Letter: December 26, 2000
There are many who claim that the preaching of the “gospel of the kingdom” before “the end”, to fulfill Matthew 24:14, was accomplished by the WCG and Herbert Armstrong. Others believe that one or more of the splits of that organization will fulfill Matthew 24:14 by pouring financial resources into television, radio and other media as God makes them available.
We are overdue for some honest reconsideration of these claims. There are six billion people on our planet. Most of them have nothing to do with Christianity in any form, and know nothing about the kingdom of God, and likely do not care about it. Even of the minority that claim some allegiance to Christianity, very few have any real knowledge of the promise of the kingdom of God. In reality, this world is still clueless about the things that will soon take place. If you believe the gospel of the kingdom has been preached to all the world, and that the world understands what will soon take place, then try asking the public for information about it. Even right here in the “Christian” western world you will find very few who have either heard or paid attention to the gospel of the kingdom of God. This is especially true among the younger generation. If we can be honest with ourselves we have to admit that if the end-time gospel has really been preached, it has been done poorly at best.
Would God the Father and Jesus Christ accept such poor work, and bring judgment and the kingdom on a world that has not been fairly forewarned? We know better than that. So then, how will the gospel be preached to all the world before the end comes? How will a witness be provided? Quite simply, it will not be by our might, nor by our power, but by God’s spirit (ref. Zech 4:6). Let me explain.
Consider for a moment the few years of Jesus’ preaching. What was it that drew “multitudes” and “great multitudes” to Him? Was it the parables that few could understand? Or was it the insightful comments on the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and Sadducees? No, it was neither. To be sure, it was the miracles: “And a great multitude followed him, because they saw his miracles which he did on them that were diseased” (John 6:2). The blind received their sight. The lame walked and jumped, praising God. The dead were raised to life. The astonished crowds strained to see it for themselves. The miracles drew the people’s attention, and while He had their attention Jesus preached to them the good news of the kingdom of God.
It was the same for the apostles. Acts 3:6-11 records what happened after God used Peter and John to heal the lame man at the temple gate:
And all the people saw him walking and praising God: And they knew that it was he which sat for alms at the Beautiful gate of the temple: and they were filled with wonder and amazement at that which had happened unto him. And as the lame man which was healed held Peter and John, all the people ran together unto them in the porch that is called Solomon’s, greatly wondering.
Immediately Peter and John had an attentive audience. The miracle caught the attention of the people; the people came and listened.
Surely such instant, compelling miracles would draw great attention today as they did in the past. Even one person, given the power of instant miracles, would draw a frenzy of media attention. The world would look in wonder, and listen to the message—the witness—delivered to them. The coverage would be news, free of charge, at no expense to God’s people. No church organization would be required to support it.
But is there any evidence—Bible scripture—indicating this is what will happen? Is this more than wishful thinking or vain imagination? Acts 2:17-20 does mention God pouring His spirit in the last days. But there is another scripture we should focus on, one which has not been understood fully. Let’s look again at Revelation 3:8, part of Jesus’ message to the Philadelphia church:
I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name.
Clearly Jesus is promising the Philadelphians an open door, an opportunity to preach. Haven’t we usually assumed the open door was access to media such as print, television and radio? But wait… Jesus promised a door that no man can shut. The media are controlled by men. Men can—and will some day—close the media to the preaching of the gospel. But if God’s people were given the power of miracles, could men stop that? Of course not! No one can stop God or Jesus Christ. Given the power of miracles, God’s elect could preach the gospel of the kingdom powerfully to the world, “as a witness to all nations”, before the end comes. Those same miracle workers could also be given the gift of tongues, so as to be able to communicate directly to all peoples.
Is there more evidence that the Philadelphians are given the power of miracles? Consider the next verse, Revelation 3:9:
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.
The world’s false churches—“the synagogue of Satan”—will somehow be convicted of their error. This is not to say that they repent. But they will have undeniable evidence that they are incorrect in their beliefs. And they will know that Jesus Christ loves and is working through another people. And what will convict them? Could it be the power of miracles given to God’s elect? Could anything short of miracles from God convict the synagogue of Satan of their error?
