Throughout the history of the true Church of God, Satan has been on the attack. He continually wars against God’s government. We have witnessed this dramatically in these last two eras of God’s Church and will see more in the time just ahead.
When God created the universe, it was beautiful (Genesis 1:1). As long as Lucifer and the angels administered the government of God, everything was unified and peaceful.
But that changed radically: “And the earth was [or became, it should read] without form, and void [Hebrew tohu and bohu] …” (verse 2). Satan warred against God’s government, and created tohu and bohu—waste and emptiness. That is Satan’s legacy. And it has carried on that way ever since, even throughout the age of man.
The Prophet Jeremiah had a vision of how the age of man would culminate, and it made him physically sick! (Jeremiah 4:19-20). He wrote, “I beheld the earth, and, lo, it was without form, and void; and the heavens, and they had no light” (verse 23). Earth is going to become tohu and bohu again!
We in God’s Church must beware this satanic war against God’s government, or we too will create tohu and bohu rather than producing the beautiful fruits that only God’s government yields. But what wonders happen when we administer that government properly. If you have God’s government, you have God’s law, and God’s law of love makes God’s true Church, His Work and His college so special. God’s headquarters produces peace and godly fruit like no place else on Earth! It is all about the law and the government that administers that law. And you are part of that.
The True Government of God
On May 2, 1974, during a time of tumult in God’s Church, Herbert W. Armstrong wrote a co-worker letter. It said, “The government of God, by which God preserves what He has created, had been removed from the Earth. God proposes to restore His government by and through man, finally redeemed through Christ, and born into the God Family. His dual purpose, remember, is to restore the government of God upon Earth, and to preserve it by means of reproducing Himself, by bringing man into perfect righteous character, ultimately born into the God Family.”
Mr. Armstrong wrote these words shortly after 35 ministers rebelled and over 2,000 people left the Church. That is a tragedy! The Church had a lot of ministers and members, but that many leaving was still a mighty blow!
It has always been difficult for God’s people. We have always had to fight as Satan has warred against the government of God.
What will happen to those who despise God’s government? The Apostle Peter reminds us about the fate of the angels that rebelled: “God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell [tartaros—the lowest places], and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment” (2 Peter 2:4). Lucifer, who became Satan, convinced all those angels to rebel against God’s government. Now, they will be bound in chains of darkness forever!
The Laodiceans stumble at the law (Malachi 2:8) because they have a government problem. I was really impressed by one minister in the Worldwide Church of God (wcg); I thought he did an outstanding job. Yet after Mr. Armstrong died, this man said, It is true: We’re experimenting with a new government.
I couldn’t believe it. After being in the Church for so many years, he began experimenting with government! Any other government besides God’s is the government of the devil! God’s government implements the law, and when you start experimenting with another government, you are rejecting the law of God!
After rebelling against God’s government, the Laodicean churches are producing tohu and bohu. That is what their rebellion yields.
God at the Center
In ancient Israel, everything was structured around the tabernacle. God’s tabernacle was the center within the midst of His chosen people, among the Levites (e.g. Numbers 2:17), with three tribes on each of the four sides. Within the tabernacle, in the holy of holies, was the ark of the covenant, which symbolized His throne and rule.
And within the ark were the Ten Commandments—the law of God. The law was in the holiest object on Earth in the holiest place in the universe! The law is the way God thinks.
Later they also placed within the ark a pot of manna—a symbol of God’s revelation, our spiritual food today, which God will feed us if we are guarding the law—and Aaron’s rod, a symbol of God’s government. Numbers 16 and 17 record how God resolved a dispute over government among the Israelites by miraculously causing Aaron’s rod to bud, blossom and produce almonds so everybody knew where God was working. He then told the tribes if they didn’t stop murmuring against His government, they would die (Numbers 17:10). The ark of the covenant is all about God ruling man.
God’s Church is His temple today (1 Corinthians 6:19; Ephesians 2:21). We possess a spiritual ark today, and the contents are the same. The Israelites had the letter of the law; we have the spirit of the law. We have God’s government and the spiritual manna. God expects us to strive to unify as the Family of God, full of love and doing all we can to administer and guard God’s law.
