The Painful Truth About The Worldwide Church of God
The Painful Truth About The Worldwide Church of God.

"Daughter Of Babylon,
The True History of
The Worldwide Church of God"
by Bruce Renehan

Chapter 12

The Third Angel's Message

There were many factors that led up to the development of the Sabbath-observing Church of Christ of the mid-nineteenth century. The evangelizing of the Seventh-day Baptists is believed, by some, to be a possible source for the Adventist movement being introduced to seventh-day observance. This may well be the truth. But the Sabbath issue in itself does not stand as a proof for the one true church, as we have already seen in Part II.

I have sought for consistency in the evidences given for the one true church story by the Worldwide Church of God. We have seen that there is no consistency in any of their so-called "proofs". If we are to believe that the gates of hell had never prevailed against one organization, then what can we honestly say are the distinguishing characteristics of that organization? If the organization kept changing into such varied movements as the Ebionites, the Waldensians, the Lollards, and the Seventh-day Baptists--then we must look for doctrinal consistency. That did not exist either.

Was it the Sabbath Day that the gates of hell could not prevail against? We find great periods of time in history where there are no records of Christian Sabbatarians.

Likewise, if we looked for a consistency in "the gospel" of the Middle Ages, we would not find the Millennium being taught by the reformers that the Worldwide Church of God has claimed a lineage from. Among Christian reformers like Waldo and Wycliff, the gospel was based upon giving up of one's wealth to the poor. This included the teaching that ministers could claim no tithe and were required to proclaim a vow of poverty themselves.

Finally we are drawn to the issue of honesty. Is the Worldwide Church of God honestly able to produce a lineage to the "primitive church" of the New Testament? To attempt this, they had to be carefully selective of existing histories. In fact, Worldwide Church of God authors had to make their historical sources say just the opposite of what they originally intended. By misinterpreting secular history, the Worldwide Church of God authors produced a "divinely inspired" account. Was this a good practice for a commandment-keeping church?

For followers of the Worldwide Church of God to have believed this shaded view of history, they would have had to believe that secular history is false. Then they have had to accept that their ministers can rearrange a false history to reveal the mysterious lineage of the one true church.

This was the exact frame of mind that I found with one Worldwide Church of God member who asked me to show him some of my historical documentation. He viewed it and then proclaimed to me that all of these sources were merely jealous of the Worldwide Church of God and wanted to defame it. This seems hardly credible since William Jones and Emilio Comba wrote their histories long before the Worldwide Church of God even existed. In fact, Jones wrote his book before William Miller had proclaimed the advent of Christ.

As we saw in the last chapter, denial seemed to be the trademark of these Millerites. Not being able to admit that they were duped into following a false prophet, they regrouped and created a reason for the "great disappointment" of 1844. They immediately found themselves forming the organized Seventh-day Adventist church and following prophecy again. This time it was the prophecy of Ellen G. White.

Not every one of White's ministers would continue to follow her as a prophetess. One such disappointed Seventh-day Adventist minister would break away to develop a new branch of Protestantism. His name was Gilbert Cranmer. For the lineage theory to have worked, Cranmer would had to have come into contact with an already existing "Church of God" and to have been raised up by an apostle. (Remember, we were told that the gates of hell could not prevail against this "Church of God" if it is God's true church.) Instead, Cranmer was a Millerite who became a Seventh-day Adventist. Later, after being defrocked by the Whites, Cranmer began raising up "Churches of Christ." In our search for a thread of consistency, we are left to ask, "When did the holy mantle ever fall from the Seventh-day Baptists to Gilbert Cranmer?"

The Church of Christ, as it was known in Michigan, organized a conference in 1860. It had congregations in Waverly, Alamo, Bangor, Hartford, Casco, Goblis, Bloomingdale, Hamilton, West Olive, and Otsego, among other places. Some of these congregations numbered more than 100 members.

The founder of most, if not all, of these churches was a man by the name of Gilbert Cranmer. Cranmer was born in Newfield, New York, on January 18, 1814. At the age of seventeen he was converted and joined the Methodist Church. In a short time, Cranmer was filling the position of an exhorter. He preached on occasion for two years. At that time he severed his relationship with the Methodist Church and was licensed to preach by the Christian Church. He began to travel and devoted a considerable amount of his time to preaching (Coulter, 9-10).

Cranmer never did have personal contact with the Seventh-day Baptists. So we have no hands being laid on him by that group. Instead, Cranmer's contact with doctrines, such as the Sabbath, came through the Seventh-day Adventists and Millerites.

