Sunday, February 24, 2013

Let's Not Focus on Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong - Part 2

Should we be concerned about Mr. Armstrong's alleged personal faults in his life that enemies of the Church of God accuse him of?

This is a continuation of my December 12, 2012 post, "Let's Not Focus on Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong - Part 1".

From time to time, hostile critics of the Church of God and its doctrines make personal accusations against Mr. Armstrong. They do not necessarily attack and refute the doctrines he taught from the Bible. Instead, they accuse Mr. Armstrong personally. They say he sinned by violating biblical principles in one way or another.

Sometimes I receive emails from Church of God members who have heard or read of these accusations and are worried about them.

I did not know Mr. Armstrong personally, and I have no first hand information about any evidence that any of these accusations are true. I am not an eye witness to anything Mr. Armstrong did, except that I have read his writings and listened to his speaking.

I sense enough of a hostile attitude on the part of Mr. Armstrong's accusers that I am inclined to regard anything they say about him as totally untrustworthy and unreliable.

But in any case, should I care if Mr. Armstrong did anything wrong? Is it any of my business? Should I take time to investigate?

If I followed Mr. Armstrong's advice, don't believe me - believe the Bible, then I have already proved the doctrines I believe from the Bible. If that is the case (it is), why should I care now if Mr. Armstrong did something wrong?

What would be my motive for wanting to know? Morbid curiosity? It won't affect my faith in God, or the Bible, or the doctrines I have proved from the Bible, so why would I be interested? For the sake of gossip? To feed my vanity, to feel superior to Mr. Armstrong in some way, or to distract myself from my own sins?

Did not God inspire Paul to warn against comparing ourselves with ourselves (2 Corinthians 10:12)? Did not Christ warn against judging others (Matthew 7:1-5)?

If I wanted to learn about Mr. Armstrong's supposed sins, I could not rely on hearsay evidence or gossip, especially from those biased against Mr. Armstrong. Even the courts of this world have enough common sense not to allow hearsay evidence in a trial. In order to know if Mr. Armstrong did something wrong, I would want some strong, firsthand, solid evidence and verification. I could not rely on gossip, or "somebody told me that somebody told him that he read on the Internet that a minister who knew Mr. Armstrong said he saw Mr. Armstrong do such-and-such, so I know it is a fact...". I would have to seek out and interview reliable witnesses first hand. I would have to see original documents, if they related to the charge, not copies or descriptions of documents. I would have to hold a proper court. I would have to make careful and diligent inquiry (Deuteronomy 19:15-18, Deuteronomy 17:6).

But do I have any business judging Mr. Armstrong? Where does it say in the Bible that I have been given that job? Would I serve on a jury if I was assigned jury duty? Would I not ask for exemption based on my religious beliefs that Christ said, "judge not" (Matthew 7:1-5)? What a hypocrite I would be if I refused jury duty, yet set myself up to judge if Mr. Armstrong was guilty in one thing or another that his accusers charge him with! What he did or did not do is absolutely none of my business. Christ will judge him. I only need to check up his doctrines in the Bible and believe the Bible. And I need to respect the office he has held and obey the biblical command, "esteem them highly", referring to the ministry (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13). That's kind of hard to do if I am looking for his faults.

Someone took an inheritance issue to Christ to resolve, but Jesus said, "who made me a judge over you?" (Luke 12:13-14). Should I not follow Christ's example? Who made me a judge of Mr. Armstrong? I will judge his doctrines, because I have to, but I don't have to judge the man himself. Christ will do that.

I know from Mr. Armstrong's teachings and from the history of the Church that God has used him in a VERY powerful way. Mr. Armstrong has borne a lot of good fruit that far outweighs anything bad he might have done (Matthew 7:15-20). Even if he were an unrighteous sinner, I am a witness that he taught the Bible more accurately and preached the true gospel more effectively than anyone else in his time. And I do not believe he was an unrighteous sinner.

Of course he was not perfect. I don't know his faults, but God does. But the Bible shows that many servants of God had serious faults, and yet that did not prevent God from using them for His work.

Did Mr. Armstrong ever commit adultery with another man's wife, then have that man killed to cover it up, then marry his widow? I don't think so, but David did. Did he frequent whore houses? I don't think so, but Samson did, and Samson is listed in the faith chapter of Hebrews. Did he ever tell someone his wife was his sister because he didn't trust God to protect him from those who might want his wife? Abraham did that, and Isaac too.

How many times did David, a man after God's heart, tell a lie? I already mentioned the half-truth Abraham told about Sarah being his sister instead of his wife. But look at David. When he first fled from Saul, he told the priest, "I am on the king's business", but he wasn't. The priest gave him food and a sword, then later Saul killed the priest for it. David later admitted he caused the death of God's priest (1 Samuel 20:28-42, 21:1-9, 22:6-22). Then David fled and lived with the Philistines for a while. His men and he would go out raiding various cities and villages, some of which may have been allied with the Philistines, killing all the men and women so no one would be alive to tell on him, then go back to the Philistine ruler and say, "we went raiding the cities of Judah today", or something like that (1 Samuel 27:1-12).

I often think of the account of Gideon. Gideon did a great work with a few people (though it was God who did the work through Gideon). After Gideon saved Israel, the people asked him to rule over them. Then Gideon said, I will not rule over you but the LORD will rule over you. That was the right thing to say. So far, so good.

But then Gideon asked the people to give him their gold and he made an idol, and it became a snare to Gideon and to his house (Judges 8:22-27). Yet Gideon apparently will be in the kingdom, if I read Hebrews right (Hebrews 11:32-34, 39-40).

How many times in the Old Testament did servants of God swear? Yet, Jesus taught us, do not swear at all (Matthew 5:33-37).

Need I continue?

The thing about David lying has bothered me. Doesn't God care if we lie? God doesn't even mention David's lies as a sin! I have faced embarrassment and have risked my job by refusing to lie. But I look at the example of Christ, and not once did Jesus lie, not even a little bit.

My conclusion? We are all imperfect, but God uses us and works with us anyway. Christ set the perfect example, and we must follow Him. Yes, David should not have lied, but God forgave him for it.

And I don't doubt the Psalms David wrote because David had faults.

It is a deadly trap for any one of us to compare ourselves with others in the Church or to judge others if we don't have to judge them to make a decision. We end up thinking too well of ourselves when we look at the faults of others in comparison. "...But they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise" (2 Corinthians 10:12). Judging others is a sure recipe for becoming Laodicean.

If I am a business owner and I need to hire someone and a Church member comes to me for a job, should I judge him? Yes, because I have to judge if he will be a good worker. If I am single and I am considering marrying a woman in the Church, should I judge her? Yes. I have to make a decision, is she converted? Are we compatible? If I am trying to decide where I should send my tithes or what Church of God to attend Sabbath services with, should I judge which Churches of God and which leaders or ministers are doing a good job and following Christ? Yes, because I have to know what name to write on the check and where to go for services. God has given me certain responsibilities to make decisions, and sometimes I have to judge someone to make a decision. But if not, should I just judge someone when I don't have to? I better not. I have a full time job judging myself to see my sins.