The tabernacle was at the center of Israel because God wants the focus on Him. If you’re going to have the government of God, everybody must focus on God. Nothing else will work.
When Joshua led the Israelites into the Promised Land, he instructed the people to follow the ark. He had the priests tell them, “When ye see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, and the priests the Levites bearing it, then ye shall remove from your place, and go after it” (Joshua 3:1-3). That is the approach we need toward the spiritual ark—and toward the government of God.
Joshua upheld and taught every word of Moses (Joshua 8:35). And look at the success Joshua had—and the lack of success Israel had after he died. Most people turn away from God’s government. Worldly churches say the law that this government implements has been done away. Have you proved from the Bible that it’s not? Many ministers say it was—but that is a satanic lie! To have the law of God is a wonderful blessing! It is all about God’s rule, and He has commanded that each of us goes after it.
You see the same picture at the beginning of the book of Revelation. The first verse shows that God gave the book of Revelation to Jesus Christ, who gave it to the Apostle John by an angel. There is a government structure in how God reveals His truth, with the Father at the top. Then in verse 13, you see the glorified Jesus Christ right in the middle of the seven lamps, which represent the seven eras of the New Testament Church. God is at the center of every one of them if they do their job and keep the government of God.
Christ is a Being of tremendous brightness and power (verses 14-16). John writes, “And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last: I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death” (verses 17-18). This is the mighty Being in our midst! When we keep Him there, amazing miracles occur! Not that we are perfect, but God has given us a lot of revelation, and that is a result of implementing the government of God. We must continue doing that and working to be as perfect as we can possibly be.
Failure to Uphold Government
Ernest Martin, a former pastor in the wcg, wrote an impressive book titled Jerusalem’s Temples. He and Herman Hoeh were the ones who learned of Benjamin Mazar’s archaeology project in Jerusalem and brought it to Herbert W. Armstrong’s attention. Mr. Armstrong put those two men in charge of it. For several years, Dr. Martin took all the students and directed them in the project. Mr. Armstrong also made him chairman of the department of theology at Ambassador College, a prestigious job.
Dr. Martin also wrote The Design and Development of the Scriptures—though there was a major problem in that book. He was a talented scholar who taught a lot of good information and made some real contributions that helped the Work of God grow. But the history shows that he did something that negated all of that: He rebelled against the government of God in an egregious way!
In September 1971, Garner Ted Armstrong was put out of the wcg. After nine months, Mr. Armstrong brought him back and restored to him most of his authority, which upset many people. I was taking Dr. Martin’s Bible Prophecy class at Ambassador College during the 1972–73 school year. I had graduated two years before, but I worked 30 miles to the south and they allowed me and the minister training me to take that class. I thought that was a wonderful opportunity.
Dr. Martin presented some very impressive information in that class—but he also began to say some disturbing things that got back to Mr. Armstrong. For one, he talked about the situation with Garner Ted, which truly was something to be concerned about. He spoke about the past colleges of Samuel and Elijah and Elisha, and how these institutions degenerated. It was obvious he was implying something.
Then Dr. Martin asked, “Do all institutions of God fold up?” He said, “This is the human tendency. That’s the frightening part of this message.” When that happened in history, he said, God had to send an independent prophet to straighten out the problem. (Of course, he didn’t say anything about the Smyrna era or the Philadelphia era—Church eras that Christ did not have to correct in Revelation 2 and 3.)
Looking back, I realized that in a whole year of a Bible Prophecy class, Dr. Martin didn’t once mention Mr. Armstrong’s name. This was Elijah the prophet (Malachi 4:5-6; Matthew 17:10-11), who was at his peak in many ways. He didn’t break God’s law; he was trying to help his son. Yet Dr. Martin got into a terrible attitude.
Then on Jan. 27, 1974—just eight months after that class ended in May 1973—Dr. Martin resigned from the wcg. He sent Mr. Armstrong a 35-page letter explaining his decision. I think this letter contains some important lessons for us.
