Building the second temple required that the people be intensely unified. “And when the seventh month was come, and the children of Israel were in the cities, the people gathered themselves together as one man to Jerusalem” (Ezra 3:1). The people came together as “one man.” This does not mean that they followed one man to Jerusalem. It means that they were unified in mind and purpose. How did they accomplish this feat? They all rallied around God, not a man. Those of us in God’s Philadelphia Church must learn and apply this lesson. God’s Philadelphia work cannot be truly successful unless there is unity—unity among the ministers—unity among the brethren—all unified together! The way we attain this level of unity is by rallying around God.
How much evil is there in division? How much rebellion is there in division? Disunity and division are harmful to all individuals involved and negatively affect the entire work. Certainly, authority is the glue of unity, but the Apostle Peter showed that lasting unity is built by being in subjection “one to another” (1 Peter 5:5). Being in subjection to each other requires true humility. Each member should strive to be in subjection to God’s faithful ministers. And God’s Philadelphia ministers must tirelessly serve the needs of God’s Philadelphia Church above their own. That is being in subjection one to another!
There is nothing more beautiful and pleasant than true unity. Psalm 133 tells us this fact. Do we know the way to unity? The Apostle Paul reveals the key to attaining unity. “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5). As a church, we can only be unified through the Holy Spirit filling our minds with the mind of Christ. Jesus Christ and God the Father have always shared perfect unity and harmony. They want us to share in their experience. As the people of God, we must have more perfect unity than ancient Israel. If each individual member uses God’s Spirit properly, wonderful unity will result. The tough tasks ahead will then be much easier to accomplish. We all must rally around God and then the pcg will become as “one man.”
Rebuild the Altar First
When the Jews returned to Jerusalem to begin reconstructing the temple, they began the project by restoring the altar first. “Then stood up Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and his brethren the priests, and Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and his brethren, and builded the altar of the God of Israel, to offer burnt offerings thereon, as it is written in the law of Moses the man of God” (Ezra 3:2). Solomon’s temple was a total ruin, but Joshua and Zerubbabel rebuilt the altar first. This fact may appear to be somewhat strange to us at first look. But remember, God’s ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8). There is great spiritual significance to building the altar first.
Prophetically, the altar symbolizes the ministry and the work of the ministry (Exodus 20:24; Leviticus 1:8; Ezekiel 40:46; Malachi 1:7-8; Revelation 11:1). Proper temple building requires that the altar, or ministry, be built or established first. The ministry was purified first before the people could properly take the Passover. Building the altar first shows the importance of God’s ministry.
There is no need for a temple if there isn’t an altar, or ministry. How well we build the temple today depends upon the kind of ministry we have. What good is a temple if there isn’t a faithful ministry? Consider for a moment what has happened in the Laodicean era. It is the ministry which corrupted the Church. Look at the tragic results.
Many people have come to the pcg distraught, depressed and very discouraged because of what God’s ministers have done to them. God’s ministers have ridiculed and maligned many people for holding fast to the doctrines which Christ established in the Church through Herbert W. Armstrong. That is no way to build God’s temple!
Mr. Armstrong—a Man of God
The Philadelphia Church of God ministry is committed to fully support all of the doctrines established in the Church by Herbert W. Armstrong. This does not mean we will not come to understand new truth. A thorough study of our literature reveals that the pcg is growing significantly in its understanding of prophecies concerning the Laodicean era.
Verse 2 shows that when the second temple altar was rebuilt, the people were taught to remember Moses, “the man of God,” and the law established through him. That is one of the primary jobs of the pcg ministry and the pcg as a whole. We must remember and teach that Mr. Armstrong was a man of God and that God restored ALL truth to the Church through him. He fulfilled the prophesied role of God’s end-time Elijah (Matthew 17:10-11). He restored the knowledge of the Family of God (Malachi 4:5-6). He also revealed vital knowledge concerning the law and the government of God.
“And they set the altar upon his bases; for fear was upon them because of the people of those countries: and they offered burnt offerings thereon unto the Lord, even burnt offerings morning and evening” (Ezra 3:3). Notice that when they reset the altar they put it upon his bases. This verse holds great significance for the pcg. The Soncino Commentary states, “they set the new altar on the same place as was occupied by the old.” Here is the lesson for us: We must build the pcg ministry and God’s Church on a foundation that was previously laid. We must reset the altar upon its bases. Where do we find the correct foundation? This foundation was laid by Herbert Armstrong!
Law and Government
Two of the most important doctrines Christ used Mr. Armstrong to restore in the Church were the truths concerning God’s government and His law. Satan’s rebellion had removed God’s government from this Earth. Adam and Eve failed to restore it. But it has been restored within God’s Church! God’s government is a family government based on God’s law of love. It is a government from the top down that expresses itself in outflowing concern for the good and welfare of others (Ephesians 4:11-13; 1 Corinthians 11:3). This truth was placed first on Mr. Armstrong’s list of “restored truths.” God’s true ministers must properly administer God’s law and government as revealed through Mr. Armstrong. This is all part of ensuring that the altar, or the work of the pcg ministry, is established on the right foundation.