It was in 1843, while living at Augusta [Michigan] that Cranmer studied and accepted the theory of William Miller on the second advent of Jesus Christ. On October 22, 1844, he experienced the "great disappointment" with thousands of others. But unlike many who gave up their faith, Cranmer reviewed the matter of the advent and remained convinced that Jesus second coming was imminent and sure. He continued to preach the second advent of Jesus Christ the remainder of his life. (Coulter, 10)

Cranmer began observing the Sabbath after meeting Joseph Bates.

It was through his acquaintance with Joseph Bates that Cranmer was introduced to the work of James and Ellen G. White. Following the great disappointment in 1844, the Whites had become convinced of the Sabbath. It was through a series of conferences in which they rallied adventists to the observance of the seventh-day Sabbath that they became the dominant leaders in the Sabbathkeeping adventists (Coulter, 12).

Now if Sabbath-keeping is the hallmark of God's people, we must ask ourselves, how is it being introduced at this point in history and why aren't the SDAs receiving special revelation from God?

Finally, the leadership of James and Ellen G. White was solidified for the Sabbathkeeping adventists through the visions of Mrs. White. Her visions appear to have been the means by which policy was established and doctrinal differences were settled (Coulter, 12).

First, we have the false prophecy of William Miller and what was called the "great disappointment." Then, we find another religious movement springing out of William Miller--Seventh-day Adventism. Both of these religious movements were rooted in the prophecies of a human instrument. Ellen G. White taught that God had literally shut the door of salvation to sinners in 1844. Cranmer began to question White's authority as an end-time prophetess. Later he would write in his own publication, The Hope of Israel, August 10, 1863:

About ten years ago a Seventh-day Adventist minister, by the name of Bates, came to our town and advocated the whole Law, the gifts of the Spirit, and many other glorious truths. The gifts belonging to the Church, I had believed in for over twenty years. Hence I felt to rejoice, supposing I had found the people I had been so long looking for. He told me that the gifts were realized among them, that they had the gift of prophecy and the gift of healing the sick. But as long as I was with them I never knew of any being healed. I have known them to try but they always failed. In this I was disappointed. I also found the spirit of prophecy, with them, was confined wholly to a woman. By this time I became suspicious that I had gotten on board the wrong ship. I then commenced to giving her visions a thorough investigation. I found they contradicted themselves, and that they contradicted the Bible.

Cranmer observed that these people could talk a good talk but could not produce any evidence of their faith. They bore no fruit. How did Cranmer and fellow ministers who would leave the SDA church assign fault for the absence of fruit? Solely in the prophecies of Ellen G. White.

As the years went by, some of White's ministers would sever their relationship with the SDAs, maintaining all of the teachings but releasing themselves from the authority of the Whites. There seems to be more to this rejection of authoritarianism by those who had experienced Millerism. These outcast groups had very strong anti-organizational feelings, which were often expressed in the pages of both The Hope of Israel and The Bible Advocate during the 1860s. (These were the publications of the Church of Christ movement.)

Many articles have been published sharply criticizing other adventists for organizing as "sectarian organizations." This opposition to organization can be traced directly to the Millerite Advent movement of more than 40 years prior to this time (Coulter, 33).

Of course, anyone who is familiar with Herbert Armstrong's early claims to "loose association" with the Church of God, (Seventh-day), will recognize a reason why he could get away with making such a claim. In fact, in 1939 he published an article condemning organized religion. But as the Church of God, (Seventh-day) is quick to point out, "loose association" never pertained to the ordination of their ministers (of which Armstrong was one). What is important to understand, at this juncture, is that the Church of God, (Seventh-day) practices local church autonomy as opposed to the tight "government-from-the-top-down" structure taught by Herbert Armstrong.

In the beginning of this chapter, I discussed the doctrinal consistencies one might find between churches if they are related to one another. This is a natural consequence that seems unavoidable.

A glance through the directory of Sabbath-observing Christian churches, published by the Bible Sabbath Association of Fairview, Oklahoma, reveals many scores of churches that have broken away from the SDAs, Church of God, (Seventh-day), Worldwide Church of God and even from the churches that have formed after splitting off from these splinter groups. They all bear similarities in doctrines.

