Monday, July 1, 2024

Can You Be Red-hot Zealous for God and Still Be Denied the Place of Safety?

Can you be red-hot on fire for God, very zealous for Him, not lukewarm at all, and still not be able to go to the place of safety, still have to go through the tribulation?

Many members of the whole Church of God think, no.  It is only the lukewarm Laodiceans who have to go through the tribulation.  If you are zealous for God and are not a Laodicean, you must be a Philadelphian and are promised protection during the tribulation - you can go to the place of safety.  So if you want protection, don't be lukewarm.  Don't be Laodicean.  Be on fire for God.  Be zealous.

Are they right?  Is being zealous for God the way to escape the tribulation and be counted worthy to go to a place of safety?

Being zealous is part of it, I think.  But the real test is something else.

Before getting into that, I would like to ask you, the reader, to stop and do an exercise.  I will use the results of this exercise later in this post.

Take a pen or pencil and piece of paper and make a short list of the Church of God fellowships you are familiar with, at least the major ones.  Include the fellowship you tithe to and attend with.  You might include United Church of God (UCG), Living Church of God (LCG), Church of God Assembly (CGA), and several others groups, small or large, that you have some familiarity with.

Next to each fellowship, write a number from 1 to 10 of how effective they are in preaching the gospel and the warning message about the tribulation to come to all the nations that come from the tribes of Israel.  This will be your personal rating, and it will be an estimate.  You probably can't know all the facts, but estimate the best you can based on what you know or have read or heard.  Take into consideration things like literature distributed, magazine circulation, radio or TV programs or advertisements, public meetings, number of people baptized that came into the fellowship through the work (not counting children of existing members), etc.

Now set it aside and keep reading.  We will use it later.

Back to the question, is being on fire for God, not lukewarm, the key to having God's protection in a place of safety during the tribulation?

That may be part of it.  But zeal alone is not key.  Remember, Paul, when he was Saul persecuting the Church, was zealous for God, but not according to knowledge.  He had zeal all right.  But not in the right direction, though he was sure it was.  He was like other Jews who persecuted Christians.  Paul had persecuted the Church of God, even when he had zeal for God.

"For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge (Romans 10:2).

"For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God" (1 Corinthians 15:9).

"For you have heard of my former conduct in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it. And I advanced in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries in my own nation, being more exceedingly zealous for the traditions of my fathers" (Galatians 1:13-14).  Note that Saul was zealous for the traditions he grew up with.

"As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison" (Acts 8:3).

"I am indeed a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, taught according to the strictness of our fathers’ law, and was zealous toward God as you all are today. I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women, as also the high priest bears me witness, and all the council of the elders, from whom I also received letters to the brethren, and went to Damascus to bring in chains even those who were there to Jerusalem to be punished" (Acts 22:3-5).

Let's look next at Christ's message to Laodicea.  Here is the whole message.  "And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write, 'These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God: "I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. Because you say, 'I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing' - and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked - I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches" ' " (Revelation 3:14-22).

There is much here, but let's focus on the need to be zealous.  Christ says one of Laodicea's problems is, they are lukewarm, and He tells them to be zealous and repent.

Now, many reason, if I can be zealous and not lukewarm, I am not a Laodicean.

Now let's look at the message to Philadelphia.  "And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write, 'These things says He who is holy, He who is true. "He who has the key of David, He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens": "I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it; for you have a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name. Indeed I will make those of the synagogue of Satan, who say they are Jews and are not, but lie—indeed I will make them come and worship before your feet, and to know that I have loved you. Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth. Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown.  He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name.  He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches" ' " (Revelation 3:7-13).

To Philadelphia, Christ says that He will keep them from the hour of trial that will come on all the earth.  This means the place of safety and protection during the tribulation.

So some will reason, if I am zealous, I am not lukewarm.  And if I am not lukewarm, I am not Laodicean.  So if I am not lukewarm, I am Philadelphian and I am promised the place of safety.

But there is a false assumption hidden in the above reasoning that nullifies the whole line of reasoning.  That assumption is that, if you are not Laodicean, you are Philadelphian.  In other words, people who reason that if they are zealous and not lukewarm they will go to a place of safety may be making the assumption that there are only two possibilities - they are Laodicean or they are Philadelphian.  But that is not what the Bible says and that is not what Mr. Armstrong taught.

There are seven messages to seven churches, not just two.  We are in the Laodicean era, but that does not mean that every individual in that era is Laodicean, otherwise none of us could be Philadelphian.  This is the Laodicean era because that spiritual condition is dominant, not universal, otherwise no one could be Philadelphian.  But we know there must be some Philadelphians in the Laodicean era, if only a few, so they can go through an open door to finish the work and then go to a place of safety.