Here is the problem. If I judge another person, I am sure to judge that person more unfavorably than I would judge myself, because that is human nature. If I focus on somebody else, I can't help but compare myself with that person. I tend not to understand the faults of others, while at the same time I tend to excuse my own faults more than I should. And I never have all the facts about someone else. I never know what it is like to be that person twenty-four hours a day. When I compare myself with someone else, I am using the wrong yardstick. I should compare myself with Christ. If I compare myself with Christ, I have a better chance of seeing my faults. But if I compare myself with another Church member, I won't look so bad. Which is a pretty good recipe for thinking I am spiritually "rich and increased with goods" and I won't know I am poor, blind, and naked (Revelation 3:17).

Do you or I have a reason to judge Mr. Armstrong? Only his doctrines, and I can judge that by studying my Bible. I don't have to judge his behavior, so I will try not to. Maybe I can look at the history of how he has administrated the Church during his life, and I might look at and evaluate his mistakes in the sense of understanding how Christ is working with the Church, or in the sense of learning lessons that can be applied today, but I do not want to judge him personally as far as how he "measures up". I will just give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he did the best he could and leave it at that.

Doctrine, that is, the good fruits of truth (by their fruits you will know them - Matthew 7:15-20, Isaiah 8:20), is the best way to judge among groups that have different doctrines (Church of God, Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, etc.). But among groups that have the same doctrine, growth can be an indicator, not the only one, of which group God is working through most effectively. So first I judge by doctrine. The Church of God teaches the right doctrines from the Bible overall, not perfectly, but better than Jehovah's Witnesses or Mormons or any other religion. Next, among the Churches of God, I still look at doctrine, because there are differences, but I also look at growth to see where God is working and who is doing the best job. But doctrine is more important than growth.

Now, in saying I have no right or good reason to judge Mr. Armstrong, I am not saying I think any of allegations against him have any truth in them. I am only saying that even if they might be true, I have no right or reason to try to investigate in order to judge Mr. Armstrong's personal character because it won't affect my doctrinal beliefs I have proved in the Bible. But in my opinion, Mr. Armstrong probably is not guilty of any of the sins of which he is accused.

I certainly do not trust the accounts of third parties about any accusations of wrong-doing against Mr. Armstrong, people who in many cases may have hated his guts, though they might not admit that. To me, their "testimony" is worthless, and worse than worthless.

We must not judge the truth of the Bible by the character of God's servants who preach that truth. We judge the truth by the Bible and by trusting God who inspired the Bible, that God is truthful and His word is true. We should never let the imperfections or the supposed imperfections of God's servants shake our faith in God Himself, or in His word, the Bible.

I believe what I believe not because I trust Mr. Armstrong, that he was righteous, but because I trust God and the Bible and I have proved the major truths of the doctrines of the Church of God in the Bible. I have proved that the United States and Britain are part of Israel. I have proved that man does not have an immortal soul. I have proved that we must keep the weekly Sabbath and holy days. I have proved that God is not a trinity. I have proved that God is reproducing Himself in mankind. Etc., etc.

Here is something to think about.

Who is the worst man in the Bible, the worst example?

It has to be Judas. Or, maybe the beast and the false prophet. God says plainly that the beast and false prophet will go into the lake of fire. But of men who have lived and died in the past, Judas is the only one of whom God says, he would have been better off never born (as far as I have found in the Bible). Sounds like he won't be in the Kingdom.

Yet, Judas preached the truth. He, along with the eleven, preached the gospel, healed the sick, and cast out demons. He probably baptized. He didn't seem different than the other apostles. That is why the disciples had to ask Jesus who would betray Him (Matthew 26:20-25, Mark 14:17-21, John 13:21-26).

Now, imagine you were one of the 120 disciples on the Day of Pentecost, and you had learned the true gospel from Judas personally. Suppose Judas preached to you, helped you, taught you the truth, and patiently answered your questions about the kingdom of God. Maybe you were healed of a horrible disease by the laying on of hands by Judas (Matthew 10:1-8).

Maybe you were crippled in your feet and couldn't walk, and Judas laid hands on you and said, "In the name of Jesus Christ, be healed and walk," and you were healed, and with joy you jumped up on your feet and embraced Judas and thanked him, and with a warm smile on his face he said, "See what God has done for you in the name of Jesus Christ - give God the glory and thanks," and then he taught you about the good news of the Kingdom, and when you believed and repented, he baptized you in the name of Christ, by Christ's authority (John 4:1-3).

Then later you learned that Jesus said that Judas would be better off if he had never been born and that Judas killed himself.

Would you doubt the gospel? Would you seek to be re-baptized by someone else?

Well, if you reacted the correct way, you would not doubt the gospel, not seek to be re-baptized, but realize that God used an imperfect human instrument, a piece of clay so to speak, to teach you the gospel, which is the truth that saves you. Your gratitude and loyalty would be towards Christ, who commissioned Judas and gave him the power to do good works, not towards Judas himself. You might have sorrow about Judas and his fate, but your faith in God and in what God did through Judas would not be shaken.

God uses many people as instruments to do His work, and He empowered them to do His work effectively. But each individual God uses this way will be judged for his personal faith and obedience to God's law, not just how powerfully God has used him to do good works. Some won't make it. "Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!' " (Matthew 7:22-23).

What about Solomon? He is not listed in the faith chapter in Hebrews. That doesn't mean he won't be saved, because Hebrews doesn't list everyone who will make it into the Kingdom, but when you read the account of Solomon's whole life, it does not seem to have a happy ending. Yet God inspired Solomon and used him to write Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, and much or most of Proverbs, books of the Bible that are infallibly true, because God inspired them (2 Timothy 3:16-17, John 10:35). There is no guarantee Solomon will be in the Kingdom - he seriously sinned, as the Bible makes clear (1 Kings 11:1-13), but we don't doubt the books God inspired him to write.

Now, Mr. Armstrong's writings are not like Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon. Mr. Armstrong's writings contain errors. God did not make him infallible. They are not the Bible. But my point is that the faults of a man do not nullify or invalidate the righteous works God does using that man as an instrument.

So I have the assurance that, regardless of any false accusations made against Mr. Armstrong by his enemies, I do not need to be discouraged or troubled about the doctrines I have proved from the Bible, the work God has done through Mr. Armstrong, or the work that must still be done by all of us in the Church today (God has put a heavy responsibility on our shoulders, to warn the world, and we are accountable to God for how we fulfill our responsibility).

If anything discourages me, it will more likely be my own personal faults, problems, and sins, which God knows about. That can discourage me, not anything Mr. Armstrong has done.

If you are one you has been troubled or confused by accusations against Mr. Armstrong, my suggestion is, don't put your trust in those who accuse Mr. Armstrong of anything. Read his literature, look up the scriptures, prove the doctrines for yourself one way or another, and don't believe Mr. Armstrong, believe the Bible, as he said, "don't believe me, believe your Bible, believe God."

If you have never proved the major doctrines of the Church in the Bible, I encourage you to do so. Once you have done that, your faith will be in God and His word, not in Mr. Armstrong or in any man. Then nothing bad you learn or hear about Mr. Armstrong or any other minister in the Church will shake your faith in the truth because your faith will be in God and the Bible, not in any minister or in the Church.

But love and respect the ministry and the Church, realizing we are all human and make mistakes, and we should have compassion and mercy on each other as we want God to have mercy on us.

To be continued...

Here are links to related chapters or sections in Preaching the Gospel:

When and How to Judge, Chapter 5

Why this Subject Is Important, Chapter 1

Our Attitude and Approach Towards God's Word, Chapter 1

How to Understand the Bible, Chapter 1

The Source of Our Beliefs, Chapter 6

Monday, February 18, 2013

Is the Great Deception to Come a "Falling Away?"

