Chapter One – THE DIE IS CAST
I hold no illusion: This book will be fiercely attacked by some. And it will step on a lot of toes because bluntness must be brought from Godâs Word to this subject, so central to the life of every true Christian at the end of the age.
Over 50 years ago, when Harry Truman fired the popular General Douglas MacArthur, he was attacked unmercifully for over one solid year by the press. While Truman suffered miserably in the polls, his response was to say that neither Moses nor Christ ever took polls to mean anything. Otherwise, he continued, Moses would never have led Israel from Egypt and Christ would never have died on the stake. He knew that courageous leaders do not do what is popular. They do what is right!
Though I wrote this book, I periodically reread it myself. This is because it is encouragingâeven to its author. It explains what people in other groups, and those who reject what we are, or those who leave us, can be expected to do. You will be taught what God expects you to do when this occurs.
Understand that the die is now cast. Severe attacks will continue against Godâs true people for the rest of the ageâprobably growing greater each time they occur. Attackers know that the leaders of The Restored Church of God will not answer them. Therefore, we must try to prepare brethren, when possible, against new attacks that will surely come. What is presented here is intended to be a kind of âscriptural inoculation.â I urge you to read it slowly and carefully, and to perhaps periodically reread it.
No man or organization can insulate those with Godâs Spirit from a process planned thousands of years ago by God for His end-time Church (Dan. 11:33-12:13). Leaders can warn, but you must survive the coming tests that will be either allowed by God or directly sent from Him. Only you govern the outcome of these tests.
This material will teach you the truth about slander, attack, persecution and false accusation straight from the Bible. It explains what you need to hearâbut it may not be what you want to hear. Of course, you may reject its contents. But consider that if you are taking the time and effort to read it, should you not at least approach it with an open mind? If so, you are the one who will benefit. If not, then only you stand to lose!
An Extraordinary Contrast
Pause and consider the following reality. A remarkable phenomenon has been occurring in the âsplinters.â
Have you ever asked why Jesus foretold widespread âoffense, betrayal, hatredâ and âiniquity [lawlessness]â among His people at the end? Do you see this attitude occurring in the worldâs churches in any major way, including the Worldwide Church of God (WCG) remnant? Generally only a fraction of this attitude is found in either place. It is also likely that various ecumenical movements will draw these churches even closer together as time passes and prophecy advances in Europe. In fact, this is already happening.
Consider! What are people in the WCG currently feeling? Also, are the terrible attitudes found among the splinters found there? Absolutely notâbut why? Again ask: How do those still in the WCG feel, and how do they view their leaders? They feel enlightenedâliberated by new âtruthâââtransformed.â They feel thankful that they have grown out of previous âerrorsâ taught to them by Mr. Armstrong and, correspondingly, they feel quite thankful to their leaders, who have taken them in their new direction.
This view includes former brethren who have left the WCG and headed for Protestant churches. These are generally filled with joy, even exuberance. To them, the future looks bright. The world now looks cozy and warm as they âdiscoverâ over two billion new âfellow Christians.â The âloveâ that they feel for their new âJesusâ (II Cor. 11:4) must seem overflowing at times. Yes, they may still hold resentment deep inside toward Mr. Armstrongâbut this may be overshadowed by sympathy for him or a feeling that he would have âcome to see these things for himself given time, so we must be forgiving of the âerrorâ he taught us.â I have heard this.
So, these former friends feel wonderful about the bright path into ânew truthsâ they have taken. It could be said, the devil is also satisfied with them. For now, in a sense, they have his âblessing.â
Now letâs turn the coin over and examine those who stood up for the truth (in full or in part). An entirely different picture emerges! How do these people feel? Also, how do they feel toward their former leaders? They feel betrayedâlied toâsold out! In some cases, they have been victimized by this process several times in various organizations. They are now suspicious and mistrustful and feeling a need to âwatch-dogâ everyone. Amidst this already unstable environment, we must add that there are tares, flatterers, false brethren, false teachers and false prophets, and those who would âkill and think they do God serviceâ (John 16:2). In addition, of those who are converted, prophecy reveals that the great majority are now lukewarm.
We have just described the conditions creating a climate ripe for and filled with âoffense, betrayal, hatred and lawlessness.â Christ understood this 2,000 years ago, and that these are the natural by-products of apostate leaders defecting from the truth and God, and betraying Godâs people wholesale.
Do you understand this?
Now also re-add Satanâs influence in a very different way within the splinters and slivers. He comes armed with all his âdevices,â as the âaccuser of the brethrenâ and a âroaring lionâ toward all converted people there, with no interest in âblessingâ them or their organizations. And prophecy plainly states that his agents will only grow steadily worse (II Tim. 3:13)!
It is vital to recognize that the devil (Matt. 13:24-30) sows tares among the wheat. The Bible is plain about this. Of course, all the âwheatâ departed from the WCG. Remember, tares remain with the wheat until the harvest. This means that probably the deadliest tares departed with the wheat and entered the splinters, because only there can the devil continue to use them to attack, destroy, divide, confuse and generally cause mayhem among Godâs people. Can you see how their presence plays a pivotal role in the conditions that Jesus foretold in Matthew 24?
Can you also now understand why the organization that holds to all of Godâs doctrines is most squarely in harmâs way, and that the âdie is castâ regarding attacks we can expect?
In one extreme instance, just before resigning from our staff, one man actually bragged openly to another employee about his experience in the use of âcampaign tactics.â He explained that he was âtrained to be skilled in the ability to take anything he does, or any situation he is involved in, and spin it in whatever direction necessary for his benefit so that he would come out on top.â He boasted that he was âskilled in deflecting blame from himself and pinning it on others.â It took time, but his sins caught up with him in a big way.
In one sense, the entire age had trainedâand conditionedâthis man to think as he did!
People who are determined to spread mayhem, confusion and destruction can now do so at the speed of electricity, with just a computer and an Internet connection. Not only has knowledge increased, as Daniel prophesied, but access to it is now instantaneously available around the world. Whether that knowledge is good or bad makes no differenceâit is accessible immediately. This allows people to attack, get mad, go to pieces, demand answers or even quit the Church, well before Headquarters could ever respondâeven if we were determined to try to do so, and we are not.
This is part of what Christ meant when He said, in Luke 21:19, âIn your patience possess you your souls [lives].â In a world of instantaneous knowledge, where breaking events carry the potential for tremendous upheaval and confusion, only the most patient will wait for the facts. (How often in the world of political rhetoric do you observe people who are swayed by the first politician or candidate to get their attention with a story?)
Recognize that the future holds many uncertainties that will strike like âthieves in the night.â Christâs coming is not the only event to occur in this way. Othersâmany of them bad, and some very badâwill also happen without notice. When they do, there will be two common responses: (1) âIn your patience possess you your lifeâ or (2) go to pieces and âlose it,â usually to oneâs own destruction.
You must determine how you will handle this endless stream of âthief in the nightâ events foretold to strike all of Godâs people from now throughout the time described by Daniel as âwhen many will be tried, purified and made white.â When you are ambushedâblindsidedâby things that you never could have anticipated you must be prepared.
You must be ready to face a choice.
Chapter Two – The Question of Answering
Since every servant of God either has or will face persecutionâprobably numerous timesâthrough their Christian journey, the central question arises: âWhat to do?â In practical fact, the Christian has to have a position on the reality he faces.
Political opponents and political parties routinely attack each other within the governments of men (most often democracies). This requires clever âpublic relationsâ officers, to be able to deny, deflect, obfuscate, âclarifyâ or in some other fashion answer the existing charge. The world of politics demands a âresponse.â
But the Christian has a choice.
Only Two Options
When one is accused, only two options exist: One, respond to the chargesâusually triggering an ongoing, and sometimes endless, back-and-forth exchange, accomplishing nothing. Two, sit silent and passiveâwhich will inevitably be considered either arrogance and proof of guilt, or cavalier and uncaring. So the issue becomes a kind of catch-22, with both options, humanly speaking, carrying big liabilities for the accused. The victim usually cannot win.
Anyone who has ever been falsely accused can understand the tremendous temptation to âset the record straightââto jump in and bat down falsehoods with the real facts. No one likes to be attacked or accused. But when this happens, what should a Christian do? There have been times in the past when I was sorely tempted to write an answer refuting a false accusation. There have also been times when I answered my accusers. It rarely did any good.
Perhaps this excerpt from a letter sent to me at a time when I was under intense false accusation explains it best. It eloquently describes the task of trying to neutralize false accusations: âIt is harder to endure a false accusation than a true one because a true accusation can be repented of. However, a false accusation you can only try to repudiate and no one seems to believe you anyway. Maybe this is what God meant when He said His people would endure âpersecution for My Nameâs sake.â After all, isnât [all] persecution unjust?â
How true. Yet, persecutionâsometimes very intense persecution, coupled with terrible false accusationâis inseparable from the life of a true follower of Christ. The Bible teaches, in II Timothy 3:11-12 (where Paul was speaking of himself), ââŚwhat persecutions I endured: but out of them all the Lord delivered me. Yes, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.â
Do you believe this scripture? It is plain, and leaves no âwiggle roomâ for Christians to avoid what Paul said happens to âALL.â Thankfully though, God always delivered himâfrom all persecution! He will do the same for all others who trust Him.
The next two verses in II Timothy 3 are particularly instructive for Christians living in the end time. It is no accident that they follow the subject of persecution in context.
Notice: âBut evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceivedâ (vs. 13). Verse 14 explains what Christians must do when victimized by attacks: âBut continue you in the things which you have learned and have been assured of, knowing of whom you have learned them.â Each spirit-begotten person has a personal responsibility in this.
Paul did not answer his accusers. He recognized that nothing in Godâs Word states that constant explanations should be given to counter persecution and accusations. You will not find this anywhere in the Bible. A Christianâs âanswerâ to attacks today is to continue steadfastly holding toââcontinuing inââthe truths we learned from God through Mr. Armstrong.
I have been forced to accept that many false and outrageous rumors have circulated about me since the beginning of The Restored Church of God, and really long before. Partly as a result, a variety of people have repeatedly âprophesiedââand some actively soughtâour destruction virtually since our inception. These rumors are ridiculous and some are actually the very opposite of the truth.
Here is the truth. Although we never trust in size or numbers in Godâs Church, steady growth occurs continually. We also receive an encouraging and rapidly growing number of regular inquiries from across the world, and this has been happening (and increasing) for a long time. Though we certainly lost some bitter, accusative people at our Headquarters very early in our development, and occasionally thereafter, we continue to see significant annual growth. The peace and unity (Psa. 133) that we enjoy in all of our local congregations, including Headquarters, is truly extraordinary, with brethren everywhere around the world almost invariably staying for hours after Sabbath services. It has been wonderful to see so many of Godâs people standing together in complete unity. This is simply not experienced in the same way in other groups. Jude 12 speaks of âfeasts of charity [love],â and this has become a model for what our Sabbaths are like wherever brethren are together.
But, again, with absolutely no warning whatsoever, some whom I thought I knew well chose at our outset to walk away because they could not have things their way. Decisions were not being made the way these people thought that they shouldâby our first seeking input from them. They exploded with a series of distorted charges, mostly stemming from disappointment over one local member who was no longer going to be hired, and another who was no longer going to be used in the same way. In the end, they simply did not see the big picture of what God was doing. Of course, this is the end of the age and surprise defections must be expected. Sadly, and this is also to be expected, they took their attack to the Internet.
(The interested reader may wish to read the thorough brochure Do You Know âDavid Packâ? â My Life and MinistryâRumors and Lies vs. Facts and Truth. From time to time, when circumstances called for it, Mr. Armstrong would explain the details of a situation that was either misunderstood or misrepresented. I have followed his pattern in this regard. Of course, some rumors are so ludicrous and bizarre that they do not merit attention. For the fuller picture, my two-volume biography is also available.)
Answering Every Charge
In Matthew 24, Christ was asked, âWhat shall be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the world?â Later, He said, âAnd then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one anotherâ (vs. 10). In verse 12, He added, âAnd because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax [grow] cold.â In such an age, if one were to try to address every accusation, the process would be endless. After each answer had been given, in the end, it would have done no real good. After all, would you not expect that people who invent outrageous charges would also invent clever denials of their victimâs explanations?
Of course, they would.
If I took the time to answer every charge against me, from now until Christ returns, Satan will have effectively rendered me useless as Godâs tool, no longer able to serve His peopleâtied up in an endless process accomplishing very little. This policy may offend those who expect me to answer every accusation that human beings can dream up. (Foolishly, of course, some organizations do try to answer to the people in this way.) But I have learned that if I were able to satisfy such people, who may leave or reject Godâs Church if not given an âadequate explanation,â then if they did receive such an explanation, it would probably only last until the next attack against me or the Church, requiring yet another âadequate explanation.â Besides, doing this is physically and emotionally exhausting, and consumes great amounts of time. Christ asked, âAre there not twelve hours in a day?â
How do I feel when falsely accusedâor when others of our ministers experience this? Jesus taught that âblessed are you, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for My sake. rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophetsâŚâ (Matt. 5:11-12).
I have had to learn over the years to feel âblessedâ and to ârejoice,â and to be âexceeding gladâ in the face of slander and accusation. Why? Because I have had to make many unpopular decisions throughout my ministry. As a result, âall manner of evilâ charges have been said against me falsely, effectively forcing meâand our staffâto focus on our reward! In The Restored Church of God, we do this, and teach others to do the same!
Suppose I Did Answer?
What might happen if I answered every charge or accusation leveled at me or Godâs Church? The answer is what has happened when people attempt to do thisâit generates an even more vicious response from the accuser. I have watched people, whom I knew and loved dearly, literally explode with venom, in ways that were stunning!
