"Daughter Of Babylon,
The True History of
The Worldwide Church of God"
by Bruce Renehan
Chapter 5 Elijah Shall Truly Come
It might be easier to understand the general thinking pattern of the Worldwide Church of God members, now that we have explored their paradigm. To them, their world view became so fixed that they quickly felt uneasy around other people who did not think the same way. In an orderly flow, one precept was built upon another until an answer emerged for the meaning of life. A dilemma was created when Worldwide Church of God members tried to explain their point of view to outsiders. This would reinforce their fixation that "God had chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise" (I Cor. 1:27). The fact that outsiders seemed bewildered by Worldwiders and their rituals appeared to be a proof to them that God had "opened their minds" to divinely guided revelations. This is what they all referred to as their "calling." Being "called" (accepting the paradigm) was a mark of distinction and a "proof" that God was personally involved in their lives.
By the time inquisitive literature readers began counseling for membership, Worldwide Church of God ministers would make sure that they had accepted Herbert Armstrong's paradigm. Here is a synopsis of Armstrong's paradigm that was built upon the three major premises:1. The true church only preaches the true gospel.
2. That gospel is not a message about the person or ministry of Christ.
3. The gospel is about the coming Kingdom of God (the Millennium).
4. Salvation is achieved by the works of the law, primarily the keeping of the seventh day Sabbath.
5. The Sabbath day is a special sign or mark of who God's true people are.
6. The Sabbath and Holy Days (annual Sabbaths) have a special spiritual meaning and the keeping of them brings spiritual revelation, including the correct understanding of God's plan and His government.
7. God's government is from the top down and higher ranking ministers have greater divine inspiration.
8. This divine inspiration allows the Worldwide Church of God to be the only group that understands the secret plan God is working out on earth under the noses of a deceived world. This understanding only comes from the top down.
9. This deceived world includes all professing Christian churches, which are Satanic counterfeits of the true church.
10. Satan's first and greatest counterfeit of Christianity is the Roman Catholic Church which is identified as Babylon the Great in Revelation 17.
11. Since the Catholic Church is counterfeit, and uses its' lineage as a proof of its' authority, the true church must trace its' lineage among the persecuted, anti-Catholic, Sabbath-keeping "heretics" throughout history.
12. The true church can be found in history because it is persecuted by the false church for not keeping the true Sabbath.
13. Enforced Sunday worship is the mark of the Beast.
14. Any church (including the Protestants) who observe Sunday as their "Sabbath" are identified as the harlot daughters of BABYLON THE GREAT.
15. Since the true church rejects the false system, and accepts the true, it must be called of God to participate in the great commission to preach the gospel in the end time.
16. Since the true church understands that the commission is for the end time, and Daniel 12:9 says that understanding will be increased in the end time, then we are in the end time.
17. Since there are 7 eras of the church and this is the end time, Christians should strive to be the 6th era and not the 7th because the 6th will be divinely protected from tribulation.
18. To remain in the 6th era, a member must sacrifice greatly to help the gospel be preached, adhere to all of the true teachings, and obey government.
19. Therefore all of the teachings and authority of the Worldwide Church of God hinge upon its belief that it is the Philadelphia (or 6th) Era of God's one true church and in great favor with God.
After accepting their "calling," members were now primed for initiation into the church. Initiation would consist of cross-examination by ministerial representatives. Modification of their lifestyle would invariably be required of the new proselytes. They would have to change their diet (the Jewish kosher laws of Leviticus 11 were to be adopted); they would be required to commit themselves to a rigid tithing system (20% of their gross income was earmarked for the church and church holy day observances); further donations were commanded at the seven annual holy days that were required assemblies (these required assemblies would strain employment and cause problems when removing children from school); members were often asked to alter marital arrangements (in some cases a divorce was requested); and finally, new converts were threatened to remain ever in subjugation of the ministry.
Once these commitments were agreed to, they were invited to attend church services and allowed to counsel for baptism. Upon baptism, the initiation rites had been completed and the proselyte was considered a converted member under the power and influence of the Holy Spirit.
