Who Can but Prophesy?
An inspiring message from the book of Amos

Before being fired from the Worldwide Church of God in 1989, I gave a Bible study to my congregations on the book of Amos. I was serving in Oklahoma at the time; there were about 500 members attending in Oklahoma City and around 70 members in Enid.

As I prepared that study, the truths in this prophetic book were so clear to me—some of which exposed what was happening in God’s own Church, where I knew things were going on that were not right. I didn’t fully realize it at the time, but God was giving me new revelation. But it was some of the most exciting truth I could imagine! I knew I had to speak on what God was showing me!

But that was the first time that I had spoken to God’s people where I could sense that most of them didn’t agree with me and didn’t like what I was saying. It was a strange experience. After that study, one man asked why I was getting into Amos. I didn’t quite know how to answer at the time.

I now see that God gave me that revelation, in large part, to condition me for what lay ahead. God was showing me that people are not as receptive to this message as I thought they would be. He also gave it to me to prepare all of us for the little book of Revelation 10. It was shortly after that study that He gave the understanding of Malachi’s Message.

I thought most of God’s people would be able to understand that truth from Amos. It turned out that most did not. And after that point, people became suspicious of me.

I had never experienced anything like that before. Previously, whenever something had gone wrong in God’s Church, Herbert W. Armstrong had been there to put things back on track, as he did in the 1970s. But when things started getting off course after 1986, he was not there to straighten it out; we didn’t have that leadership. And it was alarming because you could see clearly from the beginning the new leaders were rejecting what Mr. Armstrong taught!

Looking back on that history shows what can happen if you have just one man in an enterprise with God! Great things happen when you trust God and believe what He says in the Bible.

I knew what I saw in Amos was true. I had no doubt about that. And look what has happened since that day. A few supporters came along, and this Philadelphia work in the Laodicean era began—albeit oh so small. But we must not despise the day of small beginnings when God is a part of it!

Realize what God can do with one person who will simply obey Him, believe Him and trust Him. God wants to know what we are doing individually. He wants to know if we are really willing to step out and obey Him.

Some 120,000 people attended the Worldwide Church of God at its peak. Where are they today? Look at the difference between all the other dissenting groups of the Worldwide Church of God and what the Philadelphia Church of God is doing today. Though we are small, we have a message going out to the world, and we are having an impact! We have a whole library of literature with new revelation. We have two college campuses that are phenomenal in beauty. We have our beautiful Armstrong Auditorium, dedicated to God’s honor and glory as His house. We have a dedicated, faithful and loyal membership. God has given us all this because we are people who believe Him, look to Him, and obey Him!

There is a gigantic lesson here about putting your faith in God. If God said it, and you can prove it clearly, then just obey it. If you do, the outcome is remarkably great! You can see that clearly in everything that has unfolded over the past three decades. We’ve learned some lessons more deeply than we could have any other way.

When the Church got off track in the 1970s, Mr. Armstrong said it all started back in the ’60s. He told them where it was going and how to straighten it out. Yet there were people even then who fought against him. And after he died in 1986, many worked against what he taught and a great many more went along with them. A few stayed loyal and are in this Church today. But the vast majority of God’s people have fallen away! They failed to understand that we are in a spiritual war—the worst war ever because eternal lives are at stake! And biblical prophecy tells us that half of them will not be in God’s eternal Family.

Prophesy Not

God tells us in Amos 1:2, “The Lord will roar from Zion ….” Zion refers to the Church of God! We, the people of God, must allow God to roar His message to this world. It desperately needs to hear from God! This is a towering responsibility for God’s people. Yet most of God’s people will not obey this charge.

What is the message? The first two chapters of Amos reveal eight visions—warnings of punishments God is going to send upon various peoples. But these are not separate punishments; they are all “one cosmic holocaust,” the Anchor Bible Commentary says—a nuclear holocaust! That holocaust is almost upon us, and God wants the world to know about it!

But what are most of God’s people doing? Immediately after those eight visions, Amos writes this on God’s behalf: “And I raised up of your sons for prophets, and of your young men for Nazarites. Is it not even thus, O ye children of Israel? saith the Lord. But ye gave the Nazarites wine to drink; and commanded the prophets, saying, Prophesy not” (Amos 2:11-12). At the time they should be prophesying more fervently than ever, God’s people are saying, “Prophesy not!”

When attending a ministerial refresher shortly before I got fired, I had two ideas about Bible prophecy relating to the holy days that I wanted to present to the Church administration. These ideas weren’t new revelation. But I noticed that nobody was talking about prophecy. I wanted to see whether I might be able to help out in that way.

