In a previous chapter, we discussed the fact that Laodiceans are, in effect, a spiritual nudist colony, an entire Church era of God’s people that walks naked—unclothed.
Being fully clothed means wearing several pieces of clothing. One of the most important garments, which no Christian can be without, must be introduced at this point. In turn, it introduces all of Chapter 7. This garment could probably be equated in importance to the outer garments that all people wear.
Clothed With Humility
Here is what Peter wrote, “…be clothed with humility: for God resists the proud, and gives grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God…” (I Pet. 5:5-6). Similarly, Paul instructed the Colossians to “Put on [like clothing]…humbleness of mind, meekness…” (3:12).
By now, you have surely seen the need to approach your task at the end of this age—and the scriptural instruction in this book—with extraordinary humility. No other approach has any chance to yield true success—God’s approval. Without this most basic of Christian qualities, none of us have any hope of seeing ourselves as God sees us—let alone actually building His character by growing, overcoming, improving, and learning—living—His truth! It takes a truly deep humility to acknowledge that you might be blind, wretched, naked, etc.—especially when your feelings may be strongly telling you otherwise (Prov. 14:12; 16:25).
In this light, what do Philadelphians see that Laodiceans cannot? Having described the signs of a Laodicean, what then are the signs of a Philadelphian? In effect, what have those of this era remembered that all Laodiceans can no longer see?
Humility Introduces Eight Philadelphian Signs
The people of God live in an age when their counterparts in the world no longer care about international events and conditions in the way that most once did. Many factors, including information overload, have contributed to mankind feeling jaded to what is now happening all around it.
Christ described our age as a time when “iniquity (lawlessness) abounds” and “the love of many waxes cold” (Matt. 24:12). Yet, Ezekiel 9:4 records that God places a special mark on those who “sigh and cry” because of every kind of “abomination,” now occurring on a worldwide scale. Obviously, for an entire group to receive this mark, there must remain a very special people who have not allowed themselves to become calloused.
These are people who still care!
We have always understood that the Church of God, in every age, is directly affected by the society around it. To some degree, its condition ebbs and flows with prevailing social trends and character traits. This was exactly the problem with the brethren living in ancient Laodicea—and is part of the very reason Christ compares His people today (though they are a spiritual city) to the citizenry of that physical city. Today, with spiritual blindness comes the inability to still deeply care either about people or important matters. Most of God’s people have become, at least in part, “past feeling” (Eph. 4:19) toward human conditions, events and other things that once moved them. This includes doctrines that have slipped from their understanding.
At the same time, relative to the above point, an entire generation of people (actually several, which have come in waves) absolutely filled with pride (the opposite of humility) has emerged in society and completely surrounded God’s people. This makes it much easier for even those with God’s Spirit to naturally absorb this attitude. Recognize that even the normal human physical humility of just a generation or two ago has almost completely disappeared. Any kind of conscientious, regular approach to a humble personal examination is much like the old American South—it is “gone with the wind”!
Before proceeding, accept the incredibly arrogant spiritual environment in which you live.
To become a Philadelphian, one must first examine Christ’s description of this era. Then he must examine himself for where he reflects it—or, in the Laodicean age, where he almost certainly falls far short. You will find that there are also eight different signs reflected in those of Philadelphia.
Here is how Christ describes the sixth era of the Church in Revelation 3:7-13: “And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write; these things says He that is holy, He that is true, He that has the key of David, He that opens, and no man shuts; and shuts, and no man opens; I know your works: behold, I have set before you an open door, and no man can shut it: for you have a little strength, and have kept my word, and have not denied my name. Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before your feet, and to know that I have loved you. Because you have kept the word of my patience, I also will keep you from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth. Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which you have, that no man take your crown. Him that overcomes will I make a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of My God, and the name of the city of My God, which is new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God: and I will write upon him My new name. He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says unto the churches.”
Before discussing the other seven earmarks of Philadelphia, recognize the one that Christ considers most important is the characteristic for which He names the sixth era. It is, quite literally, “the brotherly love era.” We will see that He could have given it several other names, yet chose this one. We will also discuss this first trait—that of brotherly love—in some detail later. Suffice to say at this point, Christ’s name for this era reflects how important it is to Him that His people retain brotherly love, while those around them grow more jaded and calloused to the lawlessness mankind is enduring. Therefore, one of the two vital areas of Christianity that Philadelphians never stop caring about is their fellow man—in the world, as well as God’s people.
This is the first earmark describing the sixth era.
The Second and Third Earmarks
The second—and most vital—point that Philadelphians continue to care about is the need to hold on to the entirety of God’s truth and traditions. They understand that they must “hold…fast what they have” at all costs! They continue to “see” the need to not let the truth slip away. Obviously, the amount of God’s Spirit of truth, necessary to do this, is not allowed to wane. When they see that it has, they return to the only Source who can replenish it—and continue to do this over and over again throughout their conversion. This necessarily begins with returning to God’s Church. There is no hope of recovery until one permits God’s Spirit to lead him (Rom. 8:14; John 16:13) back to the only Church where the truth is taught.
