Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Fall Holy Days and Feast, and Principles of Philadelphians

Is there a connection between the fall holy days and Feast of Tabernacles and the Church of God brethren that God describes in Revelation as Philadelphian in spirit, attitude, and character?

I think there is.

I will summarize the meaning of the fall holy days and Feast in the second half of this post, but first I want to explore a connection between the holy days and Feast and Philadelphians.

I have said before, that of all Mr. Armstrong's books and other writings, the most important for Church of God members is his autobiography. His book, Mystery of the Ages, is the best one-volume summary of all his major teachings, and his book, The United States and British Commonwealth in Prophecy, may be the single best book for those outside the Church of God to read and be introduced to the truth of the Bible and the true gospel.

But Mr. Armstrong's autobiography reveals the thinking and background of Mr. Armstrong. It shows the basic principles by which he lived, which made it possible for God to use Mr. Armstrong to help reveal lost truth to the Church of God in our time. Mr. Armstrong was a Philadelphian in the way he lived. In his autobiography, he gets personal in the way he thinks and why he did what he did.

The autobiography is important for Church members because it shows how he dealt with problems in the Church, even as a lay member.

Mr. Armstrong was a Philadelphian. He was blessed with an open door, and he went through that door. His autobiography helps us identify the characteristics of a Philadelphian.

It is important for Philadelphians and those in the Church who are striving to be Philadelphians and develop the character that Christ praises in Revelation 3:7-13, to be able to identify some principles that Philadelphians must have.

I have read Mr. Armstrong's autobiography, and I think I can identify three characteristics Philadelphians will have. These may not be the only three, but they can serve as visible yardsticks for measuring and examining ourselves. And while these principles are visible in Mr. Armstrong's life, they are also easily proven in the Bible to be right principles we should follow.

Two of these characteristics tie in with the holy days, principally how we know about the need to observe the holy days and feasts and how we know the meaning of these days.

First of all, Mr. Armstrong put the Bible first. He never let any man, even a minister in the true Church, interpret the Bible for him, but he learned to let the Bible interpret the Bible. This was his way of life from the beginning of his conversion.

He even tried to correct and teach new knowledge from the Bible to the Church of God Seventh Day while he was only a lay member.

He submitted a paper to COG7D on the identity of the lost tribes of Israel, showing from the Bible and from history that the English speaking people are descendents of Joseph and thus part of Israel. This was new knowledge, yet COG7D rejected it, not by contradicting it, but by mostly ignoring it. He also submitted a correction to their existing doctrines. Mr. Armstrong does not name this in his autobiography, but it is likely this correction was regarding the Church's obligation to observe the annual holy days and feasts of God. The reason I say this is that Mr. Armstrong later made clear in his writings and speaking that he and his family observed the holy days from the beginning, and that he learned of the need to keep the holy days at the same time he learned about the Sabbath, and this was before he was baptized. But COG7D rejected this also.

My point is that Mr. Armstrong did not submit to any authority of man, even to the leadership and ministry of the Church of God Seventh Day while Mr. Armstrong was only a lay member, newly baptized, when it came to reading and understanding the Bible. He never let any man tell him what the Bible meant. He believed what he saw in his own Bible and let the Bible interpret the Bible.

In other words, while still a lay member, not yet ordained as a minister, he believed what he saw for himself in the Bible more than he believed the ministers of the Church of God fellowship he was attending.

He believed the Bible more than the Church.

Later, when he did a work over the radio, he said to his listeners, don't believe me, don't believe any man, believe God, believe what you see in your own Bible. He preached that and he practiced that, and God blessed him with an open door.

It is important to God that we put our faith in Him, not in man, not in any man, not even a Church of God leader or minister.

Some today may say that this approach can lead to confusion in the Church of God, with every man deciding for himself what the Bible means and spreading his ideas to others. But that does not have to happen if the Church leadership simply teaches the members not to discuss their disagreements over doctrine with other members and not contradict the ministry in matters of doctrine. Members should be taught this principle, and if anyone violates this even after a warning, that person can be disfellowshipped, and if necessary, marked (Romans 16:17).

