The World Tomorrow

The True Church (3)

by Herbert W Armstrong


Where did the very church go which Jesus Christ said He would build? Men have searched history for a large, popular, growing, visible, politically organized body, in endeavoring to compile the history of the church. So if you go to libraries and you obtain church histories, that's what you will find. That's what historians have recorded. Now in the actual history of the first two centuries of the professing church, we saw it was divided into many different sects, many denominations. In one division, the gnostics alone, there were more than fifty divisions, fifty different sects.

But now let's look into the history of the true church. Remember that the largest book of prophecy in the New Testament, the book of Revelation - the one great prophetic book in the New Testament - pictures the church in the future and it shows two churches, not one! I have explained to you that the word 'church' comes from the Greek word, since the New Testament was written in the Greek language, the Greek word 'ecclesia.' And it means a crowd, a group, an assembly of people, that's all.

There's no sanctity in the word 'church' and so if you have a world church of this world, that's not the Church of God.

Then there is the Church of God mentioned in the Bible. Now we find that in the book of Revelation is a great world church pictured here, and it is not the Church of God at all. This is the false church, the deceiving church, the fallen church, and this pictures what we saw beginning in the history that we've read to you. And I have read to you from various histories, various encyclopedias, but primarily from 'Gibbons Rome' in the past several broadcasts. Now Revelation seventeen, just notice a little bit of the false church before we get into the actual history of what happened to the real true church.

"...there came one of the seven angels which had the seven vials, and talked with me..." (Revelation 17:1).

Now John is the one who is writing this, he is not the revelator, Jesus Christ is.

"[It's] The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, ...and [God] sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John:" (Revelation 1:1) And John recorded it to writing.

Now the prophetic part of the book of Revelation, as we saw when we were going through the book of Revelation. The prophetic part of the prophecies is contained in the visions, the things that John saw in vision. Usually it was in symbol of course, but it was in the vision and the things he saw. So here is the prophecy, and here is what he saw.

"...there came one of the seven angels [that] had the seven vials [that is the seven last plagues], and [he] talked [to] me, saying... Come hither; I will shew unto thee the judgment of the great whore that sitteth upon many waters:" (Revelation 17:1)

That's Revelation 17:1. Now in the eighteenth chapter you will see about the judgment and her name is called Babylon, and God's people are told to "Come out of her ...that [we] be not partakers of her sins, that [we] receive not of her plagues... for strong is the God that judges her. Therefore her plagues are to come in one day, death and mourning... [and] strong is the Lord God that judgeth her. [They're His judgments, these plagues] ...the kings of the earth, ...have committed fornication and lived deliciously with her..." [and so on] (Revelation 18:4,8,9 paraphrased).

And she's called here the "...great city, Babylon one hour is thy judgment come." (Revelation 18:10)

Now these judgments are the punishments that God is going to send on this professing church because of the false doctrines, because of, well it is a church of the world whose god is the devil. Now the people in it are deceived. The people in it are good, sincere people. That is, they are as good as people are, and there is good and bad in human nature of course.

There is so much good in the worst of us and so much bad in the best of us I guess and that's true. But we're carnal unless we have received the Spirit of God to change our minds and our hearts. And so these people, in relation to religion, have been honest and sincere, they've just been deceived. And the devil is the great deceiver, but here is an instrumentality that he has been able to use.

Prophecy and Symbolism (PLAY FROM 04:58)

Now here is this great woman. Now in the Bible prophecies, a woman is a symbol of a church. You'll find it in the fifth chapter of Ephesians, where the true church is the affianced bride of Christ to be presented to Him, a chaste virgin. That's the true church. And then in II Corinthians the eleventh chapter you find again where the symbol of woman is a symbol for the church. So we know this is a church. Now she's a great church, not a small church and she's sitting on many waters.

