Falling Away: The Position of Others


The sermon that most in the Continuing Church of God  listened to yesterday was titled The Falling Away Part 2: Positions Presented by Others.

This was the second part, as the first part, a week earlier was titled Sermon: The Falling Away Part 1: The Bible and Church History.

Those with a COG background, as well as those who wonder about the subject, should consider watching both.

As many regular readers of this page are aware of, a COG group changed it position on this in 2012.  It teaches that 2 Thessalonians 2:3 is not teaching that the Apostle Paul is warning Christians not to turn aside from the truth in that the Church of God has, but instead is a warning that after the son of perdition does signs and lying wonders that the world will “fall away from the fundamentals of biblical Christianity.”

An official statement from that group also improperly claimed:

HWA did not apply “the” falling away to church members who know the truth and fall away.

Yet, Herbert W. Armstrong (called “HWA” above) specifically taught that the falling away of 2 Thessalonians 2:3 had to do with Christians and that the later verses like verse 7 had to do with the Simon Magus type of “Christianity” (see Armstrong HW. The Incredible Human Potential. 1978, pp. 8, 161-162; coworker letter, February 21, 1974)–plus the church HWA ran did as well (see articles, Neff L.  Why Some Fall Away.  Good News, January 1961; Antion D.  Will You Fall Away?  Good News.  May-June 1968). Thus the assertion was not true.

Yet at least one top leader in the “falling away church,” implied that its new doctrine was not really a change. Furthermore, this group has somewhat decided to identify itself by that change, so sometimes (like in the The Falling Away Part 2: Positions Presented by Others sermon) I have referred to them as the “falling away church”) as it has claimed:

Clarifying this issue and powerfully delivering this prophetic warning about a universal falling away from the fundamentals of biblical Christianity, led by a Beast, a Man of Sin and Miracles will clearly set the _____Church of God apart

This will be an issue that will clearly set apart the ______ Church of God from others who will be teaching something very different…This is also going to set the ______ Church of God apart from false teachers that say it has already happened….

This perspective that 2 Thessalonians 2 only applies to the Church of God takes it out of its biblical and historical context.

Now, none that I am aware of in the COG believe that 2 Thessalonians 2 only applies to the Church of God as various verses in that chapter are clearly referring to those that do not have the “love of the truth” (2 Thessalonians 2:10)–it is 2 Thessalonians 2:3 that the sermon focused on, and truly 2 Thessalonians 2:3 is directed towards those who have some type of a Church of God background.

Now the “falling away church” also published something that stated:

Mistaken Assumptions

As many readers of this magazine know, the organization led by Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong for more than 50 years underwent a terrible crisis in the early 1990s, as his successors abandoned long-held doctrines of God’s Church and tried to bring the organization into “mainstream Christianity.” Scores of thousands left the Worldwide Church of God as its doctrines were changed. That organization even changed its name, acknowledging openly that it no longer considers itself a “Church of God.”

So, could that have been the “falling away” prophesied by Scripture? No less an authority than Mr. Armstrong himself would disagree with that assertion.

To conclude that Herbert Armstrong would not consider that the massive falling away that occurred after his death could have been the Tkach is an assumption/conclusion that does not agree with the totality of the writings published under the time of his leadership, including his own writings.

Twice after that was published I spoke to Aaron Dean (who served as a personal aide to Herbert Armstrong in his latter years and probably spent more time with him then than any currently in any of the COGs) about how Herbert W. Armstrong viewed the falling away in his latter years.  And last week, Aaron Dean specifically told me that it was Herbert W. Armstrong’s view that the falling away would come as the result of his death and that at least 50% would fall away–and that happened.

The Tkach-era falling away is exactly the type of falling away that Herbert Armstrong was worried that would happen after his death and fulfill (at least partially) 2 Thessalonians 2:3.

Furthermore, please consider what the late Dr. Hoeh wrote:

“Let no man deceive you by any means; for that day”-the time of God’s  intervention in human affairs when Jesus Christ will return to rule the nations–“shall not come except there come a falling away FIRST” (I1 Thess. 2: 3 ). The wholesale departure of Christians from the truth was the FIRST event prophesied to befall the true Church…

The world doesn’t want to receive the truth, but would rather be lulled to sleep by false ministers who preach what the people want to hear…

In instructing the evangelist Timothy, the apostle to the Gentiles instructed him to “reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine. For the time will come that they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts”-the congregations wanting to do what they please–“shall they heap to themselves teachers”–elect ministers who will preach what they want to hear –“and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables” (I1 Timothy 4: 3, 4).