Dr. Martin’s Letter
“Mr. Armstrong, of late many serious doctrinal and administrative problems have emerged within the Church and college,” Dr. Martin wrote. “The problems have become frequent and widespread. Ted and other evangelists in a meeting which Ted asked me to attend told me that they would take it upon themselves to inform you of the crisis areas now facing the Work. Believe me, doubts are rife! Credibility is at an all-time low. People all over the United States are questioning whether the Church really wants to grow in grace and knowledge.” At that time, some people were beginning to rebel, but what he was saying was a satanic lie. I was there! I saw a lot of problems beginning to develop, but I didn’t see that the way he saw it at all. I’m sure he thought he was a prophet being sent by God. But he was flouting God’s government.
Martin continued, “You will recall telling me in 1970 that I should never attend any doctrinal discussions among the top ministers unless you called them yourself.” That is pretty strong correction coming from Mr. Armstrong. Why do you suppose Mr. Armstrong did that? I hope that if any one of us had to be corrected like that we would surely do some self-examination. But Dr. Martin didn’t. Mr. Armstrong chose not to put him out of the Church even though he may have had grounds to do so. But still, Mr. Armstrong wouldn’t let him meet with the top ministers unless he was at the meeting. That tells you something.
Dr. Martin went on to write, “The orders you gave me have been faithfully obeyed. This is the reason I could not (and did not) attend.” He considered himself so obedient because he faithfully obeyed that one command, but did he faithfully look at himself? When God’s apostle, and no doubt Christ Himself, gave him correction, did he really examine himself? The fruits show that he didn’t.
“Whatever happens in this matter,” wrote Martin, “I want to concur with the teachings of headquarters. I have always been an individual who has never wanted to deviate from the teachings of headquarters.” In the class I took from him, he talked about Christ being the central theme of the Bible. He knew Mr. Armstrong didn’t teach that! Dr. Martin had tremendous knowledge and understanding, but he didn’t honor God the Father! Mr. Armstrong corrected him because he had deviated from the Church’s teachings—yet he deceived himself that he was right and Mr. Armstrong was wrong. But what do the fruits tell us?
“I don’t propose to go astray from those principles now,” Dr. Martin continued. “But sir, therein lies a problem. Real headquarters, the headquarters we must all obey, happens to be in heaven.” I absolutely, totally agree with that. But does anybody think he was following that supreme court in heaven? He could not accept Herbert W. Armstrong as the leader God chose to be the head of the government! Why do people have to be so vain that they somehow have to be over the whole thing or they just are not happy? That’s a devastating attitude that will lead you into tohu and bohu!
His letter continues: “There are numerous teachings that desperately need alteration to bring them into conformity with the true doctrines of Christ.” That’s a lie! What were these other numerous errors? “The position of the Church forces my wife and me to follow your example of more than 40 years ago when you found it impossible to work within the framework of the Church of God Seventh Day.” That church was spiritually dead! Was Mr. Armstrong’s Church dead? He was preaching the gospel around the world! He was still doing a powerful work! Doesn’t that indicate he was doing the right thing? While he was doing everything to help his son, this man was unmercifully, self-righteously attacking him. I think that is just unforgiveable—but God is his Judge.
Somehow Satan got to him, and he began to really abhor the government of God! He rejected God’s family government and the gospel and rebelled against the Father’s law in a shocking way.
Who was this man to be saying such horrible things to the man who had the rod of Aaron? Mr. Armstrong restored all things. Dr. Martin restored nothing. He pushed Mr. Armstrong aside as if he were a nobody, and he dishonored his Father. Ultimately his fruits were tohu and bohu.
It has always amazed me that every single angel under Lucifer was persuaded to rebel against God. If you start letting down with God and begin to cozy up to Satan, then you too will fall victim!
Dr. Martin was a monumental disaster. He had tremendous talent and did some good things for the Church, but when it came to government, he committed treason. A couple months after he left, those 35 ministers followed. I’m sure his leaving encouraged them to leave. And what did those 35 ministers say was their primary reason for leaving? Mr. Armstrong bringing his son back too early. That was it! That was too much for them!
If you think about it, those men were right. It bothered me too when Mr. Armstrong did that so soon, though I didn’t know all that was occurring behind the scenes. But soon after, Mr. Armstrong repented before the whole Church for his decision. He said, I have been a respecter of persons to my son. So those men were right, and he had to repent. But did God desert His Elijah because he loved his son and didn’t handle him correctly?