Now that is a symbol, the many waters. But you turn over to verse fifteen here following in the same chapter, and it says;

"...he saith unto me [the angel explained it], The waters which thou sawest, where [this great fallen woman] sitteth, are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues." (Revelation 17:15)

That is many nations speaking many different languages, which means of course, many gentile nations speaking many different languages. Now the fact the woman sits on them means that she has a grip on them religiously and controls or rules the religion. So it is a religion then that has dominated and that permeates many nations. Alright, the second verse says;

"With whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication." (Revelation 17:2)

In other words, she is actually mixed into the politics of this world's civil governments. You know God is the Supreme Ruler. God has ordained, however, and decreed that man must choose whether man will accept voluntarily the government of God or whether he will reject it. And he can...God has allowed man to set up his own ideas and to organize himself if he pleases, which man has chosen to do, and all of that sort of thing.

And God has laid before mankind, the truth on the one hand and allowed him to disagree and to take error on the other. God has set before man for man to choose life and death, good and evil. And man has usually chosen evil. Of course man thinks he wants good and he really sincerely thinks he does, but it seems that he usually goes the way of the evil.

God's Seven Thousand Year Plan (PLAY FROM 07:25)

And so God has set apart a 7,000 year period my friends, in which He has decreed as the Supreme Ruler that we must choose, even though we choose wrong. And He allows us to go wrong. Now we can only go wrong and choose wrong because God allows it, and only as long as God allows it. And for any organized rebellion against God on this earth He has allowed just 6,000 years.

Then there's going to be a 1,000 years in which God is going to take over the government and is going to rule mankind and all nations of this earth.

And we're coming to that time, the beginning of that 7,000 years in our generation now, this twentieth century. {1} WE, my friends, are living at the end of the age. WE'RE the people that are living in two ages, two worlds, and you're going to live into the happy, peaceful, joyous world tomorrow. We're at the end of this world and here's what's happening at the very end: God is going to finally send His plagues on this great false religious system. Now in verse five;

"...on her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY [yes and it's the pagan Babylonish mysteries that she has, putting Christian names on them as I've shown you], MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT..." (Revelation 17:5).

Now Babylon means confusion. It's confusion, division, many, many, many divisions of religions, disagreeing. Yes all in confusion, but it's a great system and there is one thing in unity in the whole system, and that's rebellion against God. They don't want what they call works. They don't want OBEDIENCE to God. They want salvation but they have turned grace into lasciviousness, or license to disobey. Jude tells us to "...contend earnestly for the faith once delivered" (Jude v3 paraphrased).

Now God prophesied that this thing would happen, that the people would rebel against God. God laid before Adam and Eve, in the garden of Eden, the truth and the Holy Spirit, symbolized by the Tree of Life. But also He laid before them rebellion and sin and going their own way, and the way that would seem right to a man, symbolized by the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. It was a mixture of good and evil, that's what we have in human nature. That's what they partook of, they rejected God, they turned the wrong way.

My friends, that's what the people did in the professing church that Jesus started, but remember that they weren't in the church. Once they rebelled against God they were no longer in the church. The church is not a visible organization, the church is an invisible, a spiritual organism. It's composed of visible people of course, flesh and blood people.

But it is only those people that have the Spirit of God in their hearts, that are being led by the Spirit of God, whose very lives have been changed by the power of God and who have completely been broken up about the kind of life they had always lived; who have repented of it and turned away from it and turned to God and given themselves to God to let Jesus come into their hearts and lives and live His life, His holy, righteous, perfect life in them and for them.

So it is Christ in them and that is the hope of glory. And the people in the true church do have Christ in them in the presence of the Holy Spirit. Now one may be here and one there. And again, there might be a body attending together, all but one of whom are in the true church. But that one is apostate and is not a real Christian, is not really following the way of God. That one is not in the church even though he attends with them.

You see it isn't a matter of how many band together and meet in some building and assemble in church pews, or something like that, my friends. And joining a visible organization doesn't get you into the kingdom of God or buy you any salvation in any way at all. Now those in any group, many of them might be Christian, and some not. Or many of them might not be and a few might be. Or they might all be or they might none of them be. God knows, and we're not to judge. And God alone can read men's minds and hearts and He knows who are His.