There have been a number of occasions in the history of the Church of God when members have fallen away from the truth. We know of at least two. In the early centuries of the Church, many fell away, and some of the beginnings of this are recorded in the New Testament (1 John 2:19, 1 Corinthians 11:19, 3 John 9-11). And in our time many members fell away from the truth after the death of Mr. Armstrong.

Besides those two occasions there may have been other occasions we do not know about in the last two thousand years. And there may be future occasions when Church members fall away once more.

We also know that a great worldwide deception with a false prophet showing signs and wonders will come upon the whole world (Revelation 13:11-15).

Some say that the term "falling away" in verse 3 of 2 Thessalonians, chapter 2 refers to one or more occasions when Church members fall away from the truth, and others say it refers to the coming worldwide deception.

Some say that the coming great deception of the world by Satan and the false prophet cannot be called a "falling away", and that is what I will address in this post.

This is the third post in this blog about the falling away issue. The first is
"The Falling Away in 2 Thessalonians 2:3"

The second is "Is the Falling Away Doctrine a Critical Issue?"

Most of us have assumed that the great false prophet will teach all the beliefs, doctrines, and practices of an existing major religion that is not the true religion of the Bible. But the teachings of the false prophet may not be exactly the same as that of any religious body today. The religion of the false prophet may be far worse than any false religion that has ever existed on earth to this time.

When Satan knows that he has but a short time, I think he will go all out to turn mankind against God, more than he has ever done before. And he will make war against God's saints as he has never done before.

The religions of this world have a mixture of truth and error. Not everything they teach is wrong. False religions today are against God, but in a subtle way. Many of them acknowledge God's existence, they teach that God has all power, that He is all good, etc. They have a number of points of truth.

There are many churches in traditional Christianity that have points of doctrine we don't agree with but also have points of truth we share.

Take the Catholic Church as an example. While we do not agree with the Catholic Church on many points of doctrine, and we know they do not correctly understand the Bible, they do have many points of truth. They teach that God exists. They teach that God is all powerful and all wise. They teach that Jesus Christ is God, that He lived a sinless life, and that He suffered and died for us to pay the penalty for our sins so we can be forgiven, and that both God the Father and Jesus Christ love mankind. They teach against abortion, homosexuality, pre-marital sex, etc. And unlike some Protestant groups, they do not teach that the ten commandments are done away. I do not say that they understand, believe, and obey them perfectly. They do not understand that the second commandment is separate from the first and prohibits the use of images in worship. They think that the fourth commandment is about resting on Sunday. But they do at least acknowledge that the commandments have authority.

They do teach that Christians should practice forgiveness and kindness to others.

And believe it or not, the Catholic Church teaches that the Bible is the inspired word of God and is true. Where they are in error is in thinking that the Catholic Church and its traditions have the authority to interpret the Bible rather than letting the Bible interpret itself.

So they have a number of points of truth.

Can Catholics "fall away" from that part of the truth, or some of it, that they have? Of course they could, if God allows Satan to deceive them about those points of truth.

Could Satan lead the false prophet to teach heresy worse than anything taught by any so-called "Christian" church in the history of the world? Yes.

Could he lead the false prophet to teach traditional, mainstream Christian churches of this world to "fall away" from one or more points of truth they still have? Yes.

There may be indications in the Bible that the false prophet and beast will teach some things different from any Christian denominations in existence today. It won't necessarily be the Catholic religion as we have known it.

"Then the king shall do according to his own will: he shall exalt and magnify himself above every god, shall speak blasphemies against the God of gods, and shall prosper till the wrath has been accomplished; for what has been determined shall be done. He shall regard neither the God of his fathers nor the desire of women, nor regard any god; for he shall exalt himself above them all. But in their place he shall honor a god of fortresses; and a god which his fathers did not know he shall honor with gold and silver, with precious stones and pleasant things. Thus he shall act against the strongest fortresses with a foreign god, which he shall acknowledge, and advance its glory; and he shall cause them to rule over many, and divide the land for gain" (Daniel 11:36-39).

Notice, he shall not regard the "God [or god] of his fathers" (verse 37). That doesn't sound like he follows the mainstream, traditional "Christian" values he was raised in. "He shall honor a god of FORTRESSES" (verse 38). That sounds like some kind of war-god, a worship of and glorification of military force, not mainstream Christianity as we know it today.

We have seen something like this in modern times. In Germany, under the Nazis, there was something like a religion of this sort. It was not the Catholic Church. It was Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party. They virtually worshipped military force. They openly glorified war. And the Nazis required the people to virtually worship Hitler.

The Nazi party was very much like a religion in those days. It was much more than a political party. And it was state-enforced. It was complete with ceremony, ritual, symbols, and emotional fervor. They even used the name of God and allowed use of religion, but within the framework of Nazi ideology. But it was very unchristian.

If Satan inspired Nazism, he may have been practicing a kind of dress rehearsal for what he has in mind for the future.

"He shall speak pompous words against the Most High, Shall persecute the saints of the Most High, And shall intend to change times and law" (Daniel 7:25).

We may think of traditional Christianity trying to change "times and law" by substituting Sunday for the seventh day Sabbath. But Daniel 7:25 seems to be talking about a change that will be attempted in the future, not the substitution of Sunday for the Sabbath that happened centuries ago. The substitution of Sunday for the Sabbath that began almost two thousand years ago may be a small foretaste, a type.

At least today we still have the weekly cycle, unbroken since creation. But that could change.

I read an article many years ago about a proposal for calendar "reform". The idea was to change the calendar by making every month start with the first day of the week and every month be exactly four or five weeks. In each quarter there would be two 4-week months and one 5-week month, exactly 13 weeks each quarter. The new calendar would have two "world day" holidays each year that would not be counted as a day of the week. Thus, the weekly cycle would be broken. Imagine what that would mean. Today you tell your boss, "I can't work on Saturdays". Then, in six months, you have to say, "I can't work on Friday". Then, in another six months, you have to say, I can't work on Thursdays".

Perhaps something like this is what Daniel 7:25 is referring to.

What if the false prophet and beast teach, "God and Christ exist, but they are not always good. They can sometimes be evil - they are not perfect. They also make mistakes."

What? You say that can't happen, that mankind would never believe that? I'm not that sure. I don't want to underestimate Satan's power of deception. Mankind may be almost ready, at a subconscious level, to believe God is evil even now.

What could Catholic and Protestants fall away from? They could fall away from any point or points of truth they have. They could fall away from believing that God and Christ are all all-good, all-wise, or all-powerful. They could fall away from believing that the Bible is true even as interpreted by the Catholic Church or any church - they might just come out an openly say, the Bible is false and wrong. Even if they continue to teach that God inspired the Bible, they can teach that God inspired falsehoods to deceive people.

They could fall away from believing that Jesus never sinned. They could fall away from accepting the weekly cycle, continuous from creation.

Pick any point of truth that traditional mainstream Christianity has, and Satan could deceive members of mainstream churches into falling away from that point of truth.

So yes, it is possible that the great deception to come can be a "falling away", a departure from what was previously believed, and a more intensified rebellion against God that will come upon the whole world.

Some may say that most of Europe is non-religious, secular, materialistic, atheist. But there are still millions who consider themselves Christian, and if they fall away from the truth they have it will certainly be a great falling away.

Even the change from quiet atheism to a severely anti-God religion, a religion that worships and glorifies war and violence as a way of life, a religion that openly blasphemes God, can be a falling away in the sense that those who make this change will be more hostile towards God under their new religion than they were before as atheists.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Is the Falling Away Doctrine a Critical Issue?

"Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come. Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition" (2 Thessalonians 2:1-3).

I will start with a question. How much less would we know, about Church history or future prophetic events, if this passage were not in the Bible?

Depending on the meaning of the Greek word or term translated as "falling away" (and I am not knowledgeable about the Greek), it may mean falling away from a previous position or a general, intensified rebellion against God. Even if it means "falling away" from a previous position, that could include people in the world as they fall away from what they previously believed. This verse does not say "falling away from the truth". If it did, it could only mean the Church. But it is not restricted that way.

There is a disagreement between Bob Thiel and Living Church of God about what this verse refers to. Dr. Thiel says it refers to the Church, LCG says it can include the world.

But how much of a disagreement is there about what is going to happen or has happened? Not much, if any.

Why? Both Dr. Thiel and Living Church of God agree that many in the Church of God have left the truth, both in the first and second centuries and in modern times in Worldwide during the late 1980s and early 1990s. LCG and Bob Thiel agree on history. And they generally agree that there is a great religious deception coming upon the world from the beast and false prophet.

They are in agreement on those things because there are other passages in the Bible that warn about those things and because we have the historical records of what has happened in the Church and we have lived through some of it in our time. We know that there was an apostasy in the first, second, and third centuries because the largest body of those claiming to be Christian after that had doctrines and practices very different from what the Bible teaches and what the early Church of God practiced. We know that there was an apostasy in the Church of God after the death of Mr. Armstrong because we watched it happen around us. And there are plenty of passages in the Bible that prophesy falling away in the Church other than 2 Thessalonians 2:1-3 or document how fallings away started even in New Testament times - see Acts 20:28-30, 1 Timothy 4:1-2, 2 Timothy 1:15, 2 Timothy 4:1-4, and Jude 3-4.

What about the future?

There are other passages that show a great worldwide religious deception is ahead. "So they worshiped the dragon who gave authority to the beast; and they worshiped the beast, saying, 'Who is like the beast? Who is able to make war with him?' And he was given a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies, and he was given authority to continue for forty-two months. Then he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name, His tabernacle, and those who dwell in heaven. It was granted to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them. And authority was given him over every tribe, tongue, and nation. All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" (Revelation 13:4-8).

"Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth, and he had two horns like a lamb and spoke like a dragon. And he exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence, and causes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed. He performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men. And he deceives those who dwell on the earth-by those signs which he was granted to do in the sight of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who was wounded by the sword and lived. He was granted power to give breath to the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak and cause as many as would not worship the image of the beast to be killed" (Revelation 13:11-15).

See also Matthew 24:23-24, 2 Thessalonians 2:3-12, 2 Timothy 3:1-9, and 2 Timothy 3:13.

We don't need 2 Thessalonians 2:1-3 to know that worldwide religious deception is coming before the return of Christ. So Dr. Thiel and LCG can agree that a great deception is coming upon the whole world because of the beast and false prophet. Moreover, we can all agree that true Christians need to be alert so that we are not caught up in that deception (Matthew 24:4-5).

So LCG and Bob Thiel agree on what has happened in the Church and what is prophesied in the Bible for the world.

The big disagreement Bob Thiel has with LCG is over the question of which of these two things, or both, does 2 Thessalonians 2:3 refer to when it says "falling away".

Is that an argument over words?

Apostasies have happened in the Church of God. A great religious deception is coming upon the world. We know about these things. How much does it matter which of these two things 2 Thessalonians 2:3 refers to?

If we say 2 Thessalonians 2:3 refers to the falling away that has occurred in the Church of God, will that add anything to what we already know has happened? If we say it refers to the great religious deception coming upon the world from the beast and false prophet, how much does that add to what we already know from Revelation and other passages?

Does LCG agree with Bob Thiel that there were apostasies in the Church, members leaving the truth, in the early centuries and in our time after the death of Mr. Armstrong? Yes, LCG agrees with Bob Thiel about that.

Does Bob Thiel agree with LCG that there is a great religious deception coming upon the whole world from the beast and false prophet? Yes, Dr. Thiel agrees with LCG about that.

Do both sides agree that members of the Church of God need to be close to God, close to the truth, and careful not to be caught up in the deception that will come upon the whole world? I am sure they agree on that, and the Bible warns about that.

So if both sides agree on what has happened in the Church, what will happen in the world, and that true Christians need to be spiritually alert and close to God to escape the danger of being caught up in any future deceptions, what matters of real substance, about history, doctrine, or prophecy, do they disagree about? The real disagreement is about which of these events, which we already know about anyway, 2 Thessalonians 2:3 refers to.

This issue of the "falling away" is not justification for Bob Thiel to leave LCG and start his own group, as far as I can see.

I tend to agree with LCG that this verse refers to the great worldwide deception to come upon the whole world, though I think it may have a dual application and can also apply to what has happened in the Church, and may happen again in the Church. I think LCG acknowledges that there is a duality here.

Someone may say, but what about a future falling away in the Church of God? If we believe that this verse only warns about the world falling away (from what they previously believed), then we will miss a strong warning about what can happen in the Church and we will not be on our guard.

That is wrong on two counts. If 2 Thessalonians 2:3 refers only to the Church, that does not guarantee that there will be a future falling away in the Church because it has already happened at least twice, once in the early centuries and once after the death of Mr. Armstrong. The "falling away" was future at the time 2 Thessalonians 2:3 was written, but it has happened at least twice in the history of the Church of God, and there is no guarantee from this verse alone that there will be a third time.

But more importantly, it was never the intent or the teaching of LCG to say or imply that there is not a danger for Church members of being deceived if we are not on our guard and spiritually alert. Anyone who has listened to LCG sermons regularly should know that we are admonished to watch, to be spiritually alert, and to stay close to God to avoid being deceived. The Bible also is full of such warnings.

Bob Thiel and LCG are in agreement about the matters of substance of what has happened in the past, what will happen in the future, and what true Christians need to do:

1) Apostasy in the Church of God has happened in the early centuries and after the death of Herbert W. Armstrong.

2) A great worldwide, religious deception is coming from the beast and false prophet.

3) True Christians need to obey God, to watch, to be spiritually alert, and to seek God and stay close to God through the tools of prayer, Bible study, fasting, and meditation to escape the danger of being deceived in the future.

These are the important things, and we agree on them. There is no disagreement that is a valid cause for dividing the Church of God, in my opinion.

Also, God who inspired 2 Thessalonians 2:3, who knew the future not only of prophetic events but also controversies in the Church of God including the present controversy, did not inspire Paul to write "falling away from the truth". He inspired Paul to write "falling away" or "rebellion", however the Greek word should be translated, but without "from the truth". Why did God not inspire the words "from the truth"? It would have easily ended this controversy. But God did not say that. He left it open so it could apply to the world. I think it does. It may have a dual application, to the Church and to the world, but I think it includes the world as LCG teaches.

There is a phrase that comes to mind from the old Worldwide days, "majoring in the minors". I do not now remember if that was used only after the apostasy started or while Mr. Armstrong was alive. There is also the phrase, common in our culture, "making mountains out of mole hills". And LCG has taught that we should not be so concerned about twigs that we neglect the main branches of doctrine. Sometimes these sayings can be misapplied, but I think these can be correctly applied to someone who leaves a group to start a new group based largely on which of two known events or groups of events, events that we already agree about, a certain verse refers to.

