December 24, 2010
“. . . I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last,” and, “What you see, write in a book and send it to the Seven Churches which are in Asia: to Ephesus, to Smyrna, to Pergamos, to Thyatira, to Sardis, to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea” (Revelation 1:11).
The History of God’s One and Only True Church
Alton (Don) B. Billingsley
Continued from 4-13-2010, 4-23-2010; 4-30-2010; 5-7-2010; 5-17-2010; 5-21-2010; 5-28-2010; 6-11-2010; 6-18-2010- 6-25-2010; 7-2-2010; 7-16-2010; 7-23-2010; 7-30-2010; 8-6-2010; 10-15-2010; 11-12-2010; 11-26-2010; 12-3-2010-12-17-2010
Regarding the establishment of His Church, Jesus Christ said to the apostle Peter and the rest of His disciples:
“. . . On this ROCK (Greek: Masculine, Petros, Feminine, Petra, meaning Jesus Christ Himself, Deuteronomy 32:3-4; I Corinthians 10:4) I will BUILD My Church, and the gates of Hades (graves, I Corinthians 15:54-55) shall NOT prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18).
The Church in Philadelphia - The Church of Brotherly Love - began in October 1933 (with 19 members) and is ongoing —
And to the angel of the Church in Philadelphia write, "These things says He who is holy, He who is true, He who has the key of David, He who opens, and no one can shut, and shuts and no one opens: I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it; for you have a little strength have kept My word, and have not denied My name.
Indeed I will make those of the synagogue of Satan, who say they are Jews, and are not, but lie— indeed I will make them come and worship before your feet, and to know that I have loved you.
Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trail which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.
Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast which you have, that no one may take your crown. He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God and he shall go out no more.
I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the Churches (Revelation 3:7-13).
This Present Historical Writing continues with the History of the Philadelphia Era of God’s true Church—
WORLDWIDE NEWS, SPECIAL EDITION
History of the Philadelphia Era of the
Worldwide Church of God
By Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong
Part 3 - Continued
Now a recap of what has happened to the Church and its work.
God had blessed His Church with an unprecedented approximate increase of 30 percent per year for 35 years. As these liberals began gaining more and more control God removed His blessing. I have often said that God blesses us as we please Him. During these liberal years in the 1970s, the income virtually stagnated. In 1974 the Church experienced a 1.6 percent decrease in income under 1973, the first negative growth in the Church's history. It fell another 4.8 percent the following year.
Since God brought me back from total heart failure, and directed me in removing these liberals, and putting the Church back on track, He has restored His blessings. Income for the Church this year will run two times the dollar volume of 1978. Income growth is allowing the Church to get the Gospel of the Kingdom of God to the world as a witness as never before. The physical blessings are matched by new spiritual growth and new truth added to His Church.
For 35 years the Church grew at the average rate of nearly 30 percent per year -- a phenomenal and so far as I know unprecedented growth for almost any kind of organization. When I gradually started handing over the broadcasting of the World Tomorrow program, it was primarily radio and had grown to be by far the largest program, especially classified as religious, in the world, using more wattage of radio power than any other program.
But by 1978, it had become virtually the smallest. Meanwhile, the work had again started on TV in 1967. I had first gone on TV in June, 1955, but discontinued TV after six months. We restarted in 1967 with one or two stations, but my voice was not then heard on television. It gradually increased to about 90 stations in 1975.
During most of these years the telecasting was ineffective in getting out the real Gospel.
By 1978 we went down to about 5O stations weekly. At that period following my heart failure while in Tucson, I once again took over TV broadcasting. We held steady while I was stuck in Tucson until 1981, when I came back to headquarters at Pasadena. From that time the TV program has produced steady growth, until today we are the second in the world in the religious category, with over 300 TV stations worldwide. Hopefully we shall soon be the largest.
Since the beginning of 1985, we have averaged around 13,000 telephone responses per program. Four times this year so far we have received over 17,000 telephone responses and once over 18,000.
Now look at the facts of the Plain Truth circulation. From its peak worldwide circulation in 1973, during the liberal years the number of subscriptions went from 3.1 million down to just over one million in January, 1977. In 1974, funding for preaching of the Gospel in international areas was cut off because of financial crises in Pasadena. In Europe at the time, it meant the untimely end of a newsstand program that had taken two years to build across the Continent.
Personnel from Pasadena were sent to the U.K. to cut off these funds and make reductions as part of an overall policy of making all international areas self supporting. The result was a decline in Plain Truth circulations around the world.
During that period in 1975, the fine quality of the Plain Truth was reduced down to a tabloid, printed on cheap newsprint paper.
In 1976, I restored The Plain Truth to the high quality magazine standard.