Accusers do this because they must re-justify their position when they feel threatened by a plausible response to their charges. Of course, almost no one thinks his charges are implausible. That is why Solomon wrote, âAll the ways of a man are right [and clean] in his own eyesâ (Prov. 16:2; 21:2). If people level a charge, no matter how false it may be, they have probably long since brought themselves to believe it. Once this has happened, it usually pours out unchecked, accompanied by a spirit of emotional offensive mixed with defensiveness. Now attackers have staked their reputation on it. They must defend their charges because they are vested in them, and because their âhonorâ is at stake. Interestingly, such people will usually bring themselves to believe that they are now being attacked, merely because the person they attacked did not roll over and accept it.
Anyone who constantly answers silly accusations is unwise, because this will usually incite the accuser to invent worse charges.
Christ Fiercely Attacked
Jesus Christ was called demon-possessed, treasonous, drunkard, friend of publicans and sinners, blasphemer, bastard, heretic, ignorant and more all through His ministry. Of course, these are terrible charges to level at anyone. But Jesus was perfect. Yet, this did not stop Him from being crucified. So, can any imperfect human realistically hope to avoid persecution?
Since the Bible declares that the âjust shall live by faith,â applying Matthew 5:11-12 becomes a supreme test. When vilified, Christians are required to have faith as they apply this verse. Peter explained that when Christ was reviled He âreviled not back againâ (I Pet. 2:21-24). The way He handled His own suffering was for our example. Do you believe these verses? As explained, I have had people attack me suddenly and unexpectedly, publicly airing grievances that they believed others had a ârightâ or âneedâ to know. At such moments, my faith was really put to the test!
Every Christian must accept that, just as Jesus explained, âIf they have persecuted Me, they will persecute you.â No exceptions to this rule for Christians are given. In one sense, not being periodically attacked or falsely accused becomes its own genuine cause for concern, and to ask, âWhy am I an exception?â
Therefore, when people request a formal âresponseâ to personal accusations, this book, along with my previously mentioned biography and related brochure, is our only answer!
Nevertheless, Godâs people live in an evolving world, one where trends and conditions are continually altered and modified by forces at work on societies. Ostriches may bury their heads in the sand and Polyannas may deny obvious realities, but the one led by an abundance of Godâs Spirit walks with eyes and ears wide open.
The Christian examines, understandsâtruly comprehendsâand accepts the new âplaying fieldâ he faces.
Chapter Three – The “Rules” Have Changed
The arrival of the Internet, coupled with a long-time American institution, has forever changed communication and the ârulesâ within the Church of God. Let me explain.
I was blessed to inherit a company from my parentsâ labor (which I sold five years later in 2000). At any given time, we employed a number of people. Sometimes we hired applicants. Sometimes we let employees go. Sometimes we interviewed people and did not hire them. In the world, this is routineâstandard. There were reasons why we hired, did not hire, or released people. Sometimes employees were unhappy in their job, sometimes they performed badly, etc. Normally, they just moved on. Of course, none of this is a revelation. All understand it. Most people in the world go about their business as usual when they change jobsâand it also used to be much the same in Godâs Church when people joined or left its fellowship.
When Mr. Armstrong was alive, people also left the Church on a regular basis. In the late 60s and early 70s, the WCG lost about 600 members per year. While this may seem high, it was growing at 6 to 8 times this rateâso no one thought much about it. By the time Mr. Armstrong died, the Church was averaging about 20 baptisms per dayâ600 per monthâ7,200 per year. This growth was 12 times the number leaving the Church! Again, none thought much about the large numbers of people quietly leaving every year because it was a small percentage of the total. Many, many more were replacing them, and this was the Churchâs overall focus.
There were not at that time the two major factors that are now affecting departures: The Church had not yet been through the apostasy, and personal computers had not yet âblossomedâ into all that they would become.
Together, these changed everything. When disruptions now occur in the Church, everybody has a âstoryâ to tell. The Internet provides them with a vehicle to do this. And dirtmongers are only too eager to help them. When Daniel said, âknowledge shall be increasedâ in the end time, he could not have remotely understood how the computer would play such a large role in this.
Freedom of the Press
Compounding the problem, America and other countries practice the principle of âfreedom of the press.â While this has never been Godâs way, it is certainly the American and modern way. The American Bill of Rights ensures that the flow of âinformationââgood or bad, right or wrongâcan never stop. Therefore, Americans (and citizens of nearly every Western nation) consider access to information not just a privilege but a right. They could not imagine life without all of the various written materials that are made available through this freedomâand the Freedom of Information Act has allowed them to access vast additional amounts of once inaccessible material!
The attitude that people are entitled to complete âopennessâ from all institutions of government has been absorbed into the splinters. An expectation has developed that visiting certain websites, or reading âchurch cultureâ newspapers, is how to get the real story. Now, âinvestigative reportersâ take it upon themselves to âjust report the newsâ happening in the splinters. They view themselves as neutral or acting on Godâs behalf, while distributing every conceivable kind of garbage, filth, muck, sewage, dirt and trash landing on their desks!
Obviously, these âjournalistsâ are not dirtmongers in their own eyes. They see themselves as merely performing an âinformation service.â But they function much like the National Enquirer, The Star or other supermarket tabloids, so popular today. The difference is that they do this on behalf of the many splinters, assuring themselves that God is pleased with their efforts. Actually, these âjournalistsâ directly serve the âgod of this world,â who loves gossip, talebearing, slander, bad news, discord, division and every other form of human disagreement. While God hates these things, the devil and human nature feast on them. But try to tell them God hates what they are doing.
Additionally, most of these âinformation servicesâ link their websites and newspapers. One âserviceâ may specialize in muck, while another specializes in dirt. Still another in sewage, while yet another features trash and garbage. But since they all âcross-pollinate,â one need only stumble onto one source to find a veritable treasure trove of every vile thing under the sunâinstantly available!
You must come to see that, in a host of ways, these sources have rejected Christâs most basic teachings, and have departed from even the fringes of marginal true Christianity.
Letâs present the destructive potential offered by the Internet today in a different light, using a little bit of humor and authorâs license for sake of illustration. Letâs play âWhat ifâŚ?â by supposing that the Internet existed through all ages, and that postings regarding biblical accounts were still available to members of the Church today.
The apostle Paul reported in II Timothy 4:14 that he was attacked by Alexander the coppersmith âwho did him much evil.â (We will look at this reference later in the book in another context.) Of course, Paul offers no details beyond this statement about the specifics of what happened. But letâs ask: What if Alexander had been able to post his side of the story on the Internet at the time? How many brethren then would have felt they needed to read âAlexanderâs sideâ of the matter before they could support an apostle? More important for us, how many among Godâs people today would resist the tendency to study this evil manâs mind because it was still âarchived on the netâ?
Paul also spoke of two men named Hymenaeus and Philetus whose âword does eat like a cancer.â How many in the splinters today would feel that they needed to see this for themselves, if their âwordâ was still available on âhymenaeusandphiletus.comâ? How many brethren would permit this âcancerâ into their heads where it would have an opportunity to take root and spread?
How many would be tempted to read more about Jannesâ and Jambresâ perspective from their website on why Egypt was not such a bad place to live, and the âgarlic and leeksâ there were the best in the world? Would Paulâs report that they had âcorrupt mindsâ (II Tim. 3:8) be sufficient for you to stay away from them?
How many of Godâs people would find it impossible to resist Korahâs explanation on his website of why Moses really was âtaking too much upon [himself]â as the leader over Israel? Take a moment to read this account in Numbers 16, and ask yourself how this would âplay in Peoriaâ today. Do you doubt that some in the age of Laodiceaâwhich you probably realize by now means âthe people rule, judge and decideââwould need to âsee for themselvesâ if he really did rebel, or if Moses just spun it that way because he had the upper hand as the one used to record the book of Numbers, and because he was the one âin chargeâ in ancient Israel?
Similarly, how many would feel that they needed to know the âreal story,â available on Cainâs website, of what Abel had done that threatened him so badly that circumstances forced him to âkill his brotherâ in âself-defenseâ?
What about getting Balaamâs side of events, about how the donkey he was riding could not have been used of God because it had the âattitude of a jackassâ? What if the bereaved widow âMrs. Goliath,â with the rest of her family, had an inside story to tell about the illegal âsecret weaponryâ that David had access to that in fact put her husband at a disadvantage? How many today would then believe a version that Goliath was really âminding his own businessâ when âDavid went out of control in a murderous rageâ?
How many would check out King Herodâs website to see his protestations of innocence regarding charges of slaughtering so many babies and little children around the time of Jesusâ birth?
How many would let curiosity pull them to âjudasiscariot.org,â if this were possible? Have no doubt that the number of visitors to this website would be staggering, and that it would probably become one of the most popular ever.
Do any doubt that Absalom would have employed the use of a website to assist in his plot to seize the kingdom from his father (David)? Do not be under any illusions. Large numbers of âbrethrenâ would visit this site today, just as surely as thousands in the Church who should have known better found themselves wanting to hear what Mr. Armstrongâs disfellowshipped son had to say, even after he had been fired for obvious rebellion, false teaching and massive personal sin. Of course, two or three thousand were already deceived by him 30 years ago and followed his revolt, with even more going with him over time.
Letâs take this to the ultimate degree. Suppose Satan had his own website or newspaper, and that it was explicitly labeled as such. Do any doubt that thousands would be unable to resist âjust seeing what he had to sayâ about events today, all the while assuring themselves that they could not possibly be deceived because the devil was âidentifying himself upfrontâ?
Have No Doubt
Presenting these examples in a somewhat humorous way is done to help bring the realism of what would happen if reports from all these Bible figures were available. Do not doubt for a moment that much more than the little that I have described here would become the subjects of endless debates between an equally endless number of camps of opinion that would form around these fictional websites. And there would almost certainly be other websites created as a direct result of the debates.
Understand the point. God does not offer the particulars of any of the above biblical scenarios and of many other accounts in the Bible because they are not important! He knows that His servants do not need, and should not want, to know the details of these events. He also knows the many kinds of twisted opinions and thinking these Bible figures would offer, if given the opportunity through todayâs technology. You should also know this.
Do not kid yourself that if the opinions and musings of all these (in)famous Bible personalities were available on easily accessible websites that thousands in the splinters would not be eagerly reading their reportsâand if these men were still alive to periodically âupdateâ their sites, many would regularly peruse those sites to see what was the latest posting. The result would be doubt, suspicion, accusation, division and an almost incalculable amount of confusionâvia plain gossipâbeing spewed throughout the splinters.
In reality, all of what has been described here is exactly what is happening today. Only the names have been changed.
Do you care what Internet and junk ânews-mongersâ have to say? Do you enjoy âsurfingâ through refuse? If so, then you are endorsing these peopleâs right to mudsling, and you are opening your mind to the thinking of the devilâs most perverse agents. This means that you love what God hates! Be careful that He does not find you with âitching earsâ seeking âteachersâ of vile, rotten, awful storiesâwhether true or false!
Remember, if there were no willing ears, there could be no talebearing mouths!
The Buck Stops Here
Today, when things do not go as what many who are thought to be brethren wish, some respond as would the world. The âbad guyâ is almost invariably the ministerâor the man in charge at Headquartersâbecause âthe buck stopsâ there.
Since I am the leader of The Restored Church of God, I recognize that the buck stops with me. I also realize that my decisions may not always be popular. But I have no intention of routinely responding to disgruntled ex-members, ex-ministers or ex-employees. I intend to do what Mr. Armstrong did. Fortunately, he did not have to contend with the Internet, where people can so easily air their distorted grievances. He continued to even more strongly and boldly teach the truth and do the Work, understanding that people who were fastened to that would not have time to or interest in the stories about him.
A new phenomenon has appeared in Americaâthe âfired postal-worker syndrome.â Terminated employees are now sometimes said to have âgone postal.â At one point, in Honolulu, an employee, angry over his announced termination, shot and killed seven people. The next day, a similar incident occurred in a Seattle fish market. The very day after that, another incident occurred in Brazilâand so on.
In todayâs awful, violent generation, this is a scene that plays out often. Thinking themselves victims of injustice, ex-employees are driven by insane rage to go on a murderous rampage, seeking to cause as much mayhem, destruction, confusion and death as possible. It is as though someone must pay for whatever happened to themâand it is often the boss and fellow workers. Of course, terrorists now carry out these same things in a vastly more extreme and coordinated way around the world.
We have long known that events and trends in the world are eventually reflected in the Churchâand that there are many ways in which this is true. These trends are affecting Godâs people much more than they realize. You need to see conditions for what they are!
In the past, within the Church, when someone terminated an employee, that person, although often upset and sometimes to the point of walking away from everything, would simply get another job. Today, however, some ex-employees âgo wildâ and âlose it,â often resulting in a murderous rampage of slander. Godâs Church today has lived through several such rampages by people who did not get what they wanted or who secretly harbored doctrinal disagreements. They used the Internet as their weapon of choice. While they failed, these experiences taught us! They should also teach you!
Smiting Fellow Servants
In Matthew 24, Jesus described other signs preceding His Return. Verses 48 to 51 describe those who fall into the thinking of âMy Lord delays His coming.â Such people seem to assume that this age will continue indefinitely. Jesus states that this mindset brings with it wrong forms of conductâthat certain people cease to live the Christian way. This is the real problem described here.
Many seem to think that all Church problems in the end time are doctrinal, but this is not true! Actually, Matthew 24 describes problems of Christian behavior and of doctrinal belief. Christ knew that where either one exists, the other soon appears. Notice that He referenced the âevil servantsâ who âbegin to beat their fellow servants, and to eat and drink with the drunkenâ (vs. 49). These verses depict grave conduct problems in some called âbrethren.â Incredibly, such people usually still see themselves as Godâs servants! Of course, they will not be ready for Christâs Return and will lose out on eternal life. Jesus literally says of these that He âwill cut [them] in two.â This is a serious warning for all who wish to understand and avoid what is happening throughout the splinters in the end-time.