Instead, some ministers compete with God for the faith of the membership, telling the members to believe the Church, its leadership, and its ministry in matters of doctrine, even if the members see something different in the Bible. Thus, when a member sees something different in the Bible, he must choose to believe God or the Church, and some ministers teach him to believe the Church rather than God. That is wrong. It is idolatry. It is the making of a man, a minister, into an idol in the place of God. It is what many of the churches of this world do. And it is a reason why those churches have lost the truth.

Church of God leaders and ministers do have binding authority over the doctrines that the Church teaches (Ephesians 4:11-16). But they do not have authority to command the members to believe them more than what they see in their own Bibles, to believe the Church more than God (2 Corinthians 1:24). Ministers do not have dominion or rule over the faith of the members. How are these principles - the Church having authority over what is taught in the Church, but not having authority over what is believed by the members - reconciled?

Simply this, that if a member sees something in the Bible that seems to contradict what the Church teaches, he should refrain from discussing it with other members and contradicting the ministry, but meanwhile he should believe what he sees in the Bible. If appropriate and if there is opportunity, he may, if he feels it is important, discuss it privately and respectfully with the ministry. And it may be resolved there. But if not, he should continue to quietly believe God more than man, not spreading his ideas and causing division in the Church.

Mr. Armstrong, whom God blessed, always put the Bible first.

And it is because of this principle that Mr. Armstrong was able to see the need for keeping the holy days and feasts of God. If he had believed Church of God authority, he would not have kept the holy days. If he had not kept them, he would not have learned their meaning and through their meaning learned many truths about the plan of God and the true doctrines of the Bible.

Mr. Armstrong kept the holy days and feasts for years before he understood their meaning. He only believed and obeyed the God of the Bible. But when God saw his faith and obedience, faith and obedience towards God more than towards the Church, God blessed him and helped him understand, from the Bible, the meaning of the holy days and feasts. And through the understanding of the meaning of these days, Mr. Armstrong understood the true gospel with a depth he had not known before.

If you have ever read chapter 2 of my book, Preaching the Gospel, where I explain most of the doctrines of the Church of God, you will see how many of the basic doctrines of the Church can be organized according to the holy days and feasts. The doctrines of the Church are revealed in the holy days.

And it is because Mr. Armstrong believed the Bible more than the Church that we have this knowledge today.

Believing the Bible more than the Church ministry and leadership is a characteristic, I believe, of true Philadelphians.

A second characteristic of true Philadelphians is zeal for preaching the gospel to the world as a witness and a warning of the great tribulation to come as punishment upon Israel, including the English speaking people, if our nations do not repent of their sins. This also is illustrated in the life of Mr. Armstrong.

If you read Mr. Armstrong's autobiography, you will see the zeal he had for preaching the gospel. I think that is evident. Doing God's work was his life.

It is necessary for Philadelphians to have zeal for the gospel, because it is the Philadelphians who have an open door for that purpose, and they must have the courage and zeal to go through it. In fact, their zeal is part of the open door. It is one of the things that separates Philadelphians from Laodiceans. Nearly all the COG groups have access to the same resources - freedom and prosperity - to preach the gospel to the public. But what causes one fellowship to be successful and another not is not resources, but zeal. Those ministers and members who have Philadelphian zeal for the gospel will find a way.

Preaching the gospel to the world and the warning of the tribulation to come is an act of love towards our neighbors. There is no substitute for it. Opening doors for strangers, giving aid to flood victims, and praying for Christ to come is no substitute for doing the hard work and making the financial sacrifices to get the warning message out to a world that desperately needs it. Setting a good example is not enough.

Our people need to hear the warning now while there is time for them to repent and escape the death and suffering to come. Even if they do not repent, they will remember the warning we give them, and they will know that God was merciful and fair to at least give them a warning. That will make their repentance in the tribulation easier and more likely. It will prepare them for the millennium, which is what the Feast of Tabernacles is about.

What are the fruits of Mr. Armstrong's zeal for the gospel? We have the truth. We would not have it if it were not for Mr. Armstrong's zeal to preach the gospel.

So the second characteristic of a Philadelphian is zeal and willingness to sacrifice for the preaching of the gospel and the warning to the public.

