GCI President Williams on preparation, ‘universalist theology,’ and Matthew 24

Logo of Grace Communion International


Received an email today from GCI (Grace Communion International, essentially the group that originally ran the new and changed Worldwide Church of God). It had a link to an article from its president Greg Williams. The article contained the following:


What does it mean for a believer to be alert and prepared in anticipation of the second coming of Jesus? That question could get all kinds of different answers from many people, but what does scripture tell us? …

Do our lives reflect a state of readiness in our anticipation of Jesus’ return? I’d suggest it is exceedingly difficult to see how the biblical call to self-denial and godly living—being in a state of readiness—can flourish in the realm of universalist theology. Who would need to focus on cooperating with the Spirit’s work in their personal life, or be watchful and alert to the Lord’s second coming if a universalist outcome were already known in advance? Some Christian universalists, including Origen, acknowledged this problem and suggested that universalism should be kept secret from the masses and disseminated among only a select few. …

In Matthew 24, Jesus answers the disciple’s questions about end-time events and what to expect in their future. While Jesus primarily responded to the pending destruction of the temple in 70 A.D., he also shared certain principles that apply to his followers throughout the ages. …

In readiness for his return,
Greg Williams


Let’s look as some points Greg Williams raised.

Regarding preparation or ‘readiness’ in the light of prophecy, Jesus taught:

34 “But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly. 35 For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth. 36 Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.” (Luke 21:34-36)

Now notice that Christians are to pay attention and watch what is happening so that they will know that the Day is approaching–that is a principle that Greg Williams does not seem to push.

However, the news posts at this COGwriter Church of God News page are intended help people pay attention and watch what is happening.

Christians are also to pray that they will be accounted worthy to escape what is coming.

It should be pointed out that in Revelation, Jesus did not promise to protect most Christians in the end times (cf. Revelation 3; see also Revelation 12:14-17). But He did promised to provide protection to those doing the Philadelphian work (Revelation 3:7-13; see also There is a Place of Safety for the Philadelphians. Why it May Be Near Petra).

Since most end time Christians are NOT Philadelphian, Jesus essentially was saying that most will not have sufficiently sought first the Kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33), but that they need to examine themselves and change. He later blasts the bulk of end time Christians and tells them that they must change (Revelation 3:14-22).

Greg Williams essentially wrote that “universalist theology” is unmotivating for preparation. Well, that is his view.

Now, there are two type of universalist messages he could have been referring to in his context.

The first that everyone will be saved no matter what. Now, if that is the case, then few would see any reason to have to grow or live as a Christian.

However, since not all will be saved AND Jesus and the Bible have many promises to those who obey God, then yes, there are reasons to prepare now as well as live as a Christian (on that last point, Greg Williams and others may wish to read the free online books Christians: Ambassadors for the Kingdom of God, Biblical instructions on living as a Christian and The Ten Commandments: The Decalogue, Christianity, and the Beast.)

Now, for the second type of “universalist theology.” What the Bible teaches is that God is calling some now (see Is God Calling You?), but the rest are essentially blinded and deceived by Satan. The Bible teaches that God will OFFER salvation to all, but many do not seem to understand that:

6 And all flesh shall see the salvation of God. (Luke 3:6, NKJV throughout except as where otherwise indicated)

10 And all the ends of the earth shall see The salvation of our God. (Isaiah 52:10)

9 All men shall fear,
And shall declare the work of God;
For they shall wisely consider His doing. (Psalm 64:9)

7 And all the ends of the earth shall fear Him. (Psalm 67:7)

20 Our God is the God of salvation;
And to God the Lord belong escapes from death. (Psalm 68:20)

For more scriptures and details, check out the free online book: Universal OFFER of Salvation, Apokatastasis: Can God save the lost in an age to come? Hundreds of scriptures reveal God’s plan of salvation.

God’s plan to offer salvation to all should not be demotivating to His true people.

Now, the last point from Greg Williams to bring up is his ‘preterist’ comment.

Preterists erroneously believe that most of the Book of Revelation has been fulfilled and most of what Jesus spoke of in Matthew 24 was fulfilled over 1900 years ago (see The Dangerous Rise of Preterists).

Now, let’s actually look at Matthew 24:

1 Then Jesus went out and departed from the temple, and His disciples came up to show Him the buildings of the temple. 2 And Jesus said to them, “Do you not see all these things? Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down.”

3 Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” (Matthew 24:1-3)

While the Temple was destroyed in 70 A.D., notice that what the disciples mainly wanted to know was what were the signs of Jesus’ return and the end of the age.

Notice how Jesus began His response.

4 And Jesus answered and said to them: “Take heed that no one deceives you. 5 For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many.  (Matthew 24:4-6)

If the main thing Jesus was speaking about was the destruction of the Temple, it would be pretty easy not to be deceived as history is clear on that point.

Yet, many, including basically ‘partial’ preterists like the Church of God (Seventh day)-Denver, teach that nearly all the prophecies of Matthew 24 and Revelation were fulfilled centuries ago, so there is nothing really to watch or be that concerned about.

But that is not the case.

Continuing with Jesus’ words in Matthew 24, we see that He pointed to many things that would be fulfilled:

These are the same events that Jesus said to “watch” in Mark 13 and Luke 21.

6 And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. 7 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. 8 All these are the beginning of sorrows.

9 “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake. 10 And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. 11 Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. 12 And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. 13 But he who endures to the end shall be saved. 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 24:6-14)

Notice that Jesus said that the end would come once Matthew 24:14 has been completed.