The pastor general, Joseph Tkach, and his son, Joseph Tkach Jr., were in attendance. I presented my ideas respectfully. After they explained a few things to me, they took me over to a big planning board and told me they were changing their focus to Ambassador College. Using Amos 2:12 terms, they were telling me to prophesy not! They didn’t want to teach about prophecy. And they expected me to go along with that.

Not long after that interaction, the college was dead! Mr. Armstrong had raised up three colleges while he was alive. He had help and support. But where was that support when he died? They abandoned their message and turned to a “prophesy not” focus.

What is the message of God if you stop prophesying? Where in the Bible does it say “Don’t prophesy”? Only one place—and it’s coming from individuals who are not on God’s side.

Mr. Tkach Jr. invited me to dinner that night, perhaps to hear more about my ideas. But I said very little and just listened to them because I knew things weren’t going well—kind of like that Bible study. When I was talking to those people, I was very confident that most of them weren’t with me.

Amos is trying to show us that we are approaching a nuclear cosmic holocaust. With such an impending catastrophe, God’s people should be prophesying! Yet the Laodiceans’ first reaction was to stop prophesying. What is wrong with these people? God is telling them exactly what is coming—a holocaust that is going to affect the cosmos—but Satan has conquered their minds. And they changed the direction of the work to focus on education. Yet frankly, they didn’t have many scholars to even accomplish that. They are deeply confused and deceived.

You Only Have Known God

“Hear this word that the Lord hath spoken against you, O children of Israel, against the whole family which I brought up from the land of Egypt …” (Amos 3:1). God has brought us, the Family of God, out of Egypt, a type of this world. He has brought us into His Family! What are you going to do with that wonderful opportunity?

“You only have I known of all the families of the earth …” (verse 2). God is talking to His Church, people He has a close relationship with. The root word for “known” refers to marital relations! You only have known God! What an honor! What an opportunity! What a privilege! That is something we ought to really think deeply about. We are the only ones God has given His Holy Spirit to. And He has opened our minds. And because of that, God wants a close relationship with us—far beyond any physical family relationship. A physical marriage can give you insight into how God wants this marriage to operate, but this is a spiritual marriage!

We truly have been blessed as the only people who have known God. Because of that, God is clear about what we should do as we see this cosmic nuclear holocaust approaching. God has given His people tremendous honor—and so He is going to judge us strongly if we fail. Verse 2 concludes, “… therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities.” God is talking about correcting those in His Family who went astray and rejected what Mr. Armstrong taught, failing to follow the God of Elijah.

But this is dual: It includes the nations of Israel. The three primary end-time nations of Israel have also turned away from God. And He is going to correct them. God warns that He will express His wrath through Assyria, or modern-day Germany (Isaiah 10). God is wrathful at those who live in sin, acting like that is the way we ought to live. These people talk about God; they have their religion. But they don’t know the Bible! And they don’t seem to want to know God because their carnal nature is hostile toward God (Romans 8:7).

“Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” (Amos 3:3). God cannot really walk with us if we don’t agree with Him! How deeply do you agree with the Bible, which is Jesus Christ in print, and God the Father? Do you really, deep down, walk with God? Or do you just talk about it? How perfectly do you agree with God? We all have to ask ourselves these questions because a cosmic nuclear holocaust is coming!

“Will a lion roar in the forest, when he hath no prey? will a young lion cry out of his den, if he have taken nothing?” (verse 4). A lion roars the loudest just before he pounces on his prey. That is where we are in Bible prophecy—that is the future of America, Britain, the Jewish nation in the Middle East and the whole world!

Verse 5 describes a bird that walks into a trap to get food, but then suddenly the trap snaps shut and the bird is caught. That is about to happen to Israel, suddenly—and we had better be ready for it!

“Shall a trumpet be blown in the city, and the people not be afraid? shall there be evil in a city, and the Lord hath not done it?” (verse 6). That’s referring to God’s trumpet. Soncino commentary says, “Shall the horn be blown in the city and the people not tremble?”

This is all about God preparing to come down and establish His rule! The lion has roared and is ready to pounce. The trumpet is being blown, but the people are not heeding. This is the picture God wants us to have. If we have iniquity, we had better get rid of it because God is about to come and punish this Earth!

Who Can but Prophesy?

“Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets. The lion hath roared, who will not fear? the Lord God hath spoken, who can but prophesy?” (Amos 3:7-8). The lion of the tribe of Judah, Jesus Christ, has roared! And if you don’t fear, then you will probably say, “Don’t prophesy.” But then here God asks, “Who can but prophesy?”

There is a lot of good news in these prophecies that make us say, How could you not prophesy? But this message also requires that we prophesy about the horrible things that are about to come upon Israel and this world. Israel is going to be corrected first—then the rest of the world. But after that, Jesus Christ will return! If you understand that, who can but prophesy that Christ is coming? Who are we to be part of this wonderful honor? We know the secrets of God! We know God and have a close relationship with Him. We have His throne! We are His very elect, and we should be saying, I want to prophesy about that!

We have a job to do. There are those who would rather not prophesy. But God tells them that the end is come upon the people of Israel! (Amos 8:2). It’s here! The evidence is all around us. And He is very clear what kind of destruction is coming to those who will not prophesy or heed the warning!

“Therefore thus saith the Lord God; An adversary there shall be even round about the land; and he shall bring down thy strength from thee, and thy palaces shall be spoiled. Thus saith the Lord; As the shepherd taketh out of the mouth of the lion two legs, or a piece of an ear; so shall the children of Israel be taken out that dwell in Samaria in the corner of a bed, and in Damascus in a couch” (Amos 3:11-12). What a horrifying picture: sheep torn to pieces, maybe with two legs left or just an ear. But this isn’t about sheep! This is about what is about to happen to Israel. This is what is coming upon the Laodiceans who prophesy not!

Verse 14 says that “the horns of the altar shall be cut off, and fall to the ground.” Those horns were constructed on the corners of the sacrificial altar (Exodus 27:2). Anciently those horns provided sanctuary for fugitives who took hold of them (e.g. 1 Kings 1:50-53; 2:28). God is saying, Don’t run for the horns of the altar—there’s nowhere to run for mercy! They won’t find it in this coming holocaust!

When you know what is coming, how can you not prophesy? And when you know the glorious ending of it all, how can you not prophesy? When you see the bad news, and the good news, you understand why Amos asked, Who can but prophesy? We know the secrets of God. We know what is going to happen in this world. We truly are honored to be here with God, joining in His Work!

Amos further prophesies, “And I also have given you cleanness of teeth in all your cities, and want of bread in all your places: yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the Lord. And also I have withholden the rain from you, when there were yet three months to the harvest: and I caused it to rain upon one city, and caused it not to rain upon another city: one piece was rained upon, and the piece whereupon it rained not withered. So two or three cities wandered unto one city, to drink water; but they were not satisfied: yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the Lord” (Amos 4:6-8). We see this routinely in America today: record flooding in one region at the same time as wildfires and unending drought in another.

Yet hasn’t America been given a chance to know God? Didn’t California have a wonderful opportunity to know God when His headquarters was there under Mr. Armstrong? But they are some of the most disobedient people you’ll find on Earth. God tells them exactly what is coming because of their iniquities.

“Hear ye this word which I take up against you, even a lamentation, O house of Israel. The virgin of Israel is fallen; she shall no more rise: she is forsaken upon her land; there is none to raise her up. For thus saith the Lord God; The city that went out by a thousand shall leave an hundred, and that which went forth by an hundred shall leave ten, to the house of Israel” (Amos 5:1-3). Ninety percent of the people in cities will die immediately—and only a tenth of the survivors will remain alive. American cities are going to lose a staggering 99 percent of their population! There may be some who repent and escape (verse 4). But 99 percent will be destroyed.

These are some of the most specific, horrible prophecies in the Bible! Amos had the courage to deliver what God commanded him to. What is interesting is that he used the word Adonai 25 times in his book—more than all the other minor prophets combined. Adonai refers to God’s headship—and it conveys the sense of God blessing. (You can read about this in Chapter 2 of my booklet The Lion Has Roared.) Amos kept repeating this over and over because he wanted to keep it on his mind! He didn’t come from a prophet’s family. He was a poet and a wealthy man, but he didn’t have any credentials. Yet even when delivering bad news, Amos maintained his spiritual focus by continually reminding himself about Adonai, the God who blesses!

Chapters 1 and 2, for example, show God reaching out with a warning message to so many people. This is our Head who blesses. He loves this world and wants them in His Family! He gave His Son for them, risking eternal life! He is trying to warn them and bring them to repentance!

The Prophet Ezekiel also issues many terrible prophecies, but he repeatedly emphasizes how, in the end, it is all to help people get to know God (e.g. Ezekiel 13:9; 23:49; 28:24; etc). We have to see the inspiring end of it all.