Consider David’s example during Saul’s reign. Saul was trying to kill him, but David would not rebel against Saul because he knew God had not rejected him! Look how far God let that go because He wanted to know how committed David was to His government! God is the one who puts a person in office and who takes a person out. That is not a man’s job—that is God’s job.
This is a towering lesson we can take from David and from the sons of Zadok. David himself committed some terrible sins, but Zadok never left him—and he was the only priest who didn’t. And God made him the chief priest!
Before you reject a leader, you had better know where God stands! We can be deceived. We have to fight because Satan is warring against the government of God all the time. His number one target is the man as the physical head.
The Danger of Bitterness
The back cover of Dr. Martin’s book The Temples That Jerusalem Forgot reads, “Dr. Ernest Martin has taught history for 12 years at a college in England. And he has been the chairman of the Department of Theology at another in California. He supervised over 450 college students at the most significant archaeological excavation ever conducted in Jerusalem for two months, each year, for a period of years.” Consider that: He didn’t even name the college! He advertised all that he had done and somehow managed to erase Mr. Armstrong, God’s apostle, and even Ambassador College, God’s college! That indicates serious rebellion.
His book Design and Development of the Scriptures included major errors about Simon Magus. Mr. Armstrong taught us all about Simon Magus, and everything he has said has been proved. But this gives you a clue to why Ernest Martin rebelled.
In the first century, the Apostle Peter encountered Simon Magus, a priest of the Babylonian mystery religion (Revelation 17:5). This man was into witchcraft and relied on demonic powers. He wanted power and succeeded in lording it over many people. He would become the leader of the great false church of Revelation 12—the church God’s people would eventually have to flee for 1,260 years. God’s Church began in a.d. 31, and Simon Magus immediately came on the scene in a.d. 33. The Catholics will tell you today their church began in a.d. 33. This is very black history.
This carnal-minded man was in extreme rebellion against God, yet he saw that the Holy Spirit really was the Spirit of power, and he wanted to buy it, as well as the office of an apostle! Peter told him, “Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money. Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee. For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity [lawlessness]” (Acts 8:20-23). Simon Magus was in the gall of bitterness and bound up in lawlessness!
Those men who leave the true Church cannot give up their gall of bitterness. Rebellion makes people bitter! Satan the devil is behind that. He wallows in bitterness. He intensely hates God and anybody associated with and knowledgeable of God. (You even see this in many people in politics these days. Nothing makes them happy—they just want to destroy like the devil.)
Never let yourself become bitter. Mr. Armstrong said it is like heroin—nearly impossible to kick. If you don’t do something to stop it, bitterness consumes you! Don’t let that happen in your life!
Simon Magus was rising to power in Rome during the reign of Emperor Claudius. He promoted himself as a god and got people to look to him as an infallible being! Records show that Simon “prophesies that Rome will be the scene of his crowning glory, when he will be adored as a god” (Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, Vol. 11). Where does that kind of thinking lead?
The church Simon Magus founded holds their traditions above God’s Word and God’s law. Consider what Cardinal James Gibbons wrote in Faith of Our Fathers: “[I]s not every Christian obliged to sanctify Sunday? … Is not the observance of this law among the most prominent of our sacred duties? But you may read in the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, and you will find not a single line authorizing the sanctification of Sunday. The Scriptures enforce the religious observance of Saturday, a day which we never sanctified” (emphasis mine). Of course, Protestants accept this too.
Jesus Christ said we need to live by every word of God (Matthew 4:4; Deuteronomy 8:3). Yet this Catholic cardinal said they would never sanctify that day. This is rebellion and bitterness against God!
They are deceived. But we love them, and in the end, I believe most of them will be converted. But God says those who add to the Word of God will be plagued, and those who take away from it will be taken out of the book of life! (Revelation 22:18-19).
These people believe they are above God’s government! They have put themselves in charge. But their authority just comes from their own human reasoning. I believe they are in the ultimate gall of bitterness.