Miracles add convicting credibility to preaching. They add the power of God to the preaching of men. Nonetheless it is very human not to appreciate proof of one’s error. As was true in the days of Jesus and the apostles, hate can begin where repentance fails and learning ends. As Jesus said in Matthew 24:9, “ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake”.
Today, are the churches of God really hated? They may be regarded as different and odd, true, but they are not generally hated. But adding the power of instant and compelling miracles would change the tone, the attitudes, dramatically. Miracle-working power would single out God’s elect for special attention, and ultimately special hatred. The result is revealed in Revelation 6:9-11:
And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held: And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth? And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellowservants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled.
Clearly we see another martyrdom occurring just before the sixth seal with its great signs and wonders, the sun and moon being darkened, etc. Could it be that this martyrdom befalls the miracle workers of the Philadelphia church, as they preach the gospel of the kingdom of God just before the end comes?
God does not need and is not waiting for a church organization with the “right” form of government to preach the gospel in the end time. God will use servants who believe and allow Him to use them personally. Will we be ready to walk through that door when Jesus opens it? Will we trust Jesus Christ, the head of the church, to provide the power needed to preach the gospel to all the world? Or will we remain fearful and unbelieving, and trust the church organizations of men instead?
George Burdick, Sterling, MA, USA
Response: Well said! When church organizations argue that they are the “main work” because they have more magazines and megawatts then the next group, I understand why the Eternal is not giving them great miracle-working power. I wrote about this in the March 1996 Servants’ News. At that time, I wondered, “are the independent believers now ready to receive the power to do miracles?”
Five years later, I can see that myself and many others have learned a lot in that time. We were not ready then and I am not at all sure that we are ready now. As Solomon said, there is a time for everything. I simply pray for the ability to live each day in the way that Christ would have me live. That may mean primarily being a good father to my family and helping the few thousand people that read my writing. It may mean being used of God to heal and preach to millions. It may mean dying at the hands of unjust men.
“Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you’” (Heb 13:5, NIV).
Letter: October 21, 2000
A great feast, Norm!
Duane and I really enjoyed the location, the fellowship, and especially the “new” people among us. We just felt we were getting some new information, and something new to chew on. I know, some of “our” people were less than pleased, and you will probably get email, but before that happens, we want you to know how refreshing we found the feast this year. Warwick’s admonition to be mature and responsible is so true. We should be able to see truth, and be able to tell the difference! I just wish we could hear more. If you ever have more tapes let me know.
The music, singing and the whole atmosphere was just great. We talked quite a bit with [name withheld] and her mom, and they were so friendly. (and the little doggies were a nice treat!) You and your family did such a wonderful job, it is a major undertaking to put together everything needed for such a group. And, by the way, we did not leave early because of any dissatisfaction. We had planned to come home on Friday, so we would be home for the Sabbath, but Duane developed a bad head cold on Wed night, so we left Thurs morning. We want to assure you that was the only reason we left early. We really missed being there the last days.
I had planned to talk to Warwick [Potts] and the others and let them know how much we appreciated their input, but was not able to. Do you have any email addresses for them, or any way to contact them?
Get some rest, and know that your labors were a blessing to many.
— Nancy, Goshen, Indiana
Response: I am glad that you enjoyed the Feast. My family enjoyed it very much, also. You can reach Warwick Potts at 517-738-5000 or: email@example.com
Letter: September, 2000
My husband and I have recently been attending a Messianic congregation. There seem to be several God-led brethren attending there but of late we have discovered that the leadership is teaching people to seek after manifestations that are clearly not to be sought after, such as tongues and slain in the spirit. They seem to have bought into the notion that God wants all of us to seek after spiritual gifts rather than bearing the fruits of the spirit. We have been researching the scriptures and have written a couple of articles and given them to the pastor and assistant pastor. We had hoped to get a better response than what we did get. We realize that these teachings are very sacred to those who practice them. We would like to ask for prayers on our and their behalf. God is moving us in such a way that we never thought possible. Our initial reaction to these teachings made us want to flee but God led us to try to correct these brethren. Several of them have received it quite eagerly but others are of course not willing to search these things out.