It is curious that during the years of Herbert Armstrong's public ministry, the Worldwide Church of God was barraged with inquiries about the similarities of his church's doctrines and those of the Seventh-day Adventists and the Jehovah's Witnesses. To many observers, these doctrinal similarities seemed to be more than just a coincidence. In protest, Herbert Armstrong wrote in his Plain Truth magazine of 1953 an article entitled, "No! I Never Was a 'Jehovah's Witness,' or a Seventh-day Adventist!" In the article he made this claim:

I have never been a member of the "Jehovah's Witnesses," nor of the Seventh-day Adventists. I have never in any manner, shape, or form had any remote connection with them, or associated with either sect or denomination. I have never had fellowship with them.

A form of this article was reprinted as a tract and continued to be mailed out to inquirers throughout the remainder of Armstrong's ministry. This claim to no form of any "remote connection" with either group is an untrue statement on both accounts. Not only was his church in the direct lineage of the SDA church, he also picked up many of his early doctrinal beliefs from an ex-Jehovah's Witness minister whom I will reveal later.

Let us now examine the similarities in the teachings of the SDAs and the Worldwide Church of God during the ministry of Herbert Armstrong. I want to give special credit to the research of Paul N. Benware in his 1975 book entitled, Ambassadors of Armstrongism. Here is what his book exposed.

The Influence of Seventh-day Adventism

It was noted previously that Herbert Armstrong was affiliated for several years with the Church of God (Seventh-day), which is an offshoot of Seventh-day Adventism. The influence of Adventism is readily apparent by comparing quotations from Armstrong's writings and those of Adventist writers, and Mr. Armstrong himself admits studying much of their literature.

In comparing these teachings, a quote will be given from the literature of the Worldwide Church of God, followed by a quotation from a Seventh-day Adventist source. The subject of the quotation will precede them.

Sabbath keeping is a command and a sign today.

But throughout the Bible, God commands true Christians to worship Him by observing the day He made holy--the seventh-day Sabbath! Observance of the true Sabbath is the SIGN between God and His true people...(William F. Dankenbring, "Does It Matter Which Day You Keep?" Tomorrow's World (March, 1971),p. 36.)

Nowhere in all Scripture is there even a hint of Sabbath change. God's moral law is the foundation of the new covenant as it was the old. This new covenant calls for faithful obedience just as did the old...Christian Sabbath keepers rest in the assurance that because they love to obey God's changeless law, written in their hearts under new-covenant terms, they carry in their lives the sign of God's acceptance.("Did Christ Change the Sabbath?" Signs of the Times (August, 1966), p. 17)

Sabbath keeping is necessary for salvation.

Thus did God reveal which day is HIS SABBATH, and also that it DOES MAKE LIFE-AND-DEATH DIFFERENCE--for to break God's Holy Sabbath is SIN, and the penalty is eternal DEATH.(H. W. Armstrong, Which Day is the Christian Sabbath?, Pasadena: Ambassador College Press, 1971, p. 35)

One of the conditions of salvation and having our names retained in the book of life, is to keep the Sabbath.(O. A. Johnson, cited by Norman F. Douty, Another Look at Seventh-day Adventism (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1962), p. 78)

Sunday observance is the "mark of the beast."

Sunday observance--this is the Mark of the Beast...If you are branded with this Mark, rejecting the sign of God (the Sabbath), in your forehead and your hand, you shall be tormented by God's plagues without mercy. Yes, you! (Herbert Armstrong, The Mark of the Beast (Pasadena: Ambassador College Press, 1957), pp. 10,11)

Sunday-keeping is an institution of the first beast, and all who submit to obey this institution emphatically worship the first beast and receive his mark, "the mark of the beast"...(Advent Review Extra (August, 1850), cited by D. M. Canright, Seventh-day Adventism Renounced (Chicago: Fleming H. Revell, 1889), p. 43)

It should be noted at this point that modern Seventh-day Adventists have softened their stand on this issue, viewing the "mark" for Sunday observance as a future thing only.

However, in the days when Herbert Armstrong was affiliated with them, the above position was the one held.

Keeping the Ten Commandments is necessary for salvation.

For if you make any claim to being a must walk according to the commandments of Almighty God if you would enter into eternal life (Matt. 19:17). (Roderick C. Meredith, The Ten Commandments (Pasadena: Ambassador College Press, 1968), p. 17)

A Christian who through faith in Jesus Christ has faithfully kept the law's requirements will be acquitted: there is no condemnation, for the law finds no fault in him. is found that one has broken even a single percent...he will be dealt with just as if he had broken all ten.(W. H. Branson, Drama of the Ages (Nashville: Southern Publishing Association, 1963), pp. 308, 309)

A distinction is made between moral and ceremonial law.

