The Philadelphia Church Era

by COGwriter

Philadelphia is the sixth of the seven churches listed in the Book of Revelation. The Philadelphia Church became predominant during the twentieth century.

Jesus told the Philadelphia Church:

7. "And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write, 'These things says He who is holy, He who is true, "He who has the key of David, He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens":
8 "I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it; for you have a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name.
9 Indeed I will make those of the synagogue of Satan, who say they are Jews and are not, but lie--indeed I will make them come and worship before your feet, and to know that I have loved you.
10 Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.
11 Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown.
12 He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. And I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name.
13 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches." ' (Revelation 3:7-13. NKJV throughout).

There are several differences in the promises to the Philadelphia church that do not seem to be included in the messages to the other churches.

These unique statements include: the key of David (vs.7), an open door (vs.8), a little strength (vs. 8), kept Jesus' word (vs. 8), the command to persevere (vs.10), and the promise to be kept from the hour of trial (vs. 10). These statements will be cited in this paper to help demonstrate the identity of the Philadelphia portion of the Church of God.

When Did the Philadelphia Era Begin?

Before getting to those unique statements, let's first look at when and some reasons why the Philadelphia began when it did.

Herbert W. Armstrong had been part of the Church of God, Seventh Day (CG7). A group that he later felt was part of the Sardis Church era.

In 1933, Herbert W. Armstrong refused to accept any salary from the Oregon Conference of CG7, and on October 9, 1933 he began proclaiming the gospel over radio, which he considered to be a door opened by God and "the start of the present work" (Autobiography, 1973 edition, pp. 450-455; see also Does the CCOG go through the ‘door’ of radio to reach the world?)--though he still had some affiliation with "Sardis" until he stopped preaching at one "Sardis" congregation in 1942 (see Sardis Church era).

Herbert Armstrong left CG7 primarily because of doctrine as well as the fact that to him CG7 did not seem to feel that its top priority should be to proclaim the gospel of the kingdom to the world as a witness. His autobiography contains a letter one of CG7's top leaders wrote that CG7 would not teach British Commonwealth and United States peoples were descendants of Ephraim and Manasseh, even though that leader believed what Herbert Armstrong had written on that subject was true.

The reality is that former CG7 leader A.N. Dugger had problems in being unwilling to change incorrect doctrine, proclaim certain doctrines publicly that he agreed were right, boldly try to fulfill Matthew 24:14, etc. And although Herbert Armstrong did not directly mention it, according to another former CG7 President Robert Coulter, A.N. Dugger also had some serious personal integrity issues around this time that Herbert W. Armstrong would have likely known about (Robert Coulter not only told me this personally, it is documented in his book The Journey: A History of the Church of God (Seventh Day) pp. 262, 271, 283-285, etc.). So, because of doctrinal and integrity issues, Herbert W. Armstrong left CG7 and formed a group he named the Radio Church of God (interestingly the same type of issues many decades later resulted in the formation of the Continuing Church of God).

According to Herbert W. Armstrong, while he was mainly preaching at congegrations he considered Philadelphian by then, he had one congregation that he visited about once a month in northern Oregon that he felt was part of Sardis until he, in 1942, was too busy to also service them (Armstrong HW. A History of the Church of God--The Transition from Sardis to the Philadelphia Era. Behind the Work Video Sermon, Feast of Tabernacles 1983). But he specifically taught that the Philadelphia era began in 1933 (ibid).

In a special edition of the Worldwide News dated June 24, 1985, he wrote:

“I continued to work with and fellowship with West Coast members of the Sardis era until 1942, when the rapidly growing work of the fledgling Philadelphia era required my full time. The present era was officially begun in October, 1933.”

A few years before he wrote:

"The same living Jesus Christ started the Philadelphia era of God’s Church through me, as His chosen apostle, August 1933." (What Is a Liberal?” The Worldwide News, Feb. 19, 1979)

Yet, notice that two eras were existing simulataneously, Sardis and Philadelphia according to Herbert W. Armstrong (some, like David Pack of RCG, seem to not understand that and improperly teach otherwise).

Radio Church of God Building 1934

Above is apparently the building that the old Radio Church of God (which became the old Worldwide Church of God) met at in 1935.

Herbert W. Armstrong wrote about what was going on with him in the early the late 1920s and early 1930s and concerns that he had about CG7 (all references below are from the 1973 edition--the later editions were edited by the Worldwide Church of God after his death and removed all references to 'Sardis' and 'Philadelphia'--bolding mine):

The only Church I had so far found which "kept the commandments of God, and the testimony of Jesus Christ," and at the same time bore the NAME of the original true Church, was this almost unknown little Church of God with its small publishing house in Stanberry, Missouri" (Autobiography 1973 ed., page 312).