Those who want to heed Jesus’ words in Matthew 24 should have as a priority supporting the work to fulfill Matthew 24:14, which is a top priority for the Continuing Church of God.

The former head of the old Worldwide Church of God, taught that as well (for details, check out the 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?).

Continuing with Jesus’ words:

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. 18 And let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes. 19 But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! 20 And pray that your flight may not be in winter or on the Sabbath. 21 For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. 22 And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened.

23 “Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There!’ do not believe it. 24 For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. 25 See, I have told you beforehand.

26 “Therefore if they say to you, ‘Look, He is in the desert!’ do not go out; or ‘Look, He is in the inner rooms!’ do not believe it. 27 For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. 28 For wherever the carcass is, there the eagles will be gathered together.

29 “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 30 Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. 31 And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. (Matthew 24:15-31)

43 But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. 44 Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.

45 “Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his master made ruler over his household, to give them food in due season? 46 Blessed is that servant whom his master, when he comes, will find so doing. (Matthew 24:43-46)

So, while Christians should prepare themselves and be ready, there is a lot in Matthew 24 that has not yet happened.

The end will come when many are not expecting it.

But God’s faithful Philadelphian Christians will be doing the work (Revelation 3:7-12). See also:

22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; 24 for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. 25 But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does. (James 1:22-25)

Christians are blessed for doing the work that God wants them to do.

Preterists, Laodiceans, and those who are not properly supporting the work in the end times will simply not be ready.

Some items of related interest may include:

Is God Calling You? This booklet discusses topics including calling, election, and selection. If God is calling you, how will you respond? Here is a link to a related sermon: Could God be Calling You? A short animation is also available: Is God Calling You?
Christian Repentance Do you know what repentance is? Is it really necessary for salvation? A related sermon is also available titled: Real Christian Repentance.

Christians: Ambassadors for the Kingdom of God, Biblical instructions on living as a Christian This is a scripture-filled booklet for those wishing to live as a real Christian. A related sermon is also available: Christians are Ambassadors for the Kingdom of God.
The Ten Commandments: The Decalogue, Christianity, and the Beast This is a free pdf book explaining the what the Ten Commandments are, where they came from, how early professors of Christ viewed them, and how various ones, including the Beast of Revelation, will oppose them. A related sermon is titled: The Ten Commandments and the Beast of Revelation.
There is a Place of Safety for the Philadelphians. Why it May Be Near Petra This article discusses a biblical ‘place of safety’ and includes quotes from the Bible and Herbert W. Armstrong on this subject–thus, there is a biblically supported alternative to the rapture theory. Two sermon-length videos of relaled interest are available Physical Protection During the Great Tribulation and Might Petra be the Place of Safety?  Here is something related in the Spanish language: Hay un lugar de seguridad para los Filadelfinos. ¿Puede ser Petra?
Universal OFFER of Salvation, Apokatastasis: Can God save the lost in an age to come? Hundreds of scriptures reveal God’s plan of salvation Will all get a fair chance at salvation? This free book is packed with scriptures showing that God does intend to offer salvation to all who ever lived–the elect in this age, and the rest in the age to come. Here is a link to a related sermon series: Universal Offer of Salvation 1: Apocatastasis, Universal Offer of Salvation 2: Jesus Desires All to be Saved, Mysteries of the Great White Throne Judgment (Universal Offer of Salvation part 3), Is God Fair, Will God Pardon the Ignorant?, and Can God Save Your Relatives?
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? Two related sermons are available The Work per HWA and the Bible and Priority of the Philadelphia Work.
The Dangerous Rise of Preterists Has the Great Tribulation finished? What was the view of early Christians? Why is the preterist view dangerous? A related sermon video is titled Preterism: You’ve Gotta Be Kidding…Right?
The Falling Away: The Bible and WCG Teachings Who is 2 Thessalonians 2:3 referring to? Are there multiple falling aways? Here is a related link in Spanish/español: La Apostasía: Enseñanzas de la Biblia y de la WCG. There are also two YouTube videos on the subject that you can watch The Falling Away Part 1: From the Bible and Church History and The Falling Away Part 2: Positions Presented by Others.
The 18 Restored Truths: Do You Know What the First Changes the Tkach Administration Made? Some have said healing, others other subjects, but probably the first change had to do with eliminating being part of the Philadelphia era. This article documents what those changes were and compares the Tkach list of restored truths to Herbert W. Armstrong’s list of restored truths. It contains many quotes from Herbert W. Armstrong. Here are links to a related two-part sermon: The 18 Restored Truths: 1-8 and The 18 Restored Truths: 9-18.
Joyce’s Pictures of the Pasadena Campus of Ambassador College and the former Headquarters of the old Worldwide Church of God Here is some pictures of the old campus taken in 2016 for those interested in what it did look like and what remains.
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 and Continuing History of the Church of God: 17th-20th Centuries. The booklet is available in Spanish: Continuación de la Historia de la Iglesia de Dios, German: Kontinuierliche Geschichte der Kirche Gottes, French: L’Histoire Continue de l’Église de Dieu and Ekegusii Omogano Bw’ekanisa Ya Nyasae Egendererete.
The History of Early Christianity Are you aware that what most people believe is not what truly happened to the true Christian church? Do you know where the early church was based? Do you know what were the doctrines of the early church? Is your faith really based upon the truth or compro

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