If everyone left a group to start a new group because of any disagreement about a verse, no matter how small, probably no two people would be left together in the whole Church of God. Eventually, if you have 30,000 Church of God members, you would have 30,000 Churches of God. Some things are not important enough for splitting apart.

The Bible warns about being so concerned about small details that we lose sight of the bigger picture.

"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone. Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!" (Matthew 23:23-24).

"But avoid foolish disputes, genealogies, contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and useless. Reject a divisive man after the first and second admonition, knowing that such a person is warped and sinning, being self-condemned" (Titus 3:9-11).

"If anyone teaches otherwise and does not consent to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which accords with godliness, he is proud, knowing nothing, but is obsessed with disputes and arguments over words, from which come envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions, useless wranglings of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. From such withdraw yourself" (1 Timothy 6:3-5).

I asked before, is arguing about which events we all agree about a certain verse is referring to, which verse adds little to what we already know about those events, arguing over words or substance? If there is substance there, I don't see much of it.

I am not against details or small matters. We need to desire to be faithful, in our trust and belief in and obedience to God's word, even in small things, to show God by being faithful in little things that we will be faithful in big things (Luke 16:10). If Bob Thiel thinks that 2 Thessalonians 2:3 applies only to the Church, then he should believe what he sees in the Bible until God opens his mind to understand the Bible differently. The problem becomes when we let our disagreements about small matters cause us to violate God's law in bigger matters. We need to keep things in proportion. The principle of respect for authority and not creating division is a weightier matter than which of two known events a particular verse applies to.

I know from reading COGwriter for the past several years that some of the reasons that Bob Thiel felt and taught that LCG was Philadelphia was that they held fast to the eighteen truths restored by Mr. Armstrong, that they had top-down government, and that they gave high priority in their budget and work to preaching the gospel to the world. I am summarizing this in my own words, Bob Thiel might summarize it differently.

But has any of this changed? Does not LCG still hold fast to the doctrines Dr. Thiel says are the eighteen truths? Do they not still have top-down governance? Do they not still place high priority on preaching the gospel?

I am not saying myself that these are the marks of a Philadelphia organization. To me, the criteria is whether 51% of the members are Philadelphian in character, and only God can know that. There can certainly be outward signs, especially an open door to preaching the gospel and zeal for going through that open door (and LCG has an open door and zeal for preaching the gospel and Ezekiel warning greater than any other Church of God, in my opinion). But these are Dr. Thiel's own reasons for saying in the past for so long that LCG is Philadelphia. I am asking him for consistency here.

Here is my challenge for Dr. Thiel. Go through your own writings you have used for so long to say that LCG is Philadelphia. List your reasons why you felt LCG was Philadelphia, the same ones you taught in your posts and articles, starting with LCG holding fast to the 18 truths restored by Mr. Armstrong. Then state what has changed since then. If LCG no longer fulfills one of the signs that YOU TAUGHT in the past marked them as Philadelphia, then state this clearly and give the proof. For example, have they failed to hold fast to the 18 truths? Now, if they have not changed, but YOUR CRITERIA HAS CHANGED, then state this, that you had the wrong criteria before, but now you have it right, and state what you have changed in your criteria to know if a Church of God is Philadelphia.

I think LCG is closer right now to the Philadelphia standard than any other major Church of God and closer than CCOG, which has just started.

By the way, what was Paul's purpose and intent in writing 2 Thessalonians 2:1-3? That the brethren not be "shaken in mind or troubled" (verse 2). Does anyone see an irony in the way Bob Thiel is using this passage?

Bob Thiel spends considerable time in his latest sermon on the falling away picking apart and trying to show what he thinks are mistakes in an LCG sermon about the falling away of 2 Thessalonians 2:3, but I think there are plenty of mistakes in what Dr. Thiel has said, and I will discuss some of them.

He makes the point that, because 2 Thessalonians 2:1-3 is addressed to "brethren", that the falling away must apply to the brethren, not the world. But that is wrong logic. Of course Paul is speaking to the Church, but that doesn't mean that the things he tells the Church are never about what will happen in the world. Dr. Thiel acknowledges that 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12 applies to the world being deceived, yet that is also part of the same epistle addressed to the Church of God. So the fact that Paul addresses his statements to "brethren" (2 Thessalonians 2:1) does not mean that the "falling away" in 2 Thessalonians 2:3 only applies to brethren, not the world.

Dr. Thiel talks about the word "first" in verse 3 and says this shows that the "falling away" happens first before the man of sin is revealed. But that is not necessarily what the word "first" is referring to. That word "first" obviously means that the falling away happens before something else. What is that something else that comes AFTER the falling away? The return of Christ (verses 1-2). That is what this is all about. Christ does not return until the falling away happens FIRST, BEFORE the return of Christ. Then the second part of verse 3, the man of sin revealed, is connected with the falling away by the word "and", and this can indicate they happen together. So this word "first" can mean that the falling away and man of sin happen FIRST before the return of Christ.

At one point, he says that saying that the idea that this verse applies to the world diminishes the warning to the Church to be on guard and alert and close to God to avoid the danger of deception and falling away. No it does not, for two reasons. As I said before, there are plenty of other verses in the Bible that warn the Church to be spiritually alert, to watch and pray, to be close to God to avoid the future deception. But also, even if 2 Thessalonians 2:3 applies only to the Church, if someone wants to ignore those other warnings, they can discount 2 Thessalonians 2:3 by saying that a falling away has happened at least twice in the Church after this was written anyway, so it has been fulfilled. In other words, if you say that 2 Thessalonians 2:3 applies only to the Church of God, there is no guarantee from this verse alone that a third major falling away is yet to happen, since two such events have already happened. The Church is warned of the danger of future deception by these passages: Matthew 24:4-5, 8-16, 23-24, Luke 18:8, 2 Peter 3:17-18, and Daniel 11:29-36, to name a few.

One thing he said I found offensive is that he has renamed Living Church of God, "Falling Away Church of God". I do not remember him once calling LCG, which he obviously is referring to, "Living Church of God", but continuously called them "Falling Away Church of God". In one case, he even seemed to quote Dr. Winnail using the term "Falling Away Church of God" to refer to LCG, which of course Dr. Winnail never said. Maybe he thought readers would figure out he was just kidding or figure out that he was inserting his own words into the quote of Dr. Winnail, but it was still wrong. This was about 50 or 51 minutes into the part 2 sermon on the falling away. Maybe he thinks calling LCG the "Falling Away Church of God" is cute or funny, but I think it is needlessly insulting towards the whole Living Church of God ministry and membership. There is no indication that LCG leadership and ministry think of any doctrine about the "falling away" in 2 Thessalonians 2:3 as the defining doctrine of what LCG stands for. This is inappropriate and shows a lack of wisdom and common sense on Dr. Thiel's part.

Here is the biggest mistake, and it is understandable, but a mistake nevertheless. I will spend some time with this one.

In his two sermons, he said that when people in Europe, who are mostly materialistic and non-religious right now, are deceived by the beast and false prophet, they will think they are returning to their mother religion, not falling away. Now, what they think doesn't matter, it is what God thinks that counts.

But there is a deeper misconception here.

Falling away does not have to mean falling away from the truth. It can mean falling away from a previously held belief or condition.