The Jerusalem Work

“Then Amaziah the priest of Bethel sent to Jeroboam king of Israel, saying, Amos hath conspired against thee in the midst of the house of Israel: the land is not able to bear all his words. For thus Amos saith, Jeroboam shall die by the sword, and Israel shall surely be led away captive out of their own land. Also Amaziah said unto Amos, O thou seer, go, flee thee away into the land of Judah, and there eat bread, and prophesy there” (Amos 7:10-12).

This is speaking of a time coming soon when Donald Trump, an end-time “Jeroboam,” is back in office and the people of America will vociferously reject the message coming from God’s Church. Amaziah, who helped destroy the church Mr. Armstrong founded, is going to send us to Judah. Even by calling it “Judah,” it shows that he knows, as does Jeroboam, that we have a significant work in Jerusalem. President Trump surely will know about our Jerusalem work, even if he doesn’t know now. When they deport us, we will go to a place of safety, perhaps directly.

God tells us that there is going to be a work in Judah, the Middle Eastern nation called Israel. He tells us to “say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God!” (Isaiah 40:9). We have to take God’s message to the cities of Judah!

Currently, a pandemic is interfering with this work. But this message must go to the Israeli people. They like this message when we talk about King David and his palace, and they believe a lot of their Hebrew Bible, and they want to hear more about it. But the media in Israel are much like the media in the United States. They don’t like God, and they don’t like anybody who wants to prophesy. They love a “prophesy not” message. They push for getting away from the Bible and from God. But if you get away from God, Amos tells you exactly what kind of destruction is coming!

We are working diligently to fulfill this commission to Judah. We have supported archaeology in Jerusalem for many years. Recently the great archaeologist Dr. Eilat Mazar, with whom we have worked closely for many years, died. We have purchased her personal library and plan to make this available to the public along with hundreds of volumes from Hebrew University, for whom she worked. We are founding a new institute to keep the important and inspiring work of biblical archaeology alive—work that really does have a “behold your God” message for the people of Israel and the world! We are calling it the Armstrong-Mazar Institute of Biblical Archaeology. We are developing relationships with other archaeologists in Jerusalem and plan to continue contributing manpower and resources to further this important work.

How awesome and magnificent that we get to tell the cities of Judah, “Behold, your God!” Doesn’t that make us want to say, “Who can but prophesy?” How can you not want to be a part of this?

This archaeological message has a great impact. The people of Israel are hungering and thirsting for news about David and his palace, and Jeremiah and those two seals of Jeremiah’s prosecutors. We have found and displayed those artifacts!

Even Jeremiah’s persecutors told him to prophesy not! They hated his message, and they wanted to have him killed. But God saved Jeremiah and sent him to Ireland with the throne of David. What an awesome, wonderful, inspiring message! Who can but prophesy?

We have a wonderful opportunity. God loves His very elect who do His Work. That impresses God. He wants people who obey and are excited about this message more than anything else!

We fear God, and we are thankful to God that we can help dig up David’s palace and get people’s minds on the throne of David, preparing it for when Jesus Christ returns to receive His throne, which we have! We are going to pass it on to the Son of God, who will rule from Jerusalem for all eternity! He is going to be the one directing everything over the Earth and the universe. And we get to sit on the throne with Him. Who can but prophesy when you understand that?

A Hopeful Message

God warns in Amos 7, “I will not again pass by them any more” (verse 8). This is the last time God will deliver this warning! And they are running those who have this message off to Judah. Jeroboam’s great sin was he turned away from the house of David, which happens to be us spiritually. He turned away from the throne of David. We have that throne in this Church. They are going to send us away, but we have to tell Jeroboam what his sin is. Then they will know. They will learn it the hard way, but they will learn it!

Consider, though, the hope in this message: “‘I will restore the fortunes of my people Israel, and they shall rebuild the ruined cities and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and drink their wine, and they shall make gardens and eat their fruit. I will plant them upon their land, and they shall never again be plucked up out of the land which I have given them,’ says the Lord your God” (Amos 9:14-15; Revised Standard Version). Shouldn’t we be prophesying this message? The nations of Israel are about to experience the worst suffering ever on this planet. But God says it’s never, ever going to happen again!

In fact, under Jesus Christ’s rule, the whole world is about to become Israel! This Earth is about to have a new civilization that is absolutely and totally ruled by God. There will be abundant prosperity, joy, peace and happiness like people have never known in their lives. Who can but prophesy about that?