...So, as the first step in this test, I wrote up an exposition of some 16 typewritten pages proving clearly, plainly, and beyond contradiction that a certain minor point of doctrine proclaimed by this church, based on an erroneous interpretation of a certain verse of Scripture, was in error. This was mailed to the Stanberry, Missouri, headquarters to see whether their leaders would confess error and change. The answer came back from their head man, editor of their paper and president of their "General Conference." He was forced to admit, in plain words, that their teaching on this point was false and in error. But, he explained, he feared that if any attempt was made to correct this false doctrine and publicly confess the truth, many of their members, especially those of older standing and heavy tithe payers, would be unable to accept it. He feared they would lose confidence in the Church if they found it had been in error on any point. He said he feared many would withdraw their financial support, and it might divide the Church. And therefore he felt the Church could do nothing but continue to teach and preach this doctrine which he admitted in writing to be false. Naturally, this shook my confidence considerably. This church leader, if not the church itself, was looking to people as the SOURCE of belief, instead of to God! Yet, here was the only Church holding to the one greatest basic truth of the Commandments of God and the faith of Jesus, kept in the NAME of God, and in spite of this and a few other erroneous teachings, nevertheless being closer to the whole truth than any church I had found. If this was not the true Church of God, then where was it? (pages 315-316).

...This Umapine experience was one more in which no fruit could be borne as long as I teamed with one of the ministers of this church, connected with, or springing from the Stanberry, Missouri, political center. Years later, still in my search for the one true church, still questioning whether this could be that church, still not having found it elsewhere, I asked Mrs. Runcorn (whom Mrs. Armstrong and I looked upon as our "spiritual mother") if she could point out a single real bonafide convert, brought in from the outside, resulting from the ministry of any of the preachers affiliated with "Stanberry." She thought seriously for quite a while. Then she slowly shook her head. She knew of none. I asked several others who had been in the church for years. Their answers were the same" (page 385).

...This was the crossroads -- the final pivotal, crucial test before the living Christ began opening the doors of mass communication through which GOD'S WORK at last could come to life after centuries of sleeping, and go forth in mighty power to all the world, preparing the way before Christ's return to earth as Ruler over all nations. I did not fully realize, then, that this was a crucial turning point in the history of the Church of God. My wife and I did not leave the Church. This was God's Church. Of that I was not, then, completely sure. They came closer to Biblical truth than any other -- but I was seriously disturbed by their lack of power and accomplishment. What actually was happening, though we did not understand it then, was that a NEW ERA was dawning in the history of the Church of God. The words of Christ are quoted in the 2nd and 3rd chapters of the Book of Revelation, foretelling the history of God's Church in seven successive eras, or phases. Events since that time have revealed that was the transition from the 'Sardis era' (Rev. 3:1-5) into the beginning of the 'Philadelphia era.'

Mrs. Armstrong and I continued to fellowship with these brethren. I continued to work with them, and with their ministers, as far as that was possible. The lay brethren continued to look to me for the leadership for getting the Work of God going to the world. But from that "all-day wrangle" I was independent of them and their ministers, financially. From that time I was dependent, solely, on God. We did not ask or solicit financial contributions from any except those who voluntarily became financial co-workers with us. And that has been the policy ever since" (page 448).

Now the living Christ began opening DOORS!

Later research into church history identified where we stood, at the moment, in the prophecy concerning the seven stages, or eras of God's Church from the time of the original apostles, up to Christ's return to earth and establishment of the Kingdom of God. I had been fellowshipping with, working with, the latter part of the Sardis era, as described in Christ's own words in Revelation 3:1-5. The time had come for the Philadelphia era to begin. It did begin a week later, with the ending of the Firbutte meetings, and establishment of a new local Church of God starting out with 19 members! It is to the Philadelphia era that Christ said He would OPEN DOORS that His Gospel might be worldwide, into all nations, in power.

This could not have started as long as I was being employed by MEN, ruled by MEN, not free to serve God FULLY, His way!" (page 450).

As shown in the preceding quotes, Herbert W. Armstrong left CG7 primarily because of doctrine as well as the fact that to him CG7 did not seem to feel that its top priority should be to effectively proclaim the gospel of the kingdom to the world as a witness.

His autobiography contains a letter one of CG7's top leaders wrote that CG7 would not teach British Commonwealth and United States peoples were descendants of Ephraim and Manasseh, even though that leader believed what Herbert W. Armstrong had written on that subject was true (see photo of letter from A.N. Dugger, dated July 28, 1929 in Autobiography, 1973 edition, p.372).

Herbert W. Armstrong wrote:

From the year 1931, exactly 1,900 years (a century of time cycles) from the foundation of the Church, this small remnant of the original true Church of God began to take on new life as the Philadelphia era… This era of the Church was to produce fruit…" (Armstrong H.W. Mystery of the Ages, pp. 289-290).

... after 3 1/2 years of intensive study and training, Christ ordained me to preach this same Gospel of the Kingdom in all the world as a witness to all nations (Matthew 24:14). This ordination took place at, or very near, the Day of Pentecost, 1931" (Armstrong H.W. Autobiography of Herbert W. Armstrong, 1986 edition, p. 428).

Herbert W. Armstrong had preached before then, but "by this time my whole heart was in it" and he was able to do his first extended campaign (Autobiography, 1986 edition, pp. 426, 430).

Hence, by 1937, because of his writings on the biblical Holy Days and the identity of the U.S. and British Commonwealth in prophecy, CG7 rejected Herbert W. Armstrong-so it appears that from sometime between 1931 and 1942 the Philadelphia era of the Church separated from CG7.