The False Church (PLAY FROM 11:44)

Well now, this name is Babylon the Great, not the little, the scattered, the dispersed, the persecuted, the despised. Oh no, Jesus said that HIS church, the church that He said HE would build would be the little flock. He said it would be despised and hated by the world. He said if they persecuted me they will you too (John 15:20). And so the "you" is the people that formed His church. He said you're not greater than your Lord and Master, they persecuted me, they hated me.

They spit in His face, they crowned Him with a crown of thorns, they beat Him almost to death before He was crucified. He took your sicknesses and your diseases and infirmities on Himself. Did you know that? And then they crucified Him and they stuck a spear in His side and the blood gushed out. They gave Him gall and vinegar to drink when He was thirsty. But He looked up to heaven and said, "God, Father forgive them, they don't know what they're doing." (Luke 23:34 paraphrased)

Yes He had the love of God in His heart, that isn't a carnal love. Now His people were going to be scattered by the popular organizations of this world. And so here was:

"BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH. And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of ...saints, and ...the blood of the martyrs of Jesus:" (Revelation 17:5)

There my friends, is the professing church that assumes the name of Christ, the Christian name. Jesus said many false prophets will arise. They will say that I am the Christ. They will profess that I am the Christ. They'll take my name, they'll use it. They'll call themselves Christians, but they shall deceive many. Well here's the picture of it in Revelation 17. That's a prophecy. Did that prophecy come true? Has it ever happened? Is it ever going to happen? It's in the word of God my friends.

The True Church (PLAY FROM 13:34)

Now in the twelfth chapter of Revelation you find the true church is pictured. And this is "...a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars: ...she being with child [travaileth] in birth, pained to be delivered." (Revelation 12:1-2)

Now that is first, it's the church of the Old Testament. My friends, do you realize that God's church; that is God formed a church, it wasn't God's church, in one sense. It wasn't called the church of God. But it was a church, and it was the only one that belonged to God in any way, formed under Moses. And you'll find in the seventh chapter of the book of Acts in your Bible that that is called the church in the wilderness. Why they called themselves the same name, it's just a synonym, different English word but it means the same thing, the congregation of Israel.

But that was the congregation of Israel, the church of Israel, not the church of God. That church did not have the Holy Spirit. That church did not have salvation. That church was not commissioned to "go into all the world and preach the gospel" (Matthew 24:14). But, my friends, after Jesus went to heaven He sent the Holy Spirit, and on the Day of Pentecost, the Spirit of God came to enter into the minds and hearts of the people that had accepted Christ.

And the people who had really repented, and those that now submitted themselves to God so that God could send His Holy Spirit, His great power, His very life into their minds, their hearts and their lives to change them, to convert them. And so they became converted, which they hadn't been in the Old Testament. Now these people had been spiritually begotten, whereas they were merely flesh born in the Old Testament.

Now they became The Church of God, not the congregation of Israel. There's a great difference then of course, between the Old and the New. But here first, it's speaking of the church as she was, prior to the time of being begotten by the Spirit of God, while it was even Israel.

"...she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered." (Revelation 12:2)

Well then here appeared the "great red dragon," that is called the Devil, in verse nine. And he "...stood before the woman that was ready to be delivered [and the child is Christ, of course, and is speaking of the birth of Christ], for to devour her child as soon as it was born. And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule ALL nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne." (Revelation 12:4-5)

The time element passes rapidly, completely through in the one verse, the birth and the whole ministry and the death and resurrection of Christ and His ascension to heaven in that one verse five. Now then, we come even into the Middle Ages where this happened in history. Verse six.

"And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days." (Revelation 12:6)

In other words that, my friends, in prophetic language - and I haven't time to explain all of the technical details of it just now - that is a duration of 1,260 years. And that happened in history. The true church was a persecuted church. It was scattered and they had to flee beyond the bounds of the paganized civil governments, less the secret police would get them and completely torture them and finally martyr them, unless they recanted and accepted the pagan doctrines that were falsely labeled Christianity. It actually happened.