Faith, the atonement, the gift of the Holy Spirit, DID take the place of, and therefore, did abolish the old Mosaic law. That was a law of physical ordinances, ceremonies, and sacrifices...But the Ten Commandments are an entirely different, separate, distinct law. The Commandments are spiritual principles which define sin. Moses' laws were sacrificial and ceremonial.(Herbert Armstrong, "Were the Ten Commandments Nailed to the Cross?" The Plain Truth (May, 1962), p.8))

The Ten Commandments, or the Decalogue, constitute God's eternal law. Not only is this law eternal, but it is immutable...But while this is true of the eternal law of God as expressed in the Decalogue, it would not be true of the ceremonial law that God gave to Israel...all that was typical of the sacrifice and ministry of Christ our Lord--met its end on Calvary's cross.(Questions on Doctrine, pp.129,130)

Man does not possess a soul.

Man became a living SOUL; that is what man IS--a soul. Notice there is no mention that man has a soul, but that man is a soul.(Garner Ted Armstrong, "Do You Have an Immortal Soul?," Reprint No. 290, Ambassador College Press, 1971, p. 2)

This basic idea of "soul" being the individual rather than a constituent part of the individual seems to underlie the various occurrences of nephesh. It is therefore more accurate to say that a certain person is a soul than to say he has a soul.(Questions on Doctrine, p. 513)

Man is mortal and temporal only.

The life of man and the life of animals is the same! MORTAL life!...The soul of man, therefore, is kept alive by the coursing of blood through his veins.(Garner Ted Armstrong, "Immortal Soul?," p. 3.)

...the Scriptures teach that the soul of man represents the whole man, and not a particular part independent of the other component parts of man's nature: and further, that the soul cannot exist apart from the body, for man is a unit.(Questions on Doctrine, p. 515)

Immortality for man is conditional.

In each case, immortality is something that is brought to light, that must be obtained, that God ONLY has, and in no case is something man already possesses!...The only way to live for all eternity is to REPENT...(Garner Ted Armstrong, "Immortal Soul?," p. 8.)

Seventh-day Adventists do not believe that the whole man or any part of him is inherently immortal. We believe the Bible picture of man is of a creature subject to death, with the possibility of eternal life because Christ has paid the penalty for sin and offers His life to the repentant sinner.(Questions on Doctrine, p. 518)

Death brings cessation of being and "sleep" to man.

Peter preached the RESURRECTION! He said NOTHING about the completely PAGAN doctrine of any...going to "hell" or "heaven" when one dies!...There is the real TRUTH about death...Death is DEATH--without consciousness.(Garner Ted Armstrong, "What Is Death?," Reprint No. 870, Ambassador College Press, 1970, pp. 4, 7..)

That man "sleeps" between death and the resurrection is the express testimony of Scripture.(LeRoy Froom, The Conditionalist Faith of Our Fathers, Vol. I (Washington, D. C.: The Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1966), p. 467.)

Christ could have sinned as a man.

Jesus constantly had to CRY OUT to God day and night to keep Himself from falling!...the tremendous battle, the lifelong struggle Christ had with Himself, in overcoming His own human nature--the natural pulls of the flesh...(Garner Ted Armstrong, "Who--What--Was Jesus Before His Human Birth?," Reprint No. 370, Ambassador College Press, 1957, p. 2)

Many claim that it was impossible for Christ to be overcome by temptation. Then He could not have been placed in Adam's position:...But our Saviour took humanity, with all its liabilities. He took the nature of man, with the possibility of yielding to temptation.(Questions on Doctrine, p. 63)

The new birth is connected with the resurrection, and is a process.

The experience of conversion, in this life, is a begettal--a "conception"--an "impregnation"--but NOT YET A BIRTH....That tremendous, glorious event of being BORN of God is to take place AT THE RESURRECTION OF THE JUST--at the time of Christ's second coming to earth!...All true Christians who have died before Christ's coming shall rise first--in a resurrection--and then all Christians still alive, in mortal flesh, shall be instantaneously--in the twinkling of an last BORN OF GOD!(Herbert Armstrong, Just What Do You Mean...Born Again? (Pasadena: Ambassador College Press, 1962), pp 8, 13, 14.)

...the new birth comprises the entire change necessary to fit us for the kingdom of God, and consists of two parts: First, a moral change wrought by conversion and a Christian life (John 3:5); second, a physical change at the second coming of Christ, whereby, if dead, we are raised incorruptible, and if living, are changed to immortality in a moment, in a twinkling of an eye. Luke 20:36; I Corinthians 15:51,52.("Fundamental Beliefs," cited by Norman Douty, Another Look at Seventh-day Adventism, pp. 71, 72)

What became a distinguishing "mark" of the Adventists, which began with William Miller and is still prevalent in many of the churches descending from his movement, is their peculiar form of eschatology, that is, their view of end-time prophecy.

