August 21, 2020 Brethren Letter
From time to time I receive questions about the Laodicean era of the Church of God. Various Church of God groups teach that we are still (currently), in the Philadelphian era of the Church, and claim that the Laodicean era does not start until the Great Tribulation begins. In-part, they base their teaching on what they believe Mr. Armstrong said. I originally addressed this subject in 2011. I am attaching some of that letter for tonight’s “Brethren Letter,” with some substantial updating to it.
Please have a wonderful Sabbath!
Sincerely, Your Brother in Christ,
Thank you for your question concerning the “Laodicean era.” There are various COG groups and members that believe we are still in the Philadelphia era of the Church (Revelation 3:7-12). They believe Mr. Armstrong stated that the Laodicean era cannot begin until sometime during the GREAT Tribulation, perhaps even at the very end of it.
Here is an example of what Mr. Armstrong wrote about this subject in a Brethren, Co-Worker Letter dated January 20, 1981…
“The Laodicean ERA of the Church shall rise OUT OF, through and in the latter part of the Great Tribulation. They shall be IN it, and turn to God out of and during it (Revelation 7:9-15). They come out of the Great Tribulation and are converted as a result of it, which will open their eyes to the fact that what the Philadelphian Church proclaims was true, although now, while we proclaim it, they are not heeding.
Sometimes people will just read the first two sentences of that paragraph and draw incomplete or even wrong conclusions, not considering other recorded statements by Mr. Armstrong. God’s people must never become guilty of picking and choosing quotes to formulate beliefs.
When we look at Mr. Armstrong’s paragraph (above), we find something revealed that gives a bigger picture beyond the first two sentences. If we also look at what Mr. Armstrong wrote in the last sentence of the paragraph, we realize there is more to see. “They come out of the Great Tribulation and are converted as a result of it, which will open their eyes to the fact that what the Philadelphian Church proclaims was true, although now, while we proclaim it, they are not heeding.
In this first example, Mr. Armstrong was writing his letter in the present tense, and not future tense. He wrote, “THEY ARE NOT HEEDING.” The Laodiceans in the context of the paragraph, WERE NOT HEEDING! Obviously, “Laodiceanism” (a spiritual condition), existed in 1981 (just as it exists today). Laodicean’s were “on the scene” PRIOR to the GREAT TRIBULATION! People cannot “heed” (in the present tense) if they do not already exist. In an October 23, 1978 Brethren Co-Worker Letter Mr. Armstrong wrote…
“GREETINGS! Jesus Christ, the Head of God’s Church, has been moving swiftly to RE-AWAKEN and set His Church back on the track, during the past five months. Then He completely started Ambassador College all over again — throwing out the secularism and immorality that had crept in while Christ’s Apostle was away taking Christ’s Gospel Message into many countries over the world — starting the college once again with only one Freshman class. But again, it is GOD’S COLLEGE!…
…The speakers were INSPIRED! They brought dynamic messages, thoroughly covering the MEANING and the PURPOSE of this and God’s other Feasts. I have reports from all sites it was the same every-where. The whole ATMOSPHERE — the spirit of the people — was different — it was the Spirit of God. God’s Church was in need of a SPIRITUAL RE-AWAKENING — and in this Feast of Tabernacles we have made a GOOD START toward a MORE SPIRITUAL, DEVOTED, DEEPLY DEDICATED CHURCH. We are shaking off the Laodicean lukewarmness that was beginning to drug us to sleep.”
Mr. Armstrong was writing about a “spiritual re-awakening” taking place in the Church. This comment was made for the entirety of the Church not for only a few isolated members. Spiritual “Laodiceanism” was affecting the Church as a whole. God used Mr. Armstrong to get the Church back-on-track away from the “Laodiceanism” that was starting to “drug” the members to sleep (spiritually).
One other quote of Mr. Armstrong’s that I believe clearly shows his concerns regarding the “Laodicean era,” (his own use of words), is written in The Good News magazine of August, 1979…
“…But, the BAD NEWS, as it appears today, my dear brethren, is that we, undoubtedly of the Philadelphian era … are in serious danger of BECOMING also the Laodicean era. I am personally much concerned about that. If YOU are NOT concerned, then indeed we are in mortal DANGER.”
“…becoming also the Laodicean era” is Mr. Armstrong’s concern. The Church “…becoming also the Laodicean era” would not even be possible in the year 1979 if the Laodiceans cannot exist (in mass), until sometime during the GREAT Tribulation. Mr. Armstrong would have been stating something that was impossible for 1979. Forty-one years have gone by since he described his concern about the Worldwide Church of God BECOMING the “Laodicean Era,” even back then. In the following scriptures, we see the existence of both Philadelphians and Laodiceans (though not directly named as such), prior to the Great Tribulation.
“And to the woman [the Church] were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, [Philadelphians] where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent. And the serpent cast out of his mouth water as a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood. And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth. And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ. [Laodiceans] (Revelation 12:14-17).
Satan makes “war with the remnant of her seed…” (Laodiceans), and goes after them, because they already exist (in mass), prior to the Great Tribulation.
If we look at the condition of the Church today with its hundreds of groups believing various doctrines, thumbing their noses at God’s late apostle and each doing what’s right in his own eyes, it is abundantly clear – the
PREVAILING CONDITION today is “Laodicean,” not “Philadelphian.” “Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them” (Matthew 7:20).
We do not see a Philadelphian standard (again, in mass), or we would not have such division. We would all be speaking the same thing. (I Corinthians 1:10). The many “Churches of God” are not speaking what Mr. Armstrong spoke as he was led by Christ! I would ask anyone who believes that a “Philadelphian standard” is the overall condition of the Church today, to show me exactly how it is, and what demonstrates this? As Mr. Armstrong wrote, “The Laodicean ERA of the Church “shall rise OUT OF…” He did not say the Laodicean era will BEGIN in…, but, “…rise OUT OF, through, and in the latter part of the Great Tribulation.” You could not START or BEGIN any organized “Work” in the Great Tribulation. During that period, people will be concerned about their lives not about starting a “Work.”
For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened (Matthew 24:21-22).
“The Laodicean ERA of the Church shall rise OUT OF…,” (just like a person rises out of physical sleep). “Rise out of,” does not mean, “comes into existence for the first time.” When one rises from physical sleep, the person does not begin life for the first time. They rise from physical sleep! Many of the Laodiceans will rise from their spiritual sleep throughout the Great Tribulation, even during the latter part of it. “But while the bridegroom [Christ] was delayed, they all slumbered and slept” (Matthew 25:5).
During the Great Tribulation, there will be “TWO WITNESSES” who will be doing the Work of God, not a “Laodicean Church doing a separate “WORK”. Doing a “WORK” in the Great Tribulation (apart from the TWO WITNESSES), would not even be possible. “And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy one thousand two hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth.” These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands standing before the God of the earth” (Revelation 11:3-4).
Mr. Armstrong wrote in “The Book of Revelation Unveiled At Last” the following…
“PROPHECY of the spiritual condition and the works and accomplishments, in carrying out Christ’s great commission, of the true CHURCH of God during the seven successive periods of time up until the end of this age. …These are messages from Christ, the Living HEAD of His church, to HIS OWN TRUE CHURCH, in its seven successive eras of time…”
The eras of God’s Church have been consecutive. Today, we are no longer in the Philadelphia ERA. We are currently in the final era of the Church of God, the Laodicean era (though there are still individuals who live a Philadelphian standard).
I hope this gives an overview of the subject from Mr. Armstrong’s perspective, along with supporting scriptures.