Understanding of church eras as described in Revelation 2 and 3 is crucial in comprehending where we are in prophecy. Predominate characteristics of each era are provided, as well as prophetic revelations for those that love the truth. Revelation 3:9 is one such prophecy that has huge implications reaching into the last era of the Church of God—the era that God’s people find themselves in today.
There is a rising level of frustration among the people of God, as they continue to be scattered about the earth. Why has the living Christ allowed this to occur? How did it happen, that such a large corporate body seemingly unified in purpose and doctrine, could be broken up into such a large number of confused and disoriented assemblies?
Some ministers bemoan the “lack of respect for the ministry” compared to what they experienced in the 1960’s—as if this in itself were the root of the problem. They seem to hold to the view that if God’s people would just shut up and follow, unity would return to the Church of God, and the discontent among God’s people would quickly disappear.
It is true that each individual Christian is responsible for his or her own actions and spiritual state as admonished in Philippians 2:12 “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling”. Most of God’s people have WELCOMED heresy and cozying up to the world’s civilization as it descends further into moral turpitude: “Which say to the seers, See not; and to the prophets, Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, PROPHESY DECEITS”. (Isaiah 30:10)
While the majority of the people of God will be WITHOUT EXCUSE when they are VOMITTED OUT into the great tribulation JUST AHEAD (Rev. 3:16), it is the ministry at large that is held MOST ACCOUNTABLE! It is the ministry—and particularly the ministry that was ordained during the Philadelphian era—that will be soon facing a very stern judge that is returning to RULE THE EARTH!
You will see below—as the questions poised at the beginning of this article are answered—that most of these men will receive their judgment at the Great White Throne (Rev 20:11-13), while the most unfortunate could meet their fate in either the Great Tribulation, or the Lake of Fire!
From the Top Down
Open your Bible and review Matthew 13, focusing on versus 24 through 30, known as the “Parable of the Wheat and Tares”. While applicable to every age, Christ is also revealing in this parable a piece to the puzzle explaining the Laodicean age. He describes people placed in the body by the evil one—the being that OPPOSES GOD, “while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way.” (Matthew 13 25)
Note here that men were SLEEPING when this occurred! Recall that a characteristic of most of God’s people at the end of the age is a drowsy spiritual state. Matthew 25, known as “The Parable of the Ten Virgins” portrays the end time Laodicean church of God: “While the bridegroom tarried, they ALL slumbered and slept”. (Matthew 25:5)
It has been long understood that the five unwise virgins LOSE THEIR ETERNAL SALVATION and meet their end in the Lake of Fire (Rev. 19:20), while the wise virgins retain only some of the Spirit of God—while sleeping—and awake in the Great Tribulation. It is these sleeping brethren that allow tares to infiltrate the leadership of the Church of God.
How do they allow it, one might ask? They allow this to occur by not loving the truth more than they love the world and their lives IN IT. There is a time to stand up and dispute lies and heresy, but most of God’s people have fallen asleep, believing they are “rich” spiritually, and “in need of nothing”. (Rev. 3:17)
Matthew 13 describes what occurred to the Worldwide Church of God prior to the death of Herbert Armstrong. MOST of the members—including the leadership—were NEVER CONVERTED AT ALL! Satan—the enemy of the true Christ and the
impersonator called Jesus today by professing false Christians—placed HIS ministers and his laity among the Body of true believers!
Then, when the 20th century apostle died, the leadership that assumed corporate authority took the organization toward false Christianity as fast as they could run with it. True believers were amazed at the solidarity among those in both the laity and leadership that so quickly departed from what they had professed to believe only a few short years before.
“Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;” (2 Thes 2:3)
The “falling away” , or end-time apostasy began as the leadership of the Worldwide Church of God—under the inspiration of the devil—immediately began to inject heresy into the organization. But UNDERSTAND! They did not change their minds in perpetuating this evil! They had always reasoned in this confused manner, but had— except in very closed circles of accomplices—kept their mouths shut and abided while they awaited the death of the one holding back the wickedness. (2 Thes 2:7)
Heresy, and the confusion it brings, did not start from the bottom, although events proved that literally tens of thousands of the membership were, in fact, tares. Heresy was injected in the organization from the very top leadership in the WCG. Those holding fast through the years to this day have generally known this to be
true. But this is only a part of the complete picture that could not have been understood until recently.