This second characteristic ties in with the first, for it is those who believe what God says in the Bible who have zeal for the gospel. Some who refuse to support the preaching of the gospel make various excuses: our example is sufficient, only Mr. Armstrong could preach the gospel, we must grow spiritually and get close to God before we can preach the gospel, etc. But those who believe God know that God commands the preaching of the gospel and the warning message to the world. The Bible shows the falseness of all these excuses, for those who are willing to believe what God says.

There is a third characteristic of Philadelphian Christians, and that is respect for and obedience to the principle of top-down governance in the Church of God, rather than voting.

This is a principle Mr. Armstrong always followed. And if you look closely at the history of the Church while Mr. Armstrong was alive, I think you will see that there were times when, if Mr. Armstrong relied on the voting of men, those men would have elected to cut back on the preaching of the gospel. Mr. Armstrong was able to move forward and deal with severe problems because he made the decisions, under Christ. And it was Mr. Armstrong, not a voting board, who had the faith and zeal to go through open doors to preach the gospel when it may have seemed, in human terms, to be impossible.

This also ties in with the first principle, putting the Bible first. Those who prefer voting have their reasons and excuses, but they do not hold up to the truth of the Bible. The Bible shows very clearly that God's government in the Church is governance from the top down, not by voting. I show, in chapter 8 of my book, the many scriptures that prove that godly government is from the top down.

In my opinion, those ministers who participate in a system of voting to elect leaders in the Church, or who submit to such leaders, have rejected the administrative leadership of Jesus Christ over the Church. They are making their own decisions, choosing their own leaders, not submitting to Jesus Christ.

Those are three main principles Philadelphian members of the Church of God live by:

1. Put the Bible first and believe the Bible more than the Church. By this we show God that our love, faith, and trust are towards Him more than towards man. But don't cause division by openly disagreeing with the Church in conversation with brethren.

2. Practice zeal and sacrifice for the gospel and the warning message about the coming tribulation. By this we show God that we love our neighbors as ourselves.

3. Believe, understand, and practice top-down governance in the Church as taught in the Bible. By this we show God that we trust Jesus Christ to appoint our leaders and make His choices known by their fruits.

Christ says to the Philadelphians: "Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown" (Revelation 3:11).

Much has been said in the Church about "holding fast". Many who use this verse apply it to the individual doctrines and details of doctrines that Mr. Armstrong taught us: the holy days, the plan of God, God reproducing himself in mankind, the identity of the lost tribes of Israel, the three resurrections, etc. But I think that misses the point.

Certainly these doctrines are important. But Mr. Armstrong practiced Philadelphian leadership before he knew all these doctrines. Learning these things was a process over time, and the Church was Philadelphian during the time it was learning these doctrines. Mr. Armstrong had some of these doctrines, but not all of them when he started a Philadelphia work in late 1933 and early 1934.

So in 1934, 1935, 1936, etc., how could Mr. Armstrong and the Philadelphian members of the Church supporting him have heeded this message and held fast to doctrines they did not yet have? In fact, if they had held fast to the body of doctrine they had at that time, they would have made no changes and probably no additions. They would not have learned new knowledge about the truth of God. They would not have learned that God is reproducing Himself in mankind. They would not have corrected the error about keeping Pentecost on Monday.

Then what are Philadelphians to hold fast to?

They are to hold fast to the principles they had from the beginning, the principles they had from the time God showed, by the good fruits of growth, that they are Philadelphians, that they have an open door. And it is those principles, the three I listed (Bible first, gospel, and top-down governance), that have helped to reveal all the other doctrines that came later. THAT is what we are to hold fast to. Not a list of doctrines.

For if we put the Bible first, the doctrinal correction and growth will come. God will see and reward our faith in Him and His word, the Bible, and will reveal knowledge to us. If we show zeal for the gospel, as the Bible teaches, God will see our willingness to love our neighbors as ourselves - our willingness to live the give way of life by sharing the truth God has given us - and God will bless us with more truth. And if we believe and practice what the Bible teaches about top-down governance, we will trust Jesus Christ to show us by the fruits (not the voting of men) those whom He has chosen to be our leaders, and we will submit to those leaders in the administrative decisions for the Church of God. And God can bless the leader or leaders He has chosen by helping those leaders understand truth from the Bible.