I think a lot of people assume that a person who is a member of a false religion, not God's true Church, but a Christian-professing religion, is closer to God than an atheist, agnostic, or someone who simply has no interest in religion. Thus, an atheist who is persuaded by the beast and false prophet to turn to their religion is better, closer to God, than when he was an atheist. Not necessarily so. Also, some tend to assume that the beast and false prophet will embrace the Catholic religion as it is, but that is not necessarily so. It may be similar in some ways but there can be serious differences also. The religion of the beast and false prophet may be much worse than the Catholic religion today. We believe that the Catholic religion has errors, but it has some truth too. They teach that Christ died to pay the penalty for our sins. They teach that Christ is God. They teach that people are to honor our parents, avoid sexual sin, avoid theft, etc. They teach that we should love other people. They do not teach these things perfectly, but they do stand for some moral principles. They are against abortion. They are against homosexuality and pornography. Those elements of the Catholic religion that are right are things people can fall away from.

As I said before, I am no expert in Greek. But if the "falling away" in 2 Thessalonians 2:3 can mean an intensified rebellion against God, then it is possible that accepting the religion of the beast and false prophet will be such an intensified rebellion against God no matter what one previously believed.

There is an assumption that moving from materialism, atheism, agnosticism, and secularism, which dominates the western world today, towards the religion of the false prophet and beast will not be a turning away from God. I do not share that assumption.

Which will be worse, the false religion of the beast and false prophet, or the present atheistic materialism?

Historically, who has been most zealous to persecute the true Church and to kill true Christians, atheists or those of false religions?

I think the false religion of the beast and false prophet will be worse and more anti-God than anything this earth has ever seen since man was put on the earth. It will be far worse than the present materialism and atheism. It will be far worse than any known religion today. It may have much in common with the Catholic religion but there can be differences also.

Consider. When this happens, Satan, who has probably existed for hundreds of millions of years and has ruled the earth for the 6,000 years of man's existence, will be about to come to the end of the line. He will soon be cast into the bottomless pit, and except for a short time after the millennium and before the white throne judgment, that's it for him. No more rulership. No more power. No more influence. No more opportunity to argue or rage against God. It's over. After millions of years, it's over. No more to look forward to except an eternity of darkness, powerlessness. Don't you think, knowing this, that he will pull out all stops? Don't you think he will drop some of his pretense and go all out against God? The religion he inspires through the false prophet and beast may be far more anti-God than anything we have ever seen including the worst religions ever on earth.

Now, while the false religions of this world are not the true religion, and while they are somewhat anti-God in various ways, they are not totally against God. They are a mixture of truth and error. And even atheists are anti-God in the sense that they claim He doesn't exist, but they don't totally and consciously hate Him.

I remember Mr. Armstrong saying, in reference I think to the scripture that says the carnal mind is enmity towards God (Romans 8:7), that the average person has a kind of passive hostility towards God and His law, not actively hating God, but just not wanting to have anything to do with God.

But that is not how Satan thinks. I think Satan hates God with all his being. I think Satan accuses God of being unfair towards him. I think Satan blames God for all the misery that has come upon Satan and will come upon him. I think Satan fervently longs for some kind of revenge against God and humanity. And I think Satan will go all out to turn humanity against God as never before.

If you think false religion or atheism is bad today, just wait and see what is coming.

That is how the world can "fall away". Right now, the average person has a passive indifference towards God and simply wants God to leave him alone (except when in trouble, then he begs God to save him, as in "no atheists in a foxhole"). At the same time, some people try, in their own human way, to live up to some kind of standards, though those standards vary from person to person. Some believe in God. Satan and the great false religion to come will turn mankind against God's and God's ways as never before.

The bottom line is that a falling away is a change from a previous condition to a lower or worse condition, and that can certainly happen with mankind's attitude towards God when Satan goes all out.

Will Church of God members be in danger of being deceived also? Absolutely YES, if we are not diligent to be close to God. The idea that the whole world will fall away, farther from God than ever before, by no means waters down the warning for the Church. The future falling away can include the whole world and can include any of the Church of God members who have allowed themselves to drift from God and get caught up in that deception.

And there can be a duality involved with Thessalonians 2:3 so that it also applies to any past or future falling away in the Church of God, though its final and most intense fulfillment may be with the world when the beast and false prophet do their work of deception.

Monday, February 4, 2013

The 501(c)(3) Issue

Most Churches of God are incorporated with 501(c)(3) status, which allows those who contribute money to the corporation to deduct their contributions from their income in their tax returns, thus paying a lower tax than they would otherwise. The government created this provision to encourage charitable contributions. But some people in the Church of God take issue with this, thinking that the 501(c)(3) status restricts our ability to speak freely.

Mr. Wally Smith has given some good detailed information about 501(c)(3) in his blog. He has posted a number of times about this issue because it is of concern to some. Here is a link to his latest post about 501(c)(3):

As far as I know, 501(c)(3) status places no important restrictions on the Church as far as what it can say in preaching the gospel to the world and the Ezekiel warning. The only restriction I know of is that we cannot become involved in political campaigning. But we should not do that anyway, so that is not a problem. As a Church, we should not get involved in politics, just as we do not vote in elections. The causes of our problems, and solutions, are primarily spiritual, and political changes are only short-term band-aids. People and politicians in both parties, or all political parties, need to repent and turn to God, and if we don't, we will be punished in the tribulation.

Some people who are concerned about 501(c)(3) status may change their view if they get more information about it.

However, there is a deeper issue for the Church behind the 501(c)(3) status issue. That is the issue of God's work.

Some seem to be against, not only 501(c)(3) status, but incorporation itself.

But as I pointed out in my post, "Should a Church of God Fellowship Be Incorporated?" in July 2011, a corporation is simply a tool, nothing more. It is not the Church of God, nor is it even a Church of God organization. The organization is simply the working relationships between the members and their understanding of those relationships. A corporation is simply a legal and business tool a Church of God organization may use. Here is a link to that post:

Some people, even after hearing the facts about 501(c)(3), still are against it. But my observation is that many of these people simply do not have their hearts in God's work.

One blogger who seems against 501(c)(3) and incorporation once gave a commentary on the book of Haggai, verse by verse. I eagerly sought to read what he said about this passage: " 'Go up to the mountains and bring wood and build the temple, that I may take pleasure in it and be glorified,' says the Lord" (Haggai 1:8). To me, this is a key verse showing the importance of preaching the gospel to the world. Mountains often represent nations in scripture. The temple represents the Church of God. We are to go to the nations and make disciples, and Christ will be with us in this even to the end of the age (Matthew 28:18-20). But he simply listed that verse without comment. Apparently, he could not see the connection with preaching the gospel, or didn't care. But God rebuked His people in the book of Haggai for focusing on their own house but not building God's house, and that rebuke applies to many in the Church today. Many who consider themselves converted members of the Church of God want to be content with their small little Church and their personal salvation, but do not love their neighbors enough to want to get a message out that the world needs to hear and to make disciples to build God's house.

501(c)(3) is a powerful tool for stretching the income of God's people to finance the preaching of the gospel and the Ezekiel warning on television, radio, the Internet, in print, and in public meetings. It can substantially increase the Church's income for these things. By allowing members to deduct their contributions to the Church, they will pay a smaller tax bill and can use the money they save to give greater freewill offerings to God's work.

The problem for the Church is not that we are restricted in what we say by 501(c)(3). The problem is that we need more money to reach more of about 300 million adults in all the tribes of Israel with the Ezekiel warning and the true gospel while there is time for them to repent. But many 501(c)(3) opponents do not care about that. Why? They neither love their neighbors as themselves nor do they love God enough to care about building His house more than their own.

