Church of the Great God (CGG) is ran by John Ritenbaugh. Sadly, like many groups, he does not place his group's top priority on proclaiming the Gospel. Unlike some of the other groups, he originally seemed to consider that to be one of the best things about his group.
This article includes quotes from CGG as well as comments which show that while CGG has a certain faithfulness, in certain areas it has departed from "the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints' (Jude 3).
It should be pointed out that CGG changed a little, so some of the quotes here seem outdated as CGG has decided to place a bit more emphasis on gospel proclamation now than it did its first decade or so of existence.
CGG's Original Statement of Purpose
"Feeding the flock was always the first function of the priesthood of the Old Covenant church, and continues as the first function of the ministry of the New Covenant church...
A subtle danger lurks when preaching the gospel to the world is the main focus. Though the individual member may feel good that he is doing something as part of a visible work, he may in reality be lured into neglecting his most important responsibilities: overcoming and presenting a godly personal witness to the world. The busyness of doing an external work subtly becomes equated with righteousness. Improving statistics become the measure of growth. As the body "grows," the need to eradicate sin seems to disappear. It seems as though "saving" other people is easier than working on the self. But we need to work hard at casting the beam out of our own eye before we start telling others of their problems (Matthew 7:1-5)...
Most of us have our spiritual heritage firmly anchored in the ministry of Herbert W. Armstrong. We owe very much of what we know and what we have become to Gods working through him. But he claimed that no man taught him. In a long letter to brethren and co-workers he states, "No man taught me these truths. As the original apostles were taught by Jesus in person, so was I taught by Jesus Christ in writing. It is the same wordthe same teaching" (March 19, 1981, p. 5). He did not mean that he did not read or research into other mens writings on biblical topics, but that spiritual truth and understanding always came out of Gods Word. A little later in the letter he adds, "He used me in building the Philadelphia era of His churchand in proclaiming His gospel in all the world! . . . God has never removed a man called to a specific leadership or assignment or commission until his mission is completed." Mark well his last statement. Mr. Armstrongs mission is completedit cannot be revived. The churchs mission has taken a turn...
I have repeatedly said that I am not against preaching the gospel to the world. However, apart from brief historical spurts, it has always been secondary to feeding the flock. It must be...
We are doing a work none of the major groups who have left the WCG in recent years is doing. In producing sermons, articles and booklets to feed converted people, we are teaching Christian living principles in a more detailed, specific and deeper way than others have attempted. Far from being self-centered, we are sharing what we have with others. The booklets and tapes are finding worldwide distribution. We are preaching the gospel!...
The term "evangelist" gradually changed from a function directed toward the world to a high office within the church. In this modern era, Herbert Armstrong, an apostle, did the public preaching, and evangelists administered internal church functions...
God does not seem to be blessing the attempts of others to preach to the world. Maybe the next effective public preaching will be that of the Two Witnesses" (Ritenbaugh J. Statement of Purpose. Forerunner magazine, June 1993).
"What makes the CGG different from other churches of God? Primarily our emphasis on "feeding the flock" (rather than preaching the gospel to the public)" (Frequently Asked Questions, 1st Question, CGG Web Site).
How Does CGG Claim to Differ from the Old WCG?
From CGG's website circa 1996,
"How do CGGs beliefs and practices differ from what Herbert Armstrong taught and practiced?"
CGG's answer,"Very little, although we have made a few refinements, which are listed below:
We seek more input from the membership than was the practice of the WCG in times past.
We count Pentecost differently one year in nine, on average.
We teach that, at the least, the individual should mark the passages of the new moons, though no specific service for this festival is outlined in the Bible.
On the issue of divorce, we define porneia to be sexual immorality, that is, fornication as well as adultery and other sex sins.
Our perception of prophecy, though based on the model given to us by Herbert Armstrong, is slowly changing as events add details to what we know. The details and types will come clear in ways we cannot expect him to have imagined."
I disagree with the 'very little' comment. Not only does CGG do new moons and count Pentecost differently, as mentioned before CGG has changed the emphasis from proclaiming the Gospel to "feeding the flock" and distanced itself from teaching church eras. Thus, CGG is very different from WCG under Herbert Armstrong. (Information on the date of Pentecost is included in the article Pentecost: Is it more than Acts 2?).
But in 2008, its answer is a bit different than what it had before:
How do CGGs beliefs and practices differ from what Herbert Armstrong taught and practiced?
Very little, although we have made a few refinements, which are listed below:
- We place a greater emphasis on "feeding the flock," that is, instructing our members in "the whole counsel of God" (Acts 20:27). We proclaim the same gospel of the Kingdom of God that Jesus did (Mark 1:14-15), primarily through our various Internet sites.
- Though we employ a similar organizational structure, we seek more input from the membership than was the practice of the WCG in times past.
