Over the years, many readers of our literature have asked what makes The Restored Church of God different from other “churches of God” that trace their origins to the Worldwide Church of God (WCG). Some have wondered why these groups will not merge to create one large organization, and why we would not merge with them. Well into the Laodicean Age, the last era of the New Testament Church (Rev. 3:17), many outside God’s Church are confused about this subject.
In addressing this crucial topic, Jesus Christ’s statement in Matthew 16:18 sets the stage: “I will build My Church.” Note well that He did not say churches. Also consider Luke 12:32, in which Jesus says, “Fear not little flock”—not flocks. Christ leads only one unified, organized, structured, undivided Church, not many “churches,” “groups,” “organizations,” “fellowships” or “flocks.” Paul asked the rhetorical question, “Is Christ divided?” (I Cor. 1:13). The answer, so obvious from the context, is no!
On the surface, the various splinter groups may appear to generally teach the same doctrines, but there are vast differences between them. And to one degree or another, all of these groups teach false doctrines and disagree with the Bible and Herbert W. Armstrong (Pastor General of the WCG until his death in 1986)—and therefore, by extension, with The Restored Church of God.
It is crucial to grasp that few understand Mr. Armstrong was the end-time Moses, who was prophesied to lay a doctrinal foundation (“law”) in the Church (Mal. 4:4; see also Zech. 4:9)—and fewer comprehend what this means, and how it relates to Christ’s admonition to the Philadelphian era of His Church: “Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which you have, that no man take your crown” (Rev. 3:11). Further, many former ministers and members of WCG no longer even accept that Mr. Armstrong held the office of apostle (Eph. 4:11; I Cor. 12:28).
As a result, the splinter groups do not hesitate to change the doctrines God placed into His Church through him.
A brief review of recent history: Herbert W. Armstrong led the Worldwide Church of God (formerly the Radio Church of God until 1968) until his death in 1986. Hundreds of millions heard his voice and read his literature. God called him in the fall of 1926 and he was converted in the spring of 1927. Over the course of Mr. Armstrong’s ministry, God revealed through him a great many biblical doctrines that had been lost to the Church through the centuries. The Church grew in size, membership and scope of preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God to the world.
In the years after Mr. Armstrong’s death, his successors, who ultimately turned out to be false leaders (apostates), captured the corporate Church and ceased to believe and teach virtually every one of the doctrines revealed through Mr. Armstrong. Over the process of time, these men completely discarded the truth and destroyed the visible Church, thus leaving it spiritually dead. As a result, several ministers left WCG to form their own organizations, comprised of brethren unhappy with the changes that had occurred.
Through the first half of the 1990s, about 80% of the Church completely departed from the truth. Having ingested the false leaders’ doctrines, the remaining 20% scattered into various splinters, holding to varying degrees of the truth. Most of them agreed on certain basic doctrines, but conversely disagreed on many others.
The problem is best defined in the following way: While most agreed that they disagreed with Mr. Armstrong on various doctrines, they could not agree on where they disagreed. As a result, thousands found themselves no longer able to “walk together” (Amos 3:3) in the unity that the Church once enjoyed. Thus, they scattered into many places—where they could meet with others of relatively similar belief. The natural result has been chaos and confusion, of which God is not the author (I Cor. 14:33), and more and more groups forming.
However, these groups generally see themselves as “standing up for the truth.”
A vital distinction must be made at this point. These latter organizations are not to be confused with earlier groups that left in the 1970s, prior to Mr. Armstrong’s death. These were born of rebellion against the truth and God’s government when the Church was doctrinally on track. Most members were once able to recognize that none of these organizations were of God—period. Time, coupled with the blindness of the Laodicean age that has settled over most of God’s people, has clouded the ability of most to even see this much. Many now consider even these early groups to be additional, viable options. This new position represents an astonishing reversal of understanding.
This also greatly effects and leads to confusion for those looking for where God’s Church and Work are today.
