Yet in this end-time, the Church has experienced a level of destruction that has been far beyond anything that happened since it began in 31 AD. It was a destruction that was spiritual in nature—far worse than anything physical.
This destruction was prophesied by Christ on the last night of his physical life before he was killed the following afternoon in order to become the Passover for all mankind. A few decades after Christ’s death, Paul was given additional information about that destruction that would come to pass as a result of an end-time apostasy.
Then even later, God gave much more for John to record about this in the Book of Revelation. That destruction, which would begin to come to pass upon God’s Church, would serve to reveal a countdown to Christ’s second coming and the events that would lead up to WWIII.
God allowed this destruction to come upon His own Church in this end-time. It serves as part of His plan of salvation for all mankind. That which the Church experienced through the destruction in the first four Seals will eventually work to help produce some of the greatest results ever in the salvation of mankind.
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 on earth. They did not know that Christ would not return until over 1900 years later.
The prophecy that Christ gave Paul concerned signs that would come to pass in God’s own Church that could only be recognized by His people. These signs, which could not be seen by the world, reveal when a countdown would begin to WWIII and Christ’s return.
“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 Thessalonians 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 return of Joshua the Christ—before the Kingdom of God will be established (the time for “our gathering together unto him”).
This warning to the Church parallels the 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 yet 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.
The only ones who can become deceived are those to whom God has given His truth. This warning was given to God’s Church so 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 of the Church! 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. They did not understand that he was there at that time to fulfill the role of becoming the Passover of all mankind and that God’s Kingdom would not be established until nearly 2,000 years later at the end of this age.
Paul gave this prophecy about an apostasy to the Church. Then 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 like that of 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 that 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.
Long before the creation of mankind, the first apostasy ever recorded was that which 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 states in those verses that this man of sin 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 opposed God and went about to work against His ways and establish his own.
Satan’s 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 oppose and act against God and against Christ.
Part of this prophecy given by Paul became well known in the early Church and they believed that someone would rise up within their midst and seek to deceive many. They believed that there would be a falling away in the Church before Christ would return.
Nearly 1900 years later when Herbert Armstrong became an apostle, once again the Church came to believe that there would be a falling away in the Church before Christ would return. However, no one had any concept that what would happen would be as massive and destructive as it was.
In addition, they also did not understand or see at all the fact that this man of sin would come from a leader within the Church itself. It was only believed that a great falling away had to occur before Christ would actually return, and as time progressed, many came to believe that this grand deception would come from outside the Church—from the world of traditional Christianity.
The apostle John made mention of this man of sin in later writings and referred to him as the Antichrist. But John also taught that there were in fact already many antichrists active in the environs of God’s Church. However, they understood that the Antichrist was yet to come.
By the time John 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 spoken of by Paul.
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 event is exactly what eventually came to pass during the last Church era—Laodicea. The fulfillment of this prophecy about an apostasy 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 sixth 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 good news of God’s coming Kingdom to all the world, which he did.
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. Some ministers 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, who were the highest ranking in the ministry, 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, defined as a spirit that was “lukewarm,” and neither hot nor cold for God’s way of life.
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 in 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. So he began giving greater responsibilities to a man who had been serving for a long time as an elder in the local congregation.
In the late ‘70s, Herbert Armstrong took notice of this man’s service, who was then later ordained to an evangelist and was brought into the administration of the Church. That evangelist was Joseph Tkach, Sr., and Herbert Armstrong placed him over all the ministry of the Church worldwide, as again, he did not believe he could entrust it to any of the other longtime evangelists.
Within the headquarters itself, God was allowing Satan to stir up distrust, suspicion, jealousy, lust for power, and even doctrinal division. God did not intervene to stop it but allowed individuals to continue choosing the way that they would go, even if that way was wrong. 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 ended and the Laodicea Era began—the seventh and last prophetic era that would exist before Christ’s coming.
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 as God’s apostle.
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. Christ had forewarned that this would come to pass in the last era of the Church. 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, it was reported that he had transferred all responsibility of leadership within the Church to Joseph Tkach, Sr. just before his death. 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. Whether he was set there by Herbert Armstrong or whether he set himself there, it is not truly known, but one day it will be.
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 who were being merged together had a unity with one another of 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 doctrine changes that were being planned and were going to be introduced to the Church. However, these individuals did nothing to warn the Church or ministry of this conspiracy in the headquarters of the Church. They did not take a stand against what was happening. They did not stand up for God, Joshua the Christ, or God’s Church—God’s people.
Within this group of younger ministers, some individuals had been conspiring as to how they could lead the Church away from the truth God had given it through Herbert Armstrong. They had tried to diminish the memory of Herbert Armstrong and at one time there was even a movement to destroy his books and literature that were still in large supply at the headquarters of the Church. These ministers 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, Sr. 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.