- We count Pentecost differently one year in nine, on average, when Passover falls on a weekly Sabbath.
- We acknowledge that having faith in God for healing does not preclude the use of medical expertise to return to health.
- On the issue of divorce, we define porneia broadly, as "sexual immorality" of all kinds, that is, fornication as well as adultery and other sex sins.
- We teach that a Christian should note the passage of the new moons, as they are key in determining God's Holy Days on the Hebrew calendar. The Bible outlines no specific, commanded service for this festival.
- Our perception of prophecy, though based on the model given to us by Herbert Armstrong, is slowly changing as events add to what we know. The details and types will come clear in ways we cannot expect him to have imagined due to the passage of time.
Thus, there is inclusion that gospel proclamation has become a higher priority for CGG than before, but instead of spending for media such as television, it seems to prefer the internet.
In this respect, CGG is a bit like David Pack's Restored Church of God (RCG). RCG originally did not believe that gospel proclamation should be a top priority, but now it uses the internet. Apparently, after a while, congregations and their leaders possibly decide that perhaps a church should try to reach others.
In CGG's December 2007 ministerial conference, public proclamation seemed to be one of the main subjects, hence the emphasis of CGG seems to have changed, as did the answer to the above questions.
CGG seems, to me at least, to go out of its way to discourage gospel proclamation. Notice something from 2011 (bolding mine) where it discusses Jesus' words in Matthew 24:14:
Matthew 24:14 has been one of the most-quoted scriptures during the last few decades of the church of God: "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."
As we know, the Feast of Tabernacles pictures the Millennium, which is the fulfillment of the gospel of the Kingdom of God. By the time Jesus Christ returns, the good news of His Kingdom will have been preached, and the end of the present age will have come. Everyone on earth will have heard that message, and some will have repented while others will have been destroyed. But the Kingdom that has been anticipated for thousands of years will finally be a reality.
This verse is frequently interpreted as a command—or at least used to justify a certain course of action—but the plain fact is that it is a prophecy. It is a statement of a definitive future event, rather than an instruction. Consider for a moment what this prophecy does not say. There is no mention, either in the verse or in its context, of who will have done this preaching. ("This Gospel of the Kingdom Shall Be Preached" by David C. Grabbe, Forerunner, "Prophecy Watch," May-June 2011. http://www.cgg.org/index.cfm/fuseaction/Library.sr/CT/PW/k/1526/Gospel-of-Kingdom-Shall-Be-Preached.htm#ixzz1frYPwm9W)
The above is a classic example of not allowing the Bible to interpret itself. If CGG would have gone a few chapters later, it would have noticed that Jesus also said the following:
18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 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 28:18-20)
Thus, there is a mention of who was supposed to preach--the leaders in His church. Also, the Apostle Paul made it clear that preachers were necessary for the gospel to be proclaimed:
14 How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? 15 And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, Who bring glad tidings of good things!" (Romans 10:14-15),
This anti-proclamation position of CGG is not scriptually justifable (for more details, see also the article Should the Church Still Try to Place its Top Priority on the Work of Proclaiming the Gospel or Did Herbert Armstrong Change that Priority?).
What About Herbert W. Armstrong?
CGG, like many in order to justify not doing the work of proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom as a witness, raised several arguments concerning Herbert Armstrong finishing the work, while also claiming they have changed his teachings "Very little."
Other groups have mentioned 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 (and similar statements) CGG and others have argued that Mr. Armstrong felt that the preaching work was finished. That is simply incorrect.
If this quote, which was published in 1985, meant that Mr. 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. His last letter stated,
"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). (Note: Comments about Aaron Dean and this letter are included in the article Should the Church Still Try to Place its Top Priority on the Work of Proclaiming the Gospel or Did Herbert Armstrong Change that Priority?).
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. When I asked the late Dibar Apartian if Mr. Armstrong told him to stop doing this in the event of his death, Mr. Apartian responded, "To the contrary, he told me he wanted me to go on more stations". This concept is confirmed by Mr. 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 Mr. 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!
Another problem with CGG and others who have taken some of Mr. Armstrong's quotes out of context, is that while it is true Mr. 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 mention 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).
But the fact is that Herbert W. Armstrong taught the the work of proclaiming the gospel to the world as a witness was to continue by the Church until 45 days prior to the abomination of desolation spoken of in Daniel 11:31, essentially about the time the Philadelphia portion of the church is to flee to a place of safety. Notice two quotes that prove this:
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." 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 beasts 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 the United States and Canadian cities. The GREAT TRIBULATION, we shall fully then realize, is the time of "Jacob's Trouble," spoken of in Jeremiah 30:7. And Jacob's name was named on Joseph's sons, Ephraim and Manasseh (Gen. 48:16). At that time a third of the people in our nations will die, or shall have died, by famine and disease epidemics; another third will dies of the war--our cities being destroyed (Ezek. 6:6), and the remaining third will be carried to the land of our enemies as slaves (Ezek. 5:12). Armstrong HW. The Time We Are In, Now. Pastor General's Report-Vol 1, No. 15, November 20, 1979, Page 2).