Herbert W. Armstrong also rejected CG7's weak approach to proclaiming the gospel. Even when he was part of CG7, Herbert W. Armstrong chided the entire CG7 church that it was not being successful in getting the warning message out to the world. This is clearly documented in a front page article in CG7's The Bible Advocate in 1928, by Herbert W. Armstrong, who wrote:

...the Adventists and the Church of God...Have either of these bodies been, so far, winning converts to the message by the thousands--by whole cities? Has this message, so far, gone forth with the POWER, the BOLDNESS, and the results in converts...?...It can't be because God is not doing His part...Folks, let's come to life! Let's awake from this state of coma. Let's tear away from the inertia that holds us...Perhaps we need MORE POWER! (Armstrong H.W. Have we tarried for the power to carry the third angel's message? The Bible Advocate, LXII, 41, October 16, 1928, pp. 431-434).

For many years, Herbert Armstrong was nearly totally alone. He and his wife kept the Feast of Tabernacles by themselves for about seven year before others started to join them. Their supporters were considered part of the Radio Church of God and most were unable to attend weekly Sabbath services for years. Their scattered supporters have similarities to those now associated with the Continuing Church of God in many parts of the world.

A Roman Catholic View

Before getting to other biblical aspects of the Philadelphia era, perhaps some might find a Roman Catholic view of interest.

There is a book titled AFTER THE WARNING 2016. And here is some of what it claims:

Sixth Church Age A Strong Ruler and a Holy Pope to the birth of Antichrist
This is the future Church age of Philadelphia
After the 10 secrets (events), Mary claims a "certain period of peace" on the earth.
It will be the Reign of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary
Holzhauser says – All Nations will be united in the Catholic Faith
  • Under the protection of the great Monarch and his Successors
  • He will submit everything to his authority,
  • He will show great zeal for the true Church.
  • The Monarch will break the empire of the Mohammedans
2038 – 2383? viewed 09/27/14

Of course, the Bible does not teach about an 'immaculate heart of Mary' (see Origin of the Marian Dogmas: Where Do Catholic Scholars Say The Four Dogmas of Mary Came From? and Mary, the Mother of Jesus and the Apparitions) and certain other Roman Catholic beliefs. It perhaps should be mentioned that the one that Catholics refer to as the "great Monarch" sounds a lot like the King of the North that the Bible warns against (Daniel 11:22-45). According to Bible prophecy, this the King of the North will persecute Philadelphia Christians, and according to Catholic prophecy their Great Monarch will persecute those that oppose a Catholic faith which the Great Monarch will have changed.

Those who would like to learn more about church history to determine the true vs. false Christian church can find the following two documented, and free, online pdf booklets of value: Continuing History of the Church of God and Where is the True Christian Church Today?

The Key of David

One of the unique statements to the Philadelphia Church was the statement about the key of David.

Herbert W. Armstrong noticed that the Church of God, Seventh Day (who he often referred to as the Sardis Church) did not have a proper form of governance nor would it accept the truth about the identity of Israel--both of which can be related to the statement about the "key of David."

Herbert Armstrong found that since God promised David: "Your kingdom shall be established forever before you. Your throne shall be established forever" (2 Samuel 7:16) and "David shall never lack a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel" (Jeremiah 33:17), that this had been fulfilled throughout history through what became the British throne--and that the current queen is a descendant. Herbert W. Armstrong considered this identity to be a major part of the "key of David." And, this was a part that CG7 always rejected, and the post-1986 Worldwide Church of God eventually rejected.

Notice, however the following from the late John Ogwyn:

The Throne of David... God explained to David that while he might punish his descendants for their sins, he would not remove the kingdom from their line as he had done with Saul...

Irish history records the remainder of this story. It tells of the prophet Jeremiah and his scribe Baruch coming to Ireland after the fall of Judah with a young princess and the coronation stone, called in Gaelic lia fail. In ancient Irish records, the princess was named Tea Tephi. She married the son of the High King of Ireland. Their descendants reigned from Tara in Ireland for many centuries. Later, in the days of Kenneth McAlpine, they transferred their place of rule to Scone in Scotland. This same dynasty continues on down to today in the person of Queen Elizabeth II, a direct descendant of Tea Tephi and her husband. God has fulfilled his promises to King David just as He said! (Ogwyn J. The United States and Great Britain in Prophecy. LCG Booklet).

The Bible also says the following about the key of David in the Old Testament:

'Then it shall be in that day, That I will call My servant Eliakim the son of Hilkiah; I will clothe him with your robe And strengthen him with your belt; I will commit your responsibility into his hand. He shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem And to the house of Judah. The key of the house of David I will lay on his shoulder; So he shall open, and no one shall shut; And he shall shut, and no one shall open. I will fasten him as a peg in a secure place, And he will become a glorious throne to his father's house (Isaiah 22:20-23).

Since this particular Eliakim never was a true king of Jerusalem, but only a leader in his father's house, the above verses seem to suggest that proper governance is part of the key of David.

In his Autobiography, Herbert W. Armstrong also wrote this about governance in CG7:

Ministers were to be employed, and under orders from lay members. This is essentially the concept of what we call democracy: government from the bottom up. Those being governed dictate who shall be their rulers and how their rulers shall rule them. The most perplexing subject in all the Bible to me was this matter of church government. I never did come to clear understanding of the BIBLE teaching on the subject until after Ambassador College was formed (pp. 411-412).