It did not become known until later, but he had prepared to deliver a 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, and although much of the Church would continue doing so, it was 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 beginning 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.
In our modern history, when 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 and destruction that has already occurred in God’s Church.
The First Seal was opened on the 17th of December 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 countdown 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 effect—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 him” (Revelation 6:4).
Once Joseph Tkach, Sr. 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 years 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 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 a complete loss of faith. They abandoned everything. They had no understanding of how or why these events could possibly have happened to a Church that was God’s. They had no answers and no hope—nothing left for which to fight.
Then 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 spiritually alert and watchful as Christ said it should be.
God declared that since the Church would become so sluggish spiritually due to its own neglect and lack of zeal 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 third of the Church He was going to allow to become scattered, who still wanted to hold onto some form of their past beliefs.
That final third of the Church became scattered because great confusion had struck them 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 most of 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.
Satan Was First to Declare Who the Man of Sin Was
This massively destructive event of the Apostasy within God’s own Church began to occur in December 1994 when Joseph Tkach gave his sermon in Atlanta. However, the Church did not grasp that this event was the beginning of the Apostasy. It did not know that God would soon reveal the man of sin to His people—those who were truly willing to repent of letting down spiritually and of becoming lukewarm—of becoming Laodicean.
However, five years before this prophetic event occurred, there was a minister in the Worldwide Church of God organization who had been removed as a minister and disfellowshipped from God’s Church in December 1989. This individual, Gerald Flurry, then formed his own church organization. He was opposed to minor changes that Joe Tkach, Sr. was making in the Worldwide Church of God, which was the reason for his dismissal.
A couple of years before the Apostasy, some few were becoming more vocal about their desire to change toward Protestantism, but it had not yet been officially announced by the administration of God’s Church. However, well before all this, Gerald Flurry set himself against Joe Tkach, Sr. since he did not like the kinds of changes being made within the Church. He became vocal against the government that was still working within God’s Church.
Doctrinal truths were not yet being changed. Those changes did not begin until Joe Tkach, Sr. officially announced them in Atlanta several years later. It was that announcement of a complete overhaul of doctrines that set off the events that produced the Apostasy, which in turn would begin to be what would later reveal who the man of sin was.
Indeed, what Gerald Flurry did was grounds for removal from the ministry. He was stirring up divisiveness within the Church, which is against the instruction of God regarding the spirit of unity, support, and cooperation that is to exist within the government of the ministry of His Church.
After being removed from the ministry, Flurry set out to begin a new church that was supposedly established for the purpose of carrying on the work of Herbert Armstrong and his teachings. Yet this man did not know that the work of carrying out the commission God had given to Herbert Armstrong was already completed—it was finished once he died.
Flurry’s church began to promote the idea that the era known as Philadelphia was continuing through him and that all others who would not join him were now Laodicean. As he set out to establish his church, he advanced the notion that he was the true torchbearer of the commission previously given to Herbert Armstrong, and that he would now carry on that same work.
As he set out to build his church, he aggressively used the name of Herbert Armstrong. That tended to give the impression to some, who themselves were becoming disgruntled with the administration of Joe Tkach, Sr., that he indeed might be the one through whom God was now working. Although he used Herbert Armstrong’s name to such an extent, his church did not truly reflect Herbert Armstrong or the spirit of his teachings.
Mystifyingly so, toward the beginning of his new ministry, Gerald Flurry actually made the claim that Joe Tkach, Sr. was the prophetic man of sin well before the Apostasy had even occurred. However, he later changed this teaching about who the man of sin was when Joe Tkach, Sr. died because his death did not fit into Gerald Flurry’s scenario and belief of what the man of sin would later fulfill.
The reason for mentioning these things is because this individual, although initially correct in what he stated about Joe Tkach, Sr., was also exceedingly presumptuous and wrong for having made such a declaration about him. Instead, it was God’s purpose that He would later reveal who the man of sin was by an unmistakable judgment He would pass on him once he caused the Apostasy.
Nevertheless, there is a being who did know who would become the man of sin before it ever happened. That being was Satan and he was already working through Joe Tkach, Sr. to eventually bring about the Apostasy that God was going to allow to happen in His timing. It clearly states how the man of sin, the son of perdition, was able to exercise the kind of power that he did in order to influence others in the Church in such an adverse manner. It was because of Satan’s own power that was working through him.
The revelation that Paul gave about the Apostasy that is recorded in II Thessalonians 2 states this about the man of sin: “whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders” (Vs. 9).
Well before the Apostasy ever occurred, Satan was working through Joe Tkach, Sr. to give him the kind of power and influence he desired that would in turn come to fulfill his role as the man of sin. Since Satan already knew who this man was, it was an easy thing for Satan to lead another man, Gerald Flurry, to believe that Joe Tkach, Sr. was the man of sin long before he would actually bring about the Apostasy.