This was in the days of the apostles and evangelists, not at the Protestant Revolt! MANY who fellowshipped in the local congregations of the early church, after about two generations, did not endure sound doctrine because they had not repented and received the Holy Spirit.  (Hoeh H.  Why So Many Denominations?  Plain Truth, September 1953, pp. 3,4)

Hence, Dr. Hoeh applied this to the church.  But, at least once, as cited earlier HWA applied at least part of 2 Timothy 4:3-4 to the world’s churches (Armstrong HW. End Time Falling Away,  HA103A.MP3)—but HWA sometimes proof texted and cited the same scripture for different purposes.

It is the which Bible shows that 1 Timothy 4:1 and 2 Timothy 4:3-4 support that a departure from THE FAITH is prophesied—and it is the Bible, and not sometimes conflicting Radio/Worldwide Church of God positions, that must be the guide for those trying to be most faithful.  Both the terms for “the” and “faith” are in the original Greek in 1 Timothy 4:1.

The context on 2 Thessalonians 2:1-3, which is addressed to the “brethren” suggests that the falling away/the rebellion/the apostasy (the Greek term is apostasia) is against the true faith.  The abundance of other scriptures strongly support this belief.  Biblically, 2 Thessalonians is addressed to the Church in the same way Revelation’s Church eras are addressed to the Church of God.

Additionally, it may be of interest to note that there is a related Greek word, apostasion (Strong’s 647), that means something separative, and all three times it is used in the New Testament, it is always specifically translated as “of divorcement” (NKJV).   The relative permanency of apostasion and its close relationship to apostasia suggests to me that the falling away (apostasia) is not a simple rebellion that Protestants may decide to change their minds about later (like when some of them respond to the two witnesses), but an intentional rebellion from the truth.

I also believe that the view 2 Thessalonians 2:3 is speaking about Protestants and/or Catholics and/or agnostics is not correct because:

  1. We of the Philadelphia remnant should know who the son of perdition is well before the world totally falls after him.
  2. The son of perdition has not yet been fully revealed.
  3. The falling away is listed in scripture as to first precede the revealing of the son of perdition and I do not believe that the ecumenical movement per se (that many Protestants and Catholics are now part of) really fits this.
  4. There was a major falling away that preceded the revealing of the son of perdition during the Tkach-era.
  5. The Tkach-era falling away has preceded the final fulfillment of Matthew 24:14-16.
  6. Lawlessness, by many, was the result of the Tkach-era falling away.
  7. A falling away from the world’s religions, such as Protestants and Catholics more directly again embracing Catholicism (which was the original faith of most of the Protestant reformers) would not be a departure from the true faith (1 Timothy 4:1) as they have not truly known what it is.

While it is obvious that the whole world will worship the beast (Revelation 13:3-4), since this is not now God’s world (cf. John 15:19), I do not believe that the apostasia in 2 Thessalonians 2:3 can be referring to people of the world (though the fact that people will leave the truth shows that they are somehow worldly).

There Are Changes to Two Groups

On the other hand, the true biblical position does not have to be an exclusive either or.  I do believe that a future falling away for the COG not only is possible, it will happen (cf. Daniel 11:33-35).  Whether it is the Tkach-era or the future departure from the faith was intended by God in 2 Thessalonians 2:3 will be known later.

The end time Philadelphia message identifying that the prince in Daniel 9:26-27 will be the King of the North and will cause desolation is one that will separate us in the Continuing Church of God from the other COG groups.  Circumstances, as well as persecutions that the King of the North partially institutes, will likely lead to some affiliated with the Philadelphia remnant will leave it (some in other COGs will also likely be affected as Satan’s servants will not always clearly discriminate).

Those wishing to learn more can read the article The Falling Away: The Bible and WCG Teachings and/or watch the sermon Sermon: The Falling Away Part 1: The Bible and Church History and The Falling Away Part 2: Positions Presented by Others

Many have fallen away from the truth. And many more from important parts of it.

Some articles of possibly related interest may include:

The Falling Away: The Bible and WCG Teachings Who is 2 Thessalonians 2:3 referring to? Are there multiple falling aways?
Continuing Church of God The group striving to be most faithful amongst all real Christian groups to the word of God.
What About the Living Church of God? Are there Doctrinal Differences with the Continuing Church of God? This article explains some information and doctrines of the Living Church of God as led by Roderick C. Meredith and some concerns about them.
Why Bob Thiel Left the Living Church of God Several have speculated reasons, but here is the truth.

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