D. to 1986 A.D.--but some few faithful are still in it.
The Laodicean Church Era was predominant circa 1986 A.D. to present--and many are in it.
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?
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B. Thiel. Should the Church Still Try to Place its Top Priority on the Work of Proclaiming the Gospel or Did Herbert W. Armstrong Change that Priority? www.cogwriter.com (c) 2000, 2001, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2010/2011/2012/2013 0514