I thank you for all your time and dedication to the SN and SW. If you like and are able to, feel free to send these via e-mail to save on paper and postage. We could really use them ASAP to share as time is of the essence.
Thank you again. Shalom,
— Martine Mancini, Minnesota
Response: Thanks for sharing your experience in dealing with “charismatic problems”. I and others I know have found the same thing. Some people with a charismatic background seem to be continually seeking manifestations or signs of supernatural presence (whether good or bad), rather than seeking the fruits of the spirit and the ability to do the work that Christ said to do. All of the miracles of the Bible were clearly a part of doing the Eternal’s work—they were not simply for those involved to “feel spiritual”.
I have also found that some charismatic teachers and brethren are very open to suggestions for change, while others resist them. For years, many of my friends and I thought, “As long as I am in the group that has the truth, God is with me and I will probably be in the first resurrection.” It is easy for charismatics to think, “As long as I have manifestations of the Spirit, God is with me and I will probably be in the first resurrection.” Daily living a Christ-like life is much more difficult for all of us.
Years ago, I probably would have encouraged you to “get out of that group because they won't hear you and because you don't want any trouble from demonic manifestations”. But if we look at the methods of the Apostles and other brethren in the New Testament, we see that they often went to synagogues and Gentile meetings where there was both great interest and strong opposition to their message. The comfortable group that they had with everyone sharing things in common (Acts 2:44) was broken up by persecution (Acts 8:1-4). So, today, some of us may not be called to form a nice group of all like-minded believers, but to be among different groups from time to time so that we may teach some people what the Eternal wants them to learn.
May the Eternal bless you in your ministry.
Letter: November 30,2000
I notice that you placed this man’s [Wes Gordon’s] email in your last newsletter and I don’t think that his theology will be an asset to the already confused people of the churches. By the time I got to this exchange I knew that I was not communicating with the man anymore-okay? As you will see below. [Long exchange on the timing of the Millennium, Tribulation, etc, removed.]
— Mary [via the Internet]
Response: I do not think that all of Wes Gordon’s prophetic beliefs are right, but then I do not think all of yours are right either.
I do not think that prophetic interpretation is any kind of test of whether one is a believer or not—Paul made that clear in 1 Corinthians 13. Other scriptures show that prophecy is a gift.
I do not know of any current prophetic interpreters who have anywhere near a 100% track record with specific prophecies. By specific prophecies, I mean prophecies that an unbiased observer would clearly say are either fulfilled or not fulfilled. These usually involve dates or someone’s lifetime. For example, if a person is identified as “the beast”, but then dies never having publicly fulfilled some of the things prophesied for him to do, then that prophecy was wrong.
For example, HWA said, from his understanding of Bible prophecy, that Germany would reunite. He was right. But he also said that Europe would unite to form a ten-nation group. It is far away from ten nations, and most of the leaders that HWA thought would be a part of the “beast” system are now dead. While there still could be ten nations in Europe in the future, a good portion of the people who heard HWA preach that Message have and will die never seeing a ten-nation Europe.
HWA frequently talked about two, maybe three, 19-year time cycles of his work (1934 to 1953 to 1972 to 1991). Now, we are well into a 4th cycle, of which he never spoke. Even in his last days, he said these things would come to pass before the century was out.
Every other prophetic interpreter I know about is either part right & part wrong like the above, or else they are so vague that it is difficult to show that they have been correct anywhere. If someone’s prophetic interpretation contains no definite time frames or specific events, one cannot really use it to plan one’s life, nor will any skeptic be convinced the prophecy had to be from God.
Furthermore, if we look at the important events of church history, we rarely see a history of people determining what to do by interpreting Bible prophecy. We do not find the early church writings saying that they needed to flee the mainstream religion and go into the wilderness for 1260 years to be nourished (Rev 12:6). Nor do we see people starting to translate the Bible, rebel against the Catholic Church, found a nation based on religious freedom, or any other things simply because they have determined that they had arrived at the prophetic time to do such a thing. To the contrary, we find nearly every generation believing that Christ was prophesied to return in their lifetime.
