On January 16, 1986, God’s apostle, Herbert W. Armstrong died peacefully in the bedroom chair of his late wife, Loma. Thirty-three years after his death, what has been the impact of his death on God’s Church?
Mr. Armstrong's death led to God's Church being fractured and splintered into numerous small groups around the world. This has created great dysfunction among God's people because the ministry has failed in its responsibility to feed the flock (John 21:15-17).
No one in God's Church has been immune from the chaos and confusion within the Church over these past 33 years. What can be done to address it and restore spiritual stability back into one's life as God's Kingdom draws closer to being established on this earth?
Tkach Administration begins
Mr. Armstrong’s successor, Joseph W. Tkach, Sr. was tasked with the responsibility to get God’s Church ready for Christ’s return. He began his leadership with the right perspective, writing the following, on page 3 of the February 10, 1986 edition of “The Worldwide News.”
“Mr. Armstrong had truly given himself to God, and in him God gave us an example of wholehearted devotion and faithfulness to our calling "to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away" (I Peter 1:4).”
“Let that example motivate us, as God's people around the world, to run with endurance the spiritual race that is set before us.”
Unfortunately, Mr. Tkach lost sight of Mr. Armstrong’s “example” and became an apostate, leading God’s Church back into the old, false doctrines of traditional Christianity. Notice his change of mind only 9 years after Mr. Armstrong’s death, on page 1 of the January 24, 1995 edition of the “The Worldwide News.”
“Now that Christ has led us to understand and believe that the new covenant in his shed blood has made the old covenant obsolete, not only is there cause for great rejoicing in the truth of the gospel message, but there are certain procedural matters that need clarification.”
“As you can well imagine, I have had to wrestle in prayer and agonize over this whole matter. It is not easy to admit we have been wrong about our understanding and application of the Sabbath and the Holy Days, as well as other old covenant forms of worship, but we have.”
“The falling away”
The "clarification" instituted by the Tkach administration led to the prophesied "falling away," Paul said would happen within God’s Church prior to Christ’s 2nd Coming.
“Now brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come. Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first . . . (II Thes. 2:1-3a).”
The phrase “falling away” means a defection from truth. This prophesied event could only happen within God’s Church, since God’s Church is the only place where God’s Truth resides. Mr. Tkach’s leadership set in motion the fulfillment of the “the falling away” by turning God's people away from God's Truth and back to the false teachings of traditional Christianity. There was nothing new in the changes Mr. Tkach instituted.
“The falling away” has been a great test for God’s Church. It has proven Mr. Armstrong’s concerns about the spiritual condition of the Church were correct. In speaking about the Church, he stated the following in his 1985 Pentecost sermon, titled “Why The Firstfruits.”
“I’ve heard ministers speaking as if they never heard of that! I’ve said to some of them,‘I don’t think our people understand that.’ And they (the ministry) say, ‘Oh yes, they (the brethren) do, Mr. Armstrong.’ Oh no, you don’t. Brethren, you just don’t understand that. We’re not called to just be the first ones to get into the Kingdom of God. We are called for a special mission—to become teachers. We are not called to become some to go out and convert the world now. We are called to learn how, in the resurrection, we can be rulers and teachers.”
“Has my teaching been in vain, brethren? Sometimes I wonder. I get terribly discouraged. I don’t think you get it. I think so much Protestantism has rubbed off on you that you just don’t understand the truth when I give it to you. And it is really Christ giving it to you through me, because I’m certainly not competent to give it to you. Of myself, I could not do it at all.”
“The falling away” has proven the vast majority of ministers and brethren did not understand why they were called into God's Church. When faced with the challenge of standing-up for God’s Truth or fall away, many fell away and embraced Protestantism, as Paul prophesied.
“Impact of “the falling away”
The disintegration of God’s Church following Mr. Armstrong’s death is a process that has played out many times over the years in God's Church. Notice some eyewitness accounts of this process from the 1st century.
Paul witnessed the departure of many brethren from the churches in Galatia, saying, “I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him (God the Father) who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, (Gal. 1:6).”
He experienced the loneliness that occurs when ministry and brethren fall away from God's Church, telling Timothy, “This you know, that all those in Asia have turned away from me, among whom are Phygellus and Hermogenes (II Tim.1:15).”
Peter understood how apostate ministers operate and the devastating impact their activities have on the brethren, writing, “But there were also false prophets among the people (Israel), even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed (II Pet. 2:1-2).”
John too, experienced apostasy firsthand, telling the brethren, “Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us (I John 2:18-19).”
These eyewitness accounts should be very familiar to those who have experienced “the falling away” firsthand following Mr. Armstrong’s death.
Recognize what has happened
God has used “the falling away” to sift the wheat from the chaff in His Church. It is a test designed to distinguish those who can walk in the light of His Word and maintain it from those living in darkness who can't.