This is actually a central part of “enduring to the end” in order to be saved (Matt. 24:13)—and it is no accident that this instruction immediately follows the warning about those whose love waxes cold (vs. 12). Remember, Romans 5:5 shows that “the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the [same] Holy Spirit” that is the Spirit of truth.
These two elements are interconnected within the instruction to endure!
Jesus tells these people, “You have kept My word” (Rev. 3:8). Some use this phrase as license to change doctrines by asserting, “I get my doctrines directly from God—from the Bible. I keep God’s words, not Mr. Armstrong’s.” Of course, everyone, including the Pope, the apostates and every other religious leader and minister, always claim this same thing. Naturally, so do the splinter leaders. Would any claim to get their doctrines from outside the Bible? (Recall how often Mr. Armstrong stated that Christ establishes doctrine only through apostles. This will be addressed later in much more detail.)
While many consider themselves to be Philadelphian, it is impossible to be Philadelphian if you are not holding fast to EVERY doctrine (and established tradition!) the Church was taught. Ignoring just this point specifically disqualifies one for protection in the place of safety (vs. 10). Only this unwavering group is protected from the “hour of trial” that will soon strike all civilization.
The Laodicean remnant, described in Revelation 12:17, apparently has at least some of the core doctrines in place, such as obedience to God’s commandments, but falls short of what Christ calls “holding fast.” He considers the difference in their doctrinal positions profound! grasp this! It is on this point that He also ties in the danger of one losing his crown (vs. 11). This will be discussed in an unexpected and fascinating way throughout the next chapter.
Verse 10 contains the third earmark of Philadelphians. Notice the phrase “You have kept the word of My patience.” This underscores the fact that Philadelphians recognize the ongoing need to patiently endure, as Christ instructed His people living at the end: “In your patience possess you your souls [lives]” (Luke 21:19).
This is the most impatient age in history. People want instant gratification and fulfillment in almost everything they do. With the advent of the “now generation” some decades ago, few are willing to wait patiently for almost anything. Yet, practically everything of worth requires some amount of patience to achieve. In the end time, when very salvation is at stake, the familiar cliché is even more true spiritually—“Good things come to those who wait.”
“An Open Door”
The fourth sign of a Philadelphian is that he recognizes he must continue to participate in and support the Work of God—“I have set before you an open door.”
The true people of God always try to do the Work—and their hearts are in it. Their brotherly love is partly seen in their desire to take the full truth of God to their fellowman in all nations. Matthew 24:14, 46 and 28:19-20 show that this effort continues until the Tribulation. Mr. Armstrong always considered supporting the Work of God to be a minimum standard for being a Christian at all.
Once those of Laodicean thinking became dominant in number, the size and scope of the Work ceased to be relevant in the same way that it was when Mr. Armstrong was alive. This should be very obvious. Those looking for the greatest church size today fail to understand that there has been a change in era. This is one of the biggest reasons I will not talk about the numeric size of The Restored Church of God’s attendance or income. This is no longer our time—and we understand that “largeness”—“bigness”—“size”—of numbers in God’s Church, or amount of income, works directly against groups more than for them, as it once did when the golden age and wonderful time of Philadelphia and Mr. Armstrong’s ministry were flourishing. The bigger groups have a big problem in explaining how their members are not part of the big, dominant era of Laodicea.
On the other hand, the big splinters are attempting some “work.” Because of their collective size, they (though divided) have for a time done a larger “Work” than the small remnant of Philadelphia. (Of course, their work has no real meaning, because their doctrines reflect a mixture of truth and error—and Christ is not leading them.) The Work done by God here is already passing—and will soon dwarf—all the human efforts in the splinters and slivers.
You must not miss this overall point!
The Work that Philadelphia does is covered in more detail near the end of this book. But it is also covered in much greater detail in my book to the splinters devoted entirely to this subject, The Work of God – Its Final Chapter! All whose hearts are still in the Work of God will be left in awe after reading of what is being—and is yet to be!—accomplished in The Restored Church of God.
Here is what so many cannot see regarding God’s Work. Philadelphians are very evidently not “rich and increased with goods.” (Remember, the Greek words in Revelation, paralleling ancient Laodicea, specifically mean financial wealth and material goods.) How could Philadelphia possibly produce the same size Work as before, when it obviously does not have large amounts of money? Beware of those crowing about the great size of their “work.” (Of course, I do not preclude that God must have a plan to inject, for a short period, extraordinary, or even miraculous, super income into His final Work before the age is complete.)
All with even one “eye to see”—squinted half shut—cannot miss this point. Yet, there is a way that Philadelphians compensate, without great financial resources.
Zeal Under Persecution
This leads directly to the fifth sign, which is that Philadelphians, once again as opposed to Laodiceans, are tremendously zealous. Christ does not have to remind the sixth era to “be zealous and repent.” An extraordinary fervency toward the preaching of the gospel and other truths is evident in the incredible production—and speed—at which this very dynamic group continues the Work. This is because it is empowered by an abundance of God’s Spirit!