Malachi 4 Government
We must learn all we can about God’s government. Malachi 4:5-6 tell us that we need to implement the law of God in our families. God holds parents accountable to teach their children about God’s government, which implements God’s law of love.
God warns here that ministers who fail to turn the hearts of fathers to children and children to fathers will lose their eternal lives! This is deadly serious.
Mr. Armstrong didn’t handle his son correctly, and he repented of that. He repented numerous times before the Church when he made mistakes. He loved God’s law! Did you ever hear Ernest Martin repent of anything? Did you ever hear the other evangelists, pastors, preaching elders or local church elders repent of what they did? Did you know that of all the ministers from the Worldwide Church of God, only a very few came into this Church, and I am the only one left. Satan has frightening power. These men who are so knowledgeable and scholarly turn out not to be scholarly at all in some cases. They get exposed for being pathetically unspiritual.
Mr. Armstrong wrote the Church about how much he loved Garner Ted. But he said, “My son, just before I excommunicated him, stood over me as I was seated, thundering, ‘Dad, I could destroy you!’ His wife, Shirl, telephoned, saying, ‘This is war!’ My son said in a letter that this is a war I can’t win, because, he said, it is a nationally known television personality, fighting me” (co-worker letter, Jan. 18, 1979). Who was right? It was a war, no doubt about that. Satan hates the government of God and wars against it. He is in a gall of bitterness and wants to take you there with him!
That paragraph by Mr. Armstrong was removed from the second volume of the Autobiography. The Tkaches felt it should not be in there. They didn’t want Garner Ted castigated like that because he took the devil’s side and fought against God’s Elijah and God’s government!
The Will to Fight
Habakkuk is an end-time book (Habakkuk 2:3). It begins by talking about a major crisis in God’s Church (Habakkuk 1:1-2). God made us fight for His truth in a court battle for six years! (This is all explained in my booklet Habakkuk.) God wants to know if we will fight for this priceless, precious truth! We are soldiers, and we are at war! Satan will take everything from us if we don’t fight. God wants soldiers who believe this and will put everything on the line.
“Why dost thou shew me iniquity [or lawlessness]?” it asks in verse 3. There was lawlessness because God’s government was gone. “Therefore the law is slacked, and judgment doth never go forth: for the wicked doth compass about the righteous; therefore wrong judgment proceedeth” (verse 4). The Soncino commentary says, “The wicked one literally surrounds or hems in the liberties of the righteous.” We were certainly hemmed in.
Habakkuk then talks about two individuals. God uses an individual to lead His Church, and Satan used a man to try to destroy the Church and the truth of God. It’s frightening to ponder how many of those ministers were willing to give up the government of God. A few even tried to get me to go along with the changes after Mr. Armstrong died.
I tell you, I was never tempted to go along with those people who betrayed him because, in a sense, this man saved my life! My mom was just about the strongest mom a person could have, but my father was never taught anything about child rearing. He was harsh and offered virtually no praise in my life. Having to deal with that will naturally somewhat damage your personality and your confidence. In my early 20s, I was floundering. Then a man by the name of Herbert W. Armstrong showed me a way out. He was a father figure to me.
A minister who is willing to teach God’s Word and implement God’s law is a precious gift! “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11-12). It is a gift from God to have a minister who will work to help God perfect the saints. God gives us such men because He doesn’t want us to be children any more, tossed to and fro (verse 14). He wants to give stability in your life! He wants you to be strong and faithful and confident! How many of such men do you find on Earth? But God’s government produces that. How thankful we need to be!
Jesus Christ said His number one passion “is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work” (John 4:34). That is what our Leader, the Head of the Church, lives for. How about you and me? Is our greatest passion to do God’s will and finish His Work? Is this what we really get thrilled about? I look at that and realize that I have to do more to measure up to that standard. That’s a wonderful goal—to want with all your being to do the will of God and to finish His Work! That is what Christ did. We need to follow that example, and give our lives in sacrifice to God like never before!
The glorified Christ is now in heaven—but not for much longer! Only “until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began” (Acts 3:21). Christ is about to return, and He will restore all things to this Earth with the government of God. It will be the greatest blessing mankind could ever have—that is, until God the Father gets here, and then the fullest joys God’s government can bring really begin!