Now let’s profile several larger splinter groups that appeared after the truth began to be cast from the Church, examining how each differs from Restored and Mr. Armstrong.
The Philadelphia Church of God
In December 1989, the first true WCG “splinter” was created, the Philadelphia Church of God (PCG). This organization eventually became home to several thousands, who went there believing it would help them hold to the full truth. However, this turned out not to be the case, as this group’s leader had departed from the truth Mr. Armstrong taught in profound ways. PCG is in fact radically different!
Among numerous other divine titles, the leader of PCG refers to himself as The Lawgiver, The Voice, King, Father, The Messenger, Teacher of Righteousness, The Nail, among many others! His assuming all these titles amounts to rank blasphemy, and leads members to idolatry. Such is the working of a cult leader.
But these divine and religious titles have given him a tremendously powerful grip on those whose worship he seeks!
God the Father is the only Lawgiver in the Bible. Jesus Christ will bring and administer the Father’s Law to the whole world at His Return, and Moses is the only human who was ever a type of Christ in this way. It should be clear that anyone claiming to be “The Lawgiver” is taking another role of both God the Father and, in an indirect sense, Christ. John the Baptist and another end-time figure are both, in type, Elijahs who filled the roles of “a voice” and “a messenger.” No one else in the New Testament is prophesied to be a similar voice or messenger. But anyone elevating himself into these roles is fully consistent with a false prophet!
No description of false prophets is complete without explaining one final characteristic. These deceivers always seem to find new ways to elevate themselves to greater offices and roles! Declaring oneself to hold the second-highest New Testament office—prophet—is, in itself, a huge self-elevation.
This splinter has suffered numerous splits, often over administration and dictatorial government, but more often over doctrine, because of the absolutely blasphemous and unbiblical nonsense taught by its leader. He has completely departed from God, becoming as false as the original apostates themselves. Tragically, others near him at the top appear to be following his lead. This organization has developed two mindsets—those who agree with the leader’s many assumed titles and offices and those who do not. It appears that more splits there may be imminent, with survivors choosing where to go or giving up entirely.
Also, this leader’s writings and sermons emphasize his “private interpretation” (II Pet. 1:20) of prophecy, which contradicts the doctrines of Restored, Mr. Herbert Armstrong—and the Bible.
Church of the Great God
In December 1991, another former WCG pastor resigned and created a new organization, Church of the Great God (CGG), the second to form after the apostasy. He claimed the Work was over and that Mr. Armstrong had put too much emphasis on it. This splinter never grew to more than a few hundred, and this is largely because its leader does not believe Mr. Armstrong “had the right balance” between “doing the Work” and “feeding the flock.” He explained that he felt Mr. Armstrong’s improper overemphasis on preaching the gospel and warning Israel, instead of “taking care of the sheep,” is the principal reason so many fell away so easily when the apostates threw out the truth. Over time, several hundred people came and went from this group.
An interesting and effective speaker (in this case, meaning a seductive speaker), this man decided to specialize in giving “in-depth” sermons. However, having accepted from the beginning a number of the apostates’ doctrines, this man eventually fell into a host of absolutely preposterous prophetic ideas. We will consider just one, because it well illustrates how far afield he has gone. This man has actually come to the conclusion that the “great whore” of Revelation 17:5 is the many nations of Israel today. He has given ten separate sermons explaining in excruciating detail why this is “true.”
Consider the basic understanding of prophecy about which Mr. Armstrong would have to have been utterly wrong for this theory to be correct. The whole framework on which hangs the one-third of the Bible that is prophecy implodes into a pile of rubble if this thinking is true. The Catholic church and the Protestants could no longer be identified in this chapter (Rev. 17) as the “great whore” and her “harlot daughters,” if this thinking were accurate.
Living Church of God
In January 1993, another group, first known as the Global Church of God (GCG), then later the Living Church of God (LCG), formed. This occurred after the evangelist who started it petitioned Mr. Armstrong’s successor to remain in the WCG “as a local church elder.” Only after being turned down did he begin his group, and it quickly grew in size.