Jesus promised, âthe gates of hell shall not prevail against [the Church]â (Matt. 16:18). We believe this. But, when members or ministers leave, we now expect some of them to try to subtly destroy us. When necessary, some will âinvent evil thingsâ (Rom. 1:30). They will also try to gather like-minded people to validate themselves. If they fail to achieve their end, some will intensify their attack, and we expect them to smite their former fellow servants. You must understand this!
Christ compared the âlast daysâ to the âdays of Noah.â Genesis 6 reveals that the chief characteristic of that time was âthe earth was filled with violence.â We should expect at least some spiritual âviolenceâ to be directed toward the Church.
This enormous prophecy has been forgotten!
There are a long list of reasons brethren may leave or have to be put out of the Church (and the latter has been extremely rare). The same is true of employees. Try to imagine how many things can occur when dealing with human beings in any setting. Now make the setting a Church headquarters office or congregation. There can be hurt feelings, jealousy, insubordination, taking sides, people wanting their own way, inexperience, lying, incompetence, negligence, presumptuousness, bitterness, hate, doctrinal disagreement, contention, pride (which Proverbs 13:10 says brings contention), politics and jockeying for position, inflexibility, impatience, anger, over-familiarity, stressful conditions, resentment, criticism, differences of opinion, dysfunctional marriages or family life being brought to the office, personality clashes, etc. (We are very blessed in that we have only a tiny fractionâvirtually noneâof any of these kinds of problems.)
There are endless things that can and do contribute to problems in an office setting. Those living or working togetherâand actually experiencing the problemsâcannot always understand or solve them. How, then, can people far away even remotely understand what is happening? The answer is simpleâthey cannot! More importantly, God has not appointed them to try. But they do anywayâoften to their own and othersâ hurt!
The dynamics of how and why people believe accusations is fascinating. Almost invariably, they believe, and look for, whatever confirms their own feelings. They basically view information in a way that strengthens their current belief or position. Dynamite will not change one who believes that he has sufficient âfactsâ to confirm what he has already decided. If you see this natural tendency in yourself, you are part of a special small minority.
Chapter Four – Mr. Armstrong Faced Relentless Attack
When I was first writing this book, a long, vicious email arrived that had been sent to 40 others by a bitter person. Its sole purpose was to assassinate Mr. Armstrongâs character in the most awful way. Tragically, the writer seemed to conjure up every evil motive that she could attribute to virtually everything that he might have ever said, thought or done! Interestingly, due to a quirk of human nature, the author, in the end, was probably describing her own character. Though I did not know this woman, she chose to âenlightenâ me without my solicitation. Such is our time.
In the years I knew Mr. Armstrong, he privately expressed some of the things about which people were attacking him. While these charges never deterred him, they certainly did sober him. Some of what was said about him was so outrageous, so appalling, that it did occasionally affect him. This was particularly true when such slander came from those he felt he had known and trusted for a long time.
I am very thankful that I saw this part of Mr. Armstrongâs character and leadershipâhow he handled attacks on his person. It caused me to develop tremendous respect for his great strength of will in the face of extreme persecution. I watched accusation, slander and character assassination actually empower, strengthen and drive him on, with attacks seeming to forge and galvanize his will. Since I have also been attacked over principle and doctrine many times throughout my ministry, I have tried to practice his steady example, allowing accusations and false charges to strengthen and even inspire me. Like Mr. Armstrong, I have learned to see them for what they areâincluding who is behind them.
Like David, when his son Absalom conspired against him, I have learned that the worst attacks generally come from those who are close to the victim. How often did Mr. Armstrongâs family attack and even threaten to destroy him?
Judas kissed Christ and had charge of the treasury when he betrayed Him for money. Whether it is David, Mr. Armstrong or Christ, it is usually those closest to the accused who perpetrate the attack. Directly related, I have noticed that it is often those to whom I have tried to be the most giving, patient or merciful who so quickly turn and smite the Church or me. As with Mr. Armstrong, familiarity bred contempt. In the end, kindness is often used against the one extending it.
Now let me tell you about a strangely encouraging letter I received. Follow my reasoning carefully. This one included a long list of 54 separate charges made directly against Mr. Armstrong. It happened to arrive when I was under a severe attack.
This list was so vile, awful, dark and Satanic, as to defy one personâs ability to do all the things of which he was accusedâeven if he tried! And I thought of rumors that I had heard about Mr. Armstrong that were not on this list. The person who sent me the letter said it took him only 13 minutes to construct it from various websites. He wrote that he found âmoreâŚmuch moreâ that he could have included. The message for me was obvious.
Of course, the sender did not agree with the charges, but had used them to show that if the one who was Christâs apostle, and a type of Moses, could be accused of such things, then what was said of me was pitiful by comparison. I was encouraged and decided that I should be embarrassed to feel sorry for myself, considering what was said about Mr. Armstrongâor others of Godâs servants before him. Of course, I am concerned for any who could be shaken or turned away by false charges about me or the Church.
Mr. Armstrong simply never answered his accusers. He knew that each time he was attacked, God somehow always later blessed him in a greater way, often immediately following the attack. We have seen the same pattern here. The more we are accused, slandered and attacked, the more we seem to thrive, and it seems that the more people prophesy our demise, the faster we grow. We have come to expect that when attacks occur, God is (and has been) readying us for some greater task!
Mr. Armstrong and Employees
Did Mr. Armstrong ever deal with disgruntled or dissident people at Headquarters? He didânumerous times! The Church had 1,200 employees at one point, and all of them had human nature. Consider this quote explaining his policy. Though written nearly 40 years ago, its towering wisdom is timeless:
âWhat organization, church, college or important enterprise is there which does not have a fewâpossibly former members or employees, or those who have had some former contactâwho are dissidents, hostile and bitter or prejudiced?
âIt seems those who, for a sensational story of broadcast, attack this Work, seek out only those very few dissident and bitter enemies of the Work, and are willing to broadcast or print every defaming thing these enemies will say against us without checking the facts. They never seem interested in checking with the 75,000 members and many thousand other Co-Workers. They imply false motives, employ clever and deceptive innuendoes, and give false and misleading impressionsâŚ
âCo-Workers, this wouldnât BE the very Work of God UNLESS it was being persecuted! Our persecutors themselves PROVE this is the very Work of God! We do not invite persecution. We try to avoid it. But the living Christ and YOUR BIBLE says we will get persecution and false accusation. In this world, we have to expect at the best, careless journalism, and at the worst, irresponsible journalism.
âLet us remember we are mindful of the assurance of our very Savior: âBlessed are they which are persecuted for righteousnessâ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you, when men shall revile you, and persecute you and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. REJOICE, and be exceedingly glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before youâ (Matthew 5:10-12).
âThis very persecution INSPIRES us to GO FORWARD with renewed enthusiasm, faith, and determination! Our God is still on His Throne. The living Christ will never leave nor forsake us. Let us never forsake Him. He is constantly opening more and greater doors to get His Work going to more and more people with increased IMPACT! Letâs follow where He leads, in HIS POWER!â
Co-worker Letter, May 25, 1972
All readers should draw strength from this quote and the others to follow.
Mr. Armstrongâs Policy
Most people are completely unaware that Mr. Armstrong long held the policy of not answering his accusers and stated it more than once. Consider not only what he said but also why he said it. The Restored Church of God is determined to hold to what Mr. Armstrong taughtâwith this including even practical matters of good judgmentâand he taught the policy of not answering accusers. He did this because the Bible teaches it. So will we!
Hear his own words on the matter (italics mine):
âApril 25th I sent you the most difficult and painful announcement I have ever had to make in a Co-Worker letter. Since then certain newspapers, publications and broadcasts have made scurrilous, deceptive and misleading attacks on the Work of God, filled with fallacious, distorted, exaggerated and false accusations.
âIt has never been our practice to answer false accusers or persecutors, nor to attack or accuse others.
â1941 years ago, the chief priests, elders and all the Council at Jerusalem sought false witnesses against Jesus, to put Him to death. (Matt. 26:59) âAt the last came two false witnesses, and said, This fellow said, I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days. And the high priest arose, and said unto Him, Answerest thou nothing? What is it, which these witness against thee? But Jesus held His peace.â Jesus did not answer His false accusers. He was not hung in effigyâHE WAS CRUCIFIED in person AND KILLED!
âThis is HIS WORK! He, the resurrected, living Jesus Christ, is the HEAD of this Work. He guides, directs, and inspires it through the power of the Holy Spirit. Its FRUITS bear ample witness. Christâs own Gospel is preached and proclaimed to the MILLIONS as a witness worldwide. Thousands of lives have been changed, made happy, received Godâs Holy Spirit, made heirs of God and Joint-heirs with Christ, to inherit eternal life.
âJesus Christ is IN this Work. He said He would never leave nor forsake it. But, on the other hand, He also said, âIf they have persecuted me, they will also persecute youâŚâ But, again, the Apostle Paul wrote: âIf so be that we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in usâ (Rom. 8:17-18)âŚâ
âThe Church of God was persecuted, almost from the beginning. At the beginning of the 8th chapter of the Book of Acts, two years after founding of the Church of God, it is recorded: âAnd at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem, and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.â
âLater, when the Apostle Paul arrived in Rome, the Jews there said to him, regarding the church, âas concerning this sect, we know that everywhere it is spoken againstâ (Acts 28:22).â
Co-worker Letter, May 25, 1972
Letâs examine one more of Mr. Armstrongâs statements, this time in the form of a question and answer of over forty years ago:
âQUESTION: âWhy donât you answer critics, persecutors, and accusers PUBLICLY?â ANSWER: As Jesus said, if we were of this world â part of it â a participant in its ways, and its religious teachings and ways â the world would love us, for it loves its own. But we are not of this world, and we speak not its doctrines and false gospels, but that of Jesus Christ. Jesus said, âIf they have persecuted me, they will persecute you.â SO, we do receive some persecution. Satan is the accuser of the brethren in Christ (Rev. 12:10). His ministers pose as ministers of Christ (II Cor. 11:13-15), but they do the works of Satan (John 8:44). âWhen he (Jesus) was accused of the chief priests and elders, he answered nothingâ (Matt. 27:12). We are HIS servants, following His steps â therefore we, likewise, answer nothing. And we do not accuse or persecute others!!
âJesus said we shall be known, not by words, either of accusation, or defense, but BY THE FRUITS PRODUCED. We are commissioned to âPREACH THE WORDâ which we do fearlessly â not to accuse others, or engage in controversy and debate. We are commanded to âstrive not about words to no profitâ (II Tim. 2:14), but to âPREACH THE WORDâ (II Tim. 4:2) which we doâŚThose are the fruits. While persecutors waste time persecuting and falsely accusing, the Living Jesus Christ guides, blesses, and prospers this Work. We must be about our Fatherâs business, not getting into arguments with false accusers. If you want to know about us, or this Work, ASK US â not the enemies of the true Gospel â and weâll tell you the TRUTH.â
Letter to all employees and brethren, May 25, 1965
We have been forced to live the wisdom of Mr. Armstrongâs policy. I found his reasons instructive, and we intend to continue in his wisdom. This must suffice for all who would have me constantly âaddress the specificsâ of future charges.
Mr. Armstrong was attacked throughout his life. I will not let myself think that it couldâor willâbe different for me. This is because of my office, and because we teach the exact same truths that the apostles and prophets of ages past taught. Godâs Church is determined to retain all Bible truths in their precise detail. We are the one organization that makes no exceptions. Many groups say they make no exceptions and then proceed to list the exceptions to their âno exceptionâ rule. But Mr. Armstrong would never compromise Godâs truthâneither shall we!
Satanâs hatred for people who teach and live Godâs truth is in direct proportion to how much truth they teach and live! Since we do not intend to ever compromise the restored doctrines of God, we are prepared to suffer his almost continual wrath.
Chapter Five – How the Accused Would Respond
There is one more element of answering accusers that speaks to the obviousâor at least it should explain the obvious.
Most people never actually think through what would happen if a leader (in any setting, the world or the splinter) were confronted with allegations about his conduct of character. They do not seem to understand basic human nature, and how it would control any answers given.
We need to understand a simple dynamic.
Letâs play the game of âjust suppose.â I have done this in one or two other books to the splinters, and it serves our purpose here.
Suppose you heard terrible things about a leader of any organization in the splinters that you were considering joining. (Include me in this scenario.) Now suppose that those things had to do with any one or several of the following things: stealing, lying, adultery, abusive behavior, Sabbath-breaking, etc.
You decide to approach the man. He agrees to talk with you. You express your concerns to him. Then comes the moment of âtruthââyou ask him if the things reported about him are true. In other words, âDo you steal third tithe?â, âDo you secretly break the Sabbath?â, âAre you committing adultery?â, âAre you abusive?â, etc.
How would you expect the man to answer? Before looking further at this, recognize the following. The things you have heard about the man are either true or falseâhe is either innocent or guilty. It must be one or the other, and cannot be both.
I repeat: How would you expect the man to answer? If he is innocent, he will naturally say that he is innocent. But if he is guilty, he will also still say that he is innocent. He will certainly not choose you to receive his sudden, on-the-spot full confession to these sins. Deceitful people should be expected to respond in a manner consistent with their characterâthey will cover their actions with lies. In other words, a man capable of such conductâvarious acts that involve deceitâis certainly not going to suddenly be an honest person just because he is now asked about his behavior. He is going to lie about what he did or is doing. The man can be expected then to give the exact same answer either wayâwhether guilty or innocent!
Can you see this?
So what would have been the purpose of your exercise? What could it possibly have achieved? Absolutely nothing!
Recall Mr. Armstrong just explained that âfruitsâ are the test of a man. Of course, he learned this from Christ in Matthew 7:15-20, where He was speaking of false prophets. Christ did not say to ask the false prophet if he is false. Of course, a false prophet would say he is TRUE! This goes without saying, and Christ knew it.
So should you!
The Test of a Man
The test of a man then must be by some other means. It could not be what the man says or does not say about himself. This includes me.
