In Matthew 16:18, Jesus Christ issued an absolute proclamation: “And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of [the grave] shall not prevail against it.” Christ is the Rock upon whom the one true Church is founded. He has preserved the Church through fierce persecution for two millennia.
Most people don’t realize just how much God’s Church has been attacked over the centuries. The lost century in the history of the Church serves as proof of this fearsome opposition. For 100 years, it seemed as if God’s Church had just disappeared! Its history was blotted out!
Your Bible calls God’s Church the “little flock.” The Church has always consisted of relatively few members, in large part due to persecution. Many times, God’s own people have been martyred simply for obeying the Bible. In The Incredible Human Potential, Herbert W. Armstrong wrote:
Thereupon this Simon [Magus] appropriated the name of Christ, calling his Babylonian mystery religion “Christianity.” Satan moved this man and used him as his instrument to persecute and all but destroy the true Church of God. Before the end of the first century—probably by a.d. 70—he managed to suppress the message Christ had brought from God.
There ensued “the lost century” in the history of the true Church of God. There was a well-organized conspiracy to blot out all record of Church history during that period. A hundred years later, history reveals a “Christianity” utterly unlike the Church Christ created.
It had taken the name of Christ and applied it to the Babylonian mystery religion. It had replaced the message Jesus brought from God with a “gospel” about the person of Christ—proclaiming the Messenger but suppressing the entire missing dimension from His message.
This was a terrible time in the history of the true Church of God. The erroneous change in gospel message is explained in Matthew 24:3-5: “And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world? And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.” False ministers during the lost century focused on Christ Himself instead of preaching the message He brought with Him at His First Coming!
When Herbert W. Armstrong explained this truth to the Worldwide Church of God, we were electrified! How did Christ respond to the history from 70-170 a.d. being blotted out? He used the Apostle John to record the highlights in his three epistles, and also in his gospel account and the book of Revelation. The history vacuum was filled by some of the most powerful prophecy and truth in your Bible! We can think of John’s epistles as a legendary spiritual or biblical trilogy.
Rebels within God’s own Church have always tried to do away with Church history. Even while Mr. Armstrong was alive, a synagogue of Satan inside the Church worked to blot out this precious knowledge (Revelation 3:9). Satan possesses deadly power.
John wrote his epistles between 85-90 a.d.—in the midst of the lost century. He warned the brethren about false ministers (i John 2:4, 19; ii John 2, 7, 10). Through his writings, God preserved the history of the one true Church.
Throughout history, God’s people have been brutally persecuted. In John’s day, many were martyred. John actually believed he was living in the last hour. He thought the world was coming to an end. “John was battling that great satanic conspiracy,” I wrote in The True History of God’s True Church. “People rose up in the Church and began kicking out those who were loyal to John and truly following God.” It wasn’t until later in life that God revealed to him the timing of his message: the age in which we live today.
“Children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come; therefore we know that it is the last hour” (i John 2:18, Revised Standard Version). It is crucial that we know the identities of the main antichrist and of the antichrists who help him. Ninety-five percent of the Church has collapsed in this last hour. For years, we believed such a falling away would occur because of threats from outside the Church—but that’s not how it happened. John’s writings reveal this. Probably the main antichrist during his day was Diotrephes (iii John 1:9).
“In the last hour, antichrists appear on the scene—people who knew God the Father, then turned away and are now fighting Christ!” I wrote in The Last Hour. “The problem began with that antichrist—singular. But then there were ‘many antichrists’—numerous dissenting groups from our mother Church.” Again, the Apostle John foretold this.
Only John wrote about the last hour and the antichrist. He lived through the lost century—a type of what’s coming. To know we’re in the last hour, we must know this history. It reveals where we are in Bible prophecy.
“They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us” (i John 2:19). Even though there’s a group of rebels inside God’s Church fighting against Christ, there remains a little flock that fights for Christ.
John wrote Revelation around 90 a.d. from prison on the Isle of Patmos (Revelation 1:9). He continued preaching and teaching the Word of God as the last apostle still alive. All the others had already been martyred just for obeying God! How many people are really aware of this history?
It took just 30 years for God’s Church to stop growing. Some of the brethren who abandoned the commission of preaching the gospel around the world were once able to touch and speak directly with Jesus Christ in the flesh! How quickly they lost their first love for the truth of God!
John never lost his first love. Neither did the other apostles who had to sacrifice their lives.
John also wrote a gospel account. “John the apostle was a deeply spiritual man, and had an unusually close relationship with Jesus Christ,” I wrote in John’s Gospel—The Love of God. “Christ gave him special instruction during their time together like no other.” Christ spent extra time with John because He was preparing John for the lost century when all the other apostles were dead. The Apostle Peter was the physical leader of the Church until he was martyred, at which point John took over.
John discusses the prehistory of God the Father and Christ the Son, when they were God and the Word (John 1:1)—before the angels, before the universe, before mankind, and before time itself.
“The same was in the beginning with God” (verse 2). For all eternity, God and the Word walked together without rebellion or even a single disagreement! They were totally at one. God is trying to teach this way of life to this violent, evil, hateful world through John’s writings!
“No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him” (verse 18). Christ came to Earth to declare His Father and the good news of the coming Kingdom or Family of God! At His second coming, He will open up the God Family to billions of sons if they will receive His first love and continue to make it grow!
John unveiled all this truth during the lost century. His writings can change your life!