"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 that no man can shut it, and He will when the work is finished and the Philadelphia Church goes to a place of safety" (What is the "Laodicean Church"? Plain Truth. August 1959, p.10).
It should be noted that biblically speaking, the great task of making the Bride ready immediately before the return of Jesus Christ will completed by the Sardisians and the Laodicean's 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).
Herbert Armstrong stated 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? Mr. Armstrong 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, Mr. 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 while he was alive or after he died. It should be noted that WCG under Mr. Armstrong spent between 35-41% of its income on the first commission, the same as the Churches led by Roderick Meredith. He also 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).
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 magnificient temple, no one can build a temple like he did, so no one should try. Well, God told the people to build it anyway.
Notice what CGG reports on its history page:
Church of the Great God emphasizes "feeding the flock," though the ministry recognizes the responsibility of the church to preach the gospel to the world too. There are several reasons for choosing this course.
- Those coming out of the WCG, including the ministry, have been badly damaged spiritually. Why would God want to bring people into yet another church that was also lacking His Spirit and love? Therefore, to restore people's relationship with God, feeding the flock became the top priority of the church.
- The ministry sought to avoid being presumptuous by appointing themselves to do the preaching of the gospel to the world, suggesting that they are Herbert Armstrong's successors (Jeremiah 23:21-22). God is fully capable of letting His true ministers know when He wants them to do something in this area. (http://cgg.org/index.cfm/fuseaction/About.history 04/17/07)
Let us read what Mr. Armstrong actually wrote on this subject, "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. The individual lay member has his vital part in proclaiming the good news (gospel) to the world...it is done also by radio and television and in print" (Mystery of the Ages, pp.265-266).
I would state that it is NOT presumptuous for evangelists like Dibar Apartian would continue to publicly proclaim the gospel the same way Herbert Armstrong had them do. Sadly, CGG, and many other groups simply wish to reason around the truth here.
But What Did Jesus Teach?
While it is clear that Herbert Armstrong thought the Church should place its highest priority on proclaiming the Gospel, Christians are to be followers of Jesus Christ. As Mr. Armstrong mentioned, Jesus said to get the Gospel out.
In the parable of the talents (Matthew 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 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 (Matthew 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.
"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" (Matthew 24:14).
The end has not yet come. 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).
There is another place in the Bible I found where people felt they needed to take care of themselves as first priority instead of doing the work. It is in the book of Haggai:
"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?' " (Hag 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' " (Hag 1:9-10).
This second temple may be analagous for the need to do the work of proclaiming the Gospel to the world as a witness after the dismantling of the prior efforts. It appears that God says He will not bless those who take care of themselves instead of doing God's work (see also The Temple and the Work).
Lack of high rank is not an excuse. 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).
What About 'Feeding the Flock'?
CGG, like some others, 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'. It would seem, however, that to attempt to get the bride ready with an inward focus, instead of an outward focus to proclaim the Gospel, leads to a somewhat selfish bride.
Jesus, said, "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" (Matthew 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' " (Matthew 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.
Those who do not believe that proclaiming the gospel should be an extremely high priority would do well to read these passages from James, "But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves" (James 1:22) and "Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, 'You have faith, and I have works.' 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?" (James 2:17-20).
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" (Rev 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).
A lady sent me the following in an email:
Hi Dr. Thiel - I have been getting something called, " Daily Verse and Comment" from the Bereans (CGG) since a few months before we found CCOG. The majority of these comments have to do with guiding you in spiritual growth, and it has been quite beneficial to me.
The one that I received this past Sabbath is the first one that has puzzled me. It refers to Proverbs 3:5-6. The Bereans say that God wants us to trust in him and follow His instructions, and if we do, He will "smooth and make straight the road ahead for us.....He will go before us and remove obstacles and sweep potential problems aside."
I don't see this as true. I see a large percentage of people in a very small church (CCOG), having grave and/or multiple challenges in their lives. So much so, that I have been perplexed by it. I now will refer back to what I heard you say in a sermon. You said that the ones who are called at this time, will be tested and tried now. (Something similar to that )
To me, it sounded as though the people now called, should expect just the opposite of what the Bereans are saying, and not a smooth road. Did I misunderstand what you said, or am I misunderstanding something about it? Thank you (Subject: Berean CGG Article. Email to COGwriter@aol.com on 2/15/2016)
My response to her included the following:
Proverbs 3:5-6, does not say that God will smooth out everything if we trust Him. It is saying if we trust Him things will work out best for us.Notice what Peter wrote in 1 Peter 4:17-1817 For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?