A vital distinction must be made here. All of a manâs fruits must be determined by a set of criteria subject to independent investigation and corroboration. The manâs assertions about himself play virtually no role in any examination. Christ would never require people to simply âbelieve the manâ as sufficient grounds to follow him. This is what people in the world do with politicians and with their ministers.
A person would have to be able to go to a set standard and confirm or deny the manâs spiritual credentials. These certainly wouldâand couldânever have anything to do with what âpeople say.â As we have seen, people can say anything, and usually do. And again, this can include any given man speaking to his own credibility or characterâin other words, why you should follow him.
So what then is the fruit of a manâs ministry? First, and foremost, he does not, and would never, compromise the truth of God. This towers above all points. But then there are an array of other points, such as the gospel being taken to all nations, and in increasing power, similarly, a warning given to the nations of Israel, conversions occurring, steady growth in size of both the Church and the Work, amount and quality of literature prepared to do the Work, amount and quality of literature to properly feed the flock, blessings of income, the opening of extraordinary doors of opportunity, unusual favor in the eyes of important people or companies, miraclesâhealings, demons cast out (II Cor. 12:12; Matt. 16:16-20)âamong others. Of course, it would be absolutely essential that the man would have a thorough and solid understanding about Godâs government, and he practices it exactly as it was taught to the Church under Mr. Armstrong.
At least briefly consider a related point to whatever mistakes or sins the man might have committed. The authenticity of Godâs leading servant (or any of his servants) does not rest on whether he is or has been perfect. Since no one is perfectâwithout sin (Rom. 3:23)âthis could never be the standard by which fruits are assessed. And God knows this. Many have felt that Mr. Armstrong could not have been an apostle because of what âpeople saidâ about him. While he made mistakes, and certainly committed sinsânothing remotely close to what is reportedânone of these could alter the office that he held!
You should take a moment in your mind just to consider the lives of some of Godâs greatest servants.
Accountable to the People?
In democratic governments, all leaders are ultimately accountable to the people. All of them have been elected through some form of voting. This means that they can either be installed by people, or removed by them, if they do not âdeliver the goodsâ that the electorate desires. We must ask: Do Godâs true ministers and leaders serve either by the will of the people or by the will of other ministers who elected them?
Some of the splinters adopted elective, democratic, ârepresentativeâ government in place of government from the top down, which Mr. Armstrong taught. We will revisit this later. (It is also covered in much more detail in The True Church â One Organization, or Many?, âAnoint Your Eyesâ â Christâs Warning to His People, and in even greater detail in The Government of God â Understanding Offices and Duties. As mentioned above, one of the great tests of a man is whether or not he rejects, compromises or practices faithfully the government of God. This latter book very thoroughly explains that government. These are three of the five most important books to the splinters.)
Referenced earlier, the word Laodicea, derived from two key root words, literally means âthe people rule, judge or decide.â Many either never understood this or have forgotten it. Consider! The Greek word laos means âpeople.â Then, from the Greek word dike comes the English word âdecideâ or âdecision.â This word can also be rendered âruleâ or âjudge.â Some may argue the nuances of these meanings, but there is no disputing that this is what Laodicea means.
Therefore, as referenced earlier, the last era of the Church is best described as the era when the people decide âŚrule âŚjudge!
II Peter 2:10 refers to those who âdespise governmentâ and âspeak evil of dignitiesâ in the âlast days.â An honest look at modern society in most countries of the world presents a startling picture. It has changed radically in recent years. Most people will no longer tolerate much from their governments. The citizenry of western nations do routinely hate government and speak evil of civil offices over them. Look at how many protests fill the news from across the world. In fact, these governments have come to be under virtual siege from a myriad of factions and special interest groups, which are either blaming them for wrongs, demanding action on issues or calling for investigations to âget at the truth.â
âScandalgatesâ of every sort have left people deeply cynical and mistrusting of almost all authority. Romans 8:7 states that human nature has never been subject to God and His Law (or any other law). What has always been a natural tendency in human beings has now become much worse in this age. Open rebellion has become the prevailing attitude around the world!
Now look at Godâs people. A similar mistrust has developed due to government abuse, scandal and false teaching, beginning at the very top. As a result, many have felt they should take government into their own hands. But the membership does not rule in Godâs ChurchâGOD DOES! Mr. Armstrong understood that this is one of the greatest teachings in the Bible, and we all once believed it. But a funny thing happened on the way through the apostasy. Everything changed! Many came to believe government could only be âkept in checkâ if members and the ministry (and to a lesser degree, members) actively participated in it themselves!
People now began to trust themselvesâinstead of Godâto lead His Church. Yet God, through Solomon, declared that âHe that trusts in his own heart is a foolâ (Prov. 28:26). Also read Proverbs 16:2 and 21:2. Feeling themselves âburnedâ too many times, very few any longer trustâhave faith in!âthe all-powerful, living Christ to lead His Church.
This almost certainly includes you.
God Always Knew
God understood that end-time conditions would spawn the last era of His Churchâwhen the people decideâŚruleâŚjudge. Therefore, this era appeared right on schedule exactly as God foretold. Nothing is out of control! But, while none of Godâs people should be confused, most are. This need not be.
There has always been one true Churchâone organized Body of Christ. There are, however, two co-existing conditions at the end of the age. One is large and dominant, and the other is smallâof âlittle strengthâ (Rev. 3:8)! But both groups eventually all reside in the one Church Jesus Christ built.
You must carefully read The True Church â One Organization, or Many? This book paints a complete picture of how Godâs Church has always been unified, under one government, with all of Godâs peopleâall those who are Spirit-ledâin one organization. (Of course, the GOVERNMENT OF GOD book also relates to this subject.)
Jeremiah spoke of conditions in the modern nations of Israel just prior to Christâs Return. What he describes is not pretty. In chapter 2, God speaks of an attitude that has developed in the nations of modern-day Israelâthe United States, Canada, Great Britain and others.
Carefully notice: âWherefore [why] say My people, We are lords; we will come no more unto Youâ (vs. 31). The next verse explains that national, physical Israel has âforgotten God days without number.â This prevailing, worldly, end-of-the-age attitude has deeply affected Godâs people.
Many are simply no longer willing to let Christ rule His Church, stating about themselves that âI am not into âcontrolâ anymore.â Each person wants to be his own lordââhis own manââwith a ânobodyâs telling ME what to doâ attitude. When things go wrong, most (ministers and laymembers) lash out because they will not any longer be ruled. They come to their own decisionsâtheir own judgmentsâon almost everything to do with the Church and Work. As a result, the âhatred, betrayal and offenseâ (Matt. 24:10) that Jesus prophesied would appear in the Church prior to His Return arrived, and in the worst way. It has allowed most to easily justify the âevery man for himselfâ approach to governing the Church. Now, the tail largely wags the dog.
Woe to leaders who will not cave to the will of the many âlordsâ who have come to rule the Church in place of Christ! The pope takes the title Vicar (meaning âin place ofâ) of Christ. The age of many would-be âVicars of Christâ has appeared in the splinters. Yet, ironically, when confronted with correction or instruction, it is these very same people who will accuse the minister of thisâof getting between them and Christ!
The result has been that some will now take their individual pastor to task in ways never before seen.
In 1979, the Church of God suffered a âsea changeâ in how some came to believe that they could supplant Christâs leadership of His Church through human intervention.
Here is what happened.
In January of that year, six misguided former members of the WCG hired an attorney âto bring Mr. Armstrong to justiceâ for supposed wrongdoing. These six ârelatorsâ (a legal term) took it upon themselves to address what they perceived was âwrong in Pasadena.â They sought a judgeâs assistance, and an exparte hearing took place (meaning without one of the two parties involved present or even informed of the meeting). The judge appointed a receiver and the infamous assault on the Church ensued. It lasted almost two years and brought many important lessons, almost all of which have been forgotten by so many of Godâs people!
Outrageous charges of misconduct and misspending were leveled against Mr. Armstrong. These covered supposed offenses so egregious that extraordinaryâand truly extremeâmeasures slammed immediately into place. This was all made possible by the willingness of just six Church âbrethrenâ to take matters into their own hands. Of course, they failed. But before they did, their reckless, misguided âzealâ caused major disruption in the Work.
Parallel circumstances exist today. There are now similar âbrethrenâ who feel that it is their prerogative to use Matthew 18:15 to address perceived misconduct in the ministry. In a terrible misapplication of this verse, some have come to feel that they can gather witnesses and approach a minister with their âcharges.â When the accused minister does not accede to and/or ârepentâ of the charges, these âbrethrenâ then declare him to be âa heathen man and a publicanâ (vs. 17). (Lower-ranking ministers also occasionally get into the act with their leaders.) They do this by taking it âto the Church,â which means the Internet and anywhere else they can slander him publicly. Writing hideous, untrue letters, they use any and all forums that will help them spread their âchargesââand their âfindings.â The goal is to reach as many people as possible in order to assassinate the character of a minister whom they could not control.
The attack can be murderous!
Invariably, some people will eagerly believe the accusations, and even thank such people for their efforts. In turn, this confirms to the accuser(s) that a high and noble purpose has been servedâpeople have been âenlightenedâââhelped.â
Recognize that the Church never understood this verse to mean that brethren, on their own authority, could publicly assassinate ministers or other brethren, through âinvestigationâ and âtrial.â We have always known that the last step of Matthew 18:15 is carried out from the top downânever the bottom up!
Any Two or Three?
Letâs examine this: Can any two or three brethren remove a minister of God by merely alleging misconduct or false teaching on his part? Could any group of brethren from various parts of the country target a minister whom they did not like or agree with, and actually remove him from office? Does the Bible permitâeven authorizeâthis? Consider! If your answer is either âyesâ or âmaybe,â then you are saying that any minister of God can be held hostage to dissidents in the Church who decideâfor any reasonâthat it is in their interest to remove him. This is exactly what one must conclude in order to start a âproceedingâ against a particular minister or ministers. If they are indeed true ministers, then, in effect, GOD can be taken hostage in the same action!
Can you see this?
Now think of how many people do not like or agree with their minister, particularly in this age. There are countless numbers, and a thousand books could be filled with their reasons! Under such thinking, all true ministers would have to spend their entire ministry hoping against hope that they never offended any two or more people in their pastorates, or they could find themselves the object of Matthew 18:15. Recall Mr. Armstrongâs statement quoted earlier about how similar people eventually always seem to find each other.
Do you see the preposterous illogic of such a dissident action? Take it to its limit.
Any two or three people could then have removed Mr. Armstrong at any point in his ministry! Again, in 1979, six tried through the worldâs courtsâbut FAILED! Would anyone doubt that there were hundreds, or even thousands, of members who wished to remove him over the course of his lifetime? Of course there were! (In reality, the false leaders who succeeded him, and sought to silence the truth, prove this.)
Did Matthew 18:15 require an apostle of Christ to sit throughout his ministryâfor 55 yearsâhoping not to offend what would be several people in Denver, Dallas, Dubuque, or Detroit, because this âlynch mobâ might have removed him if he had? When thought of this way, it makes even considering the idea ludicrous.
The passage instructs, âGo to your brother,â not âGo to your minister.â This is not because ministers are above the law, nor does it mean that you could not talk to your minister if you did not understand one of his actions or decisions. It is because a true minister cannot be removed by any except God Himself, usually through His faithful senior ministers. Even then, of course, they must have right reasons for doing this! (This becomes its own great reason why Godâs people must go in search of the government of God and not stop their pursuit until they find it.)
There were numerous men around Mr. Armstrong who wanted to get rid of him. And some worked quietly behind the scenes toward this end. If they had succeeded, God would have literally lost His chosen apostle as human leader of His Church. In other words, the Head of the Church would have called and trained His servant for years, in preparation for His great purpose at the endâplanned 6,000 years agoâonly to watch a handful of rebellious dissidents thwart His entire plan. If you see that peopleââbrethrenâ or âministersââcould never be permitted to do this to Mr. Armstrong, then it should be equally clear that it cannot be done to any true minister!
Romans 16:17 does say, however, that brethren are to âmark them which cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which you have learned; and avoid them.â We have long understood that âmarkâ means to âtake note of.â Of course, if any member anywhere was authorized to mark any minister for any reason (real or imagined) at any time, the Church would have immediately descended into absolute chaos long ago!
Do you see this?
Brethren certainly should note false or compromising, lukewarm ministersâand avoid themâmeaning they should diligently study and hold to the undiluted true doctrines of God. While they ought to be careful in their actions while they apply this, it is a clear biblical command. In fact, all of us did this when we left the WCG. While most no longer will, every Christian must obey Romans 16:17-18. But this passage does not license people or organizations to slander, defame, libel, attack or assassinate a minister whenever they see fit. This is the simple truth of how the Church has always handled these matters in the past!
One additional point to consider: If a minister is removed by his superiors because he will not stop teaching elements of the truth, in other words, because they cannot compromise him, but he is charged with âdividing the Churchâ or âsowing discord,â with charges of âmisconductâ as âthrow-insâ to try to legitimize it, it is a bogus removal. Would Mr. Armstrong have ever allowed ministers to remove him in this fashion, particularly when he knew that their real motivation was disagreement with his (Godâs) teachings?
I have been either put on trial, fired or demoted a total of 12 times on issues of doctrine and principles of truth. Believe me, I know a âkangaroo courtâ when I see one. So did Mr. Armstrong. Nevertheless, if I were the devil, I would do everything I could think of to use my agents to set up such a âcourtâ in order to expel an uncompromising, faithful minister anytime I could. Recognize that Satan seeks to do this because he knows some are foolish enough to believe his âorder of the courtâ charade.
Do you understand this?
No passage or account in the Bible records âbrethrenâ ever collaborating apart from Headquarters (it must be on track) to remove even a false minister. Hopefully, you now clearly understand why no such account exists.
Another factor has come into greater play in recent years and it is growing worse.