It should also be evident that their zeal causes them to do the Work, not with the soft, purring sounds that the splinters typically use, but with Mr. Armstrong’s plain, straightforward style, trumpeted in the spirit of Isaiah 58:1!
Because of their zeal, unity of purpose and the vital special blessings poured upon them—because Christ is leading this undivided group—they are, as mentioned, still able to accomplish far more than their size would ever seem to permit!
Their zeal is also obviously witnessed, among other kinds of actions and service, by their love and preservation of the full truth, as explained above.
The sixth sign of Philadelphians is that they endure terrible persecution at the hands of the “synagogue [Church] of Satan.” People also fail to understand that there are not just Philadelphians and Laodiceans at the end of the age, but there are also tares, some—an increasing number of them—vicious, among the wheat (mega-tares when they are in a leadership role). Some of these tares, in the form of the synagogue of Satan, persecute Philadelphia, as they did faithful brethren of other eras. (Recall that Smyrna—Revelation 2:8-9—was also described as physically poor, but spiritually rich, and received no correction from Christ. How interesting that they were also persecuted by this “synagogue.”)
The Restored Church of God is certainly the greatest testimony to this persecution. When properly understood, the enormous amount and nature of the outrageous things said about us, generally, and me, personally (as was always the case with Mr. Armstrong—before and after his death), becomes a testimony to who we are much more than who we are not!
Though this is addressed briefly in the last chapter, I have also devoted an entire book to the subject of persecution and issues related to it. Vital to all at the end of the age, it is Should Accusers Be Answered?
Therefore, recognize that “ANOINT YOUR EYES” is being and continues to be countered, both with scare tactics and certain measured “explanations” seeking to rebut the soundness of Christ’s counsel to His people. Completely missing the point as it applies to themselves, and lacking in a sufficient amount of God’s Spirit, many easily dismiss it as “Mr. Pack’s personal opinion.” I recognize this, and you should, too.
Revelation 3:9, referencing the “synagogue,” concludes with a fascinating statement about, and to, Philadelphia, overlooked by almost everyone: “I will make them to…worship before your feet, and to know that I have loved you.”
Read this passage again. It is as though people simply cannot recognize Philadelphians for who they are until God reveals His love for them. They appear to remain a small, discounted, largely unrecognized and despised group, perceived as irrelevant, only to be later identified by God in front of the synagogue of Satan, the world and even Laodicea for who they were.
A Little Miraculous Power
The seventh characteristic visible in Philadelphia and its remnant is somewhat related to size and lack of financial resources, mentioned in number four. Philadelphians have little strength—though they are spiritually strong, they do not have a lot of miraculous power. I have previously explained that in Restored we see a variety of miracles on a regular basis—which are again directly connected to apostolic authority given to this era—but these are only significant when considered collectively in comparison to our small size. (Of course, not everyone was healed every time even when Philadelphia was on track and Mr. Armstrong was alive.) Therefore, it should be clear that faithful people, having only a small amount of miraculous power, could not possibly be described this way unless they represent a relatively small organization.
Be sure to get this picture squarely in mind!
Upholding Christ’s Authority
The eighth and final earmark of Philadelphia is described in verse 8: “You have not denied My name.” The people of the sixth era comprehend all that this means, in light of the extraordinary presence that God brought to the Church when He was leading His twentieth-century apostle, Herbert W. Armstrong.
This man fully understood that Jesus Christ’s power—His authority—His “name”—was behind all that he, personally, and the Church supporting him, did! Mr. Armstrong clearly recognized that no more than a tiny fraction of all that he accomplished would have been remotely possible without the miraculous power of God behind him (Zech. 4:6).
Anyone who forgot this, and some did, when talking to or trying to flatter Mr. Armstrong about his accomplishments, never forgot it twice!
As stated, Mr. Armstrong knew that Christ puts truth into the Church only through apostles. No other office can bring new doctrine to the Church with Christ’s authority—by His name. Mr. Armstrong also knew that the Church had to completely rely on God for all things—and he never exuded self-sufficiency, now so evident in people who seem to enjoy talking about God (and this only periodically), while ignoring so much of what He tells them to do!
It is the very authority of Christ—embodied in His name—that the synagogue of Satan, indicted in verse 9 immediately after this reference, despises. This drives them to focus their persecution on Philadelphia. Understand that a whole booklet could be written solely about what it means to “not deny (Christ’s) name.” (The Bible says much more about this synagogue—this assemblage of devilish men—than meets the eye. My sermon “The Synagogue of Satan Identified—and Marked!” explains this final group, including where and how they came to be.)