When speaking of doctrines that had been restored to the Philadelphia era of the church, Herbert W. Armstrong stated:

The government of God has been restored to the Church, and the government of God has been placed in the Church. You read that in Ephesians 4 and I Corinthians 12. Christ is the head of the Church and under Christ in the administration of the government are an apostle or apostles, then evangelists, then pastors, then all are called elders, all ministers all the way up clear down to the lowest. So then there are teachers and elders both speaking elders and preaching elders, deacons and deaconesses. And the Church is restored in that form of government. The Sardis Church even didn't have the right form of government (Armstrong HW. Mission of the Philadelphia Church Era. Sermon given on December 17, 1983 in Pasadena, California).

The Philadelphia era, according to Herbert W. Armstrong, was to have a hierarchical governance:

The Church is organized under theocratic government, hierarchical in form (Mystery of the Ages, p. 246).

The Open Door

Although all the messages to the Churches state, "I know your works," it is only to Philadelphia that Jesus says, "See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it."

What is the "open door"?

Let us look at this concept within the New Testament and let the Bible interpret itself.

Paul wrote:

12 Furthermore, when I came to Troas to preach Christ's gospel, and a door was opened to me by the Lord (2 Corinthians 2:12).

8 But I will tarry in Ephesus until Pentecost. 9 For a great and effective door has opened to me (1 Corinthians 16:8-9).

2 Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving; 3 meanwhile praying also for us, that God would open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in chains, 4 that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak (Colossians 4:2-4).

Luke wrote:

27 Now when they had come and gathered the church together, they reported all that God had done with them, and that He had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles (Acts 14:27).

Thus, the Bible is quite clear that the open door is the door to proclaim the Gospel.

Herbert W. Armstrong understood that the door was opened to proclaim the gospel:

Also a door was to be opened for this leader and/or the Philadelphia era of the Church to fulfill Matthew 24:14: 'And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached to all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come' (Mystery of the Ages, pp. 290-291).

It was not until the 20th century that the technology of automated transportation and electronic media (such as radio and television) came forth to allow the Church of God (COG) to have much international impact. Herbert W. Armstrong began to broadcast on the radio beginning in 1933 (see also Does the CCOG go through the ‘door’ of radio to reach the world?).

Herbert Armstrong wrote in the 1960s and early 1970s:

This great Work now encompasses the whole world. It now requires the full time work of hundreds of trained men and women. It now reaches millions of people every week -- our estimate is at least twenty-two million! (Armstrong HW. Co-worker Letter, May 22, 1963)

In other words, beside helping pay for the World Tomorrow broadcast on radio and television, reaching some forty million people every week, your tithes and freewill offerings are helping me to put The Plain Truth into the hands of nearly two and a half million readers who are not even asked for financial support! (Armstrong HW. Co-worker Letter, June 29, 1967)

...through our media of The Plain Truth, our broadcasts, telecasts, etc., we reach and influence into the hundred millions of people worldwide...(Armstrong HW. Co-worker Letter, September 28, 1970)

We now are reaching more than 150 million...Think of it! -- that is one in every twenty-three of all the people on earth, or one in every sixteen persons above age fourteen. (Armstrong HW. Co-worker Letter, May 28, 1971)

Herbert W. Armstrong's ministry was the most effective COG minister in post-Apostolic history when it came to numbers reached with Christ's Gospel of the Kingdom (multiple millions more were reached in the rest of the 1970s and 1980s). This makes the work of the Philadelphia Church highly significant.

For a short time, The World Tomorrow was the number one rated religious television program in the USA--a major accomplishment for such a 'little flock'. For a while its radio broadcast was also one of the most listened to. Millions also received the Plain Truth magazine. And the "gospel of the kingdom" was "preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations" (Matthew 24:14), through various media as well as through Herbert W. Armstrong's personal visits to world leaders.

However, since the remainder of Matthew 24:14 is "and then the end will come," this makes it clear that this preaching of the Gospel is to occur until the end (more information on that point is discussed in the article Should the Church Still Try to Place its Top Priority on Proclaiming the Gospel or Did Herbert W. Armstrong Change that Priority for the Work?).

Notice what Herbert W. Armstrong taught:

Our work in the hands of Christ is NOT YET FINISHED, and He will not allow the Work to stop until it is finished. And when will that be?

... since no one can know the day or the hour of His coming, we probably shall not be able to know the exact day that this 1335 days begins. But apparently that is the time when OUR WORK SHALL END. That will be a time when the UNITED EUROPE shall appear --the revival of the medieval "Holy Roman Empire." We shall then be warned, and readied to be taken to a place of refuge and safety from the Great Tribulation. Forty-five days later "the beast's" armies will surround Jerusalem. Thirty days later the Great Tribulation will probably start with a nuclear attack on London and Britain--and possibly the same day or immediately after, on United States and Canadian cities (Armstrong HW. The Time We Are In, Now. PASTOR GENERAL'S REPORT - VOL.1, NO.15 NOVEMBER 20, 1979).

Next, when our Great Commission is in God's sight completed, we are to be taken--symbolically flown on the two wings of a great eagle--we shall be taken to a place of protection from the Great Tribulation (Armstrong HW. Looking...PASTOR GENERAL'S REPORT - VOL.3, NO.4 January 23, 1981).