Playing the âGotchaâ Game
Understand this basic fact of Scripture about the men God is using. The Bible records no examples of men risking their lives or reputations to openly and fearlessly preach the truth of God, while secretly practicing lives full of sin. However, it is full of examples of great servants who did, at times, sinâsometimes in a big way! And it records that they always repented just as âbig.â But none ever evidenced a life-long pattern of secret, deep corruption or immoral conduct, visible to just two, three or a handful of supposed âwitnesses.â
Of course, âAll have sinned, and come short of the glory of Godâ (Rom. 3:23). I have sinned and will, no doubt, sin again in this lifetime. Perfection has never been Godâs standard for whether He will work through a man. If it were, God would never use anyone because no one could measure up.
This is the very reason that growing numbers have come to believe that all ministers now have disqualified themselves, and âno one has authority over anyone, anymore.â
Psalm 130:3 states, âIf You, Lord, should mark iniquitiesâŚwho shall stand?â If the test of Christianity, or oneâsâanyoneâsâministry, were perfection, then only Christ would pass it. But God does not âmarkâ iniquities or seek to âget thingsâ on people. Rather, verse 4 says, âBut there is forgiveness with You, that You may be feared.â Godâs mercy is what leads people to want to fear Him.
While God does not âmarkâ sins or âkeep scoreâ (I am not referring to a lifelong pattern of sin and corruption), again, more people are today marking the sins of others. They seem to play an endless game of âgotcha,â only too eager to âcast the first stoneâ against supposed wrongdoers. Of course, they do not want God to cast stones at them. But they seem oblivious to His instructions about not doing it to others. In the end, such people rarely come to recognize their own conduct for what it is. To them, mirrors are to show others their sins, not to see the âdirtâ on their own faces (Jms. 1:22-25).
This introduces an important account in Christâs ministry.
âTo Catch Him in His Wordsâ
Jesus was tempted on two occasions by people hoping to catch Him misspeaking. In Mark 12:13, certain Pharisees and Herodians came questioning Christ âto catch Him in His words.â In Luke 11:53-54, the Scribes and Pharisees âurged vehementlyâ and âprovokedâ Christ âto get Him to speak of many things.â These hypocrites tried to get Him to talk a lot. Notice this account states that they were âlaying wait for Him, and seeking to catch something out of His mouth that they might accuse Him.â
Godâs leaders are in a difficult position. None have the wisdom to give the perfect answers that Jesus always gave. In fact, James 3:2 states of teachers, âFor in many things we offend allâŚif any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect manâŚâ Since no man is perfect in word, we can expect to say things that are wrong. I certainly do. I believe that I have a little dyslexia, which brings occasional âglitchesâ and âstuttersâ to my speaking. I periodically say words that I did not intend to. But then Moses was a stutterer, so I am at least in good company. The point is that anyone seeking to catch me or any minister âin words,â will be able to easily do this. All ministers mis-speak from time to time. Therefore, people looking to catch them will usually succeed.
Some have actually sat for hours, using a computer and a tape recorder, to catch me in mistakes. Sometimes what they extracted was incredible. Pauses in speech, along with context, grammar and inflection disappear (as often does the accuracy) when people reported that they âheardâ something. If people tried to catch Christ and Mr. Armstrong in their words, then I can hardly be an exception.
Ministers Can Also Be âSheep Among Wolvesâ
In Matthew 10:16, Christ sent His disciples to preach the kingdom of God, heal the sick and cast out demons. Notice what He said to men who would go on to be apostles: âBehold, I send you [even apostles] forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be you therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues [churches]âŚâ
You have probably always thought of sheep as sheep and shepherds as shepherds, with little or no overlap. Yet, Godâs ministers are sheep as much as are the sheep themselves. Obviously, wolves would love to devour shepherds more than individual members of a flock.
Think! If a wolf could destroy a faithful shepherd, how many sheep could he more easily slaughter? Obviously, Christ understood this, and that is one reason He warned His disciples to beware of men. Faithful ministers will take note.
I have learned that Jesus Christ knew what He was talking about. I know what it means to be âdelivered up to the Councilsâ and âscourged in the Church.â It is this painful learning process that has made clear to me why the Bible teaches, âTrust no man.â
Ask yourself: âWho teaches the full restored truth?âand is this man/organization faithfully carrying out Godâs Work?â God will show you where Heâand His chosen servantâare working! Even then, never trust your salvation to any man. Your personal relationship with God supersedes all human loyalties.
The goal of each Christian for the rest of the age is to leave behind all confusion and false doctrine, and to locate and return to the one, unified, organized Churchâthe Body of Christâbeing led by Christ and doing His true Work.
Benefit of the Doubt?
Anyone who has been betrayed several times automatically becomes mistrustful. The natural reaction is to acquire suspicion toward virtually everyone and everything. After the leaders of the WCG betrayed the Church, suspicion and distrust exploded to the fore. Additional, further betrayal among Godâs people, by the leaders of the splinters, has greatly increased general suspicion and mistrust in this age. This tendency has led people to paint all ministers with the same brush. I partly understand this. However, be very careful if you do this, because you could also be painting yourself into a corner. You could block yourself from hearing the words of the faithful minister of Christ writing you now!
Let me explain. For example, people often tell me that they are suspicious that I will betray them, simply because other ministers did. When I protest and tell them, âBut I never betrayed you,â they usually remain unconvinced.
Letâs turn the coin over! Here is how I respond to these people. When I tell them (I do all this rhetorically, for effect) that I do not trust THEM, they protest. Then I tell them that I do not care, because I have seen tens of thousands of other brethren (not referring to ministers now!) sell out and betray the truth. When they respond, âBut I did not do this,â I ask if they want me to at least give them the reasonable benefit of the doubt that they will not give me. By this time, they usually get the point. I hope that you do, too.
It is now very hard to receive the benefit of the doubt from most brethren. While a certain amount of âhealthyâ mistrust is always in order, and even more so in this age, there is a limit as to how far this can go.
If you cannot trust the ever-present, all-powerful, living Jesus Christ to lead His faithful ministryâwhich means the Church that He promised to build and protectâyou are doomed to wander outside the Body of Christ, waiting to inherit all the prophecies described for those who will not return to Godâs Church!
You have sentenced yourself to be a âbranchâ cut off from the âVineâ (John 15:6), and continuously subject to the confusing influence of the âprince of the power of the airâ (Eph. 2:2) until you have completely lost Godâs Spirit (I Thes. 5:19).
Chapter Seven – The Author of Attacks
A remarkable account is found in John 8:30. It records that âmany believed on Him [Jesus].â Jesus went on to explain that the only way for these to remain His disciples was to âcontinue in My wordâ (vs. 31). The next statement is familiar to all: âAnd you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you freeâ (vs. 32). (Sadly, so many have forgotten this today.)
What makes this account so incredible is that almost immediately after Christâs instruction, these same âbelieversâ became so offended they sought to kill Christ. Notice verse 37, remembering the context concerns those who âbelieved on Him.â So then, these people were actually very different from what they seemed to be. Christ indicted them, stating, âYou are of your father the devilâ (vs. 44), and explaining that Satan, like these people, was a murderous liar. Yet, and this is important to see, it does not indicate their âbelieving on Himâ was fake or feigned. Possibly, in their own minds, their belief felt genuine.
Bear in mind that these would-be disciples were Jews, meaning that they were keeping the Sabbath and holy days, tithing, eating only clean meats, and doing other things we would agree with. In addition, they certainly appeared to be sincereâand already possessed many truths. While they apparently did believe in Christ, this did not prevent Him from identifying them as murderous liars!
Very carefully reflect on the lesson of this account! Have you seen similar conduct in people whom you thought were standing up for principleâwho appeared to believe the truthâwho seemed to have their heart in the Work?
A very famous statement emerged from World War II that teaches a powerful truth related to this account. Ironically, it was uttered by one of historyâs greatest liars, Adolf Hitler, who believed that people question little lies, but no one questions BIG LIES. Notice what he wrote in Mein Kampf:
âAll this was inspired by the principleâwhich is quite true in itselfâthat in the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily; and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods.â
How true! If I were determined to slander someone, I would tell a lie so large that people would say, âIt must be true.â I would feel that the worse I could make it, the more likely people would believe that I could not have invented it. The most outrageous stories I have heard about people often had not one shred of truth to themâand this certainly includes meâthere was literally no basis in fact for them whatsoever! (At this point, I could write an inset with volumes of proof just from my own life.)
The devil has long sought to destroy the peace and unity of Godâs Headquarters. He knows that this is where he can do the most damage with âbig lies.â All he has to do is find people there who are willing to invent and spread them. With the ever-worsening character breakdown in this age, this presents him no problem. If Satan can deceive the whole world for 6,000 years (Rev. 12:9), then deceiving a few people here or there into making false accusations is easy. And, as explained, most of the deceived even believe their own stories. Large numbers are only too willing to swallow and believe them, if only because it is easy. It requires neither work nor discernment.
Consider what Mr. Armstrong said:
âToday, as in the time of the first apostles, MANY DECEIVERS are gone out into the world. They will ACCUSE Godâs Church and His Work. It is Satan the devil who is the accuser of the true brethren (Rev. 12:10).
âMuch of the New Testament is WARNING Godâs people of these snares of Satan to hinderâto attempt to DESTROY the very Work of Godâthe very Work which is THE REASON God has called you NOWâbefore He undertakes to SAVE THE WHOLE WORLD!â
âWhy Did God Put You in His Church?â, GN, May 1974
Do you still believe the simplicity of statements like this? Does it seem âold-fashionedâââout of step with realityâ? Many splinter people seem to have so easily and quickly forgotten the hidden work of this powerful fallen being, seemingly feeling themselves immune to his deception. Since Satan already holds the world captive, he can focus most of his attention on Godâs peopleâand most particularly on those who will not compromise.
The Devil as Victim
We live in an age when almost everyone is a victim. Only rarely do people now acknowledge or admit that they are wrong or did evil. Seemingly, people can steal, lie, cheat, rebel, or even kill, and still find a way to declare themselves victims. I have watched people do terribly wrong things, conduct that creates havoc for their victims, yet, in the end, always see themselves as victimized by someone elseâs actions. Sometimes, their âlogicâ is almost genius.
The devil is no different. He sees himself as Godâs greatest victim, not believing that he has done anything wrong, but rather that God has given him the âshort end of the stick.â When Satan is to be bound for 1,000 years, he will probably go âkicking and screamingâ to the bottomless pit (where he will be chained), proclaiming his own innocence and his âinside knowledgeâ of Godâs âguilt.â
One way to know through whom the devil is working is to look at people who publicly or privately slander, accuse, attack and perpetrate evil, and cover their own actions with a blizzard of self-justifying big lies. Usually, and always to the simple, these people can fairly easily present their case as victims standing up for righteous causes. The world is filled with such people.
âTaken Captive to Do His Willâ
II Timothy 2:24-26 contains important instruction to ministers and others who may be trying to help people acknowledge and repent of sin. The context describes how Godâs servants should be gentle, patient, meek, etc., as they attempt to help brethren recognize the truth about their actions. Read these verses very carefully!
Verse 26 refers to those who are caught up in sins that they do not see or will not acknowledge: âAnd that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at [should read âto doâ ] his will.â The King James Bible is not completely correct in its translation of the passage. Satan cannot capture people âatâ his will, but rather âto doâ it.
This is a stunning scripture for those who will receive it. It makes clear that people can literally be captured by the devil and sent as his pawns on missions âto do his will.â Of course, most who are caught up in this way would be totally oblivious to this. Have you realized that Satan puts his servants to work?âthat he does not allow them to be idle and unproductive?
Through the years, I have watched the devil capture peopleâand it has always been terrible to witness. And I have not known one person that he has captured who recognized what had happened!
When understood, this verse reveals that every one of Godâs people is a candidate for such kidnappingâbut it can only happen to the unvigilant and unsuspecting!
There is another key aspect of how the capture works. Mr. Armstrong often noted that the Churchâs worst accusers came from within and were people who had secret sins in their lives. Sometimes such attackers had multiple sins they were hiding. They were already in a deeply wrong spirit, and accusing others became easier. Many times, Mr. Armstrong observed that they were not tithing, were secretly breaking the Sabbath or practicing other major sins. Neglecting prayer, Bible study, and fasting always accompanied the drifting from God. Satan will seek to capture you by first capturing your personal behavior through sin.
This sobering reality has been a spiritual fact of life in Godâs Church. In short, the devil captures people through disobedience to Godâs Law and then sends them rushing into his service to confuse, attack, divide, slander, cast doubtâand worseâin doing his will. Without repentance, the ability to recover (vs. 26) from such capture is impossible!
Do not allow this to be lost on you.
You Cannot Sue a Brother
Another important aspect of Satanâs involvement in the persecution of the Church and Work of God must be addressed at this juncture. It is directly related to how he uses some of those whom he has captured. Letâs learn.
The Bible is most plain about whether true Christians can sue other true Christians. Through use of a question, Paul, in I Corinthians 6, makes clear that this is strictly forbidden by God. Study the account, noting that verses 1 and 2 carry the following two questions: âdare any of you [or, âHow dare you?â], having a matter against another, go to law before the unjust and not before the saints? Do you not know that the saints shall judge the world?â
Verse 6 explains that when those who are apparently Christian âbrothersâ do this, they create a spectacle before unbelievers who either preside in court or hear of it later. Verses 7-8 explain, âNow therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because you go to law one with another. Why do you not rather take wrong? Why do you not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded? No, you do wrong, and defraud, and that your brethren.â
No true Christian can ever sue another Christian. Believe me, I have watched the deceitful machinations of those who profess to be Christians who decided to sue someone in a splinter. These people twist, pervert, contort and distort their frame of mind until they convince themselves that the person whom they are suing is really not a brotherâand then they attack! Any who do this have, themselves, been captured by the devil and have probably already ceased to be brothers in Christ.
If one becomes an evildoerâa criminalâthen, of course, he is no longer a Christian. This verse would not apply if, among other circumstances, the authorities have successfully brought criminal charges.