I think that those who practice the two great commandments and have their heart in God's work, once they are informed about 501(c)(3), will not be against it, but for it.

Read the book of Haggai.

Here are links to related chapters or sections in Preaching the Gospel:




Saturday, February 2, 2013

Is Bob Thiel Focusing His Message Towards the World or the Church of God?

Bob Thiel's CCOG (Continuing Church of God) has reached a milestone, the first 30 days of its existence, during which, Dr. Thiel claims, he has reached more people with parts of the true gospel in the first 30 days than other Church of God organizations have done in their first thirty days. You can read his post announcing this by following the link below:

He cites this as evidence that CCOG is committed to preaching the gospel to the world.

In spite of certain mistakes I feel he is making, I am glad he wants to preach the gospel to the world and the Ezekiel warning to Israel, if his desire is genuine. All in the Church of God should want to do this. I think Living Church of God is doing this more effectively than any other group right now, including CCOG, and I hope that few members of LCG will be drawn out of LCG into CCOG.

I have not heard Dr. Thiel's radio interviews, nor have I read his books (if he ever publishes a book without pagan prophecies, I might read it, but I am determined not to sin against God by reading any of his books filled with non-biblical, possibly Satan or demon inspired prophecies about future events). But I have watched some of his Youtube videos.

As far as I know, he has three Youtube channels. They are listed in his post I cited above, and you can find links to all three in his post if you are interested. He cites statistics from those three Youtube channels to support his claim that he reached more people with the COG message in CCOG's first 30 days than any non-GTA group that came out of Worldwide did it its first 30 days.

One is the Continuing CoG channel. This Youtube channel contains sermons for the Church.

Another is the Bob Thiel channel. This channel contains videos that seem filled with pagan prophecies from the titles and descriptions, so in obedience to God's word, I cannot watch them with a clear conscience even to review them. This channel may be designed to promote the sale of Bob Thiel's books, but since I cannot watch the videos, I do not know for sure.

The one I will talk about today is his Bible News Prophecy channel. This is a Youtube channel that I think Dr. Thiel started after or around the time he left LCG to start CCOG.

Statistics for all three channels are cited as evidence that he has reached more people in 30 days with the COG message than other groups, and that in turn is cited as evidence of his commitment to preach the gospel to the world as a witness. One of those channels contains sermons for the Church of God, not the world (Continuing CoG channel). The other two are presumably for the world, since stats for those channels are cited as evidence for preaching the gospel to the world. But are they really?

There is a trap or a mistake some Church of God leaders and their supporters make when a leader starts a new fellowship and begins a public proclamation effort. Often, such a leader preaches "to the public", but the message is more directed towards members of other Church of God fellowships. The mistake the leader makes is directing the message primarily towards COG members, to attract them and pull them out of other fellowships, instead of orienting the message towards the public who know little or nothing of the true gospel yet. The mistake of members who sometimes go with such leaders is thinking that if the message is broadcast or published in a way that is accessible to the public, it constitutes preaching the gospel to the world, even though the message is shaped for Church of God brethren, not the world.

You can sometimes tell if a message is constructed for the Church, to pull members out of other fellowships, or for the public, to teach and warn people who never heard the truth before. There are clues. A message for the public often emphasizes certain basic and important aspects of the true gospel that most people do not know, either pertaining to prophecy or to doctrine. A typical message for the world might teach, for example, that the great tribulation is coming in our lifetime and will fall primarily on the English-speaking nations as punishment for our sins. It might correct a major doctrinal error, such as humans not saved in this life burning forever in hell-fire, the immortality of the soul, or traditional religious practices such as Christmas and Easter. It might show the biblical identity of our nations. It might show that the law of the seventh day Sabbath is still in force for Christians today. It might explain how the Bible teaches that we should be keeping the holy days. These are all major subjects and doctrines, ones that the public needs to be taught about and warned about so they can begin to learn the truth and have a chance to repent before the tribulation begins. These are also good topics to begin to teach those God may be calling into the Church. Each of these can begin to separate those who are willing to give up the traditions of their mainstream churches to follow the God of the Bible and those who are not. Each of these can clearly show the difference between mainstream traditional beliefs and what the Bible actually teaches. Each of these can easily be handled in a single program. These are just examples, there are many other topics that can serve the same way.

But if the message is really designed to pull Church of God members out of the fellowships they are attending, the focus may be different. Again, you can find clues. Often the message will presume knowledge that Church of God members have but the world does not have. Also, the messages will sometimes focus on minor details that separate the new leader from the fellowship he just left, or from other Churches of God. They can be designed, not to warn the public of the tribulation to come if they do not repent, nor to give them the good news of the kingdom of God, but to convince Church of God members that the leader was right to break free of the fellowship he just left and that other members of that fellowship or other fellowships should also leave to join the leader who just left.

A message can be focused towards the Church of God even if it is delivered through a communications channel available to the public, such as TV, radio, or the Internet. Why would a leader focus a message towards the Church of God if the communications media he uses is available to the public? He knows that many Church of God members will be watching, listening, and reading the messages to evaluate the leader, to judge if he is being faithful to God, to know if they should leave where they are to support him.

So a leader of a new group may say, "Look, I am preaching the gospel to the public, here are my videos [or public articles or TV stations or whatever]", and Church of God members will look at that material to see how the leader is doing. But then, the material may be designed to persuade those members to join with the leader, but not really designed to warn and teach the public what the public needs to hear.

Thirty days is not a lot of time, and things can change in the future. Nevertheless, since Dr. Thiel has mentioned the first 30 days in the context of evaluating how he is doing, I do not think it is too soon to look at his Youtube videos in his Bible News Prophecy channel from the point of view of evaluating his focus: is he really focused on witnessing to and warning the public or is he focused on gathering a following by pulling members out of other Churches of God?

Here is a link to his Bible News Prophecy channel where you can watch his videos and see for yourself:

As of now, I see five videos. Here are the titles and links to each. In order, they are:

Can the Great Tribulation Begin in 2013?

The Debt Crisis Will Be Worse Than Most Imagine

Can You Prove that the Beast to Come is European?

The Muslim Brotherhood and the Rise of the King of the South

Should Christians watch American football?

I have watched these and I will share my evaluation of the focus of each below. You can watch any or all of these to form your own opinion if you want. I am not evaluating their accuracy, simply whether they seem to be designed for the public to preach the gospel and Ezekiel warning to those who do not yet know the truth, or designed for Church of God members who already know about the true gospel, to gather a following for Bob Thiel.

Can the Great Tribulation Begin in 2013?

This video seems to assume knowledge on the part of the listener of what the great tribulation is, who it comes upon, and why it is coming, all things that the Church of God knows but most of the general public does not know. In this way, it seems to be designed for Church of God members, not the public. The focus is on whether the great tribulation can occur as soon as 2013. Anyone who has regularly read Dr. Thiel's blog knows he has spent time showing that the tribulation cannot begin as early as 2013, and he has criticized some Church of God leaders, such as James Malm, who have said it could begin as early as 2013. Again, he seems to be orienting his message towards Church of God members, such as those who may follow James Malm or others who believe the tribulation can begin in the next one or two years. He states that some people think the gospel has been preached as a witness in the world, but he says it has not been done enough. Again, this is talking to the Church of God, because the public does not even know what the true gospel is, but among Church of God members, some have said that the gospel has already been preached as a witness so we no longer have to do it.