Currently, the Continuing Church of God is leading the final phase of the work.

Herbert W. Armstrong's church taught that the door would not be closed until the end:

Philadelphia has little strength to do this great work that God has given it to do. God has opened the door, and yet look how insignificant, how weak, how little strength we as a Church have to do that work...Revelation 3:7-13: "And to the angel of the Church in Philadelphia write these things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that OPENETH, and no man SHUTTETH; and SHUTTETH and no man openeth." The great door that God has opened to this work is the facility to go into all the world and preach the gospel; the door of radio, the door of the printing press, plus many other such doors. God has set before us an open door and no MAN can shut it. God can shut it, and He will when the work is finished and the Philadelphia Church goes to a place of safety. ...The Laodicean Church is not going to he worthy to escape to a place of safety. When it is too late, they will find that the Church of Philadelphia has gone to safety. (What Is the "LAODICEAN CHURCH"? Good News Magazine, August 1959 Vol. VIII, Number 8).

Sadly, many once in the Worldwide Church of God (WCG) simply never understood what was taught about the open door. But the Continuing Church of God still does--and its proclamation efforts are reaching millions (see, for example, Continuing Church of God first year anniversary: What is being accomplished? and/or many of the weekly Letter to the Brethren).

The Philadelphian proclamation work is part of God's plan and still needs to be done. Part of the purpose of the Philadelphia work is to get a warning to the world that the Great Tribulation and Day of the Lord will be coming and give those who will respond the opportunity to repent so that they can be saved from it.  Most would tend to think it unfair if God did not get out a warning before that happens.  Christians show Philadelphian love for others by trying to reach them, as well as telling them that they only true hope for humanity is the return of Jesus Christ and the establishment of the Kingdom of God. Most would also not consider it fair to claim that this proclamation was finished decades ago by Herbert Armstrong, before about half of the people now on the earth were born. God plans on giving some in all nations an opportunity to repent before the start of the Great Tribulation.

Perhaps it should be added that even Catholics of Rome realize that the open door to Philadelphia involved proclaiming the gospel. Notice the following comment on Revelation 3:8:

Verse 8...

He has open door...

The figure of the open door was used quite often by Christ and the apostles...a "great door" was opened to St. Paul (1 Cor. XVI. 9) to convert many to the faith. In the letter to the Colossians, the figure meant the opportunity to preach (Col. IV. 3)...The faithfulness of...Philadelphia...won for them these greater opportunities to extend the kingdom of Christ. Hence it was missionary...(Kramer H.B. L. The Book of Destiny.  Nihil Obstat: J.S. Considine, O.P., Censor Deputatus.  Imprimatur: +Joseph M. Mueller, Bishop of Sioux City, Iowa, January 26, 1956.  Reprint TAN Books, Rockford (IL), pp. 98-99).

Catholics who wish to support that true work, however, should seriously look into the genuine Church of God as the Church of Rome has made many serious changes in doctrine that the real Church of God has not made (for documentation of that, please see Which Is Faithful: The Roman Catholic Church or the Continuing Church of God?).

A Little Strength

The true Christian Church was never intended to be large.

The Apostles Paul and Jude wrote statements showing that the true Christian Church would not be large:

5 Even so then, at this present time there is a remnant according to the election of grace. (Romans 11:5)

14 Now Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men also, saying, "Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints, (Jude 14)

Jesus taught,

32 Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom (Luke 12:32).

But this has been true throughout the history of the church. But what is unique about Philadelphia in this respect? Notice what Jesus told the Philadelphians:

7 "And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write...8 you have a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name. (Revelation 3:7,8)

Herbert W. Armstrong also wrote,

But Christ said to His Philadelphia era Church, that because we have but little strength, He would OPEN THOSE DOORS TO US (Rev. 3:8) (Armstrong HW Letter 11/19/76).

A major reason that CG7 lost the mantle, and Philadelphia had to form, it because CG7's leaders would not correct known errors and teach the truth. The 'mantle-holding/retaining' Church of God is the one that is "the pillar and ground of truth" (1 Timothy 3:15). That is why God could not allow LCG, for example, to any longer be that group and part of why CCOG had to form (see also Why Bob Thiel Left the Living Church of God). Unlike the old Radio/Worldwide Church of God, LCG would not print retractions for errors that it made, but instead insisted it was proper to knowingly send out literature with errors.

Roderick Meredith once wrote:

In II Kings 2:8-15, we find the account where the great prophet Elijah was taken up into heaven — turning his office and mantle over to Elisha. Read this account carefully. Notice that Elisha expected to carryon in the power of God as had Elijah. For he asked for a "double portion" of Elijah's spirit to be upon him. As Elijah ascended up to heaven, his mantle fell on Elisha. ...

Today, you should personally awake to the fact that the mantle and power of Elijah will be manifested among God's true servants in this age.

For as John the Baptist came in the spirit and power of Elijah (Luke 1:17), so God says of our day: "Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and. dreadful day of the Lord: and he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse" (Malachi 4:5-6). (Meredith RC. Tapping Your INNER POWERS Is Not Enough. Plain Truth, October-November 1979)

Unlike Herbert Armstrong who restored truths to the Philadelphia era, and Bob Thiel who added more details to those truths, Dr. Meredith has not done that. Nor has he fulfilled the prophetic office. And it was Bob Thiel, and not Dr. Meredith, who was anointed to receive a 'double-portion' of God's Spirit (see also How To Determine If Someone is a True Prophet of God).