Judgment being on us now means that we will face trials and tribulations.Jesus said, in John 16:33, "In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world."So, yes, we should expect tests and trials.Furthermore, consider, what James 1:2-5 teaches, "2 My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. 4 But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing."The smooth way is not what we were promised in this life. We were promised that if we do it God's way and trust Him, it will work out for us best (Romans 8:28), not that we will not have difficulties.While the Laodicean COGs have certain truths, they also promote various errors, which you can see in this case,
God does not promise that Christians will not have tests and trials (see also Persecutions by Church and State).
Prophets and Our Times
In the CCOG email called The Berean dated September 18, 2016, John Ritenbaugh had written the following:
(15) "The LORD your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear, (16) according to all you desired of the LORD your God in Horeb in the day of the assembly, saying, "Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God, nor let me see this great fire anymore, lest I die." (17) "And the LORD said to me: "What they have spoken is good. (18) I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him.
New King James Version
All of us desire to know the future so we can be prepared for it. We want to be in control of our destinies and not at the mercy of events. However, some have this desire so strongly that they set themselves up as channels through which the future is revealed.
Such people have misled many. Deuteronomy 18, along with chapter 13, warns against such people. Whether they are called diviners, charmers, spiritists, or channelers, using methods like reading tea leaves, casting lots, or conducting séances, they are to be seriously and carefully avoided because there is no godly reality to their prognostications. Those seeking to know are being misguided, putting themselves at the mercy of lying demons, or at the very least, imaginative men and women.
At other times, simply following a church tradition regarding a prophecy can also mislead a person. This occurs because someone in the past, sincerely believing he understood a particular prophecy, began preaching his belief, and many in his audience then believed without the resources to prove the interpretation wrong. Due to frequent repetition, it came to be accepted as truth.
It is important for us to understand that prophets were not merely temporary and occasional expedients God would turn to. They played a vital and continuing role in Israel, especially in those times before the Word of God was widely distributed. This is why God makes provision for them within the law. He shows in many places that those He appoints to the prophetic office will always preach the keeping of the commandments of God as evidence of the Source of their inspiration. They will teach the conservation of past truths even as they break new doctrinal ground.
They both forthtell - that is, proclaim a message truthfully, clearly, and authoritatively to those for whom it is intended - and they will on occasion, but not always, foretell - that is, predict events before they take place.
It is misleading to believe these verses in Deuteronomy 18 apply only to Christ. His is undoubtedly their ultimate application, but the promise and description applies to all true, God-ordained prophets. Notice some of the identifiers in these verses:
1. God established the foundational pattern for the prophetic office in Moses ("like me").
2. God will raise a prophet up from among the Israelitish people. Later biblical sources show he might be drawn and appointed from any of the tribes and from any occupation. In other words, he did not have to be a Levite.
3. He will perform the function of a mediator between God and men (verses 16-18).
4. He will stand apart from the system already installed. He will not be antagonistic to the system, but he may be very antagonistic to the sins of those within the system, especially the leadership.
5. God will directly appoint and separate him for his office. Thus, the thrust of his service as God's representative is direct and authoritative. By contrast, the priest's function flowed from man to God by means of sacrifice - far less direct and more appealing and pleading than demanding. The New Testament ministry combines elements of both, but parallels the prophet's function more than the priest's.
Simply and broadly, a prophet is one who is given a message by another of greater authority and speaks for him to those for whom the message is intended. Thus, Moses was God's prophet, but Aaron was Moses' prophet.
Without a doubt, when we hear the word "prophet," we immediately think of the Old Testament. This is a natural reaction because that is where most of them appear in the Bible. Our memory instantaneously brings forth names like Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and David - all great men. However, without a doubt, the two greatest prophets of all time appear in the New Testament: John the Baptist and Jesus Christ. John the Baptist is the last and greatest under the Old Covenant, and Jesus Christ is the first and greatest of the New.
While I am not about to analyze all of John Ritenbaugh's points, the reality is that most real Christians will NOT accept biblical criteria for prophets in this age. An article of related interest is titled check out the article How To Determine If Someone is a True Prophet of God.
Europe Not the Beast?
The following is from a CGG sermon transcript from its website and was titled Where is the Beast Part I:
My entire 43 years in the church I have been taught, and I have taught, that we should look for the Beast to arise in Europe; but where is it? Perhaps the most deceiving of all is that Europe isn’t acting much like the Beast described in the book of Revelation. Doesn’t the scripture say, “Who can make war against the Beast?” Doesn’t that exclamation give you a fairly specific picture? Do you know of anybody that fears Europe? Internationally, Europe as a whole is a joke in terms of terrifying power. Europe is not coming together in the way that we anticipated. Europe is not becoming the colossus that we expected to see arise. Europe is, in reality, disunited, flat on its back politically, economically, militarily, and religiously.