Gerald Flurry was easily led by Satan to believe this about Joe Tkach, Sr. because he had already been in strong disagreement and dislike of him anyway. After all, it is that vocal disagreement that led to him to being put out of the ministry and the Church by Joe Tkach, Sr. himself.
The fact that Gerald Flurry made such a proclamation about Joe Tkach, Sr. being the man of sin, before God actually revealed it, was in itself a spiritually deceptive and perverted act. It should come as no wonder since that revelation actually came from Satan himself who is exceedingly deceptive and perverted.
The Man of Sin Revealed by God
For several months after the Apostasy, the third of the Church that was becoming scattered was in shock and could not grasp what or why this was happening to God’s people.
In this story flow, there is more that needs to be seen concerning Paul’s prophetic writing about the Apostasy, which now becomes relevant.
“Now you know what withholds [Gk.– “holds back, restrains, detains”] so that he [the man of sin] might be revealed [Gk.– “to be made known, to disclose what before was unknown”] in his time. The mystery of iniquity is already at work, but for now it is only withheld [same Gk. word – “holds back, restrains, detains”] until he [the man of sin] is taken out of the way. Then shall that wicked be revealed [Gk.– “made known, illuminated”], whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming” (2 Thes. 2:6-8).
This prophecy is about the man of sin—that wicked one—who would be revealed “whom the Lord would consume with the spirit of His mouth (by what God commands), and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming (illuminating Christ’s coming).” Most who were scattered after the Apostasy have not been able to understand this verse because they only see this as being fulfilled in a literal, physical way. They believe this prophecy can only be fulfilled at the time of the actual coming of Joshua the Christ on the very day the end-time comes to a close.
But it is this very verse that shows how God alone would reveal (illuminate, make known) the identity of the man of sin and what this was to mean for the Church. The timing of Christ’s coming and the events that would precede his coming were being “held back” (from being known—seen) until the Apostasy and the revealing of the man of sin would take place.
Although most had neither “ears to hear nor eyes to see,” God did make it abundantly clear that He was the one who would reveal the man of sin. After Joseph Tkach, Sr. betrayed God and Christ by giving that defiant sermon, the spiritual Temple of God—the Church—became defiled. An abomination of unprecedented proportion had taken place.
Exactly 40 Sabbaths (to the day and hour, in his time zone) after Joseph Tkach, Sr. gave his infamous sermon in Atlanta, he died. This was God’s own declaration. God revealed His judgment against the man of sin by taking his life. God revealed that Joseph Tkach, Sr. was indeed the “son of perdition”— “the man of sin.” By this, God also revealed that the world had entered a countdown for the end-time. This was finally the time, after nearly 6,000 years, for end-time prophecies to begin being fulfilled, starting with the fulfillment of the First Seal of Revelation. That process began on the same day Joseph Tkach, Sr. gave his apostatizing sermon, but it was God who had to later reveal it.
This prophetic fulfillment of God destroying the man of sin is the very event that declared—illuminated—the coming of Joshua the Christ to God’s own people. The time for his return had now come and was no longer being held back from view to the Church. The time had come; the countdown to Christ’s coming had arrived!
In scripture, the number 40 is used as a declaration from God of His judgment. Because of mankind’s rebellion in the days of Noah, God’s judgment was carried out through a flood that lasted for 40 days and nights. Another example is in the account of what happened to Israel after God had delivered them out of Egypt. Because of their rebellion right after being delivered from slavery in Egypt, God extended their time and let them wander in the wilderness for 40 years before He allowed them into the promised land.
Joseph Tkach, Sr., who was seen as having been set in authority in God’s Church, directly under Christ, declared that the seventh-day Sabbath was no longer a commandment for God’s people. Is it any wonder then that because of his rebellion, God gave a judgment upon him that would be accomplished in exactly 40 Sabbaths—to the hour—from the very Sabbath when he declared the Sabbath day itself was no longer relevant?
So the first thing God revealed to His Church concerning a countdown was the matter of the importance of the period of the 280 days (40 x 7) that revealed His judgment, where 40 is used prophetically for “judgment” and 7 is used to show God’s purpose being “complete.”
When Joseph Tkach, Sr. gave his sermon that polluted and desecrated God’s Temple—the Church of God— the prophesied “Abomination of Desolation” of the spiritual Temple of God became fulfilled. This prophecy of Paul concerning the Apostasy had begun. God revealed a very specific judgment that He had personally executed upon the man of sin, this son of perdition. Exactly 280 days later, God took his life.
God Revealed His Remnant Church
By God revealing the identity of the man of sin to His people and that an apostasy had occurred in the Church, He was also beginning to reveal to His people the identity of His remnant Church. This would be the organization through whom He would continue to work until Christ returned. It would be the organization that would be the continuation of His Church—the Church of God.