Understanding and holding fast to these principles that Mr. Armstrong practiced and that the Bible teaches will help Philadelphian members of the Church of God (and those who are striving to become Philadelphians in character and spirit) to be useful tools in God's hands and really finish the work of God.

So as we keep the coming holy days and Feast of Tabernacles, as we hear sermons and conversations about the meaning of these days, let's remember how the Church of God received this knowledge. We received this knowledge because Mr. Armstrong and his supporters and new members that came in from the radio broadcast believed the Bible first, practiced zeal for the preaching of the gospel to the world, and practiced and supported government in the Church from the top down. Let's think about these things in the coming holy days and Feast, and let's practice these principles as a way of life, because without them there would be no holy days or Feast of Tabernacles for us, and we would not have the knowledge that comes from observing and understanding these days.

Soon, we will be observing the fall holy days and the Feast of Tabernacles. It is a blessing to understand the meaning of these days, and we should reflect on that and give thanks to God for these days as we observe them. We should also spend some time reflecting on how we came to know about these days and their meaning, and that ties in with the three Philadelphian principles I described. Our knowledge of these days is a fruit, a direct result, of the principles I described.

This might also be a good time to read Mr. Armstrong's autobiography.

The first of the fall holy days and feast days is the Day of Trumpets. It is an annual sabbath, a day of rest and assembly. It pictures a number of events prophesied to occur in the near future. It pictures the Day of the Lord, a tremendous time when God directly intervenes to punish the world for its sins. At the seventh trumpet, Christ will return to the earth to set up His kingdom, the Kingdom of God, and the saints of God, the faithful members of the Church of God, will be resurrected to immortal life if dead or changed to immortality if alive, and they will rise to meet Christ in the air.

Before the Day of the Lord will be the heavenly signs. The heavenly signs and the Day of the Lord are described in Isaiah 2:12-21, Isaiah 13:6-16, Ezekiel 30:1-3, Joel 1:15-18, Joel 2:1-11, Joel 2:30-32, Joel 3:14-16, Joel 3:18-20, Obadiah 15-16, Zephaniah 1:7-18, Zephaniah 2:1-3, Zechariah 14:1-5, Matthew 24:29-30, 1 Thessalonians 5:1-10, Revelation 6:12-17, Revelation chapter 8, Revelation 11:15-19, Revelation chapters 15 and 16, and Revelation 19:11-21.

The resurrection of the Church is described in Matthew 24:31, 1 Corinthians 15:50-56, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17, and Revelation 20:4-6.

The meaning of the Day of Trumpets helps us understand that man does not have an immortal soul, for we need the resurrection from the dead. The scriptures that describe that resurrection show that we will be made immortal at that time, not that we have immortality already.

The next of the fall holy days is Atonement. Members of the Church of God rest and assemble for services on Atonement and fast on that day, refraining from food and water from sunset to sunset (Leviticus 23:26-32). Atonement represents the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Christ paid the penalty for our share of guilt for our sins so we can be forgiven and saved. But Satan also has a responsibility for our sins because he deceives us and tempts us into sin. He will bear his own guilt for that.

After Christ returns, Satan will be bound and put away in a condition of restraint, so he will no longer be able to deceive and tempt mankind into sin. He will be released for a little while after the 1,000 year millennial reign of Christ and the saints, but during the millennium he will not be able to influence mankind. Atonement represents these events.

Here are some passages that describe these events: Leviticus chapter 16 and Revelation 20:1-3. Passages that describe Satan's character and role include Isaiah 14:12-15, Ezekiel 28:11-19, John 8:44, Luke 4:5-8, 2 Corinthians 4:3-4, Ephesians 2:1-3, and Revelation 12:7-9.

The next holy day is the first day of the Feast of Tabernacles, a feast that lasts seven days. The first day is an annual holy day, a sabbath of rest and assembly. The entire seven day feast pictures the happiness and joy that will exist all over the earth during the 1,000 years that Christ and the resurrected saints rule the earth and Satan is put away.