The God of This World (PLAY FROM 17:24)

Now you find the devil being brought into focus here in verse nine.

"...the great dragon was cast out, [there had been a war up in heaven with Michael the archangel and his angels, and it say that he's] called the Devil, and Satan, [that] deceiveth the whole world:" (Revelation 12:9)

Satan deceived the whole world. Now is that true? Has he? Or is the whole world all enlightened now and only a few deceived? My friends, we believe, well of course naturally, we look at what is ...what everybody professes and believes is Christianity. All these people couldn't be wrong. You know we believe like, for instance, the cigarette manufacturer said that millions can't be wrong. And people really believe that.

I want to tell you, my friends, in God's word it's the millions who usually are wrong, but in this world, the way they look at it, it's just the other way around isn't it? They think the majority is always right. Well God shows the majority is usually are wrong, very often.

Now here Satan's deceiving the whole world, and later we find that the dragon saw that he was cast into the earth, verse thirteen. Let's drop down to that. He came down here in verse twelve: "...having great wrath [the devil] because he knew he had but a short time." (Revelation 12:12 paraphrased). Now;

"And when the dragon saw that he was cast to the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man child [he persecuted the true church and that true church had been terribly persecuted]. And to the woman were given [the] two wings of a great eagle, that she might FLY into the wilderness [unto], her place, where she is nourished for a time, times and half a time, from the face of the serpent." (Revelation 12:13-14)

The church had to flee. Now, the last verse, verse 17:.

"And the dragon was wroth [that's very angry, full of wrath, wroth] with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed..." (Revelation 12:17)

Remnant is the last generation, the last remains, the very last portion or part, that is then this last generation of the true church. And that time is coming and we are the generation that it's speaking of, and it has not yet happened, and it's going to happen in your lifetime and mine, in the next few years. Now it's coming a lot sooner than you think. I tell you my friends, it's right now later than you think. We're living in momentous times. We're living in terrible times and it's time to wake up.

Look what's happening in the world. Look at the hydrogen bombs. Look at what's happening. Now I think that the wars are going to be held back a while, in fact there's a great deal of prophecy to indicate it. I don't think that it's going to break out into a world war in the next month or two. But I want to tell you, it's going to happen in a very few years.

Mankind Must Make A Choice (PLAY FROM 20:09)

And one, two, five, fifteen years whip by so rapidly today that it's just like a passing breath of some kind, like passing another airplane up in the air. Or two trains passing each other on two tracks. It's just soon past you, and it's a lot later than we think. You know God is a Supreme Ruler. God has ordained, however, and decreed, that man must CHOOSE whether man will accept voluntarily the government of God or whether he will reject it.

And God has laid before mankind the truth, on the one hand, and allowed him to disagree and to take error, on the other. God has set before man, for man to choose, life and death, good and evil. And man has usually chosen evil. Of course, man thinks he wants good, and he really sincerely thinks he does. But it seems that he usually goes the way of the evil.

Now here's this devil, "...wroth with the woman [the true church], and went to make war with [our generation now] the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God..."(Revelation 12:17)

There are not very many today that believe in that my friends. The majority of professing Christians today just hate the commandments of God. They DESPISE the commandments of God, just like the devil. The devil despises God's law. Why his original rebellion was against that. Disobedience to God, insubordination, refusal to recognize and to submit to the government of God and tried to make himself the ruler, is what made him a devil in the first place.

Turn back to Ezekiel 28, Isaiah 14 and there it is. And my friends, he is deceiving the world by putting that very thought in the minds of the people who profess to be Christians, turning grace into lasciviousness. Oh my friends, don't let an evil devil, such an evil influence of spiritual delusion and deception, deceive you. Keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus. Now there is the true church being persecuted, scattered, driven away. There you are.

Alright now let's go a little further. Also in this same book of Revelation is an amazing prophecy, and almost no-one seems to understand it, and yet it is so very plain and it shows you the actual history of the church. Of course, it was written in advance, it was prophecy, but now it's history, it's already happened. That prophecy has been fulfilled, and it is in the second and the third chapters of the book of Revelation. Revelation two and three.