It is now clearly evident that God brought me back for a vital purpose, by CPR, from death by heart failure. Had I remained dead the Church of the living God would have been virtually destroyed by the liberal element that had crept in, especially in headquarters administration during my absence from Pasadena. During those liberal years, much of what was going on in policy changing and doctrinal liberalization had been carefully kept from me.
The Church of God was being systematically liberalized, the broadcasting had gone from top to bottom in the world, and from spiritual effectiveness to almost total ineffectiveness. God says we are to judge by the fruits. During those liberal years, the Church was bearing virtually no fruit. The Plain Truth and publishing work also had become almost totally ineffective. Ambassador College had been destroyed as God's college. In 1978, after my "resurrection" from total heart failure, I had to completely close Ambassador College at Pasadena, starting all over again, as in 1947, with one freshman class. The colleges in England and in Texas had already been closed.
It is very evident to those led by the Holy Spirit of God that there was a very significant reason why God brought me back to life at age 85 in 1977 to once again take over the reins and remove this liberal element -- to once again recapture the true values and to prepare this Philadelphia era of God's Church for the coming of Christ and the reign of the Kingdom of God.
Today the bona fide Plain Truth circulation is over 7.5 million.
The Youth magazine has gained an already large circulation nearing 200,000. The Good News magazine circulation is projected to reach close to one million subscribers monthly by the end of this year. The Bible Correspondence Course has been rejuvenated with a present enrollment of approximately 130,000 students worldwide.
God has revealed much vitally important new biblical truth. The Church has taken on a new spiritual vitality. Ambassador College is once again God's college and students are serving in a number of important projects in other nations around the world. Many of the important new biblical truths will be covered in the new book Mystery of the Ages.
Those liberals who went out or were put out of the Church through 1979 have no idea of the difference in the Church today. It is as different as white is from black or up is from down. In those years, headquarters was filled with contention, political striving for status and power. The atmosphere was rife with doctrinal disputations and contentions. There's an old saying, "When the cat's away, the mice begin to play."
While I was away from headquarters, there were strivings and contentions over policy, doctrines, not only on the headquarters campus but in many local churches. A liberal minority of members was causing contention. The membership dipped slightly since a certain number followed these liberals who left. God was weeding out these members and liberal ministers who were causing division in the Church. The contenders, the disgruntled, the liberals did not want God's government in the Church.
Speaking primarily of religious leaders, Jesus said: "Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit" (Matthew 7:16-17).
The "fruits" of the rebel leaders and "liberals" of the 1970s should now be clear to all. After some 35 years of steady growth in all facets of the Work of God's Church, the rate of growth began to slow, then ceased entirely in some areas, and, finally, even decreases began to be experienced in the number of radio and television stations, Plain Truth circulation, number of prospective members, number of co-workers, amount of income for the Work, etc. -- all under the "leadership" of the liberal element. These are well-documented facts that cannot be denied.
I want you, brethren, to think about and understand what happened to God's Church in the 1970s "lest history repeat itself!" [Note: And it has! ABB] I want you to see the "fruits" of rebelling against God's way and God's government.
After all, the basic issue all along was that of God's government in the Church. One who followed one liberal who, as the apostle Paul had predicted, sought to draw away followers after himself (Acts 20:30), said, "We are liberated from that church government and now have a loosely knit organization, and that's the way we like it."
Those liberals, who are no longer in God's Church, actually seem to be more interested in news of the Church -- especially false accusations, criticisms and persecutions of enemies -- than are the loyal members of the Church. It would seem the chief interest in their lives is to hear false reports, accusations and innuendos against the church.
Daniel prophesied of our time: "Many shall be purified, and made white, and tried; but the wicked shall do wickedly: and none of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand" (Daniel 12:10). Truly this has been a time of trying and testing. We are the first fruits called to be students that we may become kings and priests and rule with Christ (Revelation 5:10). We in the Church are students, and we are in the time of final exams.
Little groups, splintering off, centered in Washington, D.C.; Eugene, Ore.; Tyler, Tex.; Monterey, Calif.; and other places with groups too small to mention. They are not bearing fruit for the Kingdom. They are not pleasing God or being blessed by Him. Jesus said, "By their fruits you shall know them." They usually claim to be "branches" of the Church of God. But Jesus said, "I will build My Church" (Matthew 16:18). He did not say denominations, sects, cults, branches or a church divided against itself. Rather He said a house divided against itself cannot stand. There is one true Church and one only. The apostle Paul pictured humanly self-appointed "branches" when he said to the elders of the local church at Ephesus that some of their own selves would depart to draw a following after themselves.
Paul said, "But now are they many members, yet but one body" (I Corinthians 12:20). How was that one body organized? Did it have one government? "And God hath set some in the Church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues" (verse 28). Verse 25 shows there should be no divisions in the body -- no branches or branch organizations.
