The very reason why people are kept blind to what God reveals about the timeline that leads to mankind’s final war is because of how so many have twisted and distorted the true meaning of what the Four Horsemen are all about.
The meaning of the word “apocalypse” has changed over the centuries. That is primarily due to confusion that was created by traditional Christianity over their many interpretations of what is written in John’s Book of Revelation. The word “apocalypse” first appeared in both Greek and Latin. The Greek word “apokalyptein” was used by John in his writing of the book, as that word carried the definition “to uncover, disclose, and reveal.”
It was nearly 300 years later when the Catholic Church commissioned the Bible to be translated into Latin that the word “apocalypsis,” then meaning “revelation,” began to be used.
Much later, during the period of Middle English, this word carried the meaning of “insight or vision” and even of “hallucination.”
Then, in the mid-1800s, writings about the meaning of things written in the Book of Revelation began to give credibility to this word apocalypse as bearing prophetic meaning of cataclysmic events and belief of an imminent end of the present world.
Over the past few decades, traditional Christianity has gone way off base and highly exaggerated how it uses such terminology. They have created interpretations or ideas that now carry a definition of a complete final destruction of the world, the end of the world, of great catastrophic tribulation on earth before WWIII begins, of theories about a final Armageddon (the last and completely destructive battle of mankind), and other nonsensical interpretations.
It is because of such flawed interpretations as these that the first four Seals of Revelation have taken on some of these distorted definitions when speaking of the four different horsemen that are described in these Seals.
The first four Seals of Revelation that are depicted by four different horsemen are not at all about a modern-day apocalypse. These apocalyptic ideas about an end to this world are false. The very expression and teachings associated with the “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” are sheer nonsense!
The truth is that the first four Seals are about events that have already happened to God’s Church—prophetic events that would be the very sign that signaled the beginning of a specific countdown in this current end-time. While many are waiting for these Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse to be revealed, they do not know that the events they declare have already taken place.
In order to grasp what these first four Seals are really about, it is necessary to know a little bit about God’s Church that exists today—a Church the world does not know. It is important to know what God has been doing through that Church in these end times.
Warning the World
For nearly 70 years now, God’s Church has been striving to warn people that we are in the end-time that is prophesied throughout the Bible. That warning is about one more world war—a nuclear war. It is about the prophecy that Europe will once again play a major role in great war. These warnings from God’s Church began right after WWII had come to an end.
As people heard such warnings at that time, many thought it was simply foolish to believe that a group of European nations would unite together to engage in a third world war, with Germany being the most important participant. Such talk seemed preposterous and ludicrous. As a result, people did not take it seriously. Afterall, Germany had just tried to take over the continent, with the motto “Deutschland über alles” – Germany over all.
Even now, after major prophetic events have come to pass in Europe that Herbert Armstrong explained would occur, people still have not taken seriously the warnings about this end-time. It bears repeating that of all the things that Herbert Armstrong foretold, the only event that came to pass in his lifetime was the formation of a European Union. However, that was only the beginning event of those prophecies that were to come to pass.
It wasn’t until thirteen years after his death that much of Europe also united under a common currency, just as he said they would. Then, in 2018, an agreement forming a military union of exactly ten nations came together, again, just as he said they would.
For over a decade now, God’s Church has heightened end-time warnings, and people still will not listen. It is simply the nature of mankind to ridicule and dismiss what God’s Church has been proclaiming ever since it began in 31 AD. As a result, end-time events have remained hidden.
It is difficult for the human mind to believe that there is any authoritative source that can know what God’s will and purpose actually is for mankind. It is difficult for anyone to believe that God’s true Church has remained small throughout the centuries while other organizations claiming to be Christian have grown large. Human nature tends to believe that the larger a church organization is, the more likely God is working through them.
It is even far more difficult for the human mind to believe how it could be possible that millions of people have been deceived about traditional Christianity. Yet that is what has happened over the centuries.
This book has laid out proof to show what is true and what is false concerning many teachings and doctrines about God and Christ. For any who have read this book completely through, there are serious choices that have to be made as to what one will embrace as true and what will be rejected as false. Such choices are very personal, but each person’s answer to this will have very much to do with whether they will be able to go before God and seek His help and protection once a thermonuclear war does begin.
So, when it is all said and done, who will really listen to God? For this end-time, God’s message is that if you will listen to Him, He will listen to you.
The reality is that most will not listen to what has been written here until after WWIII begins. Sadly, God has revealed that it will take a massive amount of worldwide destruction and death before most people will begin to genuinely listen to Him.
Because of this nature that exists in mankind, it might seem rather futile to write a book like this since God has revealed what mankind’s reactions have been toward Him throughout time and what those reactions are to this day. But it’s not futile. The reason for this is because once this world is plunged into this final war, God has revealed that people will begin to listen to Him.
So God’s Church will continue to warn about this final war that is rapidly approaching. As people begin to actually experience catastrophic events that begin to unfold, more will begin to see what is true. Slowly but surely, God reveals that people will begin to turn to Him and will seek His help to escape what is happening. They will want to know what is true.
However, there will be some who will choose to begin listening and begin making changes sooner, as they embrace what is true. Much of what is written here is to help such people to be better equipped and prepared to face what is about to happen to this world and to also hold on to a true hope of what will soon follow once Christ begins to intervene.
The reason this book is entitled When the Countdown Ends is to stress the importance of the fact that time is very rapidly running out before this world erupts into a third world war. There isn’t much time left for people to prepare themselves adequately for what is about to happen. The sooner a person can begin to come to grips with such a reality, the more they can be better prepared physically, mentally, and spiritually.
This chapter reveals what this specific end-time countdown is all about. For some, the more they can see this, the more they will be motivated to respond quickly and make changes in their life that will help to save lives.
Long ago, soon after God had led the children of Israel out of captivity in Egypt, He revealed to them His way of life and then He told them, “I have set before you life and death. Choose life!” God was showing the importance of making right choices and His desire that they do so.
Right now, more than ever, it is one of those times once again. It is a time to choose life, or not. The end of the countdown for this end-time is almost upon us. When that happens, a thermonuclear war will begin. Hopefully, the explanation of all that is involved in this countdown will work to help stir people to choose life and to turn to God in great sincerity and truth.
Learning to Listen
Mankind simply does not comprehend an almighty, eternally existing God who is the creator of all things. The physical mind just cannot grasp such a thing. Instead, the mind is limited by physical reasoning. There are no physical laws that can prove to mankind that there is a God with limitless power that has no beginning or origin. We can’t comprehend that. Yet the evidence of a Creator is everywhere around us on this earth and in that which is beyond.
The physical mind cannot begin to truly grasp the magnitude and complexity of what God has created. Even with all of the growth in science and technology over the past few decades, we are only at a stage of infancy in learning about the universe. The greatness, power, and purpose of God is so very far beyond human understanding. Only when God reveals more can we begin to understand more.
Over the millennia, God’s people have given warnings and proclamations about what He has revealed to them. Those things God has revealed have established a powerful witness of what mankind is actually like. By nature, mankind simply chooses not to believe what God reveals as true, not even when He tells us what our nature is like.
“For the carnal mind [the natural human mind] is hostile to God and is not subject to the law [the ways] of God, and neither indeed can be” (Romans 8:7).