Members of the Church of God save a second tithe all year to spend at the Feast. We travel to various locations where the Church has set up Feast sites and stay in temporary dwellings - hotels and motels - for the duration of the Feast. We attend services every day, but in the afternoons that are not sabbath days, we enjoy good food and drink and fellowship and enjoy the recreational opportunities the area has to offer. The sermons in services rehearse the scriptures that describe the joy of the millennium, and the speakers help the membership understand what the millennium will be like and what lessons the Feast has to teach us. All this helps us to picture the happiness of the millennium and the Kingdom of God and the richness of the reward that awaits us.

The Feast of Tabernacles pictures something else also. Because we stay in temporary dwellings, in hotels and motels, as the ancient Israelites stayed in booths made of leafy branches, we picture the temporariness of this life, of this journey towards the Kingdom of God. We are travelers in this age, and this age, this physical life, is not our permanent home - the Kingdom of God will be our permanent home.

There are many scriptures that describe the Feast of Tabernacles and what it represents. Here are some: Leviticus 23:33-43, Psalm 98:4-9, Isaiah 2:2-4, Isaiah 11:1-9, Isaiah 19:23-25, Isaiah 25:6-8, Isaiah 35:5-10, Jeremiah 30:8-10, Jeremiah 31:31-34, Ezekiel 36:24-30, Daniel 2:27-45, Daniel 7:13-14, Amos 9:13, Zechariah 2:10-11, Zechariah 8:20-22, Matthew 19:27-29, Luke 19:11-26, Revelation 20:4-6.

Immediately after the seven-day Feast of Tabernacles comes the Last Great Day (John 7:37-38), also called the eighth day of the feast. This is a holy day, an annual sabbath, a day of rest and assembly (Leviticus 23:33-36).

This day represents a time, immediately following the millennium, when all who have lived and died without having an opportunity to be called by God and drawn to Christ (John 6:44), including all who have never heard the true gospel because of circumstances of their birth and life, will be resurrected back to physical life and will have their first real opportunity to be saved. They will be judged for their sins, but will also learn about Christ's sacrifice, and they will have the opportunity to believe and repent and be saved. Here are some scriptures that describe that time: Ezekiel 37:1-14, Matthew 11:20-24, Revelation 20:11-15.

God has been very merciful to reveal His wonderful truth to us, for the vast majority of mankind is not able to know these things because Satan deceives them and God has not yet called them. We should be very thankful for our calling and the truth God has revealed to us. And we should be very thankful for Mr. Armstrong and the early members of the Church of God who supported Mr. Armstrong. We should be grateful that they lived by the principles that allowed God to use them to further the gospel and all of God's truth: loyalty to God's word the Bible, sacrificial zeal for spreading the message to those who need it, and submission to and support of God's government in the Church from the top down.

Let's think about these things and imitate those who have helped to make God's truth available to us by practicing these three principles that they lived by.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Mr. Armstrong's Role Part 12 - Recognizing the End-time Elijah

This post is a continuation of the last post in this series. This series of posts is a refutation of some points made in an article, "Just What is an APOSTLE?", published by Church of God in Wales (COGIW). In the first post in this series is a link to their website.

The COGIW article teaches that we should never question, correct, or change Mr. Armstrong's teachings, even if we think they conflict with the Bible.

In chapter 8, the COGIW article starts by saying that the Church must remain subject to the one specific apostle sent to them, which is the apostle from which that part of the Church of God learned the truth.

What is meant by "subject to"? Does that refer to administrative authority, that is, the making of decisions about church administration, ordination of elders, appointments, when and where to meet, the order of services, disfellowshipping those who are sinning openly, marking those who cause division, resolving disputes between brethren, distributing aid to the poor, and making decisions about official doctrine the Church teaches?

If that is what is meant, I agree. The Corinthian church needed to obey Paul in these matters, not Peter.

But after Paul is dead, these things pass on to new leaders. Paul, after he is dead, cannot ordain elders, decide disputes, disfellowship anyone, distribute aid to the poor, etc. Nor can he decide issues of doctrine that will be taught, except that some of his letters are part of the Bible and the Church of God must always follow the whole Bible.