When Zerubbabel and Joshua restored the altar, they immediately began the work of the ministry. Ezra 3:2-3 show they began to offer sacrifices to God according to what was “written in the law of Moses the man of God.” They began to sacrifice according to the law! This was a change in direction from what had happened in Judah prior to the captivity. Judah was not offering according to God’s law. The people had to pay a tragic price for their disobedience. The Laodiceans today are not offering according to God’s law. God is growing increasingly fed up with their religion (Malachi 2:1-3). Unless they repent, they are going to suffer Judah’s fate. The Laodicean ministry is causing God’s people to “stumble at the law” (Malachi 2:8).
Since Mr. Armstrong’s death, all of the Laodicean groups have rejected the restored knowledge about the government of God. They no longer believe in government from the top down. They no longer accept the fact that God leads through one man at a time. They have set up their own forms of a “committee” type of government. They no longer have God’s government.
Mr. Armstrong said at a ministerial conference in May 1976: “Government of God is the whole thing—and it had better be in our lives!”
The success of a nation or church depends upon how well God’s law is administered. Every minister and member must develop a very healthy respect for God’s law. Obeying God’s law ensures that we stay in step with Him and with each other. The Laodicean groups cannot get together or stay unified because they do not keep God’s law the way they should. God’s ministry must be firmly established on a solid foundation. That foundation must include God’s law of love and government!
Essentially, God’s spiritual temple in this end time has been destroyed by the Laodicean ministry. This has come about as a result of rejecting God’s law and government. All of the Laodicean groups have rejected Mr. Armstrong as God’s end-time Elijah. And they all have rejected the truth that God works through one man at a time. Rejecting this truth is rebellion against government!
Jesus Christ gave authority to Peter as the chief apostle. This fact cannot be denied if you truly study your Bible. “When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee [Peter] the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 16:13-19).
Notice here that God the Father gave Peter special revelation concerning who Christ was (verse 17). This revelation was not given to any of the other disciples. Christ further revealed to Peter and the others that He would build His Church on the foundation of Himself. Christ also revealed that Peter was to have a unique role within the Church. Christ said to Peter: “And I will give unto thee [singular] the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (verse 19). Jesus Christ made this statement only to Peter. The other apostles were sent around the world—only Peter had the authority to bind and loose!
If we believe these scriptures, they give us great insight as to how the government of God works within God’s Church. Understanding how government works is a great miracle—it requires revelation from God! Jesus Christ is the spiritual Head of the Church (Ephesians 5:23; Colossians 1:18). Presently, He is in heaven until His Second Coming. Here on the Earth are the various ranks of the ministry (Ephesians 4:11). At the time of Christ, He established Peter as the chief apostle, even though there were other apostles. Only one man had the authority to bind and loose. Mr. Armstrong showed us that the same holds true for our day.
Now all of the Laodicean groups have rejected these scriptures. God sent Mr. Armstrong to restore all things (Matthew 17:11). God sent Mr. Armstrong to restore His government in the Church. The Worldwide Church of God (wcg), the Global Church of God, and the United Church of God have all turned away from this revealed form of government—but they act like they still have God’s government! They now believe that there are different branches of God’s Church or work. But no one is going to make it into God’s Kingdom believing that they are a branch of God’s Church. You are either in God’s one true Church or you are not. You are either doing Christ’s work as one unified body or you are not doing Christ’s work! Paul taught this very principle to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 1:13).
No minister on Earth today has the authority Mr. Armstrong had. No one else has accomplished what God has done through him. He did preach the gospel around the world (Matthew 24:14). He restored the great truth about the Family of God (Malachi 4:5-6). He did build God’s spiritual temple in this end time (Zechariah 4:9-10). So we must pay close attention to what he wrote about law and government. If we do not, then we are committing a serious sin and will face harsh judgment for rejecting the law and government of God.
Laying the Temple Foundation
After re-establishing the altar, Zerubbabel began to lay the foundation of the temple. “From the first day of the seventh month began they to offer burnt offerings unto the Lord. But the foundation of the temple of the Lord was not yet laid. They gave money also unto the masons, and to the carpenters; and meat, and drink, and oil, unto them of Zidon, and to them of Tyre, to bring cedar trees from Lebanon to the sea of Joppa, according to the grant that they had of Cyrus king of Persia” (Ezra 3:6-7). This scripture carries a fundamental lesson for us: After the ministry, or priesthood, is established, the temple’s foundation can be laid. This foundation must also be as solid as the altar’s. A temple cannot stand unless it has a solid foundation. God’s ministry must ensure that a strong temple is built.
It is each individual minister’s job to build God’s temple properly. We must recognize that we can only build properly through the law—God’s spiritual law. We cannot build through our own human reasonings. We must construct God’s way. Herbert Armstrong set us a great example in this area. How many times did we hear him repeat the verse: “… Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord of hosts” (Zechariah 4:6)? We must learn how to let God’s Spirit guide us! Learning to be led by God’s Holy Spirit does require time, effort and patience. God will guide us, but we must not become overconfident that God is guiding all of our thoughts and actions. God is never delinquent in His desire to guide us—but we can fail to follow God’s lead!