There are many errors with the above.
First, the Europeans are uniting and, notwithstanding the Brexit, its influence is growing larger.
Second, they do have major military plans. For years it has been working on the Galileo GPS system which it intends to use for military purposes (see EU, UK, US, Asia, & Galileo). Europe also has started to test the Large Hadron Collider (see Why Prophecy? Because the LHC Will Not End the World Next Week), which is considered as the premier physics project in the entire world–this is attracting many of the leading scientists and is likely to improve its military abilities.
The Bible is clear that the Europeans (Assyria in prophecy) do not think that they wish to be militaristic, but that it is clearly part of their nature. Notice:
5 “Woe to Assyria, the rod of My anger
And the staff in whose hand is My indignation.
6 I will send him against an ungodly nation,
And against the people of My wrath
I will give him charge,
To seize the spoil, to take the prey,
And to tread them down like the mire of the streets.
7 Yet he does not mean so,
Nor does his heart think so;
But it is in his heart to destroy,
And cut off not a few nations (Isaiah 10:5-7).
Thirdly, like the old WCG under Herbert W. Armstrong, we in the faithful teach that the ten toes of Daniel 2 are referring to a union that is fragile:
42 And as the toes of the feet were partly of iron and partly of clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong and partly fragile (Daniel 2:42).
This clearly does apply to the Europeans.
Fourthly, the ecumenical efforts of the Catholics, led by the recent popes and those like Cardinal Walter Kasper (Catholic/Orthodox: Ecumenicalism Required) are setting the stage for a religious revival in Europe. Once the Europeans clearly determine that radical Islam cannot be tolerated (and they are moving in that direction now), most WILL embrace an ecumenical form of Catholicism.
Furthermore in that same sermon, CGG’s John Ritenbaugh also stated:
Even though Europe is planning uniting far beyond the prophesied ten nations, to twenty-five nations by 2007, the attempt to unite, combined with the laws being enacted by those people in Brussels—enacted to make standards uniform—are producing the opposite effect, because each of these nations involved has personal interests to protect. The more laws that are enacted by this group in Brussels, the more it is irritating these other nations. Europe is, in fact, declining in many areas important to being a super power that reflects what the Bible shows the world-dominating Beast to be.
And of course, instead of shrinking, the European Union has gotten larger. And many more nations are trying to join it. And I should add that the Bible does not state that the EU is limited to ten current nation states. Notice specifically what the Apostle John was inspired to write:
12 The ten horns which you saw are ten kings who have received no kingdom as yet, but they receive authority for one hour as kings with the beast (Revelation 17:12).
The fact that they do not have a kingdom as of yet, but will receive authority for a short while indicates that these are not ten current nations, but will be some type of future political entity that will apparently transcend current national boundaries (see also Must the Ten Kings of Revelation 17:12 Rule over Ten Currently Existing Nations?).
Now later in that same sermon, John Ritenbaugh added this disclaimer and odd comments:
With that foundation, I want to emphasize to you that what I’m going to speak on from here on is not church doctrine. I am thinking out of the box. I’m speculating, based on what I see going on right now, and I’m actually looking to you for help, for ideas, for criticisms and suggestions. Now events may happen that will change my point of view in the future, but right now it looks like either a major portion of “the Beast” may be arising in the nations of Israel, led by the United States and the United Kingdom, or the woman riding the Beast in Revelation 17 consists of the nations of Israel, led by the United States and the United Kingdom. That is the one that I presently consider most likely at this point.
Well, he can state that this is not church doctrine, but if those in his church do not believe that the Europeans are to be the Beast power and that the Anglo-Americans are, then it shows that he is leading his followers down the wrong path on this just like he has on other doctrines/speculations/etc. Furthermore, if this is not CGG’s position, then perhaps it should take steps to remove it from CGG’s official website as this quote was still there as of 12/06/11.
Events may happen that will change my point of view in the future. At this time, though, it looks as if either 1) a major portion of the Beast may be arising in the nations of Israel led by the United States and United Kingdom, or 2) the woman riding the Beast in Revelation 17 consists of the nations of Israel led by the United States and the United Kingdom. This second possibility is the most likely at this point. (Ritenbaugh JW. The Beast and Babylon (Part One). Forerunner, "Personal," March-April 2004)
Now, since John Ritenbaugh has indicated he is willing to consider changing his position, perhaps he should study the following:
3 For the vision is yet for an appointed time; But at the end it will speak, and it will not lie. Though it tarries, wait for it; Because it will surely come, It will not tarry…
6 “Will not all these take up a proverb against him, And a taunting riddle against him, and say, ‘Woe to him who increases What is not his–how long? And to him who loads himself with many pledges’? 7 Will not your creditors rise up suddenly? Will they not awaken who oppress you? And you will become their booty (Habakkuk 2:3,7).