As it was explained, once the Apostasy came upon God’s Church, it scattered and soon had splintered into over 600 organizations. For the first 3 ½ years after the Apostasy, there was much confusion that had gripped God’s people who had become so dispersed. It was unclear where or through whom God was working, if indeed He even was.
During the era of Philadelphia, God revealed much truth through Herbert Armstrong. These truths in themselves revealed the truth that it was Herbert Armstrong who was chosen to be God’s apostle to His Church. God always establishes truth given to His people through His prophets and apostles.
Truth can only come from God and has to be given by Him. Mankind cannot come to the truth of God on its own. God makes it clear that He is building a spiritual temple and has been doing so on the foundation of what He has established through His prophets and apostles, with Joshua the Christ being the chief cornerstone. It is the fact that much truth was given through Herbert Armstrong, in a final age of mankind, when God’s truth on earth had become nearly nonexistent, that proves who God’s apostle was during the Philadelphian Era.
After the Apostasy, God once again began revealing more truth to His Church. It was truth that was not known until God gave it. It is through the giving of so much new truth that God began to reveal where His Church was continuing in the midst of all that had become scattered, and through whom He was working. It is through the many truths that God has revealed since the Apostasy that He has revealed who the apostle is through whom He is working until Christ’s coming.
When Herbert Armstrong was fulfilling the commission God had given him to carry the good news of the soon-coming Kingdom of God into all the world, the Church of God took on a unique name as an organization. It carried the name of the Worldwide Church of God, an organization that no longer served as God’s Church once the Apostasy came to pass.
Of the hundreds of organizations scattered after the Apostasy, God raised up one that would continue to serve His Church until Christ returns. This Church became established by God on the day of Pentecost in 1998, exactly 3 ½ years (1260 prophetic days) after the Apostasy. The organization’s name is the Church of God – Preparing for the Kingdom of God (PKG). The name reflects the commission that God has given to it.
Once again, as with Herbert Armstrong during the era of Philadelphia, God began revealing new truth to His Church. No other group that was scattered after the Apostasy knows or teaches these truths.
These groups have not even accepted a truth that should be obvious to them all—that the Church experienced the prophesied Apostasy recorded by Paul in II Thessalonians 2. They have not believed that Joe Tkach, Sr. was the man of sin, the son of perdition. They do not believe that God rejected the era of Laodicea because all had become spiritually lukewarm just as Christ gave to John to prophesy. These do not believe that the Apostasy reveals the truth about what Christ said would happen to the Church in that all the stones of the temple—the Church of God—would be cast down before his coming.
God said that in the end-time He would raise up a remnant of His scattered Church that would continue on to Christ’s second coming as the King of kings. To raise up this group He began revealing many new truths to it. In the beginning, those truths were about the revelation of who the man of sin was and that the Church had experienced an apostasy and at that time was spewed from God’s mouth—rejected by Him. God further revealed that what Christ had declared about an abomination of desolation that would defile the temple of God—His Church—did indeed happen just as he said it would.
As a result of these truths being revealed, God built upon the understanding of those events to reveal even more. It was shown how the first four Seals of Revelation paralleled the end-time prophecies of Matthew 24 that were about great destruction that took place in God’s Church due to the Apostasy.
Many other new truths then followed as God worked to restore and spiritually revitalize His Church once more – a Church that would be fully prepared for Christ’s coming. It was revealed that exactly 144,000 who had been chosen over the past 6,000 years would return with Christ and that no others would return with him, as some believe that an innumerable multitude will also return with Christ.
There are many ideas in various groups of traditional Christianity about what and who the Antichrist spoken of by John is all about. It is not about a world leader or some well-known religious leader in this world. God revealed to His remnant Church that this was prophetic about the man of sin—the son of perdition.
Furthermore, God revealed that He alone is Yahweh Elohim, and He alone has eternally existed, and that Christ has not eternally existed, but that his life began when he was born of Mary into physical life. Only God’s remnant Church knows this truth concerning both God the Father and Joshua the Christ.
There are many other truths that God has continued to give to His remnant Church and these truths are witness—testimony—from God of who His one true Church is in this end-time. There is a list of those additional truths given since the Apostasy which are listed on the Church website (cog-pkg.org) in the Publications section in an article entitled “57 Truths.”
The first three of those truths were all that remained toward the end of the Sardis Era when God began to raise up Herbert Armstrong to be His apostle to His Church. God then began to reveal and eventually restore 18 truths to His Church during that new era of Philadelphia.
Truths given through Herbert Armstrong were testimony, evidence, and proof that he was God’s apostle. In like manner, the additional truths given since are evidence that the Church of God—PKG is indeed God’s Church and that He is now working through an apostle to prepare His people for the return of His Son, Joshua the Christ, to become King over the nations of this world.