In 1998, this group suffered a major split within its ranks. The split was essentially a power struggle, and was almost entirely unrelated to doctrine. It was at this point that LCG came into existence, with the aforementioned evangelist as its leader, whom the majority of brethren chose to follow. GCG soon largely faded from existence. LCG has continued to experience the breakaway of several additional smaller offshoots. It is becoming increasingly Pentecostal and suffering ongoing and severe internal problems and tragedies.
Essentially, LCG’s leader presents dozens of false teachings to the thousands who follow him—and then baldly lies to them about these teachings and Mr. Armstrong.
Here are just a few of many:
(1) The Gospel: LCG’s gospel has become a hybrid of truth and Protestantism. It has been corrupted in three distinct ways:
(a) It combines Christ the Messenger with His message, the kingdom of God. Notice this from their Statement of Beliefs: “The Gospel of Christ is the ‘Good News’ of the forgiveness of our sins through Christ’s sacrifice, and of the soon-coming Kingdom and government of God,” with their commission then to “Preach, to all the nations of the world, the Gospel of the Kingdom and the true name of Jesus Christ” (LCG mission statement). This “gospel” is very different from what Mr. Armstrong taught in his booklet What Is the True Gospel?
Take a moment to read Galatians 1:6-9, and the curse connected to bringing “another gospel.” Then pause and grasp the additional seriousness of what else doing this means—the grave danger of what is actually being brought into the Church with this revised “gospel.” You must understand why God places a curse on those who pervert the gospel. Next then, turn to II Corinthians 11:3-4. It explains and connects the world’s different, false “another Jesus” to “another gospel” about their “Jesus,” and all of this, in turn, is connected to “another spirit.” John labels this alien spirit the “spirit of error” (I John 4:6). This is the same spirit guiding all the churches of the world! Understand the extreme gravity here, and how it connects to the entirety of the list to follow. This very different, but very real, “another spirit” directly introduces—and is importing into LCG (and the United Church of God)—the Protestant harlots’ counterfeit definition of the body of (their) “Christ.” Christ’s sheep know the true Christ’s voice, and can distinguish it from a strange voice spoken by another Jesus. The Protestant counterfeit is defined as follows in change #2.
(b) LCG now teaches that part of its mission is to witness the name of Jesus Christ in all nations. In LCG’s mission statement (on its website under “Official Statement of Fundamental Beliefs”) is found this: “The Living Church of God, with its denominational world headquarters in the United States of America…fulfills a threefold mission: 1. To preach the true Gospel of the Kingdom of God (Mark 1:14; Matthew 24:14; Ezekiel 3 and 33), and the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 8:12) to all nations as a witness.” Of course, Mr. Armstrong never thought or spoke in such terms. This is because the Bible does not teach this. However, Protestants commonly do it. This error of “witnessing Jesus” is also synonymous with another violation of Scripture: The Bible nowhere commands Christians—and this includes ministers—to actively profess Christ, but rather always to confess Him when challenged in their belief: “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asks you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear” (I Pet. 3:15).
(c) In the Sept.-Oct. 2006 Living Church News, an article titled “A ‘Missing’ Part of Christ’s Gospel” makes another giant leap away from the true gospel by asserting that healing is part of it. The rationale: Since Christ’s sacrifice is part of the gospel—and part of that sacrifice was Christ’s physical beating, which made possible forgiveness of physical sins—and also since Christ healed the sick—then healing must be part of the gospel. But this cannot be found anywhere in Scripture! Yet, this is what happens when Satan leads people into even a partial focus on Christ as part of the gospel. Next naturally comes witnessing. Then comes healing. After that could be personal “evangelism,” and then on to anything else into which the devil wants to take the organization.