There are many who simply do not believe what God says about our human nature and how it resists Him, His ways and laws. Either this is true, or it is not. Understanding our nature is one of the first great steps to learning how to become free from the captivity of our selfish nature.
There is great purpose to why God created human life to be physical and not of a spirit creation like He did in the angelic realm. Mankind was made of a physical creation for the very purpose of experiencing selfish human nature. That nature can begin to be seen soon after a child is born. One can witness the development of that nature and how we want our own way. Our nature is toward self first—selfish. Foolishly, we resist such true knowledge about ourselves.
“But the natural man does not receive the things of the spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him. Neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14).
God reveals that His way—His truth—is resisted by our very nature and so much so that we tend to see such actual truth as something foolish.
Just consider what mankind considers as foolish and what it has otherwise embraced as true and sound.
To those in traditional Christianity, the beliefs that seem true and sound are the fables of Christmas and Easter, the acceptance that Christ was only in the tomb for a day and a half, the idea that those who live an evil life are tortured for eternity in hell, that God is like a kind of spiritual “three musketeers” that have formed a Trinity, and that physical humans have an immortal soul.
Yet what is true from God that is seen as foolish is that there is only one Almighty Eternal God, that Christ was in the tomb for exactly three days and three nights as he said he would be, that mankind is to observe God’s Sabbaths and not their own holidays or Sunday as the day of worship, that mankind does not have an immortal soul but will be resurrected to life again by God and that only He has life inherent in Himself, that Christ’s life only began once he was born into human life, etcetera.
So even what is written in this book will seem foolish to most. Only God can bring a person to a point where they can begin to listen and to see what He says is true. That is exactly where we are in time—in this end-time, where God is now going to begin the process of bringing mankind into an ability to start listening and then seeing what He says—that which is actually true.
A child can be worked with so that they can begin to better handle their own selfish nature. They begin to learn that everything they want is not always good for them. They begin to learn that “yes” is not always the answer they get for what they want. As a child grows, they begin to learn how to navigate through life with the reality that they cannot always have their way.
Although mankind works with that selfish nature, it never goes away. It is ever before us. It is in this experience of human life that God desires to show us a far, far better way—His way. That process requires change that can only be accomplished with His help because that help is spiritual and only that which is spiritual can reveal what is true. Then and only then can real peace, genuine happiness, and real fullness in life begin to be truly experienced.
We have come to the end of 6,000 years where we are now advancing in technological developments and scientific understanding. This has all been a part of God’s plan. It has been part of His specific timing when this kind of knowledge would be given to mankind.
It is now time for the next great phase in God’s plan. He has brought us to this time where mankind will now be able to take an incredible step forward in developing a far greater maturity in our existence—in life.
That next step can only be accomplished by what God is going to allow mankind to come face to face with in order to learn about its true selfish and destructive nature. Due to mankind’s selfish nature, the earth is slowly being destroyed. That process is speeding up more and more as technology grows.
God has been holding back the ultimate misuse of technology—the use of thermonuclear weapons in war. We are almost at that moment in time when God is going to allow this final phase of end-time events to begin. This is all necessary in order to bring mankind to a state of humility so that a far more mature and sound-minded humanity can emerge.
Before mankind will really begin to truly listen to God, He has revealed that it must first come to a time of being greatly humbled. This is only possible as the world begins to experience the fact that it cannot solve its own problems and that self-annihilation is a clear reality. It is through this excruciating experience for mankind, as its spirit begins to change from one of pride to humility, that God will begin to literally manifest what He has been revealing through His prophets and apostles for thousands of years.
After 6,000 years, God is going to finally manifest Himself to mankind in a manner that is most remarkable and at a time that will most benefit all His creation. God is going to reveal the first of His Family that He has worked to create over the past 6,000 years—the 144,000 who return with Christ.
When Christ was resurrected it was to spiritual life in a spirit composed body. Several hours after he was resurrected, he began to manifest himself in a physical human body that appeared exactly as it was before he was put to death. For 40 days after his resurrection, he worked face to face with the disciples and taught them more about all that had happened and its purpose.
Those who are resurrected into spirit life are able to manifest themselves to people in the same likeness as in their former physical life. This is how it will be for the 144,000 who are resurrected to come with Christ at his return.
People will be able to see them and come to know them because they will be among mankind throughout the earth as priests and rulers in God’s Kingdom. Those who read this may well have the experience of seeing these priests and rulers in that new age and even have the opportunity to meet with and converse with them.
God’s Family and God’s Church
Before explaining about the countdown and how it began, it would be better to first stress what happens at the end of that countdown. It is important to understand what God is planning once the countdown ends so that one can better appreciate the truth about God’s Church.
Just before the countdown ends, the world will be engaged in a nuclear WWIII. It needs to be repeated that if God does not intervene to stop that war, the reality is that mankind will annihilate itself. This is what mankind must come face to face with seeing.
It is right after this countdown ends that God will begin to manifest His very Family to mankind. It is His Family that will establish His government throughout the earth.
God’s purpose from the very beginning of all creation was to create His own Family—Elohim. That has always been His purpose, just as it still is His primary focus. In all the spirit realm and physical universe, the pinnacle of God’s creative ability and power is in the creation of His Family.
Although the spirit realm and the physical universe were created millions or even perhaps billions of years ago, God’s creation of His Family has only been in the making for the past 6,000 years. It is the most difficult part of all His creation. Previously, before God started to work on creating His Family, the things He worked at creating in the spirit realm and physical universe just simply came into being as a result of His power. The spirit realm and physical universe did not resist God’s will when they were made.
However, the process for creating Elohim is not that simple. It started with God creating physical human beings that are given a mind capable of making their own free choices, but also possessing a selfish human nature that starts at birth. God then begins the process of working with these human beings that have the natural tendency to resist Him. People by nature will choose the way of selfishness, but at some point in a person’s life, God will begin to work with them and reveal the right way of life to live—His way—the way of “give” instead of “get.”
It is then that a person must decide if they want to live God’s way or continue living the way that they always have. Until God calls someone and begins to offer His ways to them, they have no way to fully see their own true nature or the need to choose a different way until He reveals that to them.
Then, only those who willingly choose to live that right way of life and become part of God’s Church will be given the opportunity to become a part of God’s Family. One must freely and willingly choose for themselves if they want to become part of God’s true Church.
God’s effort to work with selfish human beings to help them see their ugly human nature and then to give them the opportunity to change and transform their mind is what makes this “creation” of His Family so complex. Yet there is no other way to create His own Family except through this process.
The first stage of that process begins with human life. The next stage for that creation begins when God starts working directly with an individual within His Church on a spiritual plane in order to mold and fashion a new and maturing mind within them—one that can later be born into His spirit Family.
Again, over the past 6,000 years, God has been working to create the first of His Family in an exact number of 144,000 who will be resurrected to come with Christ when he returns to establish God’s government over the nations. In the following 1,000 years, billions more will have that same opportunity to choose God’s way of life, become part of God’s Church, and then work to become part of God’s spirit Family.
Then, finally, in the 100-years that follow the Millennium, the vastness of all humanity who have lived and died will be resurrected to physical life once again, and then at that time, they too will be offered the same thing—to choose God’s Family or not.