What Philadelphians See
In an overall sense, Philadelphians see the truth, the Work of God, their fellow man and themselves. They also see how to recognize the place where God’s government is leading. Therefore, they still “see” the one true Church and Body of Christ (and Temple of God!) doctrine and how Christ’s leadership is not, and never has been, divided! They have not forgotten what we all once understood on this point. They can “see” that Christ is not leading any of the organizations where the people’s and ministers’ opinions “rule, judge and decide,” usurping His authority. They can “see” that all with God’s Spirit must leave these groups or lose God’s Spirit. They “see” that He is calling each sheep “by name” (John 10:3) to “follow” Him, and knocking on “doors” to enter “homes” (Rev. 3:20), where He can work with “any man” who hears His voice of truth.
Luke 21:36 describes those who “watch …and pray always, that [they] may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass.” Obviously, those who are blind cannot do this—it takes sight to watch anything! But Philadelphians do it continually, because they are equipped with enough of the spiritual element that allows them full vision.
All this understanding became darkened and completely lost from the minds of so many thousands of brethren who can no longer see. Spiritually speaking, thousands can no longer see the hand in front of their face. They have allowed themselves to become so blind even to things that were once so fundamental and so basic, that only half will ever be able to recover themselves—and it will take the fiery trial of the Tribulation to fully accomplish this.
The Great Propagandist
The governments of men typically use propaganda to spread their ideas, both good and bad. Generally, the worst governments use the most propaganda, and it is always driven by their agenda—what they are trying to ultimately accomplish.
So many of God’s people have forgotten that the greatest propagandist in the universe is Satan the devil. They no longer seem to grasp the power of his ability to dispense misinformation (Rev. 12:9) from his government as “god of this world” (II Cor. 4:4). Yet, he has spread so much disinformation, misinformation, outright lies and propaganda against both Mr. Armstrong and the truth he taught, almost all of the brethren have become terribly confused about what they once thought they saw so clearly. What once seemed like the plain truth is now open to debate, question, challenge or even ridicule. (I am not speaking about the false leaders of the WCG or those people and smaller offshoots who, at every turn, vomit absolutely satanic rhetoric upon anyone who will listen—this is to be expected from these people—but rather of the apostasy’s “survivors.”)
Daniel said that “the wise shall understand” what is happening at the end of the age (12:10). Referencing him, Jesus re-emphasized this point in Matthew 24:15. Mr. Armstrong often expressed doubt about whether 90 percent of the Church “got it.”
In summary, Philadelphians “get it”—all of it! They remember where they learned the truth and know exactly what to do (II Tim. 3:14) during the period when “evil men and seducers shall grow worse and worse” (vs. 13).
Conditioned to Compromise
Recall that the second point Philadelphians continue to care about—and it is most vital to recognize this—is their need to hold on to every point of God’s truth. They understand that they must “hold fast what they have” at all costs!
Most of God’s people live in democratic countries. Democracies function almost solely on the ability to get people of different points of view to compromise their position—and their values. This seems to be the only way any kind of even partial peace can be obtained. Like other elements discussed above, God’s people unconsciously absorb this spirit of compromise, permeating nearly everything in government, business, education, religion and society around them. It is as though people are conditioned—virtually trained!—to believe they have to “give on a few points” in order to get along or get what they want.
This is not the way of God. Philadelphians will not compromise—EVER. Unlike so many others around them in the last days (II Tim. 3:1; 4:3), they continuously “endure sound doctrine.” They refuse to be turned from the truth to “fables”—of any kind!
Think of the word compromise as having two parts—“com” and “promise.” Com means “with,” and promise means what it says. Those who compromise are attempting to take a new position and make it work with an old promise that they had made—in this case, made to God!
Will you continue such a pattern?
For those with “eyes to see” and “ears to hear,” this puts the whole matter of changing doctrines into a very different light.
Mr. Armstrong and Doctrinal Compromise
Mr. Armstrong had a great deal to say about doctrinal compromise. Here are some statements from him demonstrating how strongly he felt. The first quote is repeated from earlier in the book because of its re-application here.
“But it is still true that two can’t walk together except they be agreed. I am agreed with God and with Christ the Head of the Church. I shall never water down the truth He has revealed to me, nor in any manner compromise with it. We are all of us going to have to agree with God and with Christ HIS Son, if we are to walk together with them, into God’s Kingdom.”
“Reports About Garner Ted False,” WN, Mar. 6, 1981
“Forty-three years ago, the living Christ committed to me His great commission.”
“But during these 43 years, I have frequently been pressured to compromise—‘just a little’—with God’s truth.”
“He entrusted me with this precious truth.”
“But honestly, now, what do you think?”
“Wouldn’t it be all right to compromise, ‘just a little,’ on some ‘unimportant minor point’? Especially on some ostensibly unimportant point where we appear ‘crazy’ to the world.”
“Nevertheless, if we begin to compromise with God’s truth, even in smallest, slightest manner, we have allowed Satan to get a foot into the door of the Church, and soon he will push open the door (he is stronger than we) and take over the whole Church.”
“A little leaven leavens the whole lump! …I have been charged with the commission of keeping God’s word. Keeping it inviolate—no compromise! I have never compromised with God’s truth—regardless of the cost or the circumstances. I never shall!”