(2) The Church: LCG teaches that Christ no longer works exclusively, leading only one unified, organized, uncompromising Church. Supposedly, Christ’s Church—the same as the biblical Body of Christ—now consists of many “fellowships” or “communities of believers.” This is totally contrary to I Corinthians 1:10, 13 and 12:1-31, Ephesians 4:2-16, John 15, Matthew 12:25-30, and to what Mr. Armstrong taught about the Body of Christ. This substitute idea asserts, in effect, that Christ and His Body are now divided among many groups. This is exactly what the harlot daughters (Rev. 17:5) believe and taught to the WCG apostates. The apostates, in turn, taught the Protestant “Jesus” and his counterfeit “body” to the splinter leaders before they fled the apostasy.
Here is what the reader must recognize: The Protestant world believes in a different (counterfeit) “body” of a different (counterfeit) “Christ,” emanating from an entirely different (counterfeit) “spirit”—NOT the Spirit of God. It is led by the “spirit of disobedience” that is identified in Ephesians 2:2—and sent from the “god of this world” (II Cor. 4:4)! In summary, the Living Church of God has unknowingly moved itself outside the true Body of Christ and directly into the false, Protestant “body of Christ.” The alien spirit that John and Paul spoke of—which is leaven, cancer and gangrene—is what quickly destroyed the WCG. This same spirit is slowly destroying the splinters, with only the Tribulation cutting short the process.
Changes 1 and 2 explain EVERYTHING that follows on this list—and WHY the spirit of error will only grow stronger and more pervasive wherever it has been permitted to enter. Mr. Armstrong strongly warned against letting the devil in even “a little bit,” because he would “push open the door since he is stronger than we.” This has happened!
(3) It is no wonder then that LCG states that the Church now has many “branches.” (Yet, John 15:1-5 shows it is individual members in the Church or Body of Christ who are branches.) Note this statement in a sermon: “Thousands more are coming into the Church of God in general, not just this fellowship. Hopefully, tens of thousands, and hopefully thousands more into this fellowship…”
…and that the LCG Statement of Beliefs says, “The Living Church of God, with its denominational world headquarters in the United States of America, has members in many countries…” Also, the official LCG letterhead carries the term “denomination headquarters.” Mr. Armstrong loathed—and never permitted—the term denomination in regard to the WCG, and always taught it was non-denominational.
…and that it is permissible to occasionally have combined services with other groups. This is accompanied by the general (but unconscious) idea that “love” is more crucial than doctrine. Just “reaching out,” “being kind” and having “genuine love” will unite God’s people.
…and that periodic attendance with other groups helps create “unity.”
…and that God’s Church is no longer considered our “Mother” (see Gal. 4:26; Heb. 12:22-23; Rev. 12; II John 5).
(4) Open Door Policy: In light of the above changes, it should then also be no wonder that LCG has also contravened Mr. Armstrong’s policy, and reinstituted the exact same open-door policy that the liberals brought into the Church in the 1970s. This applies to people coming to LCG from either the world or other splinters. Hence, there is a wide variety of beliefs, practices, dress, etc., throughout LCG. The WCG policy under Mr. Armstrong was to not invite one until he had proven he must adhere to the basic beliefs of God’s way, had begun changing his life and was approaching baptism. The Bible commands God’s people to come out of Babylon—not compromise with or copy it (Rev. 18:4). This is another classic way in which the alien spirit guiding the churches of the world is being welcomed into LCG.
(5) The Government of God: LCG no longer understands nor practices the greatest doctrine in the Bible—the Government of God! Volumes could be written to prove this. The book The Government of God – Understanding Offices and Duties explains their multiple government errors, as well as those of the other splinters. It is not surprising then, for instance, that LCG has moved in the direction of the next change…
(6) Accreditation: Echoing the WCG liberals of the 1970s, LCG is creating an accredited, therefore secular, university. This is more than just a tragic administrative mistake—it is a doctrinal error! Here is just one statement from Mr. Armstrong on this subject: “We could now qualify for accreditation both at Pasadena and Big Sandy—but we shall not, because the GOVERNMENT of the colleges would have to be according to that which is in force in this world’s educational institutions—GOD’S government would have to go. WE ALREADY HAVE THE HIGHEST ACCREDITATION OF ALL—THAT OF ALMIGHTY GOD!” (Co-Worker Letter, March 19, 1981).