Hopefully, this will help give a sense of appreciation and understanding of why God’s focus is so very much upon the Church in this end-time, for it is within the Church over the past 2,000 years that God has been calling larger numbers of people and offering them the first opportunity to be in His Family. It is throughout this period of time that most have been called into the Church to be among the 144,000 who come with Christ.
It Is About the Church
The importance of God completing the count of all 144,000 who will come with Christ should help give far better understanding as to why God’s focus is first and foremost upon His Church. In order for His Family to reign, achieving the complete count of the 144,000 takes precedence above all other matters at this time. There are still a few who are being prepared to become a part of that 144,000. Once that is complete, then WWIII will begin.
God and Christ are working to spiritually mold and fashion the mind and character of those who are being worked with to become part of His Family. At a certain stage of development in spiritual maturity, God determines when a person has reached that point where they can then become part of that Family—the God Family. The completion of this process in an individual’s life is referred to as becoming “sealed” by God.
It has been explained how the events of the first four Trumpets are about the beginning of WWIII, and that those events concern what happens to the United States at that time. God reveals that there is one great work of His that must first be completed before those four angels of the first four Trumpets can allow those events to commence.
“After these things I saw four angels [with the first four Trumpets] standing at the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, on the sea, or on any tree [speaking of the destruction that is being held back]. Then I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God. And he cried with a loud voice to the four angels to whom it was granted to harm the earth and the sea, saying, ‘Do not harm the earth, the sea, or the trees till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads.’ Then I heard the number of those who were sealed being one hundred and forty-four thousand sealed of all the tribes [bearing their names] of Israel” (Rev. 7:1-4).
At this time right now, most all of the 144,000 have been sealed, and most of those are dead and will be resurrected at Christ’s coming. However, God shows that there will be those who are still alive at the time Christ returns who will never experience death. Those few will simply be changed in an instant from mortal to immortal as they are also resurrected to spirit life at Christ’s coming. Those individuals are currently in God’s Church, and there are still a few that are yet to be sealed.
So all that remains to be fulfilled before the start of WWIII is about the Church and the complete sealing of the final few that will be a part of the 144,000. Once fulfilled, the angels holding back the events that allow WWIII to begin will no longer do so.
Timing Is Known by What Happens to God’s Church
God’s Church is so important to His plan that He has recorded much prophecy about it. There are some in the world who believe that we are nearing an end-time and that prophetic events mentioned in Revelation are going to come to pass. However, they do not grasp timing associated with most of those prophecies because many are about God’s Church.
As these people read the Book of Revelation, they tend to think they have a basic grasp of what it is saying, but the major areas they misinterpret or misapply to past historical events are the very things that keep them in blindness as to just how close the end-time really is. Because of that, many are not focused on current events because they believe that these major end-time events will not happen until many years into the future.
Most of the prophecies in the Book of Revelation are about God’s Church. Understanding those prophecies actually serve to better pinpoint the timing of end-time events.
From the very beginning of Revelation, God begins to reveal the importance of His Church by forewarning it of what would come to pass within the Church over the following 1900 years. After these prophecies were revealed to John, he then wrote the book of Revelation in the mid-90s AD while he was in prison on the Isle of Patmos. That means he would have been in his 90s when he wrote it.
One of the first prophecies that God gave to him concerning the Church is something few seem to understand regarding the different eras of the Church that would follow one another down through time and right up to the end-time—to the last era.
The first era spoken of was Ephesus, which was the era of the first apostles who are written about in New Testament scriptures. Through time the Church then went through a very difficult history of opposition from others, including opposition from those who were falsely claiming to be Christian. In the beginning of the fifth era, Sardis, the invention of the printing press gave rise to many Protestant churches. This growing addition of church organizations beyond that of the Catholic Church, which was the dominant religion for hundreds of years before, led to great oppression against God’s own Church.
As a result of such opposition against God’s Church over several hundred years, the Church became weaker until it was of such a condition that God declared it was dead—spiritually. It was at this juncture that God raised up an apostle, Herbert Armstrong, who was given the ability to begin restoring truth to the Church and to reveal to it that it was entering the end-times. That era, in which Herbert Armstrong was to fulfill the commission that was given to him by God, was known as the Philadelphia Era.
Knowing these events and the history of God’s true Church helps to pinpoint prophesied end-time events as they have been unfolding. It is important to know about these eras because the last era that was prophesied was the era that would lead up to the start of the literal final countdown to WWIII and Christ’s coming. It was this last era, the Era of Laodicea, that thrust the world into end-time events. This final era began as soon as Herbert Armstrong died in January 1986.
The world has not known or recognized God’s Church, and as it has been stated, the world did not recognize God’s apostle whom He raised up to do a great work that would lead up to the beginning of this end-time. Herbert Armstrong’s commission was to go into all the world with the good news (gospel) of the coming Kingdom of God. That is the very “work” Joshua the Christ spoke of that would take place at the end-time.
“This gospel [good news] of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14).
Indeed, once Herbert Armstrong died, the last era of the Church began. That last era led up to the fulfillment of events of some of the most important prophecies ever that were about the beginning of the countdown to Christ’s second coming. These prophecies concerned the beginning of major end-time events that happened to God’s own Church. These are revealed in the opening of the first four Seals of Revelation.
As it was stated before in the beginning of this chapter, these first four Seals are often referred to as the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Many believe they understand what these prophetic horsemen are all about, but none of them do. There are a plethora of thoughts and ideas that range wildly in interpretation from one another. Some few do grasp that the First Seal is about false religion, but they do not grasp that this was about a prophetic event that marked the very beginning for the final countdown.
Because of the various interpretations of what the Four Horsemen mean, and the misunderstanding that it is about great cataclysmic tribulation on the earth, many are not able to be sobered by the truth that this war is nearly upon us. They don’t see that tribulation yet and they don’t understand that it is about God’s Church. So the reality of that final world war seems a long way off to them. They do not see prophetic events coming to pass and are going to be so caught off-guard once the complete demise of the United States begins, which happens in the events of the first four Trumpets of the Seventh Seal.
This book is striving to make it clear that many prophesied events leading up to this last war have already been fulfilled, especially those events Herbert Armstrong began predicting shortly after WWII. We are already deep into the countdown for this final end-time. The truth is that all Seven Seals of Revelation have already been opened, although the events of the first Four Trumpets of the Seventh Seal are at this very time being held back until the final sealing of the 144,000 is completed.
As it has been stated several times, the world has not known God’s true Church, yet that is where God’s primary focus and work has been. God has made it clear that the events of WWIII cannot begin until certain things have been completed that concern His Church. That is how important God’s Church is to the fulfillment of end-time events and the end of this age of mankind! Understanding all this will help one to more easily grasp what the First Seal of Revelation was about and that when that event happened in God’s Church an actual countdown to Christ’s return began.
Just as God foretold in the Book of Daniel that there was a countdown from a specific moment in history to Christ’s first coming, known as the Seventy Weeks Prophecy, there is also a specific countdown to his second coming.
God is exceedingly precise and exacting in detail when it comes to fulfilling prophetic timelines. Scripture records many such accounts. One account has already been covered concerning the knowledge that God gave Christ about the exact time of three complete days and nights that he, Joshua, would be in the tomb. Christ said to his disciples that this would be the only sign he would give that he was the true Messiah.