“Just as Israel is little in population and financial means among the nations, so God’s Church is little in numbers and popularity among churches or religious organizations. But Israel stands strong and alone among this world’s nations in determination to not yield one inch to the outrageous methods and demands of terrorists!”
“Satan is the chief of terrorists. He hates God’s holy, sacred Word.”
“I will change whenever proved wrong. I will accept new truth as often as proved to be new truth to me or to the Church. But I will not compromise with the truth! I never have!”
“I won’t compromise—not even ‘just a little.’”
“Personal,” GN, Dec. 1976
“Why are the different branches of ‘Christianity’ talking about union? WHY is it possible for them to make overtures toward compromise?”
“And anyway, is it not right that they should all get together? Why should Christianity be divided?”
“The Vatican Second Ecumenical Council is making many overtures toward both Protestants and the Eastern Orthodox church. They are even taking a conciliatory attitude toward Jews. Recently Pope Paul VI assured the non-Catholic Christian world of his purpose to clear away every obstacle blocking ‘Christian unity.’”
“The big question is WHY is such compromise possible?”
“Can you imagine Jesus Christ beginning to compromise and get together with the Pharisees?”
“Did all the hundreds of differing and disagreeing sects and denominations calling themselves ‘Christian’ receive their varying faiths from the same source? Quite obviously not!”
“Now we ought to begin to see the answer to the question, how can these differing religious groups compromise and get together? Their beliefs, their customs, are the inventions of humans. In actual fact, they did not receive their beliefs from the true and living God—or from His Word, the Bible. Their religions are of human origin. Therefore humans feel at liberty to alter or change their own beliefs and ways.”
“We ought to understand, therefore, how those who, like the Roman Catholic Church, reject the Bible as the supreme authority—setting themselves, as a church, ahead of it as supreme authority…we ought now to understand how they can compromise and get together.”
“Since [the one and only true Church] is ruled and guided by the living God, whose written Word means what it says, it cannot and will not compromise or unite with the churches of this world.”
“Personal,” PT, Dec. 1964
All brethren live in a world literally defined by the spirit of compromise. There is almost no end of ways that Satan, the world and human nature will work on God’s people to get them to compromise virtually every truth, law and principle in the Bible. While many still somewhat recognize this regarding sin—albeit to a much lesser degree than in times past—many have not ever fully recognized its all-important application to not compromising true doctrine at the end of the age.
Mr. Armstrong understood and taught the Church of God not to compromise—to hold fast—and one of the doctrines he taught the Church was that true doctrine only enters the Church through apostles. Realize that this truth must first be rejected before any other truth can be overturned.
Practice telling yourself Mr. Armstrong’s words: “I have NEVER compromised with God’s TRUTH—regardless of the cost or the circumstances. I never shall!” and “I won’t compromise—not even ‘just a little.’”
I have followed the practice of periodically repeating these phrases to myself for many years. Though I have not done this perfectly, it has served me in untold ways!
II Peter 3:18—and the Great Misunderstanding!
The apostasy should have taught all of us that there were dozens of methods that the apostates used to seduce the Church into hundreds of false doctrines. I have listed 43 of these tricks and ploys near the front of my book There Came a Falling Away.
Some of these gimmicks are practiced in the splinters with even greater skill than that of the WCG’s false leaders. The most popular—and by far the most effective—has been the gross misuse of II Peter 3:18: “But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
This passage is often referred to in short with the phrase “We must grow in knowledge.” And those invoking this scripture almost always have doctrine in mind.
This verse is NOT talking about doctrine, but rather knowledge—and this is the Greek word used! A simple review reveals this. The word used here for “knowledge” is gnosis, meaning “(the act of) knowing, i.e. (by implication) knowledge.” This is not a hard word to understand. Almost everyone learns some kind of knowledge (gnosis) every day of his life. Of course, it is “the knowledge of Jesus Christ” that is the most important knowledge to learn. But make no mistake—this verse is talking about “knowledge,” not “doctrine.”
On the other hand, the Greek word for “doctrine,” found dozens of times throughout the New Testament (as is “knowledge”), is didache. This word means “instruction (the act or the matter), doctrine (what has already been taught).” Take special note of the phrase “already been taught.”
Once again, the Greek word for “doctrine” (didache) is totally different than the one for “knowledge” (gnosis). I cannot state this strongly enough. There is a very clear difference between knowledge and doctrine.
Please, for your own sake—get this straight!
The background and purpose of Peter’s epistles is critical to appreciate. Each of his letters is what is known as a “general epistle.” In effect, they were open letters to all brethren in the Church throughout the ages. Imagine God inspiring Peter to tell individual Christians, and leaders, everywhere—for all time—to grow in doctrine through what would have to be, presumably, their own Bible research.
This is an absolutely ludicrous idea, and would be the surest way to have complete, absolute chaos and confusion—not to mention horrific division—throughout the Church, and in every era! Yet, this is the very premise upon which so many unqualified teachers are justifying departure from truth straight into error—directly away from “what has already been taught”! Like the very apostates themselves, every splinter leader almost routinely introduces outright heresies in the name of “growing in knowledge.”