Obviously, there are people who cease to be Christian and do sue others. The question arises, can one defend himself? Christ (Matt. 5:40) and Paul (I Cor. 6:7) said you should allow yourself to suffer the suit (you have no choice) and be defrauded if it is over personal matters against you or your character. Of course, this does not mean that you cannot defend yourself in court and seek to overturn the attack. But if you lose, yield to the courtâs decision and cast yourself on Godâs mercy. There is simply no other way for a Christian to view this passage.
If one is sued or put on trial over matters of truth or the name of Jesus Christ, then Paulâs long trial in Acts becomes an example. (Governments, worldly organizations, and false religious or apostate leaders, who attack a true minister or Christian, or the Church, are clearly not brothers in Christ. They are Godâs enemies, plain and simple.) Paul vigorously responded to their accusations. One does not âroll overâ without defending himself. Be ready to âfight to the deathâ over matters of truth if you are ever put in such a position.
This is exactly what Mr. Armstrong did in 1979! He certainly did not roll over when the State of California (inspired by the six dissidents) set out to destroy the Church through false charges and the wrong application of menâs law.
We could some day suffer similar attack by evil people in high places under Satanâs sway (Eph. 6:12). Nevertheless, the court renders its opinion and Christians either yield to men or, when necessary, âObey God rather than menâ (Acts 5:29).
Special PersecutionâWith a Promise
The Philadelphia (Rev. 3:9) and Smyrna (2:8-11) Church eras were foretold to contend with an evil fraternity described as âthe synagogue of Satan.â Notice that Christ offers no criticism of either of these eras. Have you wondered why? The answer is that neither had doctrinal problemsâand as a result, Christ did not need to correct them. Now ask: Is it mere coincidence that both suffered the ferocious attacks and lies (3:9) of this âsynagogueâ?
The devil hates Godâs truth because he is a liar (John 8:44). Is it any wonder that his agents lie most about those who are holding to the full restored truth?
Grasp this absolutely crucial point! The WCG apostates were not the only members of the synagogue of Satan. Other well-known figures are also part of this prophesied spiritual fraternity of liars afflicting Philadelphia. These assaults will continue until the moment those of this era are taken to safety, with Satanâs army in hot pursuit (Rev. 12:14-17). This understanding is vital for all who are determined to return to and remain Philadelphian. My sermon âThe Synagogue of Satan Identifiedâand Marked!â will shock you. Now or soon, you should hear it.
While many say that they are holding fast, they cannot endure the persecutionâthe âheat in the kitchenââand either have given up or will in time. This should be no surprise, because God prophesied it. That it is happening around us should actually be encouragingâit means the next phase of Godâs plan is closer!
Place of Safety Promised
All previous eras of Godâs Church suffered infinitely worse things (prison, torture, death, etc.) than Philadelphians must experience. Revelation 12:10-12 pictures Godâs servantsâactually His Churchâover a 6,000-year period. (See Hebrews 11:32-38.) It is clear that Philadelphiansâ protection is unique in all history. God promises those of brotherly love, who are full of good works, doctrinal integrity, who carefully watch world news with the right things in mind, and who have conviction about His Work, a special deliverance from the greatest suffering the world will ever know, and He offers them protection that He does not offer others of any previous era in the same way. This is because Philadelphiansâ suffering precedes the Great Tribulation. The Bible makes plain that, through this âpre-tribulation,â they are put to an extraordinary test, partly coming from the âsynagogue of Satan.â Of course, the book of Acts records that every true servant of God enters the kingdom of God only âthrough much tribulationâ (14:22).
When Jesus said, in Matthew 24, âYou shall be hated of all nations for My Nameâs sake,â He knew that much worse times were coming. No doubt, the devilâs hatred, through his agents, will drive this worsening hatred.
But I have repeatedly seen God perform powerful miracles when I was at my own âRed Sea.â I have come to now expect Him to perform miracles on our behalf when He needs toâand when we need Him to! He always does and always will until, in the end, as Mr. Armstrong reminded the Church, âWe win.â
But what about those on the other side of this knowledge?
Chapter Eight – Those Who “Fight God”
Sometimes the Bible relates stories in which the point is so clearâso obviousâthat there is virtually no way to miss it. The account of Gamalielâs warning, in Acts 5:29-42, to those who had seized and imprisoned the apostles, is one such example. Strangely, many are missing its point!
In the account, Peter makes the well-known statement, âWe ought to obey God rather than menâ (vs. 29). This sets the stage for Gamalielâs caution (vs. 34) to the council sitting in judgment of the apostles. This man was a renowned âteacher of the lawâ held âin respect by all the peopleâ (NKJV). He warned the crowd to be careful of the action that they chose. In other words, if the council tortured, imprisoned or killed the apostles, they had done either of two thingsâone bad, the other worse: They would have either wasted their time addressing people who would eventually âcome to nothing,â anyway (vs. 38), because God was not with the accusedâor âBut if it be of God, you cannot overthrow it; lest haply [perhaps] you be found even to fight against Godâ (vs. 39).
Yes, it is possible to FIGHT GOD! Apparently, though all seemed to agree with Gamaliel (vs. 40), the account records that they still beat and threatened the apostles before dispersing.
This story represents a huge lesson and warning to people who accuse those who serve God: âLook outâyou may be fighting GOD, not men!â I do not fear people who are foolish enough to do thisâand you should not fear them either. However, I do certainly fear for them.
Having gone too far down the road of almost non-stop false accusations and persecution to let these things upset me, I do not fear ANY who come against me or Godâs Church. However, I believe that one reason God says to pray for our enemies is that they are in deep trouble with Him. They need our prayers because they are fighting God. And nothing else is remotely close to the serious implications of this for any found doing it.
There is a side note to the story in Acts 5 that should greatly encourage brethren under severe attack. But we should ask: What could possibly be encouraging about receiving intense persecution? Just this. If a pattern of attacks continues, from inside or outside the Church, this becomes its own statement (remember Mr. Armstrongâs earlier quote) about who the adversary of the truth hates the most! Carefully think this through!
Attacks often come from those claiming to be the ones most perfectly âdefending the truth.â Some see themselves as a sword in Godâs hand to punish evildoersâand to warn people to stay away from those they deem to be false, heretical or dangerous. (Of course, others establish websites for the opposite purpose of combating all forms of âArmstrongism.â)
This often happens because some people are not sufficiently strong in the truth themselvesâthey are unsound, unlearned, untrained or unskilled in the Word of God, so they speak out-of-season with no idea what they are talking about. I have often noticed that it is these misguided âdefenders of the faithâ who âinvent evil thingsââthings that never happened. I have also noticed that it is nearly impossible to convince them that they could be wrong about what they believe they saw. These are almost invariably those who joined one of the two large organizations that left the WCG very early. These are usually those most deeply entrenched in the belief that they most loyally represent and defend the truth!
Consider this remarkable statement from Mr. Armstrongâs 1982 sermon âWhy the Church?ââperhaps the single clearest, most comprehensive sermon I ever heard him give. He discusses those who seem to understand true doctrines in a physical way, but actually understand almost nothing that is spiritual in nature. They do not comprehend the real meaning or intent of the truth and are not led of the Holy Spirit. (Italics obviously mine.)
âWe are not in the Church unless the Holy Spirit of God dwells in us (II Cor. 6:16). Just being in the Church and saying you are a member and I often wonder how many that say they are members, and we look on as members of the Church, really are?âŚ
âThe Holy Spirit of God must be opening your mind to Godâs way of life and you must be living that way of life. You must be following where the Holy Spirit of God is leading you. (Rom. 8:7) Because the carnal mind, and we were all carnal to begin with, and some of us Iâm afraid still are, unless we really have received the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is a spirit of a changed mind, a sound mind, a different kind of mind that can comprehend spiritual knowledge. And I have found so many in the Church that have been members for a long time and they donât comprehend spiritual knowledge. They get doctrine. Theyâre straight on doctrine but they donât understand itâŚ
âBrethren, I worry sometimes about the Church and I have to remember we donât get a full measure of the spirit of God all at onceâŚIf any man have not the spirit of God he is none of His. I donât care how long he has been a member of the Church. I think most of us do have Godâs Spirit but I know there have been those among us who rose up to be evangelist rank in the ministry that did not have the Holy Spirit. And sometimes it would be easy for me to lose faith when I think of those things. I tell you everyone of us needs to examine himselfâŚâ
Of course, most brethren in the WCG apparently never did examine themselves or only did so superficially. As previously mentioned, we now know that Mr. Armstrong was correct when he said that most never truly âgot it.â But the only ones who never âgot itâ are not just the over 110,000 who gave up or stayed in the WCG. It is a grave error to assume that, because people went with a splinter, they have done all that was required of them. Some of these people are now fighting God, and have been captured by Satan. Their fruits prove it! (âANOINT YOUR EYESâ covers in exhaustive detail the special, biblically-prescribed examination and recovery process that Christ expects every one of His people to undergo if he or she is to escape what lies ahead.)
God Owns Vengeance!
When under attack, people usually take matters into their own hands. This invariably includes lashing back at accusers, as though the golden rule is âDo unto others as bad or worse than they have done unto you.â While this is a natural human response, it is not what God desiresâand I did not always understand this. I thank my enemies for forcing me to learn what I teach you now.
When under persecution Paulâs attitude regarding his attacker was âthe Lord reward him according to his works.â He was speaking regarding Alexander the coppersmith, and we will examine this in a little more detail later. Paul also was inspired to repeat, âVengeance is Mine; i will repay, says the Lordâ (Rom. 12:19), citing from Deuteronomy 32:35, which reads, âTo Me belongs vengeance, and recompense [repayment].â
Carefully examine these most crucial passages. They give vital instruction for all who wish to handle attacks and false accusations Godâs way! God plainly declares that vengeance and repayment are His âbelongingsââthat they are âHisâ (God says, âMineâ). Put another way, vengeance is one of Godâs personal possessionsâsomething we cannot take from Him without being guilty of stealing. Would you take a car, a house, money, or anything elseâknowing it was not yours? Of course not, because, if one takes something belonging to another, he is a thiefâplain and simple!
This puts vengeance into an entirely different context from the way human nature views it. If God declares that taking tithes and offerings, which belong to Him, is ârobbing Godâ (Mal. 3:8-10), then so is taking anything else that belongs to Him. Appropriating to yourself the repayment of wrongs and injusticesâexacting vengeance on your own authorityâis just that serious to God.
If anyone is to âdealâ with another, because of suffering wrongs, it had better be God. Besides the fact that He does not need us to address accusers, it is actually stealing from Him if His people try. This cannot be stressed strongly enough. Further, any who steal from God might find Him ârepayingâ them instead of their attackers or accusers!
Have you considered this?
Also consider! When God carries out vengeance, He knows exactly how much to mete out. Do you? Be honestâadmit that no human being is qualified to determine this. All human beings would give either too much or too little repayment. Their feeling would be colored. Remember, Paul wrote, âThe Lord reward him according to his works.â God knows how and when to do thisâand how muchâand you and I cannot.
Christâs followers must never forget this! Realize that the future may test your memory.
âDiscerning Good and Evilâ
The Bible reveals that Godâs Church in every age has false brethren. Paul used this term in II Corinthians 11:26, when describing the many âperilsâ with them that beset his ministry. False brethren look like true brethren, but are not. Just as tares look like wheat, so false brethren look like those who have the Holy Spirit to the undiscerning. Remember also that tares generally cannot be uprooted, because the wheat do not see the difference, and might leave with them (Matt. 13:24-30).
Notice that while âthe servants of the householderâ in that parable (the ministry) can discern the wheat from the tares, the wheat cannot! The Bible is clear on this. Take time to re-familiarize yourself with this parable. However, ministers can sometimes also be fooledâI certainly have been at times. Some of the local church elders who came with Restored fooled us. Mr. Armstrong was fooled, and said so, as the last quote describes regarding certain evangelists who turned out to be unconverted.
Letâs face it. Most of us once attended with over 150,000 people that we supposed were brethren, and we only later were able to realize that about 75% (at least three-quarters!) were probably never converted. Sadly, the apostasy âsurvivalâ statistics reveal numbers of this magnitude. Of the 30,000 to 35,000 or so who went to one of the splinters, the vast majority continued as Laodiceansâbecause this is the dominant condition at the end. Few who still believe in Church eras doubt that we are now in the seventh era. Only a relative few people (ministers included) were what they appeared to be when all of Godâs people were together in the WCG. This is the simple math of our time!
Hebrews 5:14 speaks of those who are âof full ageâ and on âstrong meat.â Paul explains these reached this point because âby reason of use [they] have [had] their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.â Many apparently never really learned to do this. Can you? Do not be too quick to answer âyes.â
How often did Mr. Armstrong warn the Church about taking of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil? Learn to discern whether you are in the presence of good mixed with evilâthis includes doctrine and conduct. Only those actively using Godâs Word (vs. 13) can hope to achieve this in their conversion.
Be honest with yourself! Admit that ministers, false doctrines and people have fooled you, and probably many times! The question becomes what will you now do about it?
People who are unlearned or inexperienced in Godâs Way can fall into a pattern of arguing about words, ignoring Paulâs instruction in I Timothy 6:4 not to âdote about questions and strifes of words.â Mr. Armstrongâs last statement explains why some who generally âhave the doctrines,â as he put it, do not comprehend them.
Understand! Many âstrive about [doctrines]â because they do not grasp the Bibleâs intent. This becomes one more reason to be careful of believing charges made by those you do not know, involved in events you did not witness, that involved people you have never metâand that took place far away.
I have worked with over 11,000 people throughout my over 42 years in the ministry, and I never cease to be amazed at human behavior. I am still learning more about people almost daily, and I am still learning to discern good and evil in them. Be willing to admit the same things of yourself. It is a key to surviving this age!
Chapter Nine – The Christian’s Response
When a Christian is persecutedâunder attackâoften suddenly, a host of factors come to bear. The experience itself can be very confusing, as can be the circumstances surrounding it. In addition, emotional and mental pain, and shock, from the encounter can be intense. To make matters worse, conflicting advice can be offered, and the ill-prepared person can be left feeling he has no idea what to do.