The Church is "built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone; in Whom all the building fitly framed together growth unto an holy Temple in the Lord" (Ephesians 2:20-21). Note, the Church is organized and fitly framed together, not organized with competing and differing branches.
Notice Ephesians 4, there is only one organized church "fitly joined together and compacted" (verse 16) -- compacted as if welded together into one well organized body. And how did He organize this body? How was it governed? "And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: till we all come in the unity of the faith ... (Ephesians 4:11-13). It is not Disunity or some other type of organization and government. Paul also said "that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment" (I Corinthians 1:10).
A primary reason for the contentions and slowing down in the growth of the Church during the liberal years is the fact that, in our desire to hold rebellious and liberal ministers and members within our fellowship, we did not rigidly obey the command of Romans 16:17: "Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them." Also in I Corinthians 5:11: "But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat."
To make clear one of the reasons -- if not the primary reason -- for the conflict caused by the liberal element, I quote from a Western newspaper. In an interview with a former minister, who had sought to draw away a following of members after himself, it was stated concerning this split-of-church that they have "a completely different administrative structure."
The story continued to explain that they totally differ with the governmental structure of God's Church. He was quoted as saying "he also does not believe in expelling people from the church if they do not live up to its teachings." It also stated they believe "the church is where people belong to help them overcome their problems." In other words the liberal idea is to disobey God's instruction to disfellowship and avoid those who are contentious and cause division and accept members who believe and live contrary to the teachings of Christ and the Bible.
Most of the dissension of the past in the Church had been over the matter of government. The dissenters believe in a very liberal government -- the way of Satan and his world. The whole purpose of the Gospel is to call those chosen by God out of this world and its ways into the ways of God. God's government is based on God's law. All government, even in the world's nations, is based on a foundation of law. A law is simply the rules of human conduct and behavior. The righteousness of God merely means righteous conduct and behavior based on the great spiritual law of God.
Christ said, "Every plant, which My heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up" (Matthew 15:13). And the apostle John also stated, "They went out from us, but they were not of us ..." (I John 2:19).
We who remain in the one and only true Church grieve over the loss of those who are so far failing in their final exams.
But sadly we remember that part of the responsibility is ours in not strictly heeding the admonition in Romans 16:17 to note those that cause division and avoid them. We love them all and pray for them. Some of them who have gone out from us were parents, children, brothers, sisters or close relatives to those who remain steadfast.
Meanwhile we pray also that God will keep those of us who remain loyal, constantly steadfast, growing in grace and spiritual character and the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, overcoming self, the world and Satan and enduring to the end. Pray that you, the loyal members of God's Church, remain dedicated to the Kingdom of God -- which is the government of God.
Now one final reminder to the Church and all loyal ministers: If any who have gone out from this wonderful fellowship that we have in God's one and only true Church, profess repentance and wish to come back, they must now, as John the Baptist said, "Bring forth fruits meet for repentance" or prove their repentance by performance over an adequate period of time. I personally do, and hope all of our loyal members will, pray for their repentance and ultimate return.
The Church is the embryo of the coming Kingdom of God, which is the family of God. There will be no divisions in that Kingdom. There must be none in the Church.
A final personal word: In a few days I will be 93 years of age. For some years now, there have been some, like vultures, waiting for me to die. They would like to come back and take over the leadership Or the Church in my stead. I have been deeply concerned about this, but in no sense worried. This is the Church of God, not of any man. Jesus Christ is the living Head of this Church. I am not.
And Jesus Christ will never receive any of those who have gone out to draw a following after themselves to come back and lead God's Church into Satan's liberalism [Note: It came from within the Church, and the Corporate Worldwide Church of God ceased to be God’s True Church – the true members scattered, Daniel 12:7]. It would be no longer God's Church, even as Ambassador College was no longer God's college, and Christ had to start it all over again through me with one freshman class.
[Note: It started over with Faithful Flock – with only a very few members. The development and history of Faithful Flock will follow soon.]
When I have, even rarely, mentioned my concern in this category, the response of members has always been the belief that God will keep me alive. I hope that He will, and I do try to take every care of my health and physical condition, but whether God keeps me alive 10 more years, or only 10 more minutes is entirely in God's hands. Brethren, put your faith in Christ and the living God and not in me. If Christ should remove me, He will direct the Advisory Council of Elders to select one of them to continue.
[Note: Shortly after the death of Mr. Armstrong, the appointed pastor general by Mr. Armstrong, disbanded the Advisory Council of Elders who wanted complete control without anyone being able to stand in his way-- and he got it. The true Elect scattered!]
Pray that God will keep YOU in His Church until He replaces this evil world and brings the wonderful, peaceful and blessed Kingdom of God.
http://bodyofchristonline.us/ http://cog-ff.com http://www.ezekielwatchman.org/