Not wanting to seem inflexible or resistant to growth, most of their members almost eagerly swallow their line.
Do not fall for such deceit—and stupidity! Anyone so ignorant of the Bible that they confuse didache with gnosis is hardly qualified to teach you the truth about anything—period! Such people need to first grow in their knowledge of the very word “knowledge.” Then they ought to spend their time focusing on, proving and holding fast to true doctrines they obviously never proved.
Mr. Armstrong repeatedly told new people learning the truth for the first time to “prove all things, hold fast that which is good.” Apparently, only a few bothered to do this with all of God’s doctrines. Also apparently, the vast majority in the Church may have almost never done it.
But there is a middle group, consisting of those who seem to have “proved some things,” leaving themselves only able to “hold fast some things which are good.” These people have really put themselves in a dilemma. They are insufficiently prepared to resist the persuasions of those seeking to “turn them to fables.” It then becomes easy to rationalize their weak doctrinal understanding and commitment by simply asserting, “Oh well, Mr. Armstrong changed doctrines, so I am just growing in knowledge.” What has really happened is that such people’s “private parts” have just been further exposed.
Incredible! In effect, they just took their underclothes off—and pronounced that they now look better. Such blindness!
Here is a worse irony about such people. They often talk as though they have actually outgrown the “somewhat primitive,” or others will say “simplistic,” understanding that they like to dismiss as having “worked well for Mr. Armstrong in his time.” Can you imagine the sheer gall—and utter arrogance—of people walking around shamelessly naked, while asserting that they have outgrown Mr. Armstrong?
Let’s put this another way. You cannot “grow in knowledge” from what you have already proven! This is literally impossible to do.
Proof is proof is PROOF!
Obviously, vast numbers of brethren never fully proved God’s truth. As a result, coupled with now being lower in supply of the “Spirit of truth,” they lazily claim that they have “grown” to see “new truth”—as they march straight into error.
Once again, you cannot grow out of things that you have proven. I repeat: You cannot grow out of, or beyond, matters you truly proved!
Those who accept false teachings, while calling them “growth,” are trumpeting that they never really researched and carefully proved what they are now throwing aside! They are virtually crowing that they believed neither God nor Mr. Armstrong—when he was alive—regarding I Thessalonians 5:21 and Romans 12:2.
How many would do this if they saw their actions in this light?
On a side note, I have been appalled at the outright biblical ignorance of many who I thought were giants in the faith. Circumstances forced me to observe this. It was as though some of them could barely seem to find the book of Matthew—let alone resist false doctrine.
Believe me! I have sat in meetings with evangelists and senior pastors who almost appeared to be biblical illiterates. Some only rarely opened their Bibles, and this is when they had even brought them to meetings. I do not say this to put them down, but to recognize that Christ said, “By their fruits you know them.”
Do not be afraid to apply Christ’s statement in this regard—to know what and who He said you can know!
Sadly, many of these men learned to parrot Mr. Armstrong while apparently never actually building their house on the rock of Christ’s words, taught to them by Mr. Armstrong. It is no wonder that so many have failed in their responsibility to fulfill Titus 1:9, found in the middle of the qualifications for ordination into the ministry: “Holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince [convict] the gainsayers”—and, I would add, save a great many more people from being unnecessarily swallowed by compromising leaders pursuing a personal doctrinal agenda.
Paul warned of “dishonest” ministers who “handle the word of God deceitfully” (II Cor. 4:2), because they, like their students who are willing to believe them, “received not the love of the truth” (II Thes. 2:10).
God’s true servants and ministers never—under any circumstances—follow these practices! They do not ever spin scriptures toward their own end.
In most cases, if one is properly trained and sufficiently grounded in the truths of the Bible, it is quite easy to see through and expose the deceptive logic misapplied to a verse, and to correctly explain it.
Now ask yourself: Has my pastor sought to protect me from gainsayers? In MYSTERY OF THE AGES, Mr. Armstrong wrote, “It is the duty of Christ’s true ministers (and how scarce today) to protect the begotten but yet unborn saints from false doctrines, from false ministers.”
This book is part of my responsibility to fulfill this duty.
I urge you to recognize that II Peter 3:18 has become the banner—but really the ruse—for introducing wrong doctrine. While everyone wants to and should be concerned with the need to continually grow in “the knowledge of Jesus Christ,” this verse has become an excuse for accepting false doctrine—a means for labeling plain false teaching as “growth.”
Now consider this for a moment, so that this vital point cannot be missed. Every minister will surely tell you that he hopes all of his sermons have brought listeners more knowledge—that people were able to go home aware of new aspects about already established doctrines—that they never saw in the same way before. I certainly do. This is basic and easy to see.
Try this little experiment. The next time you hear your pastor preach a basic, routine sermon, ask him if it involved new doctrine. He will almost invariably answer, “No!” Next, ask him if he hoped that the congregation learned any new knowledge. He will most certainly answer, “Yes!” Then you may wish to respectfully ask him if he always knows the difference!