We do find, however, believers of all generations doing important things because they believed that Christ has personally shown them what to do. Certainly, not everyone who claims present inspiration from God is really being led by Him—there are tares among the wheat. Nevertheless, if we read the history of past events, especially personal letters, we can see that there were people who believed that God had personally shown them that they should translate the Bible into English, migrate to another land, found a mission, declare independence from England, etc. There are simply more promises in the New Testament of direct guidance from Christ and the Holy Spirit than there are admonitions to figure out the world’s future from combining all prophecies.
If anyone can send me someone’s writings and show how they have accurately predicted world events by interpreting Bible prophecy (without lots of mistakes), I would be most happy to publish them.
I do believe in studying prophecy, I do believe it teaches us general trends for the future, and I do believe it specifically predicts some history—though we do not usually realize it until after the fact. I believe that people pray and receive understanding for specific bits of prophecy that they are to apply to their lives or nations—we see this example in the New Testament. But at this time, I do not believe that I have an understanding of exactly how the majority of Bible prophecies will be fulfilled, and I do not know of anyone who does. Nevertheless, I do have confidence that the Eternal will take care of me and show me what I need to understand to take care of myself, family and others.
I know some people will think that I am ignorant for saying this. They believe they have most of prophecy figured out. But I would rather tell the truth, than pretend to know something that I do not.
Even though I think some of Wes’ prophetic views are probably wrong (it is much easier to show a prophetic view to be wrong than it is to be right), I have never known him to not get along with people who have different views, and have always found him and his family to be kind, sincere, helpful and eager to study and live by the scriptures. We cannot judge who really is a believer and who is not. All we need to do is judge whether or not a person is spiritually dangerous to the brethren. I see much more trouble with people refusing to fellowship with each other because of prophetic views than I do with people having non-traditional prophetic views.
As the Church of God groups continue to break up, and as Sabbath/Holy day keepers from a variety of backgrounds continue to learn to work with each other, I hope that prophetic interpretation is something that they will not get in the way. We need to learn to work together on the important issues of how to love and worship God and how to love our neighbor. We can do that today, even if some of us are right and some (or all) of us are wrong about what we think is going to happen tomorrow.
Thanks for writing. —NSE
Letter: August 10, 2000
The little church of God at Hawkins, Texas has done something that is quite noteworthy and could be done by other groups throughout the world.
There is a member named Luther Waller who lives at New Boston, Texas. There is a Texas correctional prison next door to him where we took our half-day training for going into Texas prisons to visit the inmates. He has been a member in the church for a number of years and is confined to a wheelchair and has not been out of the house for nearly three years. This weighed heavily upon the hearts of the church members. Jamie and Gary Strickland found a wheel chair van in Tyler for $1200 and bought it for Luther. The church took it to Luther’s on the first day of Unleavened Bread.
—Leo W. DuBry, Texas
Response: There is so much that most people today could do to help and teach others. It is often simply a matter of making these things a priority over other pursuits.
Letter: December 19, 2000
I ran across an article of yours stating that David J. Smith’s church was a cult-like organization. Could you elaborate?
Thanks for the effort. You all put in some very good articles. Really found useful “Working With Other Groups—How Do We Do It” in the July/Aug 2000 issue. God bless.
Response: David J. Smth teaches he is “the one group” that is doing God’s work. He does not encourage his followers to listen to any teachers outside his group. He taught that the Great Tribulation would begin in 1997 and that Texas would be the “place of safety”. I know several people who sold their homes and moved to Texas, only to move back after the prediction failed.
I think David J. Smith does teach a lot of truth and some of his writings cover a lot of news items that one would not find in the traditional press—though I have not made the effort to determine if they are “all true”.
I hope that Mr. Smith and leaders of Christian groups everywhere will work as the apostles in the New Testament—not going to great lengths to talk about the importance of their position, but to simply go and serve as the Eternal opens the way. We don’t need anyone else to fulfill the roll of Theudas:
“For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody. A number of men, about four hundred, joined him. He was slain, and all who obeyed him were scattered and came to nothing” (Acts 5:36). —NSE