The Synagogue of Satan
Many of us have long understood that those that led the apostasy in the WCG were unconverted and described in Revelation 3:9 as the Synagogue of Satan: “Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee.”
Let’s look closely at this verse at it reveals more with respect to these false minister’s characteristics than what might first be recognized.
First, note that these men profess to be true Christians (Jews) but are not. That means they are devoid of the Spirit of God. They did not lose God’s Spirit somewhere along the way, but NEVER HAD IT TO BEGIN WITH! They can also be described as
tares. As they came among God’s people in the laity, the corruption already existent in the corporate body worked to move them into the visible leadership.
The word “Synagogue” can be identified in Strong’s as word number 4164, meaning an assembly or congregation. They were an assembly within the Body of Christ, but they were never of the Body of Christ!
Another characteristic of these pretenders is their proclivity for lying. No wonder, as their boss is a being that holds his twisted objectives to warrant lying on demand: “Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it. (John 8:44)
Conversely, true ministers of God DO NOT WILLFULLY LIE! That’s not to say that true ministers are perfect, or don’t make mistakes, or don’t sin. However, LYING IS NEVER JUSTIFIED. Willful lying is from the devil, and leads to all kinds of other corruption and sin.
Unfortunately, those that witnessed the apostasy in the WCG also experienced lie after lie from the men in the top leadership positions. These men lied over and over again in order to distort the recent past, twist scripture, and promote their evil heresy. Those that held to the truth were forced to leave, or were disfellowshipped.
God’s people understood they had been tested as they assembled in offshoots of the Worldwide Church of God in the 1990’s. Depending on their disposition and background, they might have become a member in the PCG, UCG, or GCG; or some other smaller group, but they generally thought at that time that the test was concluding, as the Synagogue of Satan finished with the destruction of the Worldwide Church of God.
No one seemed to recognize the falling away as being something other than an abandonment of the truth restricted to the corporate WCG. However, it is clear today looking back that every single organization that formed had—from their beginning— either heresy taken from the WCG into the group, or new fabrications and lies often in the area of prophesy.
Like flocks of sheep, God’s people felt secure where they assembled for a time; not recognizing the wolves in their midst! No wonder though, as Christ warned his people to “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.” (Matt. 7:15)
Many of these ex-WCG ministers have proven to be just that—FALSE PROPHETS!
Others have viewed God’s people as a good livelihood for themselves while they “make merchandise” (2 Peter 2:3) of the people of God. They may vary in personality and types of heresy, and methods of administration, but they have some common characteristics:
(1) They lie and teach heresy
(2) They merchandise the brethren, believing they are entitled to God’s tithes and a comfortable lifestyle
(3) They are blind guides but believe themselves to be enlightened
(4) They talk of unity and even “family”, while they scatter God’s people (Jer 23, Ezekiel 34)
(5) They are self-promoting, proudly boasting about their past “credentials” such as Ambassador College attendance
“For these people are murmurers, grumbling at their lot in life—they fall in with their own passions, their talk is arrogant, they pay court to men to benefit themselves.” (Jude 16)
Perhaps you have considered these “murmurers” described to be lay member tares that come and go throughout any church age. If so, you have been partially correct. The MAIN thrust of this scripture and others in Jude and 2 Peter is directed at false ministers that appear to be true ministers! These are akin to time bombs set to go off perhaps decades after they first come in contact with God’s people.
Why? TO TEST THE TRUE PEOPLE OF GOD! To determine how much the people of God love the truths they have been taught! God’s people in this end time thought the test was complete after they assembled in an offshoot group of the WCG, but it was really only beginning! The WCG leadership under the Tkach’s that remained with the apostate organization until it was destroyed were not the only false ministers! Yes, they were a part of the Synagogue of Satan, but only a part. Many in the legion of false ministers appeared to “stand up” for the truth and leave the fellowship of those in the WCG.
But note that most of them stayed until they had another secure paycheck waiting for them in another group. Effectively, while remaining as employees of the WCG apostates, they appeared to endorse the heresy and claptrap promoted by the Tkach’s. They have proven themselves to be nothing other than the “hirelings” Christ spoke of in John 10:12. As God’s true people settled in various organizations that formed, they believed themselves to finally be free of the WCG apostates and securely planted in the “right place”. What none understood at that time was that God continued to allow Satan to scatter God’s people in a slower march toward false Chritianity and worldliness.
The apostasy didn’t end in the mid-1990’s with the destruction of the Worldwide Church of God. It continued to this day, to a time when there does not appear to be ANY COG group on track, being led by the true Christ.
