Does the Church of God need to be headquartered in Jerusalem?
Is being based out of Jerusalem something that the New Testament teaches should be the case during the church age?
Some have claimed so.
But what does the Bible teach?
In the 20th century, the late Church of God Seventh Day (CG7) leader, A.N. Dugger, began what he called the ‘back to Jerusalem movement.’ He essentially claimed that Jerusalem was God’s city and that this is where the true Church of God should be based.
He went to Jerusalem and established an office there.
But the reality is that the Jerusalem office did precious little other than to stamp ordination certificates and other documents with a stamp that said it was certified in Jerusalem.
In 2015, I spoke to former CG7 president Robert Coulter about this. Coulter is also CG7-Denver’s church historian and put out a book on CG7 history a few years ago. Basically he stated that A.N. Dugger never really had anything of significance in Jerusalem, but that he had used the Jerusalem office to pretend he was doing something of importance there.
But in the 21st century, we have seen something similar.
Notice the following from a group calling itself the Jerusalem 7th Day Church of God (bolding added):
The Jerusalem World Headquarters has representatives laboring in establishing this true faith in about every country of the world, where many congregations have been raised up, and many evangelists are laboring. Calls come in to Jerusalem World Headquarters for Jewish ministers, and they are being sent to different countries. In 1970, Elder A.M. Shoemaker was sent in answer to a call from Kenya, Africa. In about two months labor there he baptized 284 converts and ordained sixteen men called to the ministry, and receiving the Baptism of the Holy Spirit.
The Jerusalem Messenger, which was published at Jerusalem, gives many reports and photographs of groups and workers over the world who love Jerusalem. Psalm 128:5, 6. There are a number of other groups of this same faith with some slight non-essential doctrinal differences in various places carrying on a good work, and printing various publications from their national headquarters. We believe they are all gathering fruit for the kingdom, and the foundation creed of all of these groups is the same, viz., Revelation 12:17, ―the commandments of Elohim and the testimonies of Yahshua (Christ).
One of these headquarters is Denver, Colorado; another, Meridian, Idaho, and some that make the sacred Hebrew names of the Father and the Son, a special part of their message (Proverbs 30:4; Psalm 68:4, and 91:14, also 69:35, 36, and Isaiah 52:6) are located at Junction City, Oregon, and Jackson Gap, Alabama, also The Faith of Holt, Michigan.
We believe these will all fall in line with the Holy Scriptures and publicly affirm that Jerusalem was chosen of the Father, and must be recognized as the World Headquarters by all of the remnant people holding to the New Testament name, and the true faith once delivered to the saints, as they are led further by the Holy Spirit. http://jsd-cog.org/a-brief-history/ 02/8/17
So, has the Father actually chosen Jerusalem to be the main office for the Church of God in this age through the Holly Scriptures as the above claims?
Firstly, let me point out that Revelation 12:17 points to a separation of Christians in the end times, and says nothing about Jerusalem. Plus, the Church in Denver does NOT consider that this Jerusalem-based group is part of them—and I confirmed this with the President of the Church of God Seventh Day (Denver) group, Loren Stacy, on December 21, 2017. Nor is the Jerusalem group part of the Meridian-referenced church (which I confirmed with their President Roger Boone on December 21, 2017). The Jerusalem group seems to be acknowledging headquarters that do not consider themselves related, plus the Jerusalem group’s emphasis on ‘sacred name’ differs from that of those I have spoken with are part of the Denver or the Meridian groups. Neither of those groups endorses a requirement for sacred names nor intends to be part of this Jerusalem group. Actually, the people I had spoken with at those churches had not ever even heard of the Jerusalem 7th Day Church of God.
Secondly, the Bible shows that Jerusalem was NOT chosen by the Father for this time to lead His most faithful work.
Thirdly, the original Church of God building in Jerusalem is not under Church of God control. The Jews have it, and the Roman Catholics want it. For a time, the Muslims also had it.
