By David Ben-Ariel
When Herbert W. Armstrong died, Dr. Herman Hoeh declared that the seventh candlestick had been lit. That means Laodicea officially began immediately.
Nearly four years later, Malachi’s Message to God’s Church Today began to sound the alarm: something wasn’t kosher in the Church of God! It exposed a corrupt ministry intent on destroying the foundational doctrines of the Worldwide Church of God, and urged the brethren to hang on for dear life to what God had given us through His end-time Elijah. We were encouraged to get a grip, while others were losing it (Revelation 3:11).
Those who were of God heard what the Spirit said to the Churches through Malachi’s Message. Those who weren’t of God quickly lost it (God’s truth) and slipped further and further into darkness. That darkness was disguised as a "new light of understanding" (2 Corinthians 11:14). The true members of the Church of God responded to His call and came out of that decadent organization. Those who remained behind became the SYNAGOGUE OF SATAN.
They were no longer God’s Church! You can’t reject God’s truth for demonic doctrines without becoming a part of "Mystery Babylon" (1 Corinthians 10:21; 2 Corinthians 6:14-18). All this has been quite revealing (I Corinthians 11:19).
Knowing the Truth
God knows the end from the beginning (Acts 15:18). He prophesied a great falling away that would leave few standing. The BIG ONE has hit and shaken the Church of God to its core! But isn’t it possible to know the truth without knowing the Truth (2 Timothy 3:7).
God’s calling us to a deeper love and conversion (I John 3:18). Isn’t God’s truth a means to an end? Didn’t Herbert W. Armstrong fear some just "DON’T GET IT?” That too many were only converted to our doctrines? The doctrines are meant to help bring us closer to God by having a better understanding of His Will, but only a personal relationship with Jesus Christ will save us! We need Christ’s teachings, but we need God the Father and Jesus Christ even more! Only they can establish us and secure our salvation (2 Thessalonians 2:13-17). You can have all the understanding in the world and still fall short (I Corinthians 13:2).
Remember Solomon? Just because you know God’s truth, doesn’t mean you know Him! (Job 42:5; I John 2:4) You’re not going to be judged by how much you know, but by HOW MUCH YOU GROW! By how much you apply what you know, becoming more Christ-like, more Godly, more representative of the Kingdom of God, here and now (James 1:22; John 13:35). A system can’t save you and ritual is no substitute for a relationship! (2 Timothy 3:5).
Malachi’s Message Still Applies!
Whereas the Worldwide Church of God was physically rich, aren’t we in danger of feeling spiritually rich and self-complacent (Amos 6:1)? Ancient Israel had God’s holy days; didn’t eat pork, etc. But it didn’t keep them from going into captivity! (Amos 5:21). It wasn’t enough! Worldwide doesn’t feel sufficient, they feel so impoverished they go to Babylon for help! We’re the ones who feel safe and secure! Who said we can let our guard down? We’re commanded to REMAIN ON HIGH ALERT until Christ comes! (Luke 21:34) Yet some are failing to continue to apply Malachi’s Message (Romans 2:17-21). God’s refining process isn’t over! (Daniel 12:10; Isaiah 48:10).
Let’s see to it that Philadelphia Church of God (Judah) doesn’t go the way of the Worldwide Church of God (Israel)! These biblical principles still apply: don’t put undue trust in men; work out your own salvation, it’s not a group affair; beware the scholarly approach that demands you rely on men - not God’s Spirit or personal Bible study. And God help us to look past Petra (though it’s important), to focus on His Kingdom (Luke 21:36; Isaiah 33:17). To survive the Holocaust is one thing, to enter the Kingdom of God is everything! (2 Peter 1:10-11).
Beware of Emperor Worship!
What’s the greatest false doctrine to come out of Babylon? The nefarious idea of a DIVINE EMPEROR! Nimrod had put himself in God’s place! He had people depending on him for all their answers and protection. Today, we have such MEN "playing God" in the Church! (Nahum 1:11; 2 Thessalonians 2:3). There’s nothing new under the sun. Unlike Moses, who wished that all God’s people were prophets (Numbers 11:29), Nimrod felt threatened by any "competition." He dealt cruelly, in a jealous rage, with those who opposed his haughty position. God used Shem to put him back in his place! Leaders are ordained of God; they do have a definite place, but it’s NOT in the Holy of Holies (II Chronicles 26:18)! They’re intruding in God’s business, and trespassing on His sacred ground, when they get out of line and overstep their bounds (Zephaniah1:9; Exodus 19:12; Colossians 2:18). Away with emperor worship! It’s soon to sweep Europe, but we don’t need it in the Church of God. Not if we want to remain the Church of God!