Laodicea is the last era of the Church, so it goes right up to the time we flee.  So there must be Philadelphians in the Laodicea era to flee.

But if there can be Philadelphians in an era dominated by the Laodicean condition, then likewise there can be members in any of the other five conditions described in the messages to the other five churches.

As I recall, this is what Mr. Armstrong taught.  And this is what the Bible teaches, for every messages ends with Christ's instruction to those who have an ear to hear to hear what the Spirit says to the churches, plural, implying all of them.

So you figure you are not Laodicean because you are hot for the truths Mr. Armstrong taught - you are red-hot on fire, very zealous.  But does that mean you are Philadelphian?

There are five other spiritual conditions described.  Are you one of those?

Are you in the spiritual condition of Ephesus?  Have you lost your first love?

Are you in the spiritual condition of Smyrna?  Christ has nothing bad to say about Smyrna (but they are not promised protection).

How about Pergamos?  How about Thyatira?  How about Sardis?

Just because one is not Laodicean does not make that member a Philadelphian.

And only Philadelphians are promised protection.

And if you are very zealous, don't be so sure you are not Laodicean.  Lukewarmness is not their only characteristic.  Also, one can be zealous for some things and lukewarm about other things and not realize it.  Remember, Laodiceans are blind as well as lukewarm - perhaps so blinded by their zeal for certain things that they cannot see that they are lukewarm about other things.

For example, a man can be so blinded by his zeal for the detailed teachings of Mr. Armstrong in Mystery of the Ages and other books and articles he wrote that he can't see that he is lukewarm about the overall pattern of Mr. Armstrong's way of life, who said, don't believe me, believe your Bible.

Mr. Armstrong always lived a way of life of believing the Bible more than Church tradition or the teaching of men, even men in the Church of God, and even his own teachings and writings.  And it is that way of life that produced the doctrinal truths he taught the Church of God.  And he practiced this way of life long before he thought of himself as an apostle and before he was even ordained as a minister.

It is not enough to be zealous.  You have to be zealous for the right thing.  Your zeal has to be pointed in the right direction.  Paul is a perfect example of zeal in the wrong direction before he was converted.  But at the time, he was too blind to see it.

Our zeal should be pointed towards the Bible and living by every word of God, not towards Mr. Armstrong and his writings or Church of God tradition or Church of God authority.  God and the Bible must come first, the Church and its leadership and ministry second.

Like Peter, we must obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29).

There may be a way to know if God counts a member or a fellowship as Philadelphian.  A litmus test you can call it.

Look for the open door for doing God's work.  Look for the open door for preaching the gospel and the warning message to the nations.  Is it there?   

Why is the open door a test, a sign or indicator?  Because the open door is only promised to Philadelphia. It is not promised to any of the other six spiritual conditions described.

In other words, the only message that promises a place of safety also promises an open door for doing the work.  They go together.  And the open door comes first.

So do you have an open door for doing the work?  Are you going through that open door?  Do you have an open door that is more than just a tiny token effort to preach the gospel that does not really bear good fruit and get good results?

If you do not have such a door, why think about a place of safety?  Why think that the place of safety is for you?  The place of safety is only promised to those with the open door.

Now go back to the exercise you did with the list of Church of God fellowships.  You rated each according to how they are doing with preaching the gospel and the warning message.

Probably, you attend with and pay tithes to one of those fellowships.  How is it doing with preaching the gospel compared to the others?

Perhaps none of the fellowships you listed rates very high, especially compared to the work done in the days of Mr. Armstrong.  That may simply mean that there is no fellowship that has a majority of its members in the Philadelphian condition.  Philadelphians may be a small minority in every fellowship you listed.  Still, some fellowships do more of a work than others.  Are you supporting a group that has an open door?

If not, how are you a Philadelphian more than others?  If you are a Philadelphian, why would you not want your tithe money to go to where it will get the gospel out to more people?

If you don't care about that, forget the place of safety.  It isn't for you.  Start thinking about how you will draw close to God and have the spiritual strength to endure the tortures of the great tribulation, because, if you remain lukewarm about the work, that is likely what will happen to you if you live to that time.

And remember, God does not bless hypocrisy.  The only way to preach the gospel and the warning is to tell people to believe the Bible more than their churches and ministry, and if we tell that to the public we better be doing the same.

Mr. Armstrong taught us.  He has been our teacher and is still our teacher today.  But we better follow the good example he set by believing the Bible more than the Church, and we better hold fast to that way of life he practiced.  Christ said, one is perfectly trained when he is like his teacher (Luke 6:40).

Let us hold fast to the positive example of Mr. Armstrong and the way of life he lived which produced so much good fruit.  Let us believe God more than man, as he did.