The above clearly applies to the Americans being destroyed in the end times as it is the USA which is the most indebted nation in the history of humanity. And as Habakkuk reported at the appointed time of the end, it is the indebted who would be destroyed by their creditors.
Thus, the USA and its Anglo-nation allies are NOT destined to become the ultimate economic power of the world. To the contrary, they are now in decline while the Europeans are rising up.
Perhaps those in CGG will reconsider their positions here. For if they do not, they will not see what truly is happening.
Three Angels Not Angels?
In a sermon on the Three Angels, John Rittenbaugh stated:
Well, one of the first questions that come up is: Where does this prophecy fit within the time-line of events?
Now, most folks when they read this would say, "Well, it must take place near the end of the tribulation, possibly as the Day of the Lord is beginning. Does it not say, in verse 7, for the hour of His judgment has come?"
So, right on the surface this seems like the Day of the Lord, right?
Well, just to make you think a little bit, let us go back to I John 2:18 where similar wording is used. This is what I mean about the details making one wonder. John is writing to the first century church near the end of his life, and he says:
I John 2:18 Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour.
So, when is the last hour? Could it be now? ...
Do you see the problem here?
Where do we put the proclamation of The Three Angels? It becomes a bit of a question. It seems to be in an inset. And our only understanding of the chronology comes from the context of the eight verses which are there.
So, I am not going to answer the question. This is why I told you that you might find this a bit disturbing, or unsettling, because I do not want to answer the questions right now. I want you to think, could it possibly be some other time than the very end? How far back does it go?st century church? Or is it specifically that last little bit of time at the end, the Day of the Lord? ...
The second troubling detail in all of this is the word 'Angel.'
"Why is this troubling?" you might say? Well, this is the normal Greek word, Angelon, or Angelos, (Angelos is the base root word, and Angelon is the exact word found here in the Greek). But, this word does not necessarily mean a spirit being. In Greek, "Angelon" simply means a messenger, an envoy; one who is sent to announce or proclaim.
Now, granted, in most contexts and in most cases the context usually describes a spirit being. And that would go throughout the New Testament. If it says Angelon, or Angelos, or any form of them, it is usually speaking of a spirit being, one of God's angels. But it does not have to.
Especially in prophetic contexts, this interpretation becomes a bit more dicey. ... How about here in Revelation 14:6—is this a spirit being angel flying in the midst of heaven? Or is it more symbolic of a human being who is doing something for God? Like I said, there are questions. It is not all cut and dry when you look at it.
Now, a mitigating factor, here, is indeed this angel is flying in the midst of heaven. How many men have you seen flying in the midst of heaven? Well, not so quick! You have to remember that the book of Revelation is a book of symbols. And an angel flying in the midst of heaven may not be an angel flying in the midst of heaven. This is what John saw, but that may not be what God means by this.
Of course, that would be the literal interpretation—an angel flying in the midst of heaven. And it is also the most likely interpretation—an angel flying in the midst of heaven with this message. https://www.cgg.org/index.cfm/library/sermon/id/1537/three-angels.htm accessed 02/01/22
While the timing is not abundantly clear, it is clear from the context of Revelation 14 that the three angels are angelic beings, not human beings. More on that can be found in the article: Church of God on the Three Angels' Messages and 'Babylon'.
US and Babylon
"John Ritenbaugh focuses upon the precarious relationship existing between God and the modern descendants of Abraham. Sadly, modern Israel (largely composed of America and the British Commonwealth) has earned (breaking, through her spiritual fornication and idolatry, the marriage covenant with God) the label,"Babylon the Great" the "Great Whore" of Revelation 17 and 18 - a powerful global merchandizing and economic entity. We desperately need to spiritually extricate ourselves from the Babylonish system that threatens to enslave us. No other nation fits the description of the great whore more than self-absorbed modern Israel - sitting complacently in the position of a pampered leader arrogantly holding (temporarily anyway) the Beast (consisting of multiple gentile nations) in check- unfortunately setting the standards of immorality for the entire world. At the end time, the bulk of the church is being called out of the decadent House of Joseph (Ephraim and Manasseh). " (Ritenbaugh J. Where is the Beast (part 8)? Abstract of Sermon transcript, 8/16/2003).
The above represents a major prophetic change embraced by CGG that those of the Philadelphia remnant of the COG would disagree with (for more information see, Europa and the Beast of Revelation).
Here is the related link http://www.cgg.org//index.cfm/page/audio.radetails/tape/626.htm
'Seventy Weeks Are Determined...'...chapter 9, Daniel...