Here is a photograph some of that building I took when I was in Jerusalem a few years ago:
No Church of God controls this building. A photograph of some of the original bricks of this building is on the front cover of The Bible Hymnal of the Continuing Church of God (there is also an article online: Church of God on Jerusalem's Western Hill). We are a continuation of the original Christian church in Jerusalem, that later moved its headquarters to Antioch, then Asia Minor, then eventually to Europe, and later to the Western Hemisphere.
This does not mean that there is no place for Jerusalem, but the Bible does NOT teach that it needs to be the headquarters for the Philadelphian portion of the Church of God.
Fourthly, Jesus made it clear that Christians would have to go over many cities of Israel before He returns (cf. Matthew 10:23) and He never specified that they needed to be headquartered in Jerusalem in the end.
Fifthly, the Apostle John, believed to be the last of the original apostle to die, was leading the Christian church from Ephesus, not Jerusalem. John did not teach or indicate that Jerusalem was to be the headquarters. Also, when Jesus had him pen the last book of the Bible, there were letters to seven churches in Asia Minor: none were addressed to Jerusalem. Furthermore, the Apostle John’s successor, Polycarp, led the faithful from Smyrna, not Jerusalem.
Sixthly, as far as Jerusalem goes, once it ceased having Jewish bishops in 135 A.D., it ceased to have Church of God leaders for much time (Gibbon E. Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Volume I, Chapter XV, Section I. ca. 1776-1788; Eusebius. The History of the Church, Book III, Chapter V, Verses 2,3.& Book IV, Chapter 5, Verses 2-4, pp. 45, 71; Pines S. The Jewish Christians of the Early Centuries of Christianity according to a New Source. Proceedings of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, Volume II, No.13; 1966. Jerusalem, pp. 14-15).
Church of God Christians were NOT allowed in Jerusalem after 135 A.D. According to Irenaeus in the late second century, Jerusalem then ceased to “bring forth fruit” (Adversus haereses, Book IV, Chapter IV, Verse 1).
Seventhly, though some real Christians came back, under Emperors Constantine and Theodosius, the Church of God was forced out of Jerusalem. Emperor Constantine imposed the death penalty on Christians in Jerusalem who would not eat pork (Pines S. The Jewish Christians of the Early Centuries of Christianity according to a New Source), whereas Theodosius decreed the death penalty on Christians who kept Passover on the biblical 14th of Nisan date (Gibbon E. Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Volume III, Chapter XXVII).
Jerusalem was not a permanent church headquarters for the true Church of God during the Church age as church history clearly proves.
Having visited Jerusalem, let me say that for reasons of freedom of religious speech, technology, and fulfilling Matthew 24:14 and Matthew 28:19-20, being based in a country like the USA makes more sense at this time.
But what about the Holy Scriptures?
The Bible teaches:
10 We have an altar from which those who serve the tabernacle have no right to eat. 11 For the bodies of those animals, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned outside the camp. 12 Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered outside the gate. 13 Therefore let us go forth to Him, outside the camp, bearing His reproach. 14 For here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come. (Hebrews 13:10-15)
This scripture proves that no city was to continue to be the ‘headquarters’ city’ for Christians. Commentators, like Jamieson, Fausset, & Brown further point out that this was also a specific reference to Jerusalem.
23 When they persecute you in this city, flee to another. For assuredly, I say to you, you will not have gone through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes (Matthew 10:23).
Persecutions came to Christians in Jerusalem and they fled. The above scripture says nothing about returning back to cities fled from.
Jesus’ word in Matthew 10:23 are consistent with what happened in early Church history. Christians fled Jerusalem to Pella around A.D. 67. And while some Christians returned until A.D. 135, the reality is that history records that the Apostles Philip and John went to Asia Minor.