Growing in knowledge has never been an equation with changing doctrine—without a living apostle guiding the process, as did Mr. Armstrong. I challenge any member or minister to find where Mr. Armstrong said otherwise—or that the Bible does!
A Look at Ancient Philadelphia
The subject of Philadelphia, like Laodicea, would not be complete without examining, this time in retrospect, the ancient city of Philadelphia. Though geographically close to Laodicea, Philadelphia was a very different place to live.
As with the old city of Laodicea, there are also several fascinating parallels between ancient Philadelphia and the modern brethren of this era. Even the briefest examination of this city reveals comparisons that are impossible to miss. History presents an inspiring picture, filled with spiritual meaning.
The city was named for its founder, Attalus Philadelphus II, king of Pergamum (159-138 B.C.). King Attalus was given the name Philadelphus because of his unusual love for his brother, and because of his reputation for loyalty and trustworthiness. Little did this king know what the name he then chose for the city would portend for the history of God’s Church.
Cities are often said to have their own “personality”—New York, Los Angeles, London, Paris, Rome, etc. When Christ inspired the apostle John to record the book of Revelation, the city of Philadelphia was about 250 years old. Therefore, the nature of the city was well established, and, when Christ compared it to the faithful brethren of the twentieth-century era of the Church, He was well aware of the city’s personality.
It is interesting to note that Philadelphia sits at a somewhat higher altitude than the other six “era” cities on the same major trade and mail route. It also stood above all the other surrounding cities, found closer than the six for which the eras are named. With this commanding view, it became a powerful fortress city.
The comparison here is clear—and I have seen this personally. Modern spiritual Philadelphians have become a kind of “fortress” among their brethren—impenetrable in determination and unwillingness to compromise. And they do have a clearer view of things. They are within a city that cannot be defeated—that, unlike the Laodiceans, will exist at Christ’s Return.
Communication, Water and Government
While wealthy Laodicea was a banking center, it is interesting that Philadelphia, somewhat less prosperous, was considered a vital link in communication to surrounding cities, including all those on the trade route through the cities for which the other eras were named. This “communication” parallel, to how Philadelphia has been and is still being used today, thunders home its point!
Mr. Armstrong’s ministry was unquestionably the greatest spreading of “spiritual communication” to the world that has ever occurred. Its twenty-first century remnant continues to produce an enormous amount of material in the same spirit as when the era was at its zenith. Just the modern accessibility of the Internet, coupled with this vast amount of literature, proves this point.
Unlike Laodicea’s lukewarm water supply, Philadelphia had a very good supply of water because the Meander (or Cogamus) River flowed along the north side of the city, below the knoll that the city sat upon. (The word meander, meaning “to follow a winding and turning course,” derives from the name of this particular river.) This knoll also overlooked the expanse of the Hermus River Valley. The Meander flowed into the Hermus not far from Philadelphia. These rivers afforded the city plenty of cool, fresh water. The next chapter will show the incredible parallel between ancient Philadelphia’s water supply and the modern era’s “water” supply.
In Chapter Four, we mentioned that democracy was Laodicea’s general form of government, with the populace having ultimate political control. Philadelphia was different in that it was governed by what came to be labeled an “Emperor cult”—a fascinating parallel to how some viewed Mr. Armstrong! It is most interesting that the people in Philadelphia preferred to have one man—a benevolent monarch—govern the city, rather than practice democracy. This form of governance apparently lasted for many decades in Philadelphia.
We will later see a fascinating parallel with today’s form of government, which was restored to the brethren of the modern era who still carry Philadelphia’s name. This is understanding that they have not forgotten.
A History of Earthquakes
Perhaps the most fascinating part of Philadelphia’s history is that it suffered a whole series of earthquakes, with most of them almost completely destroying the city. The worst was in A.D. 17. Each time, the city was rebuilt—demonstrating an indomitable spirit in the local citizenry that lasted for generations. However, these earthquakes made people more wary, causing them to live on the outskirts of the city, for fear of additional quakes and aftershocks. But they would not leave it.
While self-sufficient Laodicea was unwilling to accept help from Rome, after its first great earthquake, the Philadelphians were willing to receive aid from the Emperor Tiberius. Because of their tremendous gratitude, they actually renamed Philadelphia Neocaesarea, or “New Caesar.”
The comparisons here are obvious. Modern Philadelphians have suffered multiple spiritual earthquakes, but they have never given up and quit. The total destruction of the Worldwide Church of God, as God’s Church, is a good parallel to the A.D. 17 earthquake, but both the modern brethren and the ancient city by this name endured other earthquakes.
It is also interesting that the citizenry of the ancient city, because earthquakes occurred so often, would actually bolt from the city at the slightest sign of a tremor. This is because they were attuned to the environment in which they willingly chose to live.