Dr. Meredith is not the ONE MAN that God is now primarily working through as he has in various ways disqualified himself for that role (presuming he ever had it--it may have been that it was the late Dibar Apartian who held the mantle until his death--for some details, please see Why Bob Thiel Left the Living Church of God). Dr. Meredith had years to keep his promises, but then ended up refusing to do so, despite repeatedly reminders and him repeatedly agreeing to do so.

Perhaps it should be noted that I had been told by the minister in LCG (Gaylyn Bonjour) who laid hands on me that my anointing by him on 12/15/11 for a "double-portion" of God's Spirit was the type of event that showed the passing of the mantle to me (he also said this to me in 2012).

One thing that is unique is that it is the Philadelphia portion of the Church of God that was intended to fulfill Matthew 24:14. Herbert W. Armstrong understood this as he wrote:

Also a door was to be opened for this leader and/or the Philadelphia era of the Church to fulfill Matthew 24:14: 'And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached to all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then the end shall come' (Mystery of the Ages, p.291).

...the work will continue right on to the Second Coming of Christ" (Armstrong HW. Letter dated 12/23/85).

As Jesus has not come, the gospel warning still needs to be proclaimed by the group that picked up the Philadelphia leadership mantle. The Continuing Church of God is doing the work, truly stands for the truth (1 Timothy 3:15), is reaching millions (here is a sermon with some details: Continuing Church of God (CCOG) first year anniversary: What has been accomplished?).

Getting to the mantle matter, notice the following:

Just as a message could pass along the mail route from Ephesus to Laodicea, so would the truth of God be passed from era to era.

It was like a relay race--in which the baton is passed from runner to runner, each one doing his part, until the finish line is reached. (Armstrong HW. Mystery of the Ages, Chapter 6)

{To Herbert Armstrong}: wear the heavy mantle God has laid on your shoulders. (Stoner Keith and Pamela. Pastor General's Report, February 18, 1983)

God lays the mantle on his choice (Dean A. April 3, 1997)

At the time of his death in 1986, Mr. Armstrong wondered in a prayer in the presence of the Advisory Counsel of Elders whether he was passing the baton to the Laodicea era. (Update 327 for the Week ending January 18th, 2008, CEG)

Well, the new WCG at the time of his death ended up rejecting even being Laodiceans--it became apostate--so its top leadership did not possess the mantle. I perhaps should also add that like Elijah could not, of himself pass the mantle of ecclesiastical authority (2 Kings 2:10), neither could Herbert Armstrong--it is God that appoints apostles, prophets, etc. (1 Corinthians 12:28).

In his early years, Herbert Armstrong wrote of "the mantle of authority" (Armstrong HW. Plain Truth. October 1953, p. 2). In his later years he sometimes spoke that the baton or a mantle figuratively had to do with the top leadership of the Church of God. And the Global Church of God (which lost the mantle in November 1998), then the Living Church of God, for years, basically held it (but lost it no later than between 12/15/2011 and 12/28/2012). It is now held in/by the Continuing Church of God.

Nearly two decades ago, when it seemingly held the mantle within it, the Living Church of God (LCG) taught:

...the primary function of the true Church of God is to GO to all nations and preach the same powerful message Jesus preached about the coming Kingdom of God! (Should You Be Baptized? Living Church of God Booklet. 1999; p. 17).

In Matthew 24:14, Jesus said, "And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come." You are now in touch with those who preach this Gospel, even as you read this booklet! Also, the fact that Christ said "THIS Gospel" in the middle of Matthew 24 proves that the Gospel does indeed include the prophetic events preceding the arrival of His Kingdom. It is Good News because God will be administering the only kind of medicine that will work on stubborn, carnal humanity: a forcible takeover of the planet-a divine coup d'état! (Do You Believe the True Gospel? Living Church of God Booklet. 1999; p. 17).

However, since Jesus taught that the Philadelphia Church would have a little strength, we in the Continuing Church of God understand that even though many will be exposed to the Christ's gospel of the Kingdom, that most will ignore what we teach, but that God will reign supreme.


In the 1970s, various ones had issues with the old WCG, and some were more valid than others. Although Philadelphia-predominated, I believe that various Laodicean groups began to form then.

Some went out of WCG in the 1970s and 1980s and founded other groups. The most famous to leave was probably Garner Ted Armstrong (GTA), the son of Herbert W. Armstrong. GTA allegedly had too many problems keeping aspects of the seventh commandment (adultery) and was finally put out permanently from WCG. GTA founded the Church of God, International (CGI) after he was disfellowshiped from the Worldwide Church of God (WCG) in 1978. Approximately 2 decades later, GTA was involved in a publicly reported sexually-related scandal, and many left CGI to found the Church of God Outreach Ministries (COGOM) (Ron Dart, a high level CGI official, also left to found the Christian Educational Ministries). There were many who felt that GTA may have been falsely accused, and they remained in CGI. However, after reviewing a variety of evidence (including possibly a videotape), CGI's remaining leadership felt it had no choice but to disassociate itself from GTA.