But how did this happen in the church of God in our time? Just what should we recognize and what should be learned? The next few paragraphs will explain some of the mechanics employed by the devil, and point to a common background in those that have been used by Satan to scatter the people of God.
The common history and link of these men is none other than Ambassador College! Ambassador College Ambassador College first began classes in 1947, sponsored and supported by a growing Radio Church of God, with a focused purpose of providing a right education and trained ministers for a accelerated work of God. The college was unaccredited for good reason—it’s focus was to provide a right and balanced liberal arts education to students, and provide for a ministry by preparing men through education and service.
The first campus in Pasadena, California was later augmented with two additional campuses, one in Big Sandy, Texas and another in Bricket Wood, England. While the first student bodies were small, the campuses grew to include hundreds of young
men and women, with large campus staffs. Literature describing AC indicates student body sizes of 700 persons at each campus.
The work of God expanded at a tremendous rate throughout the decades of the 1950’s and 60’s, absorbing most of the graduates by providing full time employment upon graduation in the work of God. However, toward the end of the 1960’s, the number of male graduates began to exceed the number of available positions— particularly in the ministry.
Herbert Armstrong was absent much of the time during the 1970’s, preaching the true gospel to world leaders and leaving his subordinates in the ministry to attend to both the Worldwide Church of God and the administration of Ambassador College. By his own admission, he became too disengaged during the 1970’s, and later had to correct the entire Church of God, getting it “back on the track”.
The purpose here is not to malign the genuine principles Mr. Armstrong had in mind when he was inspired to found this educational institution. Neither is the purpose to single out individuals that attended AC, and have since proven themselves corrupt false ministers. The reader can fill in the blanks for names that have been intentionally omitted from this article.
Those that LOVE THE TRUTH once restored to the true church must also love the truth when it is not “smooth” or “pleasant”! Wisdom imparted through the power of God’s Holy Spirit also provides for understanding of human nature, and common sense.
While the goals were lofty, and the need was great; with “hindsight 20-20” so to speak, we can recognize that the results weren’t close to what Mr. Armstrong envisioned or intended. Of all those hired by the work of God as full time ministers, there are very few—if any—that are holding fast to the truth as we enter the year 2014. Why?
The unintended consequences of inviting hundreds of young adolescents to become students at AC are not that difficult to understand if one looks at the past 50 years with an open mind. Think about it in terms of a secular campus that provides engineering degrees. For this example, let’s assume this prestigious campus graduates 500 engineers per year. As long as there is a need for more than 500 engineers in the economy following each graduation, students can be assured of employment. Good students will work hard independently, cooperate with their fellow students, graduate, and move into the work force to earn a fair wage.
Imagine an economic downturn that contracts the economy and reduces the number of available positions to 50. Now, a high GPA, relationships, and connections are going to matter much more to the future of each student. In this world, not just the most gifted; but the most ruthless, the most effective flatterers, those that cheat without getting caught will generally tend to rise to the top. For example, a compromised professor with connections might tend to help those students that fawn on him and give preference.
With this in mind, consider the Ambassador College experience. Competition for acceptance to AC was encouraged by the field ministry. Good marks, a good attitude, recommendations by the ministry were all necessary pre-requisites. While we should not fault a standard for acceptance, one should understand that most decisions made by human beings are very subjective.
Major corporations prohibit the acceptance of gifts from contractors and consultants. It is understood that this type of behavior is unethical and creates a conflict of interest. Violations can result in immediate termination, as they are viewed as corrupting influences. No CEO would think of having a young, aspiring executive mow his lawn or carry his briefcase, as it would be readily understood as unethical and a “conflict of interest”.
If this is understood in the corrupt business environment of western culture, WHY WAS IT ALLOWED IN THE CHURCH OF GOD DURING THE PEAK YEARS OF AC?
It’s time to acknowledge hard facts that first, explain why so many full time ex-WCG ministers could apostatize over a brief period in church history; and second lead to conclusions WE MUST UNDERSTAND to be of the same mind with the TRUE CHRIST today!
Ambassador College was not wrong, or a bad concept at all. Mr. Armstrong did not realize the growing corruption in his administration until he was very old. At that time, he did not have the physical means to correct course. His eyes were dim, and his hearing was failing, his energy level was low. Can anyone contend that a merciful Christ would hold such an overall effective servant to account for such oversight?