Protestants try to ascribe the covenant of verse 27 to the Antichrist because "he," they say, refers to "the prince who is to come." But this cannot be! Remember the poetic organization! The key is the word "many." It is literally "the many," and whenever it is used in the Old Testament, it refers to either the covenant people Israel or to the saints, that is, true believers. (Ritenbaugh RT. 'Seventy Weeks Are Determined...' Forerunner, "Prophecy Watch," December 1994. http://www.cgg.org/index.cfm/fuseaction/Library.sr/CT/PW/k/569/Seventy-Weeks-Determined.htm viewed 11/24/13)
The reality is that R. Ritenbaugh has badly misunderstood this passage (see The 'Peace Deal' of Daniel 9:27). Unless he changes, he and his followers will not understand when the Great Tribulation will start until it is too late. This passage is explained in depth in the article When Will the Great Tribulation Begin?
Catholic Date for Pentecost?
"Many have put forth explanations for both the early and the late methods, but this article will answer those arguments for the late method put forth by a Bible study given by John Ritenbaugh on August 26, 2000 (similar material was covered in his article in the December 2000 Forerunner magazine, published by the Church of the Great God, PO Box 471846; 800-878-8220 / 803-802-7075; www.cgg.org). In this study he explained his belief that in 2001 the majority of the Church of God will be keeping Pentecost one week too early. Mr Ritenbaugh referred to the changes that the Worldwide Church of God made in 1974 on the counting of Pentecost. While he agrees with the WCG change from Monday to Sunday, he feels that the change from the late to the early method of counting Pentecost in these unusual years was wrong. He even speculates that this later change was made without Herbert Armstrongs knowledge and approval. Whether or not he was aware of the change, Herbert Armstrong and the WCG (including Mr Ritenbaugh) kept Pentecost using the early method in 1974, 1977 and 1981. Mr Ritenbaugh changed back to the late method in 1994. This places Mr Ritenbaugh in sync with the Roman Catholics for counting Pentecost, and at odds with the majority of Church of God groups which use the early method. I will be the first to state that the majority is not always right, and majority opinion constitutes no proof whatsoever. But in this case, I will say that the weight of Scriptural evidence shows that the early method is correct" (Beattie, Sanford. Counting Pentecost in 2001. Servant's News, Jan/Feb 2001, p.12).
It should be noted that the Catholic date for Pentecost is often the same one as most COGs, though apparently sometimes will be more in common with CGG's date.
The following information was from Wikipedia on 12/07/11:
CGG is small in membership, with about 400 persons attending services each week in about 50 small groups in the United States, Canada, and Port of Spain, Trinidad. Other smaller groups are located in France, the Philippines, Australia, South Africa, and Zambia. Membership growth is slow, primarily due to the emphasis upon "feeding the flock" with little effort to proselytize new members, except through their websites. The church indicates it has "over 1,500 people" on their active postal mailing list, nearly 41,000 receiving its magazine, Forerunner, and over 78,800 subscribers to their daily email newsletter, "The Berean: Daily Verse and Comment." An indeterminable number attend virtual Sabbath services at home each week by listening to the Fort Mill, South Carolina, congregation's services via live Windows Media and RealAudio stream.
Position on Born Again
In a June 2009 sermon, a transcript of which is available at CGG's website, John Ritenbaugh taught:
How does one explain “this or that” regarding this “born again” question? It is very helpful to know that being “born again” is an entirely spiritual operation…
It should be easy to understand why there can be confusion over the words. We can interpret it only by what they can legitimately be translated into. They can be translated as “begotten again, “born again,” “born anew,” or “born from above.” And this may seem a little bit wild, but it is true. It can even be understood as “from a beginning” or “at a beginning.”
Now on the basis of how God deals with us in the rest of the New Testament, and after John 2 and 3, it must be understood as “born again,” and not “begotten again.” God never even one time speaks of us as being in a womb as an embryo or a fetus…Nicodemus’ error was sincere, and Herbert Armstrong’s error was sincere. (Source: Ritenbaugh J. Born Again Sermon, Part 2, June 20, 2009)
So while John Ritenbaugh admits that the terms translated as “born again” can be translated as “begotten again”, he has decided against the idea of teaching that God spiritually begets His offspring in this life who are then born again at the resurrection.
CGG has made doctrinal changes, as well as inaccurate changes (in my opinion) to prophetic understandings as well. All should compare what their church teaches with the Bible. An article of related interest may include Born Again: A Question of Semantics?
Position on Church Eras
In his August 2008 sermon, a transcript of which is available at CGG's website, John Ritenbaugh taught:
One of the best known and strongest beliefs held by those who came out through the scattering of the Worldwide Church of God is that Revelation 2 and 3 describe eras—that is, seven long periods of time, from the founding of the church during Christ's lifetime right up to the present and continuing on to Christ's return.
But is this true? Is there any part of it that might be true?...