What is the correct responseâthe one God expects?
Watching God at Work
Since the inception of The Restored Church of God, we have seen God resolve a great many difficult problems for us. In several instances, we had not an inkling or clue of oncoming challenges, events or attacks until they arrived.
Here is an analogy to consider: Suppose God knows of a potentially fatal crash that could involve you and a drunk driver still miles down the road. You drive on lost in your thoughts, oblivious to the danger ahead. Thankfully, of course, God is not unaware, and He and His angels are looking ahead and watching over you. While you would recognize miraculous deliverance on some occasions, many other times you would never be able to know that God delivered you. This is because the drunk may shoot past in his own lane, after weaving badly just moments before.
Your life was both threatened and spared, all without your knowledge!
This analogy represents how God watches out for His peopleâagain and againâand it is part of what Paul meant in Romans 8:36. Notice: âFor your sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.â The next verse reminds, âNo, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us.â
Meditate on this passage, and internalize it for use in the difficult final years that lie ahead for every one of Godâs people. When, in the Christian war, you are surrounded by âlive fireâ (as we have often been), you pray constantly for deliverance. I hope many brethren will also pray for us.
Here is why!
What Should You Do?
The worst is yet to come in this age. Notice this vital instruction to apply on behalf of faithful ministers: âBrethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course [speed on], and be glorifiedâŚand that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men: for all men have not faithâ (II Thes. 3:1-2).
Notice the words âunreasonableâ and âwicked.â Understanding what God intends to convey in the meaning is fascinating. The Greek root for âwickedâ is poneros, which can also be translated âdegenerate,â âmalicious,â âvicious,â âwicked,â âdevilishâ or âdiseased.â Obviously, God chose a very, very strong word to describe certain people that the ministry must occasionally deal with. Anyone fitting this description truly is spiritually diseased.
âUnreasonableâ is also interesting and it comes from the Greek word atopos, meaning âout of place, improper, absurd, injurious or unreasonable.â People in this condition cannot be helped or reasoned with in a logical way. God calls them âunreasonableââand wise people will recognize and never forget this!
Paul spoke more than once about how he was being âhinderedâ in his service to Godâs people. You are told to pray for ministersâin context, it emphasizes particularly those who lead the Church and the Workâwho are being harassed, attacked, accused and impeded by what are understood to be unreasonable, absurd, malicious, spiritually-diseased people. This is vital because, if you do, Godâs Word and Work can then âspeed on.â
This is basic instruction for regular use in the prayer of every true Christian.
âTurn the Other Cheekâ and âLove Your Enemiesâ
All recognize these phrases from Matthew 5:38-45. While everyone knows them, few actually apply them, and this creates a big problem throughout the splinters! Recognize that these instructions are direct commands from Christ that are basic and impossible to misunderstand. When people âsmiteâ you (vs. 39), you are instructed to âturn the other cheekâ! The true people of God never exact an âeye for an eyeâ (we will address the subject of vengeance later).
Now read verses 44-45: âLove your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that you may be the children of your father âŚin heaven.â
People are not born with the natural tendency to react as Jesus instructed. This takes a lifetime to learn, and I have not always done it correctly. Events of recent years, particularly those after the apostasy, have taught me much about how and why these principles must be practiced. This means they must be worked at. I have learned that knowing them and actually doing them are vastly different things. It is simply against nature to see your enemy hunger and to feed himâbut that is what Godâs Word says to do in Romans 12! You cannot circumvent what God requires and then expect Him to act on your behalf.
While God says to pray for ministers under attack, He also says to pray for your accusers and persecutors. We will later see more clearly that they are in big trouble with Him. He intends to deal with them and wants to see how important it is to His people to try to secure mercy for them.
Consider very carefully! Those who will intervene in prayer on behalf of those whom God is about to punish (for attacking the very people now praying for them) are the essence of what it means to be His children. Matthew 5:45 is at the core of Christianity and it reveals how God defines who are His children. Of course, this approach is the antithesis of human nature, and most people find it impossible to learn and practice.
When God was about to destroy Israel for murmuring against both Himself and Moses, it was Mosesâ own prayers that stopped Godâs decision to wipe out the whole nation. God had planned to start over with the very man who was asking Him not to do this! This is the foundation of what it means to be a real Christianâto âturn the other cheekâ and to âlove your enemies.â I have had to learn this lesson in a profound and painful wayâand I intend to never stop teaching it to all who will listen!
What has been shown here also explains why only a relatively small group, with âlittle strength,â will be able to return to and remain Philadelphian to the end. They are not only able to hold fast, in doctrine, tradition and conduct, but can also love and pray for the very people who slander them. After all, this is one of the requirements of being among the people of brotherly love, the very meaning of Philadelphia.
You must remember to copy in this way the conduct and teachings of Jesus Christ, knowing that the rest of the age will constantly grow more turbulent!
This practice carries its own wonderful reward!
God Is Our Defense
When you sing from the hymnal, âRighteous Judge, from foes defend me, who deceitful charges layâ (Psalm 43 in the purple hymnal), do you think about these words? On Godâs authority, I tell you that His true servants must be ready for far more in the future than any could now dream. I have already been stunnedârepeatedlyâat the inventions of some I knew for many years. But I also had to come to realize that they probably have brought themselves to believe their own charges.
One man, involved in a very complicated purpose, admitted to me in a letter that he had lied to me so that I would continue to âcarry outâ a plan that he accused me of having. When I did not fall into the trap that he and others had laid for me, it accidentally sprang on himself and those with him. He left and attacked me with a vengeance, professing to still âloveâ us.
Usually, people who explode in rage affect at least a few with their false charges. We will soon examine the scriptural reason why. We know that other major attacks will be planned and executed against us, both from within and outside. Some (perhaps most for a while longer) will come from so-called âchurches of God.â However, we press on knowing that we are the sole custodians of the full truth, and where the true Work is continuing under Godâs governmentâand also knowing that we wear a bullâs eye to those who hate it.
Every member of Godâs Church once believed that assaults against it would primarily come from the secular world, inspired by the governments of men. Certain events indicate that some of the most violent assaults on the Body of Christ can occur within the âfamilyâ of organizations and groups with whom we once shared beliefs. I have even come to expect that elders who leave us (and this has occurred a number of times) will probably seek to take a following after themselves, join our enemies, and thus âmake merchandiseâ of the brethren. We must not be deceived when they do this. The true Church has always had false ministers leave, and then move against it. This should not be expected to change. (Section II examines this much more closely.)
If we let God defend us, He will even turn our enemiesâ swords on themselves. You too must be able to âstand stillâ and watch the salvation of God!
Take time to read Psalms 41, 43 and 143. Many verses, there and elsewhere, show that God continually protects and delivers His servants from persecuting enemies. These are psalms of David, and it becomes clear that this king had many enemies other than Saul. When under attack, David poured his heart out to God. These psalms, with others, show how he felt and what he prayed about on such occasions. David did ask God to smite his enemies, and, of course, Jesus changed that pattern (Matt. 5:43), but the rest of what David records in his songs to God is wonderful instruction for everyone. Consider just this familiar one: âMany are the afflictions of the righteous: but the Lord delivers him out of them allâ (Psa. 34:19).
Ask God for the faith to truly believe the many verses containing His promise to protect you!
Built on a Rock
Jesus closed the Sermon on the Mount by contrasting those who build their houses on ârockâ to those who build on âsandâ (Matt. 7:24-29). In fair weather, both houses look and function the same. Realize that the intent of Christâs parable is to contrast people who hear and do His Word with those who merely hear them. To act on Christâs Wordsâthe Rockâis equivalent to building your house on Himâmeaning, on what He says!
The reason every homeâs foundation must be completely solid is because fair weather never lasts forever. Rain, floods and wind eventually beat on every house. Sand is always washed away, eventually taking the houses built on it.
We could ask: What weather event in nature brings enough rain and wind to âbeatâ on a house long enough to create a flood? Only a hurricane (sometimes called a typhoon) can do all of these thingsâand bring devastation to the homes and buildings that lie in its path. In effect, Christ explains that all of His servants lie in the path of spiritual âhurricanes.â
The âapostasy-hurricaneâ that Godâs people lived through is probably the worst of all time. Most Worldwide Church of God attendees have already been swept away, having drowned, so to speak, without escaping their âhouses.â Like some flood victims, they have permanently disappeared, never to be found again in any way connected to true Christianity.
Doing exactly what Christ taught through His apostle and the final Moses (Mal. 4:4) is your ârock.â If you truly believe this, as you did when Mr. Armstrong was alive, then you must be found doing all of the words that constitute this Rock (II Tim. 3:14).
Some others seem to build like those who constructed the Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy, built half on rock and half on hardpan clay. In recent years, engineers have struggled to save this extraordinary building, after its long, slow, further leaning. While it has taken many centuries to reach this point, it will eventually topple if it is not shored up!
This book is not written to people who have built their house completely on sand. Such people cannot hear its message. It is for those who partly follow the words of Christ, and partly do not. This describes those of the seventh era, who have some or even much truth, but do not covet all that Christ teaches. They could yet âanoint their eyesâ and âseeâ (Rev. 3:18). They need not lose Godâs Spirit.
If there is any sand under your house, carefullyâdiligentlyâdig it out and replace it with rock. I tell you on Godâs authority that the worst part of the hurricane still lies ahead! If you doubt this, review prophecy and what is in store for all whose lives reflect the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
Heresy Loves Companyâand Creates Division
The New Testament explains why God permits heresy to periodically strike His Church. When false teaching is present, it actually fulfills a part of His pre-ordained plan for each Christian. In I Corinthians 11:18, Paul speaks of âdivisionsâ in the Church and sets the stage for a remarkable statement. Notice: âFor there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest [obvious] among youâ (vs. 19).
Were you aware that God states that false doctrinesâas part of His carefully designed planâmust strike His Church, in part to see what YOU will do?
Where division exists, so does heresyâand where heresy exists, so does division. One always begets the other. Whenever either happens, everyone coming in contact with the wrong ideas is tested to see whether they will âblowâ with the âwinds of [new] doctrineâ (Eph. 4:14-15)âin this age, coming at hurricane forceâor successfully resist them.
These are the choices!
Most are familiar with the phrase âmisery loves company.â So does heresy. Like cancer and leaven, false doctrine always spreads, both within the mind of the one overtaken by it (into other doctrines), and from him to others. This then breeds division between those who accept the false teachings and those who will not. This should not be hard to understand. What took place in the Church at the end of the twentieth century was simply that the trial happened on a grand scale.
Whether false teaching overcomes five people out of a group of ten or more than 100,000 out of an organization exceeding 150,000 is irrelevant. This is because the principle and the dynamics with which it develops are still exactly the same. Never forget this!
Understand! Eventually, many of the final era will fall away completely before the time of Satanâs wrathâthe Tribulation. God, in His mercy for His people, will use this time of world trial for certain others to reverse the process of departure from truth before it is too late for the one half of Laodiceans who will awaken, in Tribulation. He expects you to recognize the patient mercy that He is extending to you through this book.
Do not let people sway you into false ideas about why you should stay where any amount of heresy is tolerated. Of course, others of our books to the splinters address this in much more detail, but this much must be clear. This is what those of laodicean thinking today are doing! While they do keep the commandments (Rev. 12:17), they do not hold on to the full truth. Their false doctrines bring disagreement among them, which brings splitting, because people cannot disagree and walk together (Amos 3:3). Then, with splits come terrible accusations between groups. However, once people remove themselves from both the heresy and division, and return to everything they should have proven, they have escaped this process!
The True Church Knows Christâs âVoiceâ
The tenth chapter of John describes in detail the relationship between sheep and shepherdsâministers and the brethren under their charge. It describes wolves, strangers, thieves and robbers threatening the sheep. Christ explains that when this occurs, His sheep âknow His voiceâ and follow Him when âHe calls His own sheep by name, and leads them outâ (vs. 3-5). When the people of God are in danger, Christ calls them by name and leads them âoutâ to safety! This call is specificâindividualâpersonal. But brethren must be willing to follow when they hear it.
This is the John 10 message!
In Revelation 3:20, Christ promises to knock on the door of every person and call him or her to âbe zealous and repentâ (vs. 19). Like John 10:3, this is a promise that He cannot break (vs. 35). He must call (and He has been calling) His sheep to where He has placed His name. For 2,000 years of Church history, the living Jesus Christ has always done this. In probably the greatest time of threat to His flock in history, He would certainly not abandon this promise, failing to call His people to protection. Remember, He has made a promise that He would ânever leave or forsake the Church.â You are literally reading now of its fulfillment as it applies to you.
In John 10, the Greek word for âvoiceâ is fascinating. It is phone (fo-NAYâ), and our English word telephone derives from it. Literally, Christâs voice is His phone. Like most today, Christ has a phone and He actively uses it. But, just as some do not answer their phone when it rings or answer a knock at their door, many will not answer Christ when He calls them from danger. These will lose His Spirit (I Thes. 5:19). As He keeps His promise, will you follow His call?
Christâs responsibility is to make it absolutely clear where His full truth isâwhere He is at workâwith each sheep then deciding what to do when presented with that knowledge! (I simply cannot repeat often enough that it is absolutely vital that you carefully read one of our most important books to the splinters âAnoint Your Eyesâ â Christâs Warning to His People to learn far more about this process, and how it works in this age.)
Three Separate Groups
From here onâfor the rest of the age!âGodâs Church will interact with three distinct groups of people. The voices of the Father and Christ work similarly with each category. In Mr. Armstrongâs time, they spoke to only two groupsâbut a third unique group of people exists today.