Through the prophet Daniel, God foretold the exact timing when the Messiah would first come to fulfill a work on earth. This Seventy Weeks Prophecy (shown on the chart in the appendix at the end of the book) also foretold when he would die. God has revealed that in this specific prophecy each “prophetic day” is equal to a literal year. This prophecy begins with a specific segment in time.
“Therefore know and understand that from the going forth of the command to restore and build Jerusalem until the Messiah the Prince [when he would begin his work, his ministry], there shall be seven weeks, and sixty-two weeks. The street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troubled times” (Daniel 9:25).
Most of Jerusalem and the temple had been destroyed when Judah was conquered and taken captive into Babylon. God used the example of this physical destruction and the timing for the command to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem and the temple as the means for the countdown to Christ’s first coming. This also served as a prophetic type for the spiritual fulfillment of a countdown that would lead up to Christ’s second coming. Indeed, from the prophets of old and throughout the New Testament, there have been prophecies given concerning Christ’s first and second coming and the timing regarding the countdown for each.
The first period mentioned is “seven weeks,” which is 49 days. Those 49 prophetic days are equal to 49 literal years. In 457 B.C., Artaxerxes issued the decree for the rebuilding of Jerusalem that took place through the time of Ezra and Nehemiah. It took 49 years to reconstruct the streets and walls, which fulfilled this first seven weeks prophecy (49 years) that concluded in 408 B.C.
The next period mentioned was “sixty-two weeks.” Multiplying this number by seven days in a week is equal to an additional 434 prophetic days or 434 literal years. Adding 434 years, beginning from 408 B.C., brings us to 27 A.D. (adding a 1 since there is no year 0). Joshua the Christ began his ministry in 27 A.D. and was killed 3 ½ years later on Passover 31 A.D. That 3 ½ years is what the next two verses in Daniel are all about.
“And after sixty-two weeks Messiah shall be cut off [killed], but not for himself [he was going to die for all mankind as their Passover]. Then he [Messiah] shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week [3 ½ days] shall cause the sacrifice and the offerings to cease…” (Daniel 9:26-27).
The prophets of old, religious leaders, and the disciples themselves did not know that the Messiah would first come to die as the world’s Passover, nor could they grasp that by doing so he would cause the physical “sacrifice and the offerings to cease,” meaning his death would fulfill and do away with the laws pertaining to the sacrificial system. When scriptures speak of laws being done away with, especially in the Book of Hebrews, this is not about the 10 Commandments, but it is about the law of sacrifices, the sacrificial system and laws pertaining to it, which symbolized that which was to come.
This prophecy concerning Christ’s first coming in which he would fulfill a ministry lasting for 3 ½ years and then be “cut-off” (put to death) is easily understood; however, this prophecy also contains meaning concerning the events at the end-time as well, although not all of it has been completely revealed.
This count for Christ’s first coming was incredibly detailed and precise. God has also given prophecy that is exact in the count that is leading up to Christ’s second coming. The complete measure of that count has not yet been given to God’s Church, but it has been revealed that this count is rapidly nearing its end. God has given precise segments of prophetic timing to watch for and to keep alert to that are for the purpose of helping us be prepared for the events that will finally lead to the conclusion of this current countdown.
Prophetic Timing for Christ’s Second Coming
During the Church era of Philadelphia, God gave to his apostle, Herbert Armstrong, a very specific prophetic key concerning the first four Seals of Revelation. He understood that the Olivet prophecies were the key to understanding these four Seals, but he did not see that these were not about physical end-time events.
The Olivet prophecies are referring to prophecies Christ gave to his disciples when on the Mount of Olives on the last night of his life on the Passover of 31 AD.
Although this key was given to Herbert Armstrong, God did not reveal the full meaning of those prophecies to him, and neither was he given the ability to use that “key” because it was not yet time for the Seals to be opened. So Herbert Armstrong was limited to seeing these Seals in only a physical fulfillment. He was not given to see that it was a prophetic matter concerning the very Church of God, so instead, he mistakenly believed the First Seal was about the physical “religious” world of traditional Christianity.
Matthew 24 and the other accounts of the Olivet prophecy parallel this account of the Seals found in Revelation 6. Even within the Church, it wasn’t until after the First Seal was opened that these first four Seals were able to be seen in a different light, as something other than being physically fulfilled. So it is no wonder that even within the world these things have been viewed as having a physical fulfillment about great physical tribulation on the earth.
As mentioned, these first four Seals are often referred to as the time of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse because they have been viewed as being “apocalyptic” in their physical, destructive power over the earth. Apocalyptic destruction will come on this world once the events of the first four Trumpets of the Seventh Seal begin, but these earlier Seals are about the powerful destruction that occurred in the very Church of God. They were of an apocalyptic nature spiritually.
The following verses describe the disciples walking with Joshua around the Temple as he began to prophesy about God’s Church at the end-time. Then the conversation moved to questions and answers concerning that time.
“Then Joshua went out and departed from the temple and his disciples went with him to view the buildings of the temple. Then Joshua said to them, ‘Do you not see all these things? Truly I say to you that there shall not be left here one stone upon another that shall not be thrown down” (Matthew 24:1-2).
Those things that Joshua began to describe to his disciples are understood by most people to be purely physical. That was a very common response to the teachings of Joshua the Christ, and it is the normal human reaction because mankind, by nature, deals with the “physical” that surrounds it because it can’t see or understand the spiritual. The spiritual aspect cannot be seen or measured.
The Book of John is filled with such examples. In that book, in chapter 3, Joshua spoke to Nicodemus, a great leader of the Jews. He could not understand what Joshua was talking about when he spoke of a need to be “born again” of spirit. Nicodemus asked how one could be born again once he is old. He knew he could not enter again into his mother’s womb and be born a second time.
Even traditional Christianity embraces a wrong interpretation of this. They believe that being born again is some kind of “spiritual experience” while still in this physical body. But Joshua was explaining a literal change that has to take place in human life. That change is part of God’s purpose for mankind. Mankind has the opportunity to be born of spirit essence into the Family of God as an eternal living, spirit being.
John 4 records the account of a Samaritan woman who met Joshua at a well. He explained to her that she could drink from the water in that well, but she would become thirsty again. He then said he had living water to give, and if a person drank of it they would never again thirst. She asked for that water so she would never have to return to the well to draw water for drinking. She didn’t understand that he wasn’t speaking of physical water, but of being able to “drink in” of the “spiritual water” of the Word of God.
Then, in John 6, Joshua spoke of some of the future symbolism for the observance of Passover, which Paul later explained in 1 Corinthians 11:23. Joshua told his disciples they would have to eat of his flesh and drink of his blood. In John 6:66 it is recorded that many of his disciples (not the twelve) quit following him after that because they were abhorred by what he had said. The Jewish people have always accepted the laws of clean and unclean foods. They knew that eating human flesh and drinking blood was a flagrant and obvious breaking of God’s law.
But Joshua was not speaking of a literal physical interpretation. He was beginning to lead his disciples to understanding what would later be given about the future observance of the Passover. In that future ceremony, drinking a small amount of wine would serve as a reminder of his spilled blood, and the eating of a piece of unleavened bread would symbolize his flesh—his physical life, sacrificed for the sins of mankind, as the Passover.