Notice something else from scripture:
28 And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues. (1 Corinthians 12:28)
Since apostles are first in God’s hierarchy of human leaders, and since the Apostle John outlived the other apostles and lived in Asia Minor, this should clearly demonstrate that he did not believe the false doctrine that the true Church of God needed to be based out of Jerusalem. Nor did any who accepted his apostolate.
Some who claim Jerusalem should be the city for the Church of God in this age point to Isaiah 2:3 as supposed proof, but let us look at it in context:
2 Now it shall come to pass in the latter days That the mountain of the Lord's house Shall be established on the top of the mountains, And shall be exalted above the hills; And all nations shall flow to it. 3 Many people shall come and say, "Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, To the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, And we shall walk in His paths." For out of Zion shall go forth the law, And the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. 4 He shall judge between the nations, And rebuke many people; They shall beat their swords into plowshares, And their spears into pruning hooks; Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, Neither shall they learn war anymore. (Isaiah 2:2-4)
The above is clearly a reference to the millennial time. You can see that because this is for the ‘latter days,’ plus the fact that the judging in verse 4 has not taken place, nor have any who claimed this verse effectively gotten the word of the Lord to go forth from Jerusalem.
No scripture supports that prior to the millennium, the Christian church needs to be based in Jerusalem.
Furthermore, notice some prophecies from Zechariah:
16 'Therefore thus says the Lord:
"I am returning to Jerusalem with mercy; My house shall be built in it," says the Lord of hosts, "And a surveyor's line shall be stretched out over Jerusalem."' 17 "Again proclaim, saying, 'Thus says the Lord of hosts: "My cities shall again spread out through prosperity; The Lord will again comfort Zion, And will again choose Jerusalem."'" (Zechariah 1:16-17)
10 "Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion! For behold, I am coming and I will dwell in your midst," says the Lord. 11 "Many nations shall be joined to the Lord in that day, and they shall become My people. And I will dwell in your midst. Then you will know that the Lord of hosts has sent Me to you. 12 And the Lord will take possession of Judah as His inheritance in the Holy Land, and will again choose Jerusalem. 13 Be silent, all flesh, before the Lord, for He is aroused from His holy habitation!" (Zechariah 2:10-13)
Those prophecies show that the time will come when God will again choose Jerusalem—but they also show that He has not done so for NOW!
As alluded to before, consider that the Bible teaches that there will be the seven church eras ranging from Ephesus to Laodicea. ALL of the seven churches were located in Asia Minor, and the ones shown to be around at the end do not say anything about being in Jerusalem. If Jesus wanted His church now headquartered in Jerusalem, He would have had that inspired—and the passage in Isaiah 2 clearly does not do that.
While I do believe that some Christians will be in Jerusalem prior to fleeing to the wilderness (Revelation 12:14-17; Matthew 24:16-17), there is no statement in the Bible showing that the Church of God will be based in Jerusalem in this age.
No group that has made that claim that the true Church of God needs to be in Jerusalem has actually fulfilled the rest of Isaiah 2 regarding getting the word of the Lord out of Jerusalem in any meaningful way.
Jesus taught that you would know them by their fruits (Matthew 7)—and the ‘fruits’ of the Jerusalem advocates have not been sufficiently Philadelphian. While they have given out religious tracts, few understand much about the gospel of the Kingdom of God and are NOT working to fulfill Matthew 24:14.
I know that various ones are of the opinion that Jerusalem must be the headquarters, but the reality is that is not what the Bible shows.
Consider that the Bible also teaches:
14 Happy is the man who is always reverent, But he who hardens his heart will fall into calamity.(Proverbs 28:14)
We in the Continuing Church of God (CCOG) do not wish to be offensive, but have seen many who claim to want to be Philadelphian Christians who will latch on to one or more points and harden their hearts, and not truly support the end-time Philadelphian work. They claim to be reverent to the word of God, but like the Pharisees of old, prefer their traditions and explanations over what the Bible really teaches.