After Herbert Armstrong died in 1986, his designated successor, Joseph Tkach, Sr. claimed that while he could not fill Herbert Armstrong's shoes, he would walk in his footsteps and not change biblical doctrines. However, he did not keep his word but compromised with doctrine, advocated lawlessness, etc. This caused many to fall away, and others to scatter. Many Laodicean groups later formed.

Various groups and semi-groups with origins in the old WCG have come up with doctrines that disagree with the Bible. Most were or became Laodicean, with others perhaps leaning more towards Sardis and Thyatira. For details on several, please see the following:

Comments on the Teachings of Ron Wallen, Philip Neal, Kenneth W., GRUMPS, Jesse Arellano, and others who Profess(ed) that WCG has God's Authority Can one still believe what Herbert W. Armstrong used to teach and still be in WCG? This article addresses this important issue.
Independent Members of the COG: Herbert W. Armstrong Comments, Plus Questions and Answers What did Herbert W. Armstrong teach about being independent of the organized Church? Should independents who claim to accept Herbert W. Armstrong's teachings support the end time Philadelphian work?
Differences between the Living Church of God and United Church of God This article provides quotes information from the two of the largest groups which had their origins in WCG as well as commentary.
Concerns about Church of God, a Worldwide Association Known as COGWA, this is the largest group that came out of the United Church of God.  Here is some history and concerns about it. UCG's former president Clyde Kilough and UK CEO Peter Hawkins are part of it.
Teachings Unique to the Philadelphia Church of God Simply calling oneself 'Philadelphia' does not make one so (see Revelation 3:7-9), nor does Gerald Flurry calling himself "that prophet" make it so. This article provides many quotes from this group which tries to look faithful.
In Their Own Words: Doctrinal Differences Between the old United Church of God and the old Global Church of God Older quotes from the leadership and some of the membership of these two organizations are included without added commentary (until the end and the 7/31/98 update) which highlighted some of the differences between them.
Church of God, an International Community (COG aic) This is the group led by David Hulme. It seems to minimize parts of biblical prophecy.
Beware, Doctrinal Compromise is in the Air! Discusses some doctrines that CGCF may have had to change in order to merge with United.
Teachings of the Christian Churches of God This group reject's the deity of Jesus and has other unusual teachings.
Why Not the Restored Church of God? This group, led by David Pack, claims to be the most faithful. The information in this article suggests otherwise. Here is a version in the Spanish language: ¿Por qué no la Iglesia de Dios Restaurada?
It's Not Stedfast This group, was led by Arlen Berkey. It claimed it was the most faithful, but like others had different priorities.
God's Church, Worldwide is another group to claim it is the most faithful, but like others has different priorities.
Intercontinental Church of God ICG was Garner Ted Armstrong's last group; it is now led by Mark Armstrong.
Teachings of the Church of God, International This article focuses on where CGI differs from the old WCG.
Teachings and Practices of Legacy Institute Works mainly in Asia and is led by Leon Sexton. It has various misunderstandings.
Church of God, Southern California This article discusses some of how David Antion's group differs from the old WCG.
Church of God Outreach Ministries This was a CGI spin-off that says it is not a church.
Teachings of the Christian Churches of God This group, led by Wade Cox, reject's the deity of Jesus and has other unusual teachings.
Teachings of Triumph Prophetic Ministries William Dankenbring's ministry--incorrectly speculates on various dates and holds to some odd doctrines.
Concerns About Ronald Weinland's Church of God-Preparing for the Kingdom of God Ronald Weinland falsely claimed to be one of the two witnesses God is raising up, that the Great Tribulation began on December 14, 2008, Jesus would return late September 2011, that Jesus would return on May 27, 2012, and now that Jesus will return on May 19, 2013. Why else does the Bible show that Ron Weinland is a false prophet? He has other views which show he is not part of the Church of God.?
Worldwide Assembly of Yahweh This is what I'd call a sacred name group.
Church of God, In Truth
This is what I'd call a calendar group.
Church of the Great God This group, led by John Ritenbaugh, says the bride must first be made ready (it de-emphasizes the priority of public proclamation of the gospel). Might this lead to a selfish bride? This group also seriously seems to misunderstand end-time prophecy.
Error-Ridden James Malm Not Doing an Elijah Work James Malm is an 'independent' who misunderstands and improperly maligns.
Teachings of Christian Educational Ministries Ron Dart's confederation (not a church).
Christian Renewal Ministries International They teach Hebrew.
Is the Genuine Church of God a Cult? There are misleading statements on the internet that this article tries to address.
Christian Biblical Church of God and its Teachings Fred Coulter's group--they tend to explain conspiracies, calendar issues, and have a "sea of glass" teaching.  Plus they produce books on various subjects.

Why Bob Thiel Left the Living Church of God Several have speculated reasons, but here is the truth. (En el idioma español: ¿Por qué Bob Thiel dejó la Iglesia del Dios Viviente?)
Journal Report on Continuing Church of God Leader Bob Thiel Bob Thiel was interviewed by The Journal News of the Churches of God related to him being a prophet, the proclamation goals of the Continuing Church of God, and why he left LCG.
What About the Living Church of God? Are there Doctrinal Differences with the Continuing Church of God? This article explains some information and doctrines of the Living Church of God as led by Roderick C. Meredith and some concerns about them. (En el idioma español: ¿Qué hay acerca de la Iglesia de Dios Viviente? ¿Hay diferencias doctrinales con la Continuación de la Iglesia de Dios?)