But I do not think this is what the COGIW article meant. I think the article means that the congregations Paul supervised must remain loyal to all his teachings, whether canonized as part of the Bible or not, even if some of those teachings, not part of the Bible, contradict the Bible. And by saying this about apostles in general, the implication is that the same thing applies to Mr. Armstrong.

As I have shown in the preceding posts in this series, this is wrong reasoning and not according to the Bible.

Then the article claims that prophecy predicts that there will be a special end-time apostle to restore all things. But that also is incorrect. The Bible nowhere says that the Elijah to come, who will restore all things, will be an apostle. This supposition is based on the idea that John the Baptist was an apostle, but there is no proof of that in the Bible, as I have shown. John is called a prophet, not an apostle. And right here is a difference between John and Mr. Armstrong. John the Baptist was a prophet who received direct revelation from God (John 1:29-34). But Mr. Armstrong was not a prophet. He did not received direct revelation from God, only revelation from the Bible, God's word, which God helped him to understand as God helps all of us to understand (but with Mr. Armstrong God gave help in greater measure since he was the leader).

Chapter 8 of the COGIW article states that the end-time Elijah was to be an individual, not a collective church group. Yet, as I pointed out previously in this series, even the first Elijah did not do everything God commissioned him to do personally. Part of his work was delegated to Elisha, who performed it after Elijah was taken away, and even Elisha delegated part of it to an unnamed man who anointed Jehu king of Israel. So Mr. Armstrong being the Elijah to restore all things does not prevent us from continuing that work of restoration as Mr. Armstrong instructed us.

Chapter 8 of the COGIW article seems to stress the importance of knowing who the end-time Elijah to restore all things is.

There is a problem with that. The Bible itself does not say that it is important for us to know who the Elijah is.

I am not saying that the work of the Elijah to come is not important. It is vitally important. God would strike the earth with a curse if the Elijah to come did not turn the hearts of the fathers to the children and the hearts of the children to the fathers. But the Bible does not indicate that it is important for us to know who he is. God knows who he is, and that is sufficient.

Even the end-time Elijah does not have to know his office and his identity as the end-time Elijah. Mr. Armstrong did not think of himself as the end-time Elijah in the beginning, even while he was restoring truth. But he did the work of Elijah whether he knew it or not. How? Simply by believing and obeying the Bible. He learned the truth about the need to keep the holy days from the Bible and began restoring that truth long before he thought of himself as the Elijah to come. In other words, there was a time when Mr. Armstrong did not think of himself as the end-time Elijah even while he was doing the work of the end-time Elijah, the work of restoring lost truth.

Does the Bible say that we must know who the end-time Elijah is?

Did Jesus teach the importance of knowing who the end-time Elijah is?

Jesus Christ never raised the subject!

Most New Testament scriptures referring to an Elijah after the first refer to John the Baptist. But it is from one passage that we know there is an end-time Elijah to come also.

Look at this passage. "And His disciples asked Him, saying, 'Why then do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?' Jesus answered and said to them, 'Indeed, Elijah is coming first and will restore all things. But I say to you that Elijah has come already, and they did not know him but did to him whatever they wished. Likewise the Son of Man is also about to suffer at their hands.' Then the disciples understood that He spoke to them of John the Baptist" (Matthew 17:10-13).

We know from this passage that there is to be an end-time Elijah, that John the Baptist is not the only Elijah after the first. We know this because Jesus said that Elijah "is coming first" (present tense, but after John the Baptist was dead), and "will restore all things" - future tense.

But notice something else. Did Jesus say it was important to know who this Elijah will be? Jesus did not even raise the subject. His disciples raised the subject, asked Jesus, and Jesus answered them. That is all. Christ never talked about it in the sermon on the mount or the prophecies of Matthew chapters 24 and 25, or anyplace else. And why did the disciples ask the question? Because of the scribes.

Likewise, the priests and Levites asked John the Baptist if he was Elijah (John 1:19-24).

It was the Jewish religious authorities, the priests and the scribes, who were most concerned about this. They seemed to be very concerned about personal titles and offices. But Jesus never raised the subject. Evidently, what was important to the priests and scribes was not so important to Christ.

Where does Christ, or any of the New Testament writers, or even Old Testament writers, give specific instructions for knowing if a man is the end-time Elijah and stress the importance of knowing who he is? I find it nowhere in the Bible.