1) Recognize God’s work through Mr. Armstrong
Mr. Armstrong was the man God used to revive His Church and restore lost biblical truth into it (Matt. 17:11; Mal. 4:5-6). God appointed no other man to continue carrying out Mr. Armstrong's responsibilities as God's apostle.
2) Recognize God used Mr. Armstrong, only, to take the gospel of the Kingdom of God to the world as a witness
It was during the 6th era of God’s Church, Philadelphia, when an “open door” was provided for Mr. Armstrong to proclaim the establishment of God’s Kingdom on the earth (Matt 24:14; Rev. 3:8). Through Mr. Armstrong millions of pieces of literature went out around the world to people, upon request. He also reached millions through radio and television programs. And the gospel message went personally to multiple heads of state during the final 19 years of his life. This "open door" was shut upon Mr. Armstrong's death.
3) Recognize God’s Truth never changes
Joseph Tkach, Sr. undermined the foundational teachings of God’s Church by calling the Church’s teachings wrong and his new understanding right. God and His Truth never change, as plainly stated in Hebrews 13:8.
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.”
The purpose of God’s calling now to develop kings and priests for “The Wonderful World Tomorrow” has not changed (Rev. 20:6). God’s plan at this time is not to save the world (John 17:8-9; Dan. 2:44-45; Gen 3:22-24; Rev. 20:12), but to develop a team of leaders, who will rule under the leadership of Jesus Christ to help solve the problems currently plaguing humanity.
4) Recognize what God expects of you
The reason why “the falling away” occurred is because the brethren did not understand God’s Word well enough to fight back against false doctrine. It is each Church member’s responsibility to know what God’s Word means and live by it. Paul makes this very clear in I Thessalonians 5:21.
“Test all things; hold fast what is good.”
Do you know how to “test all things” or do you rely on the ministry to do it for you? Only you can fulfill your calling. The ministry cannot fulfill your responsibility (Phil. 2:12).
Paul’s instruction to Timothy is of great value in making it through this end-time "falling away" from God's Truth.
“But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from who you have learned them (II Tim. 3:14).”
Through whom did the ministry and brethren of God’s Church today come to understand the Bible? It came through one man, Herbert W. Armstrong.
Paul continues showing Timothy the value of knowing God’s Word and living by it in verses 16-17.
“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
It is your responsibility to know and understand what God’s word says. When you know it, then it is your responsibility to live by it (Matt. 4:4). And never compromise it!
5) Recognize NOW is the time to hold fast
Christ tells the remnant of Philadelphians living through “the falling away,” what they need to do to fulfill their calling in Revelation 3:11.
“Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown.”
Holding fast requires 2 things of Philadelphians living through the Laodicean era:
1) Maintain the foundational teachings of God’s Truth (Heb. 6:1-3).
These foundational teachings of God’s Church didn't change because Mr. Tkach said they did. Once the basics of God’s Truth are learned and understood, they must never be compromised.
2) Continue to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ.
Mr. Armstrong’s base of biblical knowledge was not complete at the time of His death. There were many things about the Bible, which Mr. Armstrong admitted he did not understand. Much remains to be understood about the Bible, but learning this information must be built on the foundational teachings of God’s Word.
Does this kind of growth require some change? Yes, but only, if change is clearly proven from the Scriptures.
What should I do?
If you find yourself uncertain about your spiritual situation and condition, what should you do about it?
First, re-kindle a deep desire for wanting to learn God’s Truth and continuing to grow in it. Develop the mindset King David had in Psalms 25:4-5a.
“Show me Your ways, O Lord; Teach me Your paths. Lead me in Your truth and teach me, For You are the God of my salvation; On You I will wait all the day."
Second, repent of your “lukewarm” behavior. This is the message God’s people should be hearing regularly from the ministry in this final era of Laodicea.
“As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be[come] zealous and repent (Rev. 3:19).”
If you cannot admit your spiritual mistakes and repent of actions which have led to your “lukewarm” spiritual condition, then your only option to fulfill God’s calling will be during the Days of Vengeance (Luke 21:22).
“I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments that may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness (sin) may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see (Rev. 3:18).”
Third, maintain the foundational teachings of God’s Word and follow Christ’s lead in proving all things. God’s Word is clear, there are brethren, at this time, holding fast to God’s Truth and not compromising it. They will do so until Christ returns.
“Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth (Rev. 3:10).”
Now that you know what God expects of you, do you have the courage to carry it out? God has not given His people a spirit of fear in acting upon His Truth.
“For God has not given us (God’s Church) a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind (II Tim. 1:7).”
Time for the establishment of God's Kingdom "is at hand"!!!
The gospel of the Kingdom of God has gone to the world "as a witness"!!!
"The falling away" within God's Church is nearly complete!!!
Currently, the Church is experiencing "a famine" of hearing God's Word!!!
God's Church and the world are awaiting the appearance of "the man of sin"!!!
NOW is the time to repent, before the Days of Vengeance begin!!!
“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
Suggested further reading:
Blog - God's Work Defined
Restored Truth Bible Study - #7 - The True Gospel