The Book of John continues with more stories that were interpreted on a physical plane but were intended to be interpreted spiritually. This is the same case as with the story of Joshua the Christ talking to his disciples concerning the stones of the temple being cast down. This was not intended for a physical interpretation, but a spiritual one. Although the physical temple was destroyed by the Romans during the first Church era of Ephesus, Christ was not referring to that event. This prophecy was about the Church at a future time—the end-time.
The stones of the temple are spiritual. They are about God’s own Church.
“Now therefore you are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God [a spiritual temple], and you are being built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Joshua the Christ himself being the chief corner stone, in whom the whole building is being fitly framed together and growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for an habitation of God through the spirit” (Ephesians 2:19-22).
Paul explained here that those whom God has called into His Church are described as being part of a spiritual temple—a holy temple in the Lord. The apostle Peter explained this in a similar fashion.
“To whom coming, as unto a living stone, rejected indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious, you also as lively stones are being built up as a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God through Joshua the Christ” (1 Peter 2:4-5).
Members of the Church of God are being described as being like “living stones” (spiritual) that are being built into a spiritual house. That spiritual house is the temple of God.
In this Olivet prophecy, as Christ explained that the stones of the temple would be cast down, he was speaking of a future time for the Church. He was speaking similarly when he told the Jews, “destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” On that occasion, he was speaking of himself, and he was foretelling his death and resurrection that would follow after being dead and in the tomb for three days and three nights.
After Christ told the disciples that there would not be one stone left upon the other in the temple, they then wanted to know more about what he was telling them.
“As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, ‘Tell us, when shall these things be and what shall the sign of your coming be, and of the end of the world [Gk.—age]?’” (Matthew 24:3).
Do you see the context of this prophecy? It not only involves the Church, but here it makes clear the timing for when these things would occur. The disciples asked Joshua about the timing of events surrounding the stones of the temple being cast down. By their very question, it is clear that they knew he was speaking of the time for his coming (in his Kingdom) and the end of the age. This prophecy is about those things that would happen to the Church at the end-time, just prior to the return of Joshua the Christ to establish his Kingdom.
As future accounts reveal, the disciples wanted to know when the Kingdom of God would become established, but they had no idea it would not be in their lifetime. Instead, they believed it would be soon. At this point, they still did not understand some of the things he had been telling them about the fact that he was going to be killed. This same account is worded a little differently in the Book of Mark.
“Tell us, when shall these things be and what shall be the sign when all these things shall be fulfilled?” (Mark 13:4).
Joshua was telling his disciples about the timing for when he would actually come as King of kings in the Kingdom of God, and the very sign that would lead up to that time. The sign He would give would involve the Church—events and signs that would occur in the Church of God—not signs that would occur in the world, even as the following verse should clearly show.
“This gospel [good news] of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14).
In these accounts, Christ began to reveal more to them that would become fulfilled in God’s Church over time. Then he began to narrow in on the events that would lead directly into the end-time. It is here that he revealed a specific event. The fulfillment of this event was actually at a juncture in time that was previously explained as being when the commission God had given to his apostle, Herbert Armstrong, began to be fulfilled. It was accomplished by the massive work he did in spreading the gospel through publications, radio, and television worldwide.
It was after Herbert Armstrong’s death that the last Church era called Laodicea then came on the scene. More is stated in this Olivet prophecy of the very sign of Christ’s coming and it came to pass just as he said it would. The disciples had asked what that sign would be, and he answered exactly what that was—when the end-time countdown would begin—the sign of his coming.
“Therefore, when you shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place (whoso reads, let him understand), then let those who are in Judea flee into the mountains” (Matthew 24:15-16).
Christ was speaking of a physical fulfillment that was known as the “abomination of desolation” that occurred in 168 BC when Antiochus IV Epiphanes desecrated the temple by erecting a statue of Zeus in the temple and having a pig offered before it upon the alter.
The account in Daniel had a dual prophetic fulfillment. The first fulfillment was a physical one in 168 BC, but Christ was explaining that there would be a spiritual fulfillment as well. That spiritual fulfillment would come about when an abomination of desolation would occur in God’s Church—in the spiritual temple.
This event would be so devastating to God’s own people (referred to here as Judea—about spiritual Judah—the Church) that they were warned to flee into the mountains. This will be explained more fully, but it is about a time in which the Church would be scattered. In prophecy, “mountains” are used to symbolize governments. It is about a time of scattering of God’s own Church when even the organized government of the Church (within the ministry) would itself become scattered.
There are many groups who look at these prophecies concerning the sign of Christ’s coming and they believe that this abomination of desolation will involve something that happens in Jerusalem in the temple mount area. Some believe that these verses can begin to become fulfilled if construction of a new temple becomes desecrated soon after, even if it is only with a few stones being delivered and erected in that location. Some believe that this could even become fulfilled if only an alter is placed in that location so that a pig could once again be offered upon it. Such ideas are ludicrous and far-fetched to be considered realistic possibilities.
The Olivet prophecy is indeed the key to understanding that the first four Seals of Revelation are about God’s own Church and what would happen once a “spiritual” abomination of desolation would occur within the Church—the true spiritual temple of God. The fulfillment of these Seals are not about physical tribulation that would come upon the world, but of spiritual tribulation that would come upon God’s Church.
So how could something like an abomination of desolation occur in God’s own Church? Understanding what happened during the era of Laodicea will make that clear.
The Apostasy and Abomination of Desolation
For many years after the Church first began in 31 AD, God’s people, including His apostles, were looking for when Christ would return to establish the Kingdom of God. They did not know that Christ would not return until over 1900 years later.
Nearly 20 years after the Church began, Christ gave Paul prophecy concerning more about what the sign of his coming would involve.
“Now we ask you brethren concerning the coming of our Lord Joshua the Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, that you not be soon shaken in understanding or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as coming from us, as though the day of Christ is at hand. Let no one deceive you in any way, for that day will not come unless the falling away (Gk.— apostasy) come first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition” (2 Thes. 2:1-3).
The context of Paul’s prophecy is very clear since he specifically referred to the timing of its fulfillment four distinct times. Notice the phrases: 1) “the coming of our Lord Joshua the Christ” 2) “our gathering together unto him” [the gathering of the Church—the 144,000—at the coming of Christ] 3) “as though the day of Christ is at hand” and 4) “for that day will not come unless.” This prophecy given through Paul makes it clear that what he is going to tell them concerns what all of them want to know. When is Christ returning?
Paul is explaining to the Church that very specific events must first occur within the Church before the end-time comes—before the coming of Joshua the Christ can occur—before the Kingdom of God is established (the time for “our gathering together unto him”).
This warning to the Church is the same one that Joshua the Christ gave in the Olivet Prophecy concerning the time for his coming and the fulfillment of end-time events.
“Then Joshua answered and said to them, ‘Take heed that no one deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am the Christ, and shall deceive many’” (Matthew 24:4-5).
Again, this is about the Church and not about the world. The world has always been deceived from what is true about God because it has not been His purpose to reveal His will and purpose to it. God only revealed His purpose to a few up to the time of Christ and then after that, only to the Church.
This verse is not speaking about the world becoming deceived because it always has been. The only ones who can become deceived are those to whom God has given His truth. This warning was given to God’s Church that they not lose that truth by becoming deceived.