Didn’t Gerald Flurry warn that we were slipping into a Laodicean attitude when he had his unfortunate incident with alcohol? Didn’t he say, after prayerfully wracking his brains to understand why God had allowed that to happen, that we have to be careful not to get proud due to our abundance of revelation (2 Corinthians 12:6-7)? Have we learned that lesson? Has he? With his preoccupation with all his religious titles and self-promotion, we really have to wonder and be most concerned!
Holy, righteous CHARACTER is more important to God than all the revelation in the world! We definitely need the gifts of the Holy Spirit, but God says we should want the FRUITS of his Holy Spirit even more! GET YOUR PRIORITIES STRAIGHT! (1 Corinthians 14:1) I’m convinced God’s about to empower His people like never before, but wants us to be spiritually ready (having learned from the Corinthians’ mistakes), and our ministers mature enough not to get in the way! (Joel 2:28; 1 Thessalonians 5:19).
As far as revelations go, God can inspire unconverted men like Caiphas and speak through donkeys! All truth is from and belongs to God, so why should some become puffed up with pride that they're something special rather than just an instrument serving God's purpose? And why get bloated with self-importance when God can quickly pop that balloon? (I Corinthians 4:6-7).
Warnings from History
If what happened in the Church during the 70’s was a warning of what could happen in the 80’s what about the 90’s? Having survived our Worldwide ordeal, are we now home safe (Jude 5)? Let us pray and examine ourselves this new century: Do we love God or fear men (Acts 5:29)?
God has an ordained government for His Church, but it can gradually fall to Satan - made over in some man’s image - if we blindly follow it and forget that it’s also a means to an end, and not and end in itself! Isn’t that how the Church of God got off track? The Mother spoon fed the brain-dead! We need the Father!
When Church government stops directing us to God and substitutes doctrines or a personality cult instead (III John 9), and refuses correction, God’s glory has left such a bankrupt administration! Will God destroy the very government He’s installed because we’ve failed to use it properly? Some are actually worshipping the government rather than the Governor!
Didn’t God level His Temple, stop the sacrifices, and disband the priesthood? Didn’t he empty the House of Israel and scatter Judah? Wasn’t Jerusalem-headquarters forcibly shut down? Even Hezekiah had to destroy the brass serpent God told Moses to make, because they had perverted its purpose (2 Kings 18:4).
Too often, that which God had intended to become a blessing, became a curse! Such historical warnings don’t curry favor with "the top brass, " but it’s evident God would rather work through a very faithful few than let many misrepresent Him! (Jeremiah 26:18; Ezekiel 5:3-4).
What have we learned from our WCG experience? Haven’t some since scrambled for positions of power, while others claim we’re all equal? (Numbers 16:3; 1 Timothy 1:7; James 3:1) God isn’t an anarchist, and neither should we be. We mustn’t throw out the baby with the bathwater, just because of abuses of power! Proper leadership encourages us to "be all we can be," within God’s law; it encourages us to think and become like our leaders, and able to teach what we’ve been taught—after all we’re PRIEST-KINGS IN TRAINING. (Matthew 10:25; Hebrews 5:12; 2 Timothy 2:2, 15).
The proper use of God’s government never plays politics or acts jealous, but truly has everyones' best interests at heart. (I Cor. 14:26) We’re all members of God’s Royal Family, therefore we ought to respect each others’ part in God’s plan and place in God’s Church. (I Corinthians 12:18).
I truly believe in GOVERNMENT FROM THE TOP DOWN —- and it starts with GOD THE FATHER! That’s why we must always OBEY GOD, even if it means we must disobey men. Wasn’t it ministers who told you to throw Malachi’s Message away? Wasn’t it Church leaders who threw out the faithful? Didn’t we just take their word for it, rather than check out what GOD had to say? Don’t be fooled again!
Do you now CONSULT CHRIST, or are you still playing "follow the leader"? Which is truly learning how to follow God’s government? Have you finally learned this lesson? Or did you ask your minister for permission to read Beyond Babylon? Worldwide all over again? Not if you continue to read and apply Malachi’s Message to yourself. That’s the only way to prevent a "repeat performance". Hopefully, once was enough.
David Ben-Ariel, a Christian-Zionist writer and author of Beyond Babylon: Europe's Rise and Fall, shares a special focus on the Middle East, reflected in hard-hitting articles that help others improve their understanding of that troubled region. Check out the Beyond Babylon blog.