Mr. Armstrong explained that there are only two commissions. The first is to preach the gospel to all nations (including the special warning to the nations of modern Israel). We are all familiar with how God calls each person who is ultimately converted. The second commission has always been described as Christâs command to the soon-to-be-apostle Peter to âfeed the flockâ (John 21:15-17). Of course, many tools were created within the WCG for these two purposes. These commissions were always separate and distinct, and Headquarters (Pasadena) directed both. Those whom God was calling heard Christâs voice from the WCG, when it was still on track, and made their decision to follow it.
Today, a third, distinct, separate obligation exists for the Church Christ directs. The seventh era was scattered into many organizations. The previous section explained how Christ uses His voice to show them where He is working. No minister with the heart of a true shepherd would abandon the confused, wounded, betrayed, war-torn brethren of the final era. Therefore, an ongoing obligation exists for His Church today to help them know where the full truth is taught and the true Work of God is being done. I pastored for far too long to ignore or neglect the needs of these people. That would be dereliction of dutyâthus, we have created all the necessary tools for people to determine where God is working. (This is explained in the sermon âWatchman to IsraelâMessenger to Laodicea!â)
Not for Everyone
However, The Restored Church of God is not for everyone. We exist for those who believe and understand that God has one government ruling His undivided Church. Those who want to criticize, evaluate, accuse, âhave a say in how things should be runâ or to withhold Godâs tithes until things go âmore to their likingâ will think themselves to be âhappier elsewhere.â Those who do this willingly cut themselves off from Christ, and become responsible for sealing their own fate. While Godâs way is never a dictatorship, neither is it confusion. (After reading the first four centerpiece splinter books, very carefully read our book Why The Restored Church of God? â Should You Join?, paying close attention to Section II. By now you probably realize that it is the final element in the Splinter Explanation Packet, and that it covers all of the reasons why one would or would not make the decision to come with us.)
Holding fast is not for the faint of heart. Neither is enduring intense persecution and unjust attacks that strike with the suddenness of an ambush. People joining The Restored Church of God must be strong in Christ, knowing we will suffer attacks almost beyond belief. No one considering us should doubt this! It is easy to love those who love you (Matt. 5:46-47), but extremely difficult to be in an organization that will not âfight back.â
This is The Restored Church of God!
Tremendous adversity lies ahead for the whole world. Recall Solomonâs admonishment, âIf you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is smallâ (Prov. 24:10). Now remember again that Philadelphiaâs tribulation is now (Acts 14:22). How many would not much prefer this âtribulationâ to the great tribulation?
Ask yourself: Do you?
Chapter Ten – Persecution is a Teacher
There is another vital reason God permits His servants to endure continuing, periodic persecution. Understanding it will actually make you grateful for these trials. In fact, persecution plays an extraordinary roleâthat of teacherâin a host of different areas within the Christianâs growth and experience. Once you see how this works, you can add your own additional points of learning.
The first principle to recognize is that persecution is humbling! It takes âthe wind out of our sails,â and drives us toward a greater reliance on God. When Godâs people are unjustly persecuted, they naturallyâand necessarilyâcry out to Him for help and deliverance. Feelings of invulnerability and false confidence instantly vanish when one is under vicious attack. Humanly, we feel powerlessâbecause we are basically powerless to do anything about it!
Solomon was inspired to record, âIn the day of prosperity be joyful, but in the day of adversity consider: God also has set the one over against the other, to the end that man should find nothing after himâ (Ecc. 7:14). During trials and adversity, people generally reflect more on life, and tend to recognize that it is shortâthat they had better âconsiderâ its big lessons, while they still have time. It usually requires hardshipâsometimes severeâto trigger the mindâs learning mechanism into gear!
The psalmist wrote, âIt is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn your statutesâ (119:71). One thing learned during intense persecution (âafflictionâ) is real humility. If even Christ âlearned by the things that He sufferedâ (He suffered much persecution!), then weâand youâcould hardly be exceptions!
Never allow yourself to forget this tremendously important lesson. Persecution can be good for usâthough it certainly does not feel good (Rom. 8:28)!
Paul made a remarkable statement to the Ephesian elders. After describing âthat bonds and afflictions wait for me,â he demonstrated great faith, proclaiming, âBut none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of Godâ (Acts 20:24). This statement reflects an unusual serenity, considering his circumstances.
Because he was deeply humble, the apostle Paul did not âcount his life dear to himself.â The great suffering that filled His ministry humbled him (see the latter part of II Corinthians 11). This is what âbonds and afflictionsâ do. It is no wonder Paul wrote so much about the need to be thankful in prayers. He recognized that the suffering he endured was necessaryâabsolutely essentialâfor his Christian growth!
Note that you will learn from âANOINT YOUR EYESâ how humility has an extraordinary and surprising connection to being able to shed spiritual blindness.
Persecution Teaches Boldness and Confidence
Ironically, many who have been humbled through persecution are accused of arrogance! Consider that God said Moses was âvery meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earthâ (Num. 12:3). Yet, Korah (with 250 princes) accused him of âtaking too much on himselfâ (16:3), asserting that Mosesâ role should not be elevated over othersâand so did Miriam and Aaron. In an ironic twist, these people were really accusing Moses of arrogance.
Mr. Armstrongâs detractors also accused him of arrogance and presumptuousness all through his ministry. Yet, his tremendous determination to do and teach exactly what God commanded was, in fact, a very meekâhumbleâattitude!
Have you considered that, if the devil could offer his view of God, would he not say that God is vain and arrogant? Of course, he would!âand he would add that God was âtoo sure of Himselfâââtoo unyieldingâââtoo closed-minded.â I am occasionally accused of these things, but so was Mr. Armstrong. Even Christ was thought to speak with too much âauthority.â Yet, interestingly, these are the very qualities of Satan, not God.
Do not fall for Satanâs reasoning. See through it!
Neither the original apostles nor Mr. Armstrong were weak, reticent wallflowers! They were bold and tremendously confident leaders, as were other servants of God. Yet, they were humble and meek in Godâs eyes. Notice: âIn the fear of God is strong confidenceâ (Prov. 14:26-27), and âThe righteous are bold as a lionâ (28:1). Of course, these qualities could seem to be vanity, arrogance or pride to those who cannot discern the difference.
People striving to follow God precisely demonstrate to Him that they will put their own feelings and thoughts aside. This is humility, and we just read that a bold strong confidence flows from oneâs righteous conduct.
Here is the formula: Persecution is humbling, and forces self-examination, leading to changes in areas of unrighteousness. Then, with increased righteousness comes a greater fear of God, which leads to more strong confidenceâand boldness!
Those who want to control me, or get our Headquarters to do their will, have accused me or others of our ministers of arrogance. I have learned to be much more concerned with what God thinks than with what these people think. You must come to feel the same way, or you are destined to remain a men-pleaser. When faced with attacks, most ministers and brethren in this age try to please friends and associates more than God.
Doesâwillâthe final record of this approach include you?
Persecution Forges Determination
Paul knew that people were capable of hurting him and, of course, some did. Previously referenced, he wrote, âAlexander the coppersmith, did me much evilâ (II Tim. 4:14). Paul was not attacking Alexander, who may have actually been trying to make the case that Paul was doing this to him, but rather stating that Alexander had attacked him in ways that the verse does not recount. The rest of this passage is of prime importance, because it reveals Paulâs approach to this man. Notice: âThe Lord reward him according to his works: of whom be you aware also.â Verses 16 and 17 indicate that many people and ministers, previously close to Paul, panicked and abandoned (âforsookâ) him, simply because one person was spreading evil about him. Astonishing but true!
Even the Bibleâs greatest servants like the apostle Paul had to be prepared to stand alone, to sometimes see âall men forsakeâ them, while remembering that ânotwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened meâ (vs. 17).
Mr. Armstrongâs entire life is a towering testimony to the fact that, if we must stand alone, God stands with and strengthens us! This pattern is replicated throughout Scripture. Of the initial local elders with Mr. Armstrong in Oregon, only Basil Wolverton stood with him to the end. (It was Mr. Wolvertonâs graphic artwork that appeared throughout WCG publications.) All other early elders forsook Mr. Armstrong, with this eventually leadingâactually forcing!âhim to start Ambassador College. Of course, if we look at the period before and after Mr. Armstrong died, we must conclude that ultimately almost all elders and ministers either fully or partly forsook his teachings.
I am not naĂŻve enough to think that every elder or minister who comes with us will remain faithful. Will most? Probably, because of the tests they must endure just to arrive hereâbut I cannot know. However, the experiences of Paul and Mr. Armstrong make a huge statement for all who will hear them.
Recognize the enormous resolve and determination that impelled the lives of Godâs greatest servants. These men become extraordinary examples for all who are under severe attack and feeling alone. Periodic reading of Hebrews 11 will remind you of the faith required to stand almost aloneâor even completely alone, as did the prophet Elijahâwhen facing extremely difficult trials, so severe that they exceed human ability to survive on physical strength alone!
The future looks different to those determined to learn the many lessons of persecution.
Chapter Eleven – Going Forward
Future attacks will come. Nothing can stop them. But no matter who or how many attack The Restored Church of God, and no matter the reason, this book is our once-for-all-time answer!
It has been said, âA great deal of intelligence can be invested in ignorance when the need for illusion is great.â This is so true. There are those who need the illusionâand the confusionâthat spring from attacks more than they want the light of Godâs truth to shine through events. One must desire the actual truth of matters to be made clear in order to obtain it. I have learned that one must deeply desire to exit the world of illusion to be able to accomplish this (Jer. 17:9). Paul said (and I paraphrase), that it is a lack of love for Godâs truth that causes Him to send some the âstrong delusionâ that leaves them in blindness âbelieving a lieâ (II Thes. 2:10-11).
Those who love illusion are promised that they will receive what they sought.
The Worst Problem
Among eight different, negative spiritual conditions, Laodiceans are known for blindness (Rev. 3:17). This problem will not permit them to see that they walk naked (same verse). Unless someone steps forward to âtell the emperor that he has no clothes on,â most people will âgo along to get along,â even copying him, not wanting to appear out of step with everyone else. Of course, most would be too fearful to tell an emperor that he is parading around stark naked before thousands of âyesâ men and women!
I will not only âtell the emperor,â but will tell you that thousands of brethren in the splinters are naked before God.
If you are walking blind and naked, in doctrine or conduct, then recognize that you must âanoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may seeâ (vs. 18). Ask God to clothe you with His truth and characterâthe only things that will get His people, including you, through the hard times ahead (Eph. 6:13-17).
Let me stress a final time the importance of reading the book âAnoint Your Eyesâ â Christâs Warning to His People to understand exactly what Christ meant when He used this phraseâand its application to you.
Take the High Road
Jesus promised to ânever leave nor forsake His Churchâ and that âthe gates of Hell [the grave] shall not prevail against it.â These verses have become a powerful article of faith in my life. While âall men have not faithâ (II Thes. 3:1-2), the Christian truly lives by faith (Hab. 2:4).
Again, the official position of The Restored Church of God is to not answer accusers! Remember, those always demanding the âinside storyâ are rarely satisfied with answers anyway, because their focus is all wrong. They ignore that we teach the full truth of God and are doing His Work with real force and power.
So, we let God answer our accusers while we âturn the other cheek.â Although I sometimes would love to write an answer of explanation, I have learned to withhold myself. As explained, and I repeat this for emphasis, when I did this in the past, I could never see what good was accomplished. While I may have felt better personally, it rarely changed anyoneâs mind.
Attacks and setbacks are bound to continue in Godâs Church. Mr. Armstrong always considered them to be like âthe cocking of a gun.â The hammer moved backward right before a bullet shot forward from the barrel. Growth always turned out to lie just ahead. So it is with us. We intend to stay above petty squabbles on the high road of preaching and teaching the full truth and doing Godâs all-important Work! Those who do not rise above these endless squabblesâat least in part because it is made worse in the age of hatred, betrayal and offense (Matt. 24:9-10)âare doomed to permanent disappointment!
Why? Because wherever you have imperfect human beings, you have âstories.â Wherever there are stories, there are people who will tell them. Wherever there are people who will tell them, there are always those who will listen. Wherever there are willing ears eager for stories, there are gossips willing to spread them. Wherever there are these traffickers willing to spread them, there is discord, division and confusionâand the devil has won!
Will we lose a few members over our policy? I am sure we will. In fact, we already haveâbut very, very few and there have been none for years. Will we periodically lose some income over this policy? Probably. Might we occasionally have to adjust in various ways? Almost certainly. But God will always continue to make up the difference and work everything out, just as He has always done. In faith, we are determined to let GOD answer our accusersâand pray for them when He does!
John 16:2 warns that the time is coming when âwhosoever kills you will think that he does God service.â It is clear that people will not be allowed to do this to any but those remaining Laodicean (and the Two Witnesses) in this age. But, as with the time when some would kill the apostles, realize that far worse times are coming! Horrendous prophecies tell of what lies ahead for the majority of Godâs people who will have convinced themselves âthat canât happen to me.â Tragically, many brethren will not awaken in time to realize that not only can it happen to them, but it hasâbecause they did not heed the warnings while the âgood timesâ remained. But the good times will soon end!
Godâs Word declares that this will occur more suddenly than most are even remotely prepared for.
The Best Perspective
Grasp a final point! For a moment, letâs âcall those things which be not as though they wereâ (Rom. 4:17). The Bible states that the wicked will someday be âstubbleâââashesâ under the feet of the righteous (Mal. 4:1, 3). Jude calls these âspotsââreferring to the wicked who get into the Churchâas âtwice dead, plucked up by the rootsâ (vs. 12). If you are one of the righteous, should you really fear, or have any respect for, the opinion of those scheduled to become a pile of ashes that you will one day walk upon? Put bluntlyâshould you fear ashes?âand how will God view you if you do? After all, this is the ultimate fate of deceitful, murderous slanderers!
Whether or not you are yet a member of The Restored Church of God, I encourage you to periodically review this book. (Of course, we hope you will anoint your eyes and come with Godâs Church, and help it complete the Work.) The truths it contains will help to permanently clear the harm of false accusations from your mind!