Church of God History (PLAY FROM 22:47)

Now usually we pass right over the second and the third chapters of the book of Revelation. Well we passed over this second and third chapters because they of themselves are not part of the main prophecy of the world. They are a prophecy of the true church, which has not been recognized by the world at all, and we were going into the prophecy of what would happen in the world, so I skipped that. But now I'm going to go into it.

Now I'm going to let you understand just exactly what it says. I see the time is gone so far that we aren't going to any more than just barely get started in this program, so let this be sort of an introduction. And listen every single night, or every single day, whatever time this program is on in your part of the country. And we're going to go through this mysterious Revelation two and Revelation three that almost nobody has ever understood, which merely traces in detail, more or less detail, that is, in advance, the prophecy of what was going to happen from the very time of Christ, on down to now, in the true church of God.

Where is that church? Jesus said, "I will build my church" (Matthew 16:18). Well He did build it. It isn't the church the world has held up to its gaze. It isn't the church the historians have looked for, because they didn't know what to look for. They looked for the popular church that prophecy said would deceive the world. So, my friends, when we get church history we're getting history of the world churches, the churches of this world.

Now if you'll notice, we'll go as far as we have time here for just about two or three minutes. For instance, notice Revelation 1:12-13. John sees a vision of seven candlesticks and Jesus is in very midst, the middle of the seven candlesticks. Now the Bible interprets the seven candlesticks to mean these seven particular church congregations, as you read in verse 20. Now Jesus is here picturing the church through seven successive stages.

The Seven Church Eras (PLAY FROM 24:52)

It's only the one church, but it is in seven successive stages of different time and different generation. And so He has taken seven churches that did exist in Asia Minor. They were on a mail route and He takes those churches that were on an actual mail route. And the mail carrier went around, first from the one from Ephesus, next he came to Smyrna, and then to Pergamos and so on, finally winding up at Laodicea.

And so there's the time order, and God uses that to show the successive spirits, and, well events that would happen in the true church. And He shows the condition of the church. Now of course, in a sense, you'll find all seven of these characteristics in the church of God at any one time, in a sense. And actually, for instance, in the church at Ephesus, while you will also find among some of the people in the church, the Laodicean condition, and some of them the Sardis condition, some of them the Philadelphia condition - yet the Ephesus condition dominated at that time. And at the end, the Laodicean condition of lukewarmness dominates.

And yet there is a definite succession in these churches. Well Jesus is pictured as dwelling among them. He's in the midst of these seven candlesticks, and the seven candlesticks are the seven successive phases of the church. They were a type of the entire church. Now Jesus dwells in the entire church then, that's what it shows us by that symbol which is explained in the Bible itself. Now since the vision pictured Jesus dwelling only in these seven churches, those seven churches pictured there, actually represent the one great Church of God in its seven successive eras, or stages of time.

Now Jesus chose the seven because they formed a perfect twofold pattern. Now first, they were typical of the general conditions among God's people anywhere and at any time. That's why we today, are admonished to hear what the Holy Spirit says to all of the seven churches, not just to the one that might be in our time now.

Second, those seven churches, each of which had its own particular characteristics, were chosen because their location, in successive order on this long mail route, was typical of the seven successive stages of expansion of the church of God through all ages. And of course, these characteristics were typical of those literal churches that existed at that time. And they were a type of what was going to happen all the way through.

Now, beginning the next program, we're going to begin right there with that and we're going to go right on through and show what the prophecy said. And then we're going to dig it right out of history. And we're going to show you what history says did happen and I'm going to show you WHERE IS that church that Jesus said He would found.

The persecuted church. The scattered church. The TRUE Church of God, where is it? And what have they believed and what have they done, and what customs have they practiced and followed through every generation down to now? My friends, it's eyeopening and it's ASTOUNDING when you get it!


{1} Mr Armstrong said this in the twentieth century