Peter taught that God’s people are like the stones of the temple. “Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5). God’s people must be built into a temple carefully and with a lot of hard work. If you have ever had the opportunity to watch a building’s foundation being set, you can then recognize that putting down a solid foundation is some of the hardest kind of work! It is the most important phase for the completion of a high-quality temple.
Notice that Zerubbabel used skilled laborers to build the temple (Ezra 3:7). He used masons and carpenters. As ministers, we must be continually learning how to become more skilled at our calling. The only way we can do this is through prayer, Bible study, fasting and meditation. We must carefully counsel and teach the men, women and children what God has entrusted to our care. Counseling and speaking are our first lines of contact with God’s people. These are the two main tools we have to build with. A solid temple is built through Bible-based counseling and basic sermons. Counseling and sermon preparation are the toughest parts of our jobs.
As God’s Philadelphian ministers, we cannot allow ourselves to slip into a casual, know-it-all attitude about our calling. The first and most important key to our success in building God’s temple is recognizing how much we do not know. We must face a certain reality with regard to our Philadelphia ministry. The Laodicean ministry’s government problem has created a void of trained ministers for the pcg. Few of us have had Ambassador College training. We should not be intimidated by this fact, but highly motivated to gain the wisdom and understanding we need to effectively complete the job God has given us to do. Many of God’s men had to receive on-the-job training. As human beings we are going to make mistakes. We need to pray hard that we don’t make serious mistakes. The greatest tragedy in making a mistake is not learning from it. We need to study, work, learn and then continue to learn, study and work more effectively!
All of us should be studying Mr. Armstrong’s Autobiography. It is the best “how to” book for ministers. We should also be studying the lives of other great men, such as Winston Churchill. Many believe that he was naturally a great orator. But just the opposite is true. Here is what Mr. Churchill’s secretary wrote about his speech preparation: “The way he created a speech was a wonderful bit of creativity. It was exactly like a director of a great orchestra. I always enjoyed it. He would walk up and down using his cigars as a baton—trying out different words for their rhythm—discarding some, whispering to himself when he finally got the rhythm, he would go on with his speech [preparing]. It was like seeing a great piece of music. People suppose he was naturally an orator. But he really wasn’t, it came of the hardest work I have ever seen.”
Cedars From Lebanon
Zerubbabel brought cedar trees from Lebanon to be hewn into beams for the temple (Ezra 3:7). This was no easy task. But the cedar trees provided the best material for a strong and beautiful temple. The quality of our pcg congregations is a direct reflection of our ministers’ skilled labor and our members’ cooperation. Building a Spirit-filled congregation is a team effort. You as a pcg member must strive to be the best member you can be, just as each of our ministers must strive to be the best minister he can be. Your approach to your spiritual life determines whether you are a cedar tree or a pine. A craftsman is only as good as the quality of the material he works with. Inferior building materials produce weak structures. pcg members must dedicate themselves to becoming the very best spiritual material. The way we ensure that we are of the highest quality spiritual material is through obedience to God’s law and government.
You, as a member of God’s Philadelphia Church, must develop deep respect and love for the pcg ministry. The pcg ministry is made up of faithful, dedicated men. There are not many of us. But this was also true at the time of the building of the second temple. “And I gathered them together to the river that runneth to Ahava; and there abode we in tents three days: and I viewed the people, and the priests, and found there none of the sons of Levi” (Ezra 8:15). It appears that not many of the well-trained, older Levites returned to help build the second temple. This could have been viewed as a negative situation for Zerubbabel. But as we shall see, it was not!
Those of us in the pcg could look negatively at the fact that the majority of full-time ministers have remained with the Laodicean Church. All this means is that we need to let God develop more ministers from our Church. That is exactly what they did at the time of the building of the second temple. “Now in the second year of their coming unto the house of God at Jerusalem, in the second month, began Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and the remnant of their brethren the priests and the Levites, and all they that were come out of the captivity unto Jerusalem; and appointed the Levites, from twenty years old and upward, to set forward the work of the house of the Lord” (Ezra 3:8). Younger men were called into office. Study Numbers 4:3 and 8:24. You will see that a Levite did not go to work in the temple until around age 25. Zerubbabel and Joshua began taking men at the younger age of 20.
Great Joy in Building God’s Temple
“And when the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the Lord, they set the priests in their apparel with trumpets, and the Levites the sons of Asaph with cymbals, to praise the Lord, after the ordinance of David king of Israel. And they sang together by course in praising and giving thanks unto the Lord; because he is good, for his mercy endureth for ever toward Israel. And all the people shouted with a great shout, when they praised the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid” (Ezra 3:10-11). These are two of the most inspiring verses in the book of Ezra. After the foundation of the second temple was laid, the priests were gathered together for a great celebration. All the people shouted praises to God for His great mercy and faithfulness toward the people. The pcg ministers and members should also do this. God has restored His temple through the pcg. God has shown us great mercy and remained faithful to us. We do have a place where we can obey God and worship Him properly. Let’s all thank God and praise Him for the pcg.
To learn more about this subject, study my booklet Ezra and Nehemiah—Building God’s Temple.