Christ was giving a clear warning that part of the sign of his coming would entail many who would come along and try to deceive the Church. Who can come to the Church in the name of Joshua the Christ? Only the ministry! Joshua said many would come in his name and try to deceive many in the Church.
Before Joshua was killed upon a pole, many of those following him already believed that he was the Messiah (the Christ) sent from God to take over the reins of government from the Romans. Before he died, they wanted to know when he was going to do this. Even after his death and resurrection, they still wanted to know.
After Paul sent this prophecy about an apostasy to the Church, then the questions followed. How could an apostasy or a falling away from the truth happen in God’s Church? How could any of God’s people become so deceived that it would be possible for an event of such magnitude such as an “apostasy” to occur within God’s own Church? Paul continues in this prophecy by giving an outline of the kind of events that would occur in order to fulfill this.
Paul stated that the first thing that would take place before Christ would return was an apostasy. This word from the Greek, apostasia, is translated in several different ways. Some examples of that include: a falling away, a Great Apostasy, a rebellion, a revolt. All of these are accurate definitions for the meaning of that Greek word.
Secondly, he stated that the “man of sin,” the “son of perdition,” must be revealed. There is only one other person who has ever been referred to previously in scripture as “the son of perdition.” It was Judas Iscariot. He was one of the original twelve disciples and the one who betrayed Joshua the Christ for thirty pieces of silver.
The first apostasy ever recorded concerned the angelic realm when the archangel Lucifer betrayed God and led a third of the angels in rebellion against Him. That archangel then became known as Satan. He was indeed the first son of perdition, as angels are referred to as the sons of God in the angelic realm, for He created them. Satan was also the first son of sin—the very first in all God’s creation to sin—the author and originator of sin.
So what Paul’s prophecy records is an incredibly heinous thing that a single person would be guilty of doing within God’s own Church. Paul states more about what this man of sin would do.
“Let no one deceive you in any way, for that day will not come unless the falling away (Gk.— apostasy) come first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God, or that is worshiped, so that he as God sits in the temple of God, showing [‘showing’ in the Greek means ‘to show forth, expose, reveal’] himself that he is God” (2 Thes. 2:3-4).
Knowing that this prophecy is about God’s Church, it becomes apparent that there would arise an individual who would have such prominence that he would be able to exercise much sway over others in the Church. The warning given was to be on guard against any such person who might try to deceive the Church—to lead them away from the truth God had revealed to them.
It says of this man that he would exalt himself above God. This is exactly what Satan did within the angelic realm. It is about the power and influence he wanted to have over the angels. He believed his ideas and ways were better than God’s, so he went about to work against God’s ways and to establish his own.
It states that this man of sin would oppose God. Again, this is what Satan did in the angelic realm. He opposed God and His ways. His very name means “adversary” which means he was against God and worked against God’s plan and purpose. In a similar manner, the man of sin, the son of perdition, would rise up in God’s Church and he would betray God and Christ. He would become an adversary—he would act against God and against Christ.
This prophecy of Paul became well known in the Church, as they knew this event would first have to come to pass before the time for the coming of Christ would be revealed. They knew that a person would rise up within the leadership of the Church and would begin to work against God’s Church—against God and Christ.
The apostle John later wrote in reference to this man of sin as he called him the Antichrist. He used the example of this man of sin to teach the Church that although they had heard that a prophetic Antichrist should come (referring to Paul’s writings about the man of sin—the son of perdition), he went on to warn that many antichrists were already active in the environs of God’s Church. They knew the Antichrist was yet to come. By the time of John who wrote these things several decades after Paul’s warning of the Antichrist, there had already been individuals and ministers within the Church who had risen up and turned against Christ (became anti-Christ), but they were not the Antichrist.
With the description of the “man of sin” and the “son of perdition,” this individual would clearly be one who would betray God and His Son Joshua. His sin and betrayal would be so heinous that it is described as him “showing” or “setting forth” himself to be as God. Such an expression means he was one who had the ability to have powerful influence to raise up (as in idolatry) his own ways and teachings above what God had given to the Church.
This is exactly what eventually came to pass during the last Church era—Laodicea. The prophecy about an apostasy that would eventually come to pass in the Church would be the event that would signal the countdown to the coming of Christ—that his return was now imminent.
In that final era of the Church, the betrayal by the son of perdition who turned against God and Christ was the cause of “the Apostasy” that did occur in God’s Church. His actions became the spiritual fulfillment of the “Abomination of Desolation” spoken of by Christ in the Olivet prophecy. The original abomination was about massive destruction and desecration of the physical temple of God by Antiochus IV Epiphanes in 168 BC. The second abomination was about massive destruction and desecration of the spiritual temple—the Church of God—once the Apostasy occurred.
The Emergence of the Man of Sin
God raised up Herbert Armstrong as his apostle during the Church era of Philadelphia. His commission was to fulfill what Christ said would occur just before the end-time would come. That commission was to proclaim the gospel into all the world. This was done through the massive publication of booklets as well as the distribution of millions of copies of books. Over eight million monthly copies of the magazine, The Plain Truth, were printed in several languages and sent throughout the world. That work included an unprecedented worldwide coverage of both radio and television in his program called The World Tomorrow.
As Herbert Armstrong entered his 80s, his health was waning and carnal human nature was beginning to work its way into some of the ministry at the headquarters of the Church. There were ministers who were being lifted up with self-importance while experiencing the power and authority of being over various operations and congregations of the Church. They started seeing Herbert Armstrong as frail and began to look at who might replace him. This included several evangelists and even his own son, Garner Ted Armstrong.
In the mid to late 70s a wrong spirit began to work its way into the lives of far too many ministers who were beginning to maneuver and work for position, power, recognition, and doctrinal change within the Church. This marked the beginning of the rise in what Christ gave strong prophetic warning concerning the ministry in the end-times. He said that “many will come in my name and deceive many.” This could only be something that could happen in God’s Church and it had to come from the ministry, as they are the only ones who can come in the authority of Christ’s name. This was not about deception that would happen in the world to those who were already deceived.
Some of these ministers, including evangelists, had to be removed from their positions and separated from the Church because they were already turning against truths that God and Christ had delivered to Herbert Armstrong. This was the emergence of many antichrists, but not yet of the Antichrist. It was during this period that there were a few thousand people who followed some of these ministers out of God’s Church during these times of trouble and turmoil.
Over the last decade of his life, Herbert Armstrong had to deal with many battles that were beginning to emerge within the Church, which were mostly originating within the ministry. Not only were these battles coming from within the ministry, but the worst were from those directly under him in authority. They were the ones who over the years had become ordained as evangelists, most of whom were students of his in classes he personally taught when Ambassador College (a college of the Church) was first established.
An undercurrent struggle for power began within the Church as it was becoming more apparent that Herbert Armstrong was likely to die before Christ’s return and that someone would be moved into his place as the one who would then lead God’s Church. It is almost unimaginable that such a thing could happen within God’s very own Church. This reveals the spiritual condition that many were beginning to drift into within the Church—a Laodicean spirit.