Because it is not important for us to know who he is. God knows who he is and the man himself knows what work he has to do, just as I showed with Mr. Armstrong. He knew what he had to do. He had to believe and obey the Bible, and he had to teach what he learned to the world. Whether he knew that this made him an end-time Elijah is irrelevant.

And his radio listeners did not have to know.


Because Mr. Armstrong taught from the Bible. He said, don't believe me, believe your Bible. So his radio listeners checked in the Bible and believed the Bible. That was sufficient. They did not have to know anything about the end-time Elijah.

That is why Jesus did not place importance on recognizing an end-time Elijah. He knew that the end-time Elijah would believe and teach from the Bible and that those who were called would believe the Bible.

While I am on this subject, I will also point out that the Bible does not stress importance of knowing who an apostle is in our time. The Bible does not even give a specific definition of an apostle. "One sent" is not a good definition, otherwise the mailman sent to deliver my mail would be an apostle. Even "one sent by God" is not a good definition because prophets are sent by God but are not apostles. Paul speaks of his miracles as "signs of an apostle", but Mr. Armstrong did not have public miracles to back his teachings, yet we regard him as an apostle. God does not provide in His word a checklist for determining who is or is not an apostle.

God could have given us these instructions. He does regarding prophets (Deuteronomy 13:1-5, Deuteronomy 18:20-22). But not regarding apostles.


Because, regarding Mr. Armstrong, God knew Mr. Armstrong would teach from the Bible and that the Church would believe the Bible. It was never necessary that we recognize Mr. Armstrong as an apostle. He had administrative authority, under Christ, over the Church, and that did not depend on his apostleship.

At this end-time, false teachers will certainly arise. But our protection is not Mr. Armstrong and his writings. Our protection is God's word, the Bible.

Will false teachers twist scriptures and try to use the Bible deceitfully? Yes they will. But those who believe and obey God, those who let the Bible interpret the Bible as Mr. Armstrong taught us, will not be deceived.

God has a system in place for teaching and protecting the Church of God from deception in our time. We must study the Bible and not be slack about it. We must read the whole Bible regularly in order to live by every word of God. We must believe what we see in the Bible, yet be respectful of God's ordained ministry. And as we believe and obey the Bible, God opens our minds by His Spirit to understand more knowledge and to avoid deception.

This is the system Mr. Armstrong practiced and taught by his example and his word to his radio listeners. It is the system God teaches in His word, the Bible. It is a system based on faith in God and in Christ, not in man. There is no substitute for it.

But some try to substitute a different system than that which God has ordained. They do not want to have faith in an invisible God. They do not want to have faith in God's word, the Bible, because that requires them to do the hard work of Bible study and letting the Bible interpret the Bible. They want a shortcut. Some of them want an idol they can see with their eyes. They want to make a man in the Church an idol whom they can believe. But by making that man an idol and rejecting the Bible, they are overturning the basic principles that man lived by.

Those who say we must follow Mr. Armstrong's teachings unconditionally are overturning the system Mr. Armstrong himself followed and the Bible teaches. It is a different system, a system based on faith in a man, not God. This is not what Mr. Armstrong stood for. Whether they realize it or not, they are overturning Mr. Armstrong's most important teaching: believe and obey the Bible more than any man, let the Bible correct you, let God through the Bible teach you new knowledge, and obey the truth God teaches through His word the Bible.

This series will be continued after the Feast of Tabernacles.


Thursday, September 7, 2017

Mr. Armstrong's Role Part 11 - The Spiritual Heritage of Herbert W. Armstrong

This post is a continuation of the last post in this series. This series of posts is a refutation of some points made in an article, "Just What is an APOSTLE?", published by Church of God in Wales (COGIW). In the first post in this series is a link to their website.

The COGIW article teaches that we should never question, correct, or change Mr. Armstrong's teachings, even if we believe they conflict with the Bible.

Chapter seven of the COGIW article addresses the issue of the authority of an apostle's teaching after he died. It uses the example of Peter.