The famous Greek historian Strabo wrote, “Philadelphia has no trustworthy walls, but daily in one direction or another they keep tottering and falling apart.” It is reported that he questioned the sanity of the local citizenry because they continually wanted to return and rebuild! They are also reported to have been willing to live in makeshift huts on the outskirts of the city rather than abandon it to live elsewhere. Obviously, maintaining an appearance of wealth and prosperity meant little to such people.
Also unlike Laodicea, Philadelphia always rebounded from the earthquakes that struck it over the centuries. As a matter of fact, the city of Philadelphia still exists today. Yet, the long pattern of earthquakes in the area permanently destroyed at least ten cities surrounding it.
Historian Edward Gibbon wrote, “Among the Greek colonies and churches of Asia, Philadelphia is still erect, a column in a scene of ruin” (Smith’s Bible Dictionary, p. 509). The fact that he also refers to the more significant (than Laodicea) archaeological remnant of ancient Philadelphia standing as a “column” will momentarily take on greater significance.
Fortress City Defending Beliefs and Freedom
Gibbon went on to describe the extraordinary tenacity of the city’s inhabitants: “At a distance from the sea, forgotten by the (Greek) emperor, encompassed on all sides by the Turks, her valiant citizens defended their religion and freedom above fourscore years” (Ibid.).
This is a truly powerful parallel with the modern age. As the book continues to develop, it will be even more clear that, even though surrounded by enemies, modern Philadelphians, like their ancient counterparts, battle to hold on to what they believe. They understand what it means to defend (Phil. 1:17, 27-28) what they have—their “religion [beliefs] and freedom.”
But religion and freedom, for the true Christian, are really one and the same. Here is how Christ defines true freedom—which is the core of true religion: “Then said Jesus…If you continue in My word, then are you My disciples indeed; and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31-32).
Those who deeply know the full truth of God’s Word see that it is the only real way to be completely free—from bondage to Satan, human nature, the world, confusion, the penalty of sin (with its effects), unnecessary suffering, and so much more.
A City with Five Names
Philadelphia had an interesting history of changing names. A Roman city for over 15 centuries, it fell in A.D. 1392 to the Turks, who renamed it Allah-Sheher, or “City of God.” This in itself is interesting, because it still carries this name—and God still leads its modern counterpart.
However, in addition to Philadelphia, Neocaesarea and Allah-Sheher, the city also expanded its name to Philadelphia Flavia in the first century A.D. About two hundred years later, it was given the name Little Athens, because it fell into widespread idolatry. The parallel with the WCG is unmistakable.
Christ’s promise, in Revelation 3:12, to give spiritual Philadelphians a new name, takes on new meaning: “And I will write upon him the name of My God, and the name of the city of My God.” One more name is all that Philadelphians can expect to receive for eternity. Since the city had to tolerate at least four previous name changes (thus, five names in all), it becomes obvious why Christ would make such a promise!
An Era of Pillars
Gibbon spoke of the entire city as “a column in a scene of ruin.” This is also interesting because Christ describes each Philadelphian as becoming “a pillar in the temple” and that “he shall go no more out” (Rev. 3:12). Philadelphians obviously have had to repeatedly “go out”—of either the ancient city, or the modern organization(s) they once attended, beginning with Mr. Armstrong himself—to save their lives.
It is also interesting that there are many more ruins of ancient Philadelphia still in existence than of Laodicea. One ruin is that of four powerful marble pillars that have survived all of the earthquakes. They stand as extraordinary testimony to the strength and endurance of modern spiritual pillars within Philadelphia.
This, coupled with Christ’s reference to becoming pillars in God’s Temple, are the reasons that our magazine, written for the members of the Church in the spirit of the old Good News, is called The Pillar of the Truth (generally referred to as The Pillar). A point of interest: This is why we carefully thought through the idea of putting a pillar design on the left front of all our books to the splinters (note this book’s cover), beside our seal, which also shows the two enormous pillars of Solomon’s temple (Jachin, meaning “establish,” and Boaz, meaning “strength”).
How many people will eventually choose to become pillars of God’s way in an otherwise “scene of spiritual ruin” today, first in the WCG, and then within the splinters? In this light, recognize that the ancient city of Philadelphia was never very large in population. Despite its age, at over twenty-one centuries, it is still no more than about 40,000 to 45,000 in population. But even more interesting is that, after remaining small for over 2,100 years, the city’s population suddenly doubled to its current size (though still remaining relatively small), beginning early in the twentieth century!
No explanation of this comparison, either to our time or the rise of the Philadelphian age, is necessary!
One other phrase from Gibbon’s quote should be addressed. Apparently, Philadelphians were also discounted—“forgotten by the emperor”—as a cause for concern. At one point, they were permitted to practice their religion without interference for over 80 years. Could this be a modern parallel of how this era will be “forgotten” by the authorities until it is time for God to remove it to safety, possibly because these brethren are eventually expelled by the governments of the countries in which they reside?
It will certainly require extraordinary faith to await how God works this out!
However, the much more pressing concern for those who will receive God’s coming protection is to be sure that they have qualified to be protected.