(7) The Elijah: LCG teaches that the Elijah who “restores all things” to the Church would either be one of: (a) The Two Witnesses (along with a second Moses), or (b) the Elijah role may have been fulfilled by Christ.
(8) Mystery of the Ages: Next, LCG teaches that Mystery of the Ages—which Mr. Armstrong called his most important book—is said to have “numerous errors.”
To learn more about the incorrect views held by the Living Church of God, our full length articles “How LCG’s Teachings Differ From Those of Mr. Armstrong and The Restored Church of God” and “A 3-FOLD, FALSE GOSPEL – How LCG Leaders Deceive Their Members!” will provide much greater detail.
United Church of God
In May 1995, the largest splinter formed, consisting of hundreds of ministers, with certain senior WCG leaders, and many thousands of brethren. This group had finally decided to end their inaction after witnessing almost 300 doctrinal changes in WCG. They organized under the leadership of an elected committee, which in turn elected the group’s leader. In 1998, this group also suffered a major split within their ranks. As was the case with LCG, it was essentially a power struggle, and was almost entirely unrelated to doctrine. It also has since experienced the breakaway of several additional smaller offshoots.
The following are examples of how this largest splinter group differs from Restored and Mr. Armstrong:
(1) Restored practices hierarchical government, with authority delegated by appointment from the top down, as directed by Jesus Christ. UCG practices a semi-democratic variation of Presbyterian or Congregationalist government, in which local ministers vote to fill seats on a Council of Elders, and this Council in turn selects a leader who seemingly acts as a Chief Executive Officer, but is subject to removal from office by the ballot of the Council.
(2) UCG permits its members to participate in the politics of local governments.
(3) Restored differs from UCG on the precise definition of the true gospel that Christ preached—our position is that the gospel is the “good news” of the kingdom (government) of God, which will soon be established on Earth. UCG endorses a hybrid gospel that incorporates the false Protestant gospel about the person of Christ.
(4) Restored teaches that we are not “born again” until the resurrection, when our physical bodies are changed to spiritual and incorruptible (see I Cor. 15), and we are born into the Family of God. UCG teaches that we are “born from above” in this present physical life.
(5) Restored teaches that all of the New Testament ministerial offices and duties, as listed in Ephesians 4:11 and I Corinthians 12:28, are still valid and applicable today; the ministers of UCG have voluntarily given up their previous offices, as described in these verses, and have taken the generic title of “elder.”
(6) Restored and UCG have different views of prophecy concerning the New Testament Church, particularly in the era directly preceding Christ’s Second Coming.
(7) Restored and UCG have vastly different teachings on the Body of Christ, which is God’s true Church. UCG shares LCG’s viewpoint on this doctrine.
(8) UCG permits marriage to unbelievers (see II Cor. 6:14).
(9) UCG has altered the scriptural pattern of the Holy Days, merging the Feast of Tabernacles with the Last Great Day (see our book God’s Holy Days or Pagan Holidays? for more details).
(10) UCG does not clearly and actively warn the nations of the impending Great Tribulation.
UCG, having begun with many false doctrines already in place, continues to accept additional heresies and continues watering down the remaining truths it has.
The Church of God, an International Community
In 1998, approximately 1,500 to 2,000 people departed from UCG and formed their own new organization, the Church of God, an International Community (COG-aic), under a newer (post-1986) WCG evangelist. Copying the churches of the world, who see themselves as having a place as one of many “communities” within a kind of amorphous whole of the supposed body of Christ, this group chose to call itself “an International Community” of believers, after the evangelical term popular today.
The leader of this organization led the separation of those who followed him basically under the following scenario: The largest splinter had twice elected him as its president about eight months apart in its first year of operation. However, the Council of Elders three years later decided it was time for a change. This man immediately swung into action, and here is what happened.