Does the authority of Peter's teachings over us continue to this day? Yes, because all we know of Peter's teachings are his writings in the Bible, and the Bible is God's word to us, free from error. Therefore, Peter's epistles in the Bible carry authority over us. They are the word of God, and we must believe and obey Peter's epistles just as we do the whole Bible. And if there is a conflict between Peter's teachings and Mr. Armstrong's teachings, we must believe Peter's epistles more than Mr. Armstrong's writings.

The COGIW article says that the spiritual heritage of an apostle must be kept by the Church after the apostle's death. By this I think the article means that we must retain Mr. Armstrong's "spiritual heritage" after his death and make no changes to it. And by "spiritual heritage", I think it means his doctrines, all of them, in detail.

There are several things wrong with this.

First of all, the article never proves that there is any Bible instruction telling us to follow the teachings of a man in the Church, whether that man is an apostle or not, beyond his death, except when that man's teaching is part of the Bible. We must follow and believe and obey Peter's writings, not because he is a dead apostle, but because those writings are part of the Bible and therefore the word of God. The whole Bible is true, guaranteed free of error, and scripture cannot be broken (John 10:34). That includes Peter's writings, but not Mr. Armstrong's. Peter's writings are true and cannot be broken. Mr. Armstrong's writings can be broken. They are not scripture. They are not God's word direct to us. They can contain errors because they are not part of the Bible and Mr. Armstrong, being human, made mistakes.

Therefore we must always believe what we find in the Bible, whether that be the writings of Peter, Paul, or any other servant God used to produce the Bible, more than we believe Mr. Armstrong's teachings. If there is a conflict, we must correct Mr. Armstrong's errors.

A second thing is that the spiritual heritage that Mr. Armstrong left us is not primarily a list of detailed doctrines of the Church of God. The true spiritual heritage he left us is a tradition and way of life that believes and obeys the Bible more than all else. It is the spiritual heritage of putting the Bible first. It is the spiritual heritage Mr. Armstrong lived when he corrected Church of God Seventh Day, from the Bible, on the subject of keeping the holy days, before he was ordained as a minister. It was the spiritual heritage he lived when he taught Church of God Seventh Day, from the Bible, new knowledge about the end-time identity of the lost tribes of Israel, again, before he was even a minister much less an apostle in his own eyes or the eyes of anyone else. Perhaps he was doing the work of an apostle in those days in God's sight, but no one recognized him as an apostle including himself. That came much later.

Later, Mr. Armstrong continued to live by that spiritual heritage and passed it on to his radio listeners when he said, don't believe me, believe your Bible.

It was that spiritual heritage, the tradition of letting the Bible correct us, letting the Bible teach us new knowledge, and believing the Bible more than any church or any man, that resulted in all the doctrines and details of doctrines that Mr. Armstrong helped us understand from the Bible.

The third thing wrong with the idea that we can never change the doctrines and details of doctrines Mr. Armstrong taught, even after his death, is that Mr. Armstrong taught and practiced a process of correcting error and learning new knowledge from the Bible. That is a part of the spiritual heritage he passed on to us. But that process was never intended to be stopped or interrupted by his death.

While Mr. Armstrong was alive, he was able himself to make corrections to his own doctrines and to add new knowledge from the Bible. These corrections could be suggested to him by other ministers or members, and he was alive to examine the issue and make a decision. He did this with Pentecost.

But now that he is dead, does that process stop? I don't believe he ever intended that, for if he did, he could easily have said, after I die don't let anyone change my doctrines. If you, the reader, know of any letter or sermon in which he said that, let me know in the comments. The process that Mr. Armstrong practiced and taught the Church of God of learning new knowledge from the Bible and correcting error must continue, even after the death of Mr. Armstrong. That is the spiritual heritage that must continue.

Moreover, we have a living apostle, today. That apostle is Jesus Christ (Hebrews 3:1), and Christ has the authority to make changes to Mr. Armstrong's doctrines by His word, the Bible, and by help and inspiration upon the existing leaders of the Church to understand the Bible and see the need for correction.

There is another part of the spiritual heritage left to us by Mr. Armstrong, and that is zeal for preaching the gospel to the world and the Ezekiel warning to Israel. That spiritual heritage must also continue, but I will write more about that later in this series.