But history has shown that the Biblical model for leadership was ignored regularly through the latter years of the Philadelphian era. The Bible is very clear concerning qualifications for a minister in the Church of God. They are well known and described in I Timothy 2 and Titus 1. While no one can be perfect in all things, so often in the various churches today these scriptures are entirely ignored in ordinations—NOT EVEN READ! Why? Because a 22 year old young man—while he may be decent and with good prospects—CANNOT POSSIBLY QUALIFY!
How can a 22 year old—even if recently married to a wife—be measured against a standard of ruling his house well, with his children in subjection? He has barely entered the adult world! How can one near this age be “proven” as noted in verse 10 of I Timothy 3? And note that verse 10 applies to DEACONS—how much more for a minister of God!
Are you getting the picture as to how so many men could be so wrong and lead so many astray so quickly? Let’s summarize and get to the heart of the matter. Rough numbers are presented below, and are not intended to be precise. They don’t need to be.
Take 2100 students and place them at three campuses with most of the students very impressionable and naive adolescent young adults whose entire life experience is their family, and primary school. Place them in an autocratic environment with corrupt leaders already at high levels. Combine this with the knowledge that only 1 in 10 of the men will be hired following graduation. What do you think the result will be?
Those that were the smoothest flatterers, the best at working relationships, the most gifted politicians, those that feigned obeisance, and those that worked intrigue most effectively tended to be promoted in such an environment. Thus—and this is going to be hard for many to accept—most that were offered a position in the
ministry WERE NEVER CONVERTED AT ALL! God was not in their ordination and DID NOT SET THEM APART! Why? Because God IS NOT a part of such tactics in choosing men for HIS MINSTRY!
Most that went into the field as pastors did not have enough life experience to manage their own lives, let alone provide sound counsel to God’s people. Of course there were sound doctrines in place to govern, and these doctrines tended to actually hide the lack of conversion in the WCG ministry. In addition, there was the knowledge the old-patriarch, Herbert Armstrong, was in charge and the boss. So generally, most did what they knew the boss wanted, even if they inwardly disagreed with this or that doctrine.
Let me repeat so there is no misunderstanding—Ambassador College as an ideal and as an institution was not WRONG, or a MISTAKE. However, history has proven that the men selected DID NOT REMAIN LOYAL TO THE TRUTH! So there wasn’t (generally) a problem with the curriculum taught, or even the program. It was the selection process that tended through the years to become ever more corrupt, largely unknown to Mr. Armstrong. Yes, there were flare-up’s in the ministry as most old-timers are aware, but Mr. Armstrong quickly isolated the problem and remedied it.
Jesus Christ said in Matthew 7:16 that we can know false ministers “by their fruits”. The fruits of the ex-WCG ministry are evidence that something went terribly wrong toward the end of the Philadelphian era. Today, very few have held to the true Gospel of Jesus Christ—preaching the coming Kingdom of God; and fewer still understand the nature of the true Christ Himself, or details of that coming literal Kingdom. Unfortunately, if a true child of God converses with an ex-WCG minister, he or she can assume that the man will be most interested in promoting his own pet idea, or weird doctrine, or false gospel, or . . . well, you know the reality of the situation of God’s church today.
Working To Overcome Suspicion
The trend and rule of thumb with respect to the ex-WCG ministry should be obvious when the collective fruits borne 30 years later since the death of Herbert Armstrong are evident. However, there can be exceptions and this article in no way seeks to condemn or even judge ALL ex-WCG ministers that attended Ambassador College. If you are such a minister, and you have held fast to what was once professed by over 150,000 persons; YOU can still perform an important service to God’s people!
You must acknowledge, though, that it is YOU that will have to be different than hundreds of your prior associates. There are true people of God that will once again accept leadership if they are truly converted, however the level of cynicism and suspicion is at a peak among the church of God. Building trust will require time and patience by all that seek to once again have unity .
God can rebuild what self-absorbed false ministers have scattered and broken. Perhaps He has already begun the process among those that fear God and speak “often to one another”. (Malachi 4:16) It has to begin at some point, and it must start with all those that have a passion and love for God’s truth. So, while the conclusions in this article might be depressing and sad in the short term, we must understand that in the longer term, the great God and His Son are building a family of loyal team members that LOVE THE TRUTH!
Those that have been tested and remained faithful, running the gauntlet of false ministers and false brethren, will be told by our elder brother, “Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.” (Matthew 25:23)