In 1959, researchers Elliot Aronson and Judson Mills discovered that "persons who go through a great deal of trouble or pain to attain something tend to value it more highly than persons who attain the same thing with a minimum of effort" (Aronson and Mills, 177-81). Studying both tribal rites of passage and fraternity hazing, these behavioral scientists concluded that loyalty is correlated to the level of pain or distress one suffers upon initiation. This was the case also for those who were admitted membership into the Worldwide Church of God.
Another factor that increases loyalty to a group is open compliance (Schein, 149-72). By being consistently prompted about loyalty and enticed to verbalize reasons for compliance, American POWs were coerced to swear loyalty to their captors during the Korean War.
Kudos can be hazardous to one's health.
This was the vortex of circular reasoning used by the general membership of the Worldwide Church of God until their founder's passing in 1986. Many still maintain this belief system privately. Many would like to escape the vortex altogether, but find that the church's very assumption that it has a correct understanding of Matthew 16 gives no alternative for them. They have been warned that one must remain a Worldwide Church of God member, held captive to the authority of their church at all costs.
In 1933 Herbert Armstrong claimed that he had been given a divine calling by Jesus Christ to restore all of these doctrines to a church that had grown dead since the day of Pentecost in 31 AD. In 1926 he had been challenged to accept and observe the Saturday Sabbath by his wife. He later claimed to be loosely associated with a Sabbath-keeping group in Eugene, Oregon, the Church of God, Seventh Day. Later his wife had a strange dream that she repeated to Herbert. She had dreamt that Christ wanted Herbert to preach the gospel. This was the start of a ministry that lasted until his death in 1986. Millions of lives were affected by his teachings during his lifetime and many are still perplexed a decade after his death.
Toward the end of his life he was often referred to as the Elijah, a reference that meant he was preparing the world for the return of Christ. He claimed that he had restored all of the truths of the early Christian church lost for 19 centuries in the doctrinal premises of the Worldwide Church of God. The church had been made ready. It was "Philadelphian."
In August 1986, nine months after the death of Herbert Armstrong, the new Pastor General of the Worldwide Church of God, Joseph Tkach, had an article printed in the church's newspaper, The Worldwide News. Its title was, "God restored these 18 truths: How thankful are you for them?" Herbert Armstrong's life's work in restoring spiritual truth as the Elijah was listed in these 18 points. The editors wrote:
In his last book, Mystery of the Ages, the late Herbert W. Armstrong wrote: "This Church, until after the year of 1933, had lost many...vital truths. At least 18 basic and essential truths have been restored to the true Church since that year" (page 251, hard cover edition)....Jesus said, "Elias [Elijah] truly shall first come, and restore all things" (Matthew 17:11). Jesus was referring to something that was to happen in the future. John the Baptist had already come, and Jesus didn't even begin His ministry until John had been put in prison. John didn't restore anything. Jesus was referring to another man, not John....Where would we be without these truths? Without them--without Herbert W. Armstrong's legacy of these 18 restored truths--there isn't much left.
In his book Mystery of the Ages, Herbert Armstrong had also asserted that he was the embodiment of Elijah the prophet as well as John the Baptist.
But also preparing the way before his Second Coming was a messenger of whom Elijah was a type. A voice crying out in the worldwide spiritual wilderness of religious confusion, preparing the way for the spiritual glorified King of kings and Lord of lords to come in the supreme power and glory of God to his spiritual temple, the Church.
Had the Elijah come? In less than a decade after Armstrong's death Joseph Tkach and his staff saw fit to abandon or cannibalize nearly all of the 18 restored truths that Armstrong had established as the essential doctrines of the "Philadelphia Era." But, if Armstrong had been the Elijah (or the second John the Baptist), who was Tkach? We might well ask the same question that Jesus asked those in religious authority during his ministry, "The baptism of John (or Herbert Armstrong), whence was it? from heaven, or of men?"
By what authority did Armstrong speak? Surely validation might be found by tracing the history of the Worldwide Church of God. All one would need to do is verify documents that might prove if it were somehow descended from the New Testament church, as Armstrong claimed it was. If history substantiated the Worldwide Church of God claim, then some might well have believed correctly that Elijah, in the form of Herbert Armstrong, had been sent from God to restore lost truths.
Let's examine what Armstrong's church historians provided for their evidence.
Go to the "Painful Truth" page.