It had come to the point that Herbert Armstrong did not feel he could fully entrust the Church to any of these long-ordained evangelists, let alone to entrust them with some of the most important positions within the organization of the Church. At one point, he even reached out and brought a pastor to the Church in Pasadena, California, where the organization of the Worldwide Church of God was headquartered. This man, Leroy Neff, was the pastor of the Church in Houston, Texas. He had proven himself to be a man who was a faithful minister and could be trusted, and so Herbert Armstrong made him the Treasurer of the Church, as he felt he could not give this job to any of the evangelists.
Even when Herbert Armstrong came to the point of believing he was nearing death, he did not believe he could pass along his responsibilities to any of the evangelists, who were of the highest rank within the administration of the Church under him. Instead, he gave it to a man who had been serving for a long time as an elder in the local congregation.
Herbert Armstrong took notice of this man’s service and brought him into the administration of the Church. Before this, this individual had only served as a local elder to the local congregation of the Church in Pasadena, California. That elder was Joseph Tkach, Sr., and Herbert Armstrong placed him over all the ministry of the Church worldwide, as he did not believe he could entrust it to any of the evangelists.
Within the headquarters itself, God was allowing Satan to stir up distrust, suspicion, jealousy, lust for power, and even doctrinal division. The Church was becoming weaker spiritually and heading into what would become the Laodicean Era, as people were becoming lifted up in pride, and trusting in self more than trusting in God. The Church was becoming ripe for an apostasy. Nothing like this had happened in its nearly 1,950-year history.
Joseph Tkach, Sr. was the primary person conversing with Herbert Armstrong toward the end of his life when he was confined in his home because of ill health. As his health deteriorated, more of the administration of the Church was being taken over by Joseph Tkach. It was told to the Church that when Herbert Armstrong believed his death was imminent, he transferred all responsibility of leadership to Joseph Tkach, Sr.
Finally, the time for a complete transition from one Church era to another came in January 1986 when Herbert Armstrong died. At the time of his death, the Philadelphia Era came to a close and the Laodicea Era began—the last prophetic era.
Joseph Tkach, Sr. was now in the role of leadership over God’s Church. In the beginning, he seemed supportive of Herbert Armstrong’s past leadership and teaching. It seemed as though he was doing things in faithfulness in upholding the truths God had delivered to the Church through Herbert Armstrong.
By the end of the 1980s and into the first couple of years of the 1990s, that began to change. Administrative changes began to be made that seemed somewhat innocent in the beginning, but they were not.
Over the early years of his leadership, slowly but surely, Joseph Tkach, Sr. was elevating himself and his importance within the organization of the Church by surrounding himself with many of those younger in the ministry, and at the same time, trying to diminish the role of others who had carried greater responsibilities during Herbert Armstrong’s ministry.
The Church began to take on a new air and attitude because of those Joseph Tkach, Sr. had placed in positions of leadership, including his own son. It was an air of self-importance, of spiritual arrogance and pride, of being spiritually “rich and increased with goods.” This was coupled with an already weakened condition within the Church of spiritual lukewarmness and complacency that Christ had forewarned would come to pass in the last era of the Church—Laodicea. The mixture of all these components was disastrous for the Church.
Paul’s prophecy of an apostasy stated that the man of sin, the son of perdition, would “sit in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.” This portion of Paul’s prophecy is very telling. This temple of God being spoken of is not the old physical temple in Jerusalem that was destroyed. Many who try to explain these verses do so in great error as they try to connect this event with that physical temple. But in other writings Paul is very clear when he speaks of the temple because he does so in the context of it being the spiritual temple of God—the Church.
The word “sits” reveals even more about an individual who would be in the temple—the Church. This is not a physical matter of someone sitting around in a building, but it is a spiritual matter involving the spiritual temple—God’s Church.
No one could be in this temple of God unless they are part of the Church of God. Yet there is much more to this description. This is in the context of someone in authority who is set in the Church, bearing authority. This word in such a context in Greek actually means “to cause to set” as in “to set, appoint, or to confer a kingdom unto one.”
A couple of examples from scripture are quoted below:
“To him who overcomes will I grant to sit with me on my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father on His throne” (Rev. 3:21).
“Joshua said to them, ‘Truly I say to you, that you who have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit on the throne of His glory, you also shall sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel’” (Mat. 19:28).
Toward the end of his life, Herbert Armstrong stated that it had never been made clear to him who should lead the Church if he should die, but as stated before, he ultimately transferred all responsibility of leadership within the Church to Joseph Tkach, Sr. Only one man in the end-time became appointed—set—to have great authority in the Church of God, yet he was never an apostle of God.
The manifestation of the betrayal by the son of perdition became the cause of the Apostasy in God’s Church. His actions became the spiritual fulfillment of the Abomination of Desolation spoken of by Christ in the Olivet prophecy.
The Actual Event: The Apostasy
Joseph Tkach Sr. began to place young, inexperienced men into important positions of administration within the operations of the Church. These were not long-time ministers, but mostly newer ones. This large, new group of ministers were being merged together and were in unity with one another and had a mindset that was opposed to the past.
This group became a secretive kind of brotherhood that was determined to see the Church become more “mainstream” like the churches of traditional Christianity. These men disliked Herbert Armstrong and his teachings and began to work on turning the entire Church in a different direction. Much of their “behind the scenes” activities did not become fully known until 1995.
However, beginning in 1992, there were many in the older leadership of the Church who were becoming aware of massive changes to doctrine that were being planned and were going to be introduced to the Church. These individuals did not do anything to warn the Church or ministry of this conspiracy in the headquarters of the Church. They did not make a stand against what was taking place.
Over the following two years, there were individuals who were conspiring as to how they could lead the Church away from the truth God had given it through Herbert Armstrong. They tried to diminish the memory of Herbert Armstrong and eventually there was a movement to destroy his books and literature that were still in large supply at the headquarters of the Church. They had begun to make plans to change literature that would reflect major doctrinal changes that would bring the Church into closer agreement doctrinally with the churches of mainstream traditional Christianity. Joseph Tkach, Sr. and his son, Joseph Tkach, Jr. were heading this conspiracy to change the doctrines of God’s true Church and to lead the Church into a false Christianity.
Although this secretive group of ministers who were plotting to overthrow God’s Church had planned to prepare literature to launch these changes, they were caught off-guard when their plans were exposed too early by Joseph Tkach, Sr. when he made a sudden change to a sermon he was going to give in Atlanta, Georgia. In this visit to the Atlanta area congregations of the Church, Joseph Tkach was confronted with problems and rumors that were emerging over these changes. He had to make a choice and he felt he needed to address it during that visit.
Although it did not become known until later, he had prepared to deliver a completely different sermon from the actual one he ended up giving in Atlanta. Some things were coming to a head quicker than this conspiring group had planned and Joseph Tkach felt forced into giving a completely different sermon on that day of December 17, 1994.
In that sermon, which was later sent out to all the churches worldwide, Joseph Tkach, Sr. began to inform God’s Church that every major doctrine was being changed. In addition to Atlanta, he also gave two more sermons on this same subject in two additional locations on the consecutive weekly Sabbaths that followed. All three sermons contained much of the same overall message of these major changes in doctrine.
That sermon in Atlanta declared that the 7th day Sabbath was a matter of personal choice as to when it could be observed. It could be observed on the seventh day of the week (Saturday) as all were accustomed to, or on the following day, the first day of the week (Sunday), like traditional Christianity does. It was no longer to be seen as a commandment required by God.