Now Herman Hoeh traced out the roots of the Radio Church of God by seeking doctrinal similarities of religious groups named in histories written (in some cases) as long as 2,000 years ago. Interestingly, information that he found about groups determined that they were spiritual ancestors of the present-day church of God, and all of this interesting information came from the groups' enemies.
He found names like the Nazarenes, the Bogomils, the Paulicians, the Athengany, Waldensians, Lollards, Sabbatarian Baptists, and there were others besides. He also found the names of some of the leaders of those groups, such as Polycarp, Polycrates, Constantine of Mannanali, Peter du Bois, Peter Waldo, Walter Lollard, Stephen Mumford, and two men whose first names only were recorded: one named Arnold, and the other Henri.
These organizations and men were then fitted by Herman Hoeh into the list of churches in Revelation 2 and 3 according to the time periods in which the organizations existed and the men lived. Thus Dr. Hoeh was able to arrive at a chain, apparently linked through the centuries by common doctrines.
There is no doubt that the church has continued to have an unbroken life from the time it was founded because Christ did not die. But the question remains: was it Christ's intention that we should understand Revelation 2 and 3 through this "eras" method of interpretation? I believe that even if it is possibly a true interpretation, it is because God's Word often serves more than one purpose. But it is still neither the most accurate, nor the most important one.
So now we have CG7, UCG, COGaic, CBCG, and CGG either not teaching church eras or teaching against them. Those that do not properly understand Church eras will simply not understand certain events related to the purpose of the Church (which is what all of those previously listed COGs have problems with their priorities) as well as not properly understand certain events related to end time prophecy.
Those who fail to heed Jesus' repeated admonitions to the Churches of Revelation 2 and 3 do so to their peril. And while the groups that no longer embrace the idea of Church eras tend to reason around that, the fact remains that those who are not part of the remnant of the Philadelphia Church are destined to go through the Great Tribulation.
CGG's focus, priorities, gospel proclamation efforts, and incorrect understanding of various doctrine and prophecy should be a major concern to any who wish to be faithful to Philadelphian teachings in the Bible.
Although it has been reported that "The doctrinal differences among the Churches of God are miniscule. You can't get a knifes edge between us on doctrines" (Dart, Ron. CEM Founder Talks About Bickering, Bridges, the Future. The Journal. July 31, 1999. p.6), this author does not believe that one can examine the teachings of groups, such as CGG, and come to that conclusion (nor apparently would Herbert Armstrong, for proof please check out some quotes from HWA on holding fast to doctrine). Here is a related article of possible interest: What is a True Philadelphian?
While it does have a lot of the truth, by incorrectly changing the church's top priority, prophetic understandings, Pentecost, born again, etc., CGG is simply not being faithful enough to the Bible or the true mission of the church. CGG clearly does not have a Philadelphia era work as it has declared that emphasis on public proclamation of the gospel (which is necessary to fulfill Matthew 24:14) simply is improper. CGG is wrong on this (see also Should the Church Still Try to Place its Top Priority on the Work of Proclaiming the Gospel or Did Herbert Armstrong Change that Priority?). CGG does not lead, or even understand, the final phase of the work.
CGG's prophetic speculations are very far off. Those who rely on them are in for a terrible time.
Laodicean churches misunderstand many aspects of end time prophecy and will have to go through the Great Tribulation and Day of the Lord.
Laodicean Warning for God's People If you have read this far you are probably a current or former member of one of the Churches of God and may be interested in reading this warning article.
Should the Church Still Try to Place its Top Priority on Proclaiming the Gospel or Did Herbert W. Armstrong Change that Priority for the Work? Some say the Church should mainly feed the flock now as that is what Herbert W. Armstrong reportedly said. Is that what he said? Is that what the Bible says? What did Paul and Herbert W. Armstrong expect from lower level leaders?
The Final Phase of the Work What is the final phase of the work? Who will lead it? Do you have the courage to support it? Here is a related YouTube video titled The Final Phase of the Work. The written article has been translated into Spanish La Fase Final de la Obra.
Leading the Final Phase of the Work Matthew 24:14 will be fulfilled and RCG is not the group doing this. Who is leading the final phase of the work? What did Herbert Armstrong and the old WCG teach about that and about prophets? Does Bob Thiel meet the criteria that the Bible and the old WCG set? What is the proof? What has the Continuing Church of God been doing? This is a sermonette length video.
Preparing for the 'Short Work' and The Famine of the Word What is the 'short work' of Romans 9:28? Who is preparing for it? Here is a link to a related video sermon titled: The Short Work.
How To Determine If Someone is a True Prophet of God There are many false prophets. How can Christians determine who is a true prophet? There is also a sermon-length video titled How to determine if someone is a true prophet of God. Here is a related link in Spanish/español: ¿Cómo determinar si alguien es un verdadero profeta de Dios?
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