I don't think this video is designed to preach the gospel to the world as a witness, but to persuade existing Church of God members that Dr. Thiel is right about this issue. There may be some members of the public, not Church of God members, who might know something about the tribulation and may learn something from this video, but this would go completely over the heads of most people who have no Church of God background. It certainly doesn't focus on the most important thing: that we need as a nation to repent of our sins of abortion, sexual immorality, using idols in worship, and breaking God's weekly Sabbaths and annual holy days, or the United States will be punished in the great tribulation during the lifetimes of most people alive today. That is what the public needs to hear. They also need to hear the good news that Christ will return to establish the kingdom of God ruling over all the earth to bring peace and happiness to mankind and teach mankind the right way to live.

The Debt Crisis Will Be Worse Than Most Imagine

This video shows that the government debt and other government actions will lead to the ruin of the United States. It tries to show that the government is behaving irresponsibly and not according to the Bible. This may be useful to a small degree to the public, but doesn't show the common people what they are doing that they need to repent of. It puts the blame just on the government. But also, it highlights a difference in doctrine between Bob Thiel and Living Church of God about a particular scripture or set of verses in Habakkuk, namely Habakkuk 2:6-8. As I understand it, LCG has taught that this passage does not apply primarily to the United States, but Dr. Thiel says it does apply to the United States. So in this video, Dr. Thiel chooses a topic that highlights a difference in doctrine between LCG and Dr. Thiel. I do not say that this passage is the primary focus of the whole video, because he brings out many other scriptures on other points, mostly related to what the American government is doing more than the sins of the general population. He mentioned at the end that Christ will return and says that people should turn to God, but without details or emphasis on those things, in my opinion. Most Catholics and Protestants could say, "amen" after seeing this video and not have a clue from this video that they need to change.

Can You Prove that the Beast to Come is European?

The very title and the first 30 seconds show that this video is oriented towards the Church of God. It refers to "we" in the Church of God having long taught that the beast of Revelation is from Europe. The focus seems to be how a Church of God member can prove to others or to himself, from the Bible, that which he already believes, that the beast is European.

The Muslim Brotherhood and the Rise of the King of the South

In this video, Dr. Thiel seems to associate the biblical king of the south with the Muslim Brotherhood and possibly with Egypt. At the end, he gives a short warning statement directed towards the Islamic world that the establishment of an Islamic empire will not prosper in the end. There is no strong warning here towards the United States, towards "Jacob" who will go through the great tribulation, the time of "Jacob's trouble" (Jeremiah 30:7). He does not mention Iran, but it should be noted that in Dr. Thiel's blog he has often disagreed with a Church of God fellowship which he says teaches that Iran is the king of the south. In my judgment, this video, despite the short warning statement to the Islamic world at the end, is more oriented towards members of the Church who may want to know who the king of the south is than towards the public.

Should Christians watch American football?

The title really tells the story here. There has been a disagreement between Bob Thiel and the LCG ministry about football for a long time, maybe a year or more. The Living Church of God leadership has not taught that it is a sin for Church of God members to watch football, and Mr. Wally Smith, an employed, ordained minister in LCG, has posted some posts explaining that it is not inherently wrong to watch football. Here is link to a post by Mr. Smith indexing his posts on that subject:

Yet, even while a member of LCG, knowing that LCG's ministry has taught that it is NOT wrong to watch football, Dr. Thiel has published a number of posts contradicting LCG and saying that Church of God members should not watch football. Here are links to some of his posts:

Why pick this subject for a video? Consider, if you want to warn the American people that they need to repent or face punishment in the great tribulation, what sin would you focus on? Abortion? Sexual immorality? Idolatry and sabbath-breaking? Materialism and the teaching of atheistic evolution? Stealing and lying? Is watching football, not only a sin, but the greatest sin of the people who will go through the tribulation? And if not, why focus on it with an entire video?

But what makes football different from these other sins is not that it is the most serious sin (I am not saying it is a sin at all, but Bob Thiel thinks it is) but that it is a point of difference between Bob Thiel and LCG (and most other Churches of God I would think). This video is a way Dr. Thiel can emphasize what makes CCOG different from LCG and other Churches of God, and it is a platform to persuade Church of God members that he is right and LCG is wrong. That seems to me to be a design to pull LCG members out of LCG into Bob Thiel's own group. That is not a focus on preaching the gospel to the world.

Those are the five videos Bob Thiel has in his Bible News Prophecy channel so far.

I think if Dr. Thiel wants to claim zeal and commitment for preaching the gospel to the world as a witness and the Ezekiel warning to Israel, he will need, in the future, to begin to focus his Youtube videos on teaching the public the major themes of the gospel and the warning they do not know: the major sins of our nations and the punishment that is coming if we do not repent. He needs to teach about the major doctrines of the Bible, the ten commandments, the weekly Sabbath, God's plan for the salvation of mankind, the return of Christ to set up the kingdom of God on earth, etc. He needs to teach things from the Bible that will show the need even for religious people from traditional churches to repent, such as why Christmas and Easter are wrong, why we should not use images in worship, why we should keep the weekly Sabbath AND the annual holy days (Seventh Day Adventists and Church of God Seventh Day members keep the weekly Sabbath but not the annual holy days, and they need to be taught and warned). He needs to show that the major doctrines of mainstream tradition religions are wrong, according to the Bible, so people who are part of those traditional religions can learn that their churches are not following the Bible, so they can make a choice, to obey the Bible or continue in their traditions. Those God is calling can then choose to believe God and the Bible and that will be the first step towards their repentance and conversion. Those who choose to continue in their false traditions will remember, during the tribulation, that God gave them a warning, and they can acknowledge that God was fair to warn them and that they should have listened, and that can be a first step towards repentance during the tribulation. Either way, they will have heard the gospel preached to them as a witness, which is a necessary part of God's plan.

Bob Thiel needs to focus his messages better in his Youtube videos on the gospel and Ezekiel warning before using traffic to these Youtube videos as evidence of his commitment to preaching the gospel to the world as a witness. If he is primarily trying to pull members and tithes out of LCG and other COG groups, that is not good evidence of his commitment to preaching the gospel to the world.

And if he relies on his other statistics, his radio interviews, his "Bob Thiel" channel, his book sales, to show he has reached more people with the "COG message", those other statistics refer to messages so polluted with potentially Satanic-inspired messages that I question if the message is a "Church of God message" at all.

If a message directly violates the spirit of God's instructions in Deuteronomy 13:1-3, 18:14 to pay no regard to prophetic messages of pagans, can we really say that it is the true gospel? Can we say it is the "COG message"? Not in my book. And if you exclude those messages, you may find that Bob Thiel has reached very few, if any, with the true gospel in his first 30 days. Exclude his book distributions, exclude his radio interviews if they are dominated by discussion of pagan prophecies, exclude his "Bob Thiel" channel if it is dominated by pagan messages, and exclude his "Continuing CoG" channel and his "Bible News Prophecy" channel, both of which seem to be oriented towards the Church of God, not the public, what do you have left? Well, you still have COGwriter site and the CCOG home site,, both of which are mostly visited by Church of God members or former members who have already heard the true gospel, and neither of which are primarily designed to teach and warn the public. There is no way to tell how many visitors to those sites are people who have not heard the true gospel before, and that number may be very small, even fewer than some COGs have reached in their first 30 days.

If that is the case, and if you don't count messages full of pagan prophecies as the true gospel, then Bob Thiel's prediction has failed.