This “evangelist” simultaneously came to what amounted to two opposing conclusions. As “winner” of two separate elections, he felt this meant he was God’s winner—meaning God’s elected—and that he had been selected to be “leader of the church.” Yet, and here is the problem, he simultaneously believed he should publicly “repent” of having participated in such a political process. This meant he had to “repent” of having taken part in these elections, but accept that God had, in fact, revealed to him through his initial installation born of rebellion—voting!—that he must step out on his own as the church’s new “leader.” Unbelievable! (It is understood that there were a couple other differences behind the division between the groups. And it should also be understood his organization has forsaken numerous other true doctrines.)
Church of God – Preparing for the Kingdom of God
A more recent arrival to the chaotic splinter stage, but garnering some attention, is the Church of God – Preparing for the Kingdom of God (COG-PKG), led by a onetime WCG pastor. He employs the shrewd tactic of wrapping himself with Mr. Armstrong’s office and reputation. Calling himself “a prophet of the God of Abraham,” he now claims to be one of the Two Witnesses (his wife has been named as the other!), has written (and is selling) a book titled The Prophesied End-Time, and has been advertising it in certain magazines. This book is a prime example of cleverly mixing truth with error.
This leader’s publications terribly mangle the correct understanding of coming events. Many are being taken in by this delusional and dangerous false prophet’s messages. Being given a false sense of security, those duped by this man are no longer looking for future prophetic events, and will not recognize them when they do come crashing down on an unsuspecting world.
His writings address topics such as the ten virgins, the spiritual temple, the man of sin, desolation of the temple, the seals of Revelation, the Two Witnesses, etc. The publication vomits prophetic junk on the reader and is a prime example of cleverly mixing truth with error.
Such a mixture serves to entrap potential followers. Believing a false prophet to be a teacher of truth, they become more willing to explore his false prophecies.
After presenting a series of gross distortions and outright perversions of the Bible’s most basic prophecies, this individual asks questions such as “Does anyone dare stand before God and deny what we have witnessed in these matters?”—or “Why can’t pastors and Church leaders admit or acknowledge that these verses have indeed been fulfilled?”—or “Do we have eyes to see?”—among others. Statements such as “The evidence should be obvious to all, but many will not face this issue or admit its truth” are used throughout.
In each case, these questions or declarations are preceded or followed by various conclusions that are terribly misguided, confused and plain wrong!
Copying the apostates before him, he uses repetitive high-pressure techniques to scare people into accepting nonsense.
He dismisses great future prophecies as having been fulfilled in the Church, writing things such as, “It has indeed been a sobering revelation for the Church that the first five seals of Revelation have been about itself and that these seals are no longer a matter of future prophecy that is yet to be fulfilled, but are now a matter of history—seals that have already been opened.”
He veers sharply away from what Mr. Armstrong taught, and the Bible teaches, concerning these things.
To read that the “man of sin” (II Thes. 2:3) was supposedly Mr. Armstrong’s successor—or that the abomination of desolation applies to the Church, and “flee(ing) into the mountains” (Matt. 24:15-16) was God’s people fleeing into WCG offshoots—or that Ezekiel’s hair (chapter 5) being divided into thirds also applies to the Church being divided and affected in thirds—or that the Great Tribulation is also a prophecy for what has already happened to the Church—is simply pitiful, ignorant thinking!
A couple more seductive statements are worth noticing: “Have you been given the ability to see and hear something that you are still resisting and fighting against?” This form of reverse psychology is so cunning and lethal in nature that the only thing left unsaid by this man is that if you heed these warnings, “You shall not surely die.”
Hundreds of Splinters and Slivers
Far too many to cover in this article, there are literally hundreds of splinter and smaller “sliver” groups, all having come out of the WCG infected to various degrees with the apostates’ thinking and doctrines. This number continues to multiply.
But God has ensured that His Church—The Restored Church of God—holds to and actively teaches the full truth!
(The reader may wish to study Where Is the True Church? – and Its Incredible History! and Here Is The Restored Church of God.)