Ancient Talmudic writings declared that if the nation of Israel would keep the Sabbath in oneness, then the messiah would come. This too, has been the paradigm of the modern descendants of the Adventists who accepted the Sabbath day from Joseph Bates. These disciples appeared to have fixed their view on the advent of Christ and the restoration of a millenial kingdom just as the Jews had desired their own kingdom before the destruction of their temple system. Therefore, for the Adventists, the law and the prophets became their vehicle to paradise. New Testament scriptures, like Luke 16:16, seem to contradict this view.

The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it.

Adventist's primary prophetic sources became the books of Daniel and Revelation. The use of prophetic symbols from these books took on special meanings to them. And, as we have already witnessed, it was of particular interest to calculate exactly when Christ would return and how believers might prepare for the event.

The seventh-day as the Sabbath became a very special way for feeling self-assured that they were vigilantly awaiting the messiah. By simply turning to Old Testament references that demonstrated how God had originally ordained the seventh day of the week as holy time, they concluded that a vital key of obedience to God had somehow been abandoned in history. Then by noticing that the vast majority of Christians observed Sunday rather than Saturday they were further led to conclude that a type of conspiracy had taken place unknowingly. Obviously then, if one would not join in on the conspiracy--if one observed the seventh-day Sabbath--then God would put a special sign on that individual.

The mark of the beast (according to Adventist theology) became the attendance of church on Sunday. Those who observed Sunday as the Sabbath were "Babylon the Great." Therefore, it also became imperative that those prepared to meet the messiah at his return would preach the "third angel's message:"

And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand,

The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the Lamb: (Rev. 14:9,10)

This message was of particular importance to Gilbert Cranmer, the founder of the modern Church of God movement. His publication, Hope of Israel, proclaimed the "third angel's message." Cranmer's message was only a forerunner to the twentieth-century radio ministry of Herbert W. Armstrong as well as many other Adventists. Decades later, millions would hear the voice of Art Gilmore serve as master of ceremonies to Herbert and Garner Ted Armstrong with the introduction:

The World Tomorrow! Herbert W. Armstrong brings you the plain truth about today's world news and the prophecies of the world tomorrow.

And so the "mark" of Millerism--trying desperately to predict the end of the world--would never depart from the splinter groups that would later come out of his movement. Gilbert Cranmer later perceived that he had "gotten on board the wrong ship" with Ellen G. White and her fruitless prophecies. Yet Cranmer adhered to most Seventh-day Adventist doctrines when he raised up his "Churches of Christ."

We witness two subtle premises at work with these groups. I would like to point them out here because they will remain with all of the future splinter groups who try to re-invent the early Adventist movement.

The first premise is in the belief that God is working through a modern-day prophet to interpret the "signs of the times" for modern Christians. These self-proclaimed prophets would call themselves Elijah or John the Baptist, in a futile attempt to speed up the process. Failure upon failure would pile up around the Adventist ministers who follow in the footsteps of William Miller. Yet the movement would never die out.

The second premise is that the Sabbath is a sign of God's true people. The Protestant view has been to illustrate the fulfillment of the Sabbath in Christ.

This alternate view points out that the Sabbath, as being a sign for Christians, is never reflected in the teachings of Christ or the apostles. In John's prophecy in Revelation, Sabbath-breaking is not listed in the sins of those cast into the lake of fire. Colossians 2:16-17 refer to ordinances, such as the Sabbath, having a prophetic fulfillment at the cross. It, like many other Mosaic symbols, found fulfillment in Christ. And therefore, Christ--and not the Sabbath--becomes the sign for Christians.

Do Sabbatarians have a commission to deliver Sunday worshippers from the "mark of the beast"? If the Sabbath is not a sign of God's people but the faith in the messiah is, then Christians should not judge one another concerning how they keep days (Rom. 14:5, 13). If the sign for God's people is the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Matt. 12:33), then Sunday worship cannot be seen as its antithesis--"the mark of the beast." If one doesn't honestly know what the "mark of the beast" or "Babylon the great" is, then one cannot know what to tell people to "come out of." Therefore, Adventists should not take upon themselves a commission such as the "third angel's message" of Revelation 14. Notice that it is, after all, an angel's message and not a prophet's message.


Bruce Renehan's
"Daughter of Babylon"
Chapter 12
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