In addition, God’s annual Holy Days were being treated in the same manner, as the Church was being told that they were not really commanded to keep them, but that much of the Church would continue doing so, but more as a matter of tradition and not of commandment. Also, Christmas and Easter were not forbidden as in the past. There were numerous other changes being mentioned, even down to saying that the laws of God concerning what was unclean for mankind to eat were not valid.
Needless to say, that sermon was the manifestation of a great apostasy! Here was a man who was seen as sitting in authority over God’s Church on earth who had now put himself in the place of God, as he set out to change the very laws of God.
That which Paul stated about the man of sin, the son of perdition, had then come to pass: “Who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped, so that he as God sits in the temple of God, showing [revealing] himself that he is God” (2 Thes. 2:4). God does not change His way and truth, but Joseph Tkach, Sr. believed he could.
Never in the history of mankind has there been a religious institution that has experienced someone rising up within its own ranks who at a single moment in time went about changing every major teaching and doctrine of that organization. Yet, God’s own Church did experience exactly that, just as God foretold would come to pass in the end-time.
The Seals Began to be Opened
There are some in the world who are waiting for the time of the opening of the First Seal of Revelation so that they will then be able to know that Christ is coming. There are those who believe that when the First Seal is opened that Christ’s coming will then be three and a half years after that tribulation begins. However, such people will be fully caught off-guard, because the first four Seals are not about physical tribulation in the world, but about spiritual tribulation that has already occurred in God’s Church.
The First Seal was opened on the 17th of December in 1994, when Joseph Tkach, Sr. gave that sermon in Atlanta, Georgia. This was the beginning of the Apostasy. It was the beginning of great tribulation within God’s own Church. It was the beginning of a prophetic count to the actual second coming of Joshua the Christ.
“I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals, and then I heard as it were the noise of thunder as one of the four living creatures said, ‘Come and see.’ Then behold, I saw a white horse and he who sat on it had a bow, and a crown was given unto him, and he went forth conquering, and to conquer” (Revelation 6:1-2).
This is about the one who was set in authority (given a crown to rule) in the temple of God. This prophetic picture is about one who used his power to wage war to conquer and overthrow God’s Church—to desecrate and destroy God’s Church—to commit the “abomination of desolation” in the temple of God.
Then, the next three seals that were opened were simply the result—the affect—of the first.
“Then another horse went out that was red, and it was given to him who sat on it to take peace from the earth, and that they should kill one another, as a great sword was given to them” (Rev. 6:4).
Once Joseph Tkach gave his desecrating sermon in Atlanta, the floodgates were opened to free-flowing doctrinal perversion and widespread private interpretation of God’s Word through human reasoning and demonic influence. Peace was taken from the earth in every area where God’s Church was.
The growing unrest that was building over the previous decade with the doctrinal battles and fighting amongst brethren and ministers who were increasingly yielding to distortion of doctrine was now unleashed upon the Church in a massive onslaught, almost overnight. Ministers and brethren began to choose different sides and fight over doctrinal differences.
The opening of this Second Seal followed instantly behind the first. Nearly three-quarters of the ministry yielded to this new doctrinal format. They turned towards this newly embraced false way; they turned away from the truth. Many ministers fully adopted the new teachings of Joseph Tkach, while others adopted only portions of them. Nevertheless, a broad movement toward false doctrine in a false Christianity was thrust upon the Church.
This emergence of so many false ministers led to a quicker dissemination of false doctrine and teaching. Those ministers were no longer wielding the sword of God’s word, in spirit and in truth, but a false sword that served to take truth from brethren and destroy spiritual lives.
As the peace of God was taken from their midst through this process, brethren entered into the greatest time of spiritual warfare the Church had ever experienced since it began on Pentecost in 31 A.D. Multiple thousands of brethren began to lose their spiritual lives as people began to kill one another spiritually. The sword of false ministers was false doctrine, and with that came great devastation and spiritual murder.
“When he opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, ‘Come and see.’ I looked, and behold there was a black horse, and he who sat on it had a pair of balances in his hand. Then I heard a voice in the midst of the four living creatures saying, ‘A measure of wheat for a penny, and three measures of barley for a penny, and see that you do not hurt the oil and the wine’” (Revelation 6:5-6).
These two verses are well understood by most who read them as pertaining to famine. The Church has always understood that this was about a time of famine that would come upon the world at the end-time, but it was only seen as a time of physical famine. Such a time will indeed come upon all the world physically, but these verses are about the Church and spiritual famine that followed this Apostasy.
These actually fulfilled an Old Testament prophecy that was to occur in the end-time. “Behold the days come, says the Lord Eternal, when I will send a famine in the land—not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Eternal” (Amos 8:11).
As false ministers and false doctrine grew in power, brethren became weak and fell victim to a growing spiritual famine. The truth of God—the Word of God that brethren needed to eat and digest in order to be fed spiritually was becoming very scarce. A time of great spiritual famine did indeed come upon God’s people.
The result of the Apostasy created widespread destruction and desecration in God’s Temple. The destruction that followed parallels a prophecy in Ezekiel 5 about this very thing, as it describes how the effects of the devastation were divided into three specific segments.
As soon as the Apostasy occurred, right at one-third of the Church turned away from all the truth they had been given. They went back to embracing the false Christianity that God had delivered them from when He first opened their minds to see and understand His truth.
Over the next few months another third of the Church simply gave up in despair and had complete loss of faith. They abandoned everything. They had no understanding of how or why this could possibly have happened to a Church that was God’s. They had no answers and no hope—nothing left for which to fight.
There was a final third that tried to hold onto some form of what they had believed when God had first opened their minds to understand the truth. By the time of the Apostasy, the Church had grown very weak spiritually just as it had been forewarned concerning the last era of Laodicea. It was prophesied to become a church that was spiritually lukewarm and that would begin to drift into a spiritual sleep rather than being alert and watchful as Christ said it should be.
God stated that because of such a weak spiritual state that He would spew it out of his mouth, meaning that it would be fully separated from Him—from receiving His favor and holy spirit. That is exactly what happened to a very weakened spiritual body. God additionally stated that in the very end-time He would only deliver a small remnant of His people from the Church He was going to allow to become scattered.
This final third of the Church became scattered because great confusion had struck the Church due to the Apostasy. Many of these wanted to hold onto doctrines and truths they had received from God when they were first called. Different splinter organizations began rising up as they began trying to rebuild what had existed in the past. Confusion was multiplied as weakened scattered members had to decide with what organizations they might affiliate. There were vast disagreements between the various groups concerning matters of church structure, leadership, and doctrine.
There was no single group that stood out clearly as being a definitive continuation of God’s Church—of where God was working. Within only months, over 600 separate organizations formed and each one carried the underlying belief that they were the rightful ones through whom the true Church of God would continue.
This last era of the Church was prophesied to be an era that was lukewarm in spirit, while at the same time being lifted up with pride, self-reliance, and self-righteousness of belief in “being right” above that of others. That attitude carried on into these many organizations—each believing that they were right.
However, God makes it clear that His Church is one body—one Church—that is united in truth, belief, and spirit. Only God can reveal what is true. Through that truth He reveals where His Church has continued on as the small remnant of that very large scattered body of the former physical organization of the Worldwide Church of God.