Anyway, I truly hope this helps as we in CCOG are leading what I have termed the final phase of the work.
It is the highly dedicated in the real Philadelphian remnant of the Church of God that will finish the final phase of the work before (Matthew 24:14; Daniel 11:32-33) and during (Revelation 11:3-14) the Great Tribulation and Day of the Lord.
These are also the ones mentioned in Revelation 12:14-16. Those who will not do so, and are real Christians, are part of the rest of her seed mentioned in Revelation 12:17.
While that does not preclude spending time in Jerusalem (and I expect to personally spend time there again), it is wrong to say that the most faithful church must be based out of Jerusalem now.
Those that wish to be ‘Philadelphian Christians’ (Revelation 3:7-13) have usually realized this.
Holy Scripture does not support that claim that the true Church needs to be based out of Jerusalem.
Thiel B. Does the Church of God need to be headquartered in Jerusalem? http://www.cogwriter.com/Church-of-God-headquartered-in-Jerusalem.htm COGwriter (c) 2017
Other items of related interest may include the following:
Location of the Early Church: Another Look at Ephesus, Smyrna, and Rome What actually happened to the primitive Church? And did the Bible tell about this in advance?
The Churches of Revelation 2 & 3 from 31 A.D. to present: information on all of the seven churches of Revelation 2 & 3. There is also a YouTube video: The Seven Church Eras of Revelation. There is also a version in the Spanish language: Las Siete Iglesias de Apocalipsis 2 & 3.
1. The Ephesus Church Era was predominant from 31 A.D. to circa 135 A.D. The Church of James, Peter, Paul, and John, etc. Here is a link to a related video sermon: Ephesus Church Era.
2. The Smyrna Church Era was predominant circa 135 A.D. to circa 450 A.D. The Church led by Polycarp, Melito, Polycrates, etc.
3. The Pergamos Church Era was predominant circa 450 A.D. to circa 1050 A.D. An especially persecuted Church.
4. The Thyatira Church Era was predominant circa 1050 A.D. to circa 1600 A.D. The Church during the Inquisition.
5. The Sardis Church Era was predominant circa 1600 A.D. to circa 1933 A.D. Discusses early history of the Seventh Day Baptists, Seventh-day Adventists, and COG-7th Day.
6. The Philadelphia Church Era was predominant circa 1933 A.D. to 1986 A.D. The old Radio Church of God and old Worldwide Church of God, now the remnant of that era is basically the most faithful in the Church of God, like who hold to the beliefs and practices of the Continuing Church of God.
7. The Laodicean Church Era has been predominant circa 1986 A.D. to present. The Laodiceans are non-Philadelphians who mainly descended from the old WCG or its offshoots. They do not properly understand the work or biblical prophecies and will face the Great Tribulation if they do not repent. One video of related interest is 17 Laodicean Errors in Prophecy.
Where is the True Christian Church Today? This free online pdf booklet answers that question and includes 18 proofs, clues, and signs to identify the true vs. false Christian church. Plus 7 proofs, clues, and signs to help identify Laodicean churches. A related sermon is also available: Where is the True Christian Church? Here is a link to the booklet in the Spanish language: ¿Dónde está la verdadera Iglesia cristiana de hoy? Here is a link in the German language: WO IST DIE WAHRE CHRISTLICHE KIRCHE HEUTE? Here is a link in the French language: Où est la vraie Église Chrétienne aujourd’hui?
Continuing History of the Church of God This pdf booklet is a historical overview of the true Church of God and some of its main opponents from Acts 2 to the 21st century. Related sermon links include Continuing History of the Church of God: c. 31 to c. 300 A.D. and Continuing History of the Church of God: 4th-16th Centuries. The booklet is available in Spanish: Continuación de la Historia de la Iglesia de Dios, German: Kontinuierliche Geschichte der Kirche Gottes, and Ekegusii Omogano Bw’ekanisa Ya Nyasae Egendererete.