The most faithful group is the one that has "the pillar and ground of the truth" (1 Timothy 3:15)--in other words, the group that has the most truth and values the truth above other groups.

Since Jesus had negative things to say about Laodicea (see Revelation 3:14-21), all who truly are dedicated to the Bible would want to be part of the remnant of the Philadelphia Church era, as currently represented by the Continuing Church of God. Or risk having to go through the Great Tribulation.

Kept My Word

The Philadelphians do not deny Christ's words (Revelation 3:8) and truly put the Bible above traditions of men.

We in the Continuing Church of God continue to put the word of God above positions or traditions of men and strive to be Philadelphian.

The Command to Persevere

Herbert W. Armstrong died in 1986.

Since his death, there has been a major falling away from the truth. Although this took many by surprise, Herbert W. Armstrong once publicly proclaimed in a sermon to the WCG membership that, "I don't think 50% of you get may only be 10% of you" (paraphrase). Hence, he understood this.


Well among other reasons, the Bible prophesied it:

Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first (2 Thessalonians 2:3).

The Bible warned that there would be a falling away and Jesus stated that it was the Philadelphians who:

... kept My command to persevere...(Revelation 3:10).

Jesus told the Philadelphians to:

Hold fast what you have...(Revelation 3:11).

How were the Philadelphians to persevere and what were they to hold fast to?

The obvious answer is that they were to persevere in love and the Philadelphia work--the work of fulfilling Matthew 24:14. They were also to persevere and hold fast to the doctrines that the Philadelphia portion of the church had.

Those in Sardis, according to Jesus, "have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain" (Revelation 3:1-2). Herbert W. Armstrong understood this to suggest that those in CG7 were not properly active in proclaiming the true gospel and that even though they had various truths (such as the Sabbath, Passover on the 14th, the ten commandments, the soul not being immortal, etc.), that they lost at least 18 truths that the true church originally possessed.

Herbert W. Armstrong taught,

1933...At least 18 basic and essential truths have been restored to the True Church since that year (Mystery of the Ages, Dodd & Mead, 1985, p. 251).

In a sermon titled Mission of the Philadelphia Church Era, Herbert W. Armstrong stated:

This afternoon I want to speak on the mission of the Philadelphia Era of the Church, this Church today in comparison to the first era of the Church, the Ephesus Era of the Church. It's been seeming more and more to me, as the years go by, that the Bible was written primarily for the Philadelphia Era of the Church...Today's mission of the Church you will find in Matthew 24:14. And this gospel of the kingdom…that is the same gospel that Jesus preached…shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come (Armstrong HW. Mission of the Philadelphia Church Era, Sermon. December 17, 1983).

In that sermon, he mentioned not only the mission, but truths that were restored to the Philadelphia portion of the Church of God. These are truths that the Ephesus era possessed, but had been lost by the time of the Sardis era of the Church of God (note: there are articles that cover most of these subjects at the COGwriter home page which demonstrate that they are not only biblical, but that they were in fact understood by the early church):

1. True Gospel
2. Purpose of God
3. God's Plan through the Holy Days
4. Proper Hierarchical Church Government
5. Who and What is God?
6. What and Why is Man?
7. Spirit in Man
8. Firstfruits
9. Knowledge of What the Millennium is
10. Truth About the Holy Spirit
11. Begotten Now
12. Born-Again at the Resurrection
13. Identity of Israel
14. Understanding the Identity of Physical Israel Opens Up Understanding of Bible Prophecy
15. Second and Third Tithes
16. Identity of Babylon and Her Daughters
17. Satan has Deceived the Whole World
18. We Are to Be Separate

After listing and explaining those truths, in that sermon Herbert W. Armstrong stated,

Well, brethren, all those things have been restored and there is a mission for this Church that never applied, and has never been done by any other Church (Armstrong HW. Mission of the Philadelphia Church Era, Sermon. December 17, 1983).

Information on that sermon, including the mission and those 18 truths are contained in the article Eliminating Philadelphia? Did You Know What the First Changes the Tkach Administration Made?

To see which group best teaches them, check out the Statement of Beliefs of the Continuing Church of God.

What Are the Traits of a Philadelphian?

Strong's Exhaustive Concordance shows that Philadelphia means "love of brethren" or "fond of brethren."

When Jesus used the term phileo with Simon Peter (translated as "love"), what was Peter to do to show this type of love? He was to do the work.

He said to him the third time, "Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?" Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, "Do you love Me?" And he said to Him, "Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You." Jesus said to him, "Feed My sheep" (John 21:17).

A trait of Philadelphians is that they love the brethren and will sacrifice to do so. While some may argue that this only means taking care of those already in the Church, this is inconsistent with Matthew 28:18-19 as well as Jesus' words in John 10:16: "And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd."

Philadelphians love others, not just themselves. As Herbert W. Armstrong wrote:

This era of the Church was to produce fruit (Mystery of the Ages, p. 290).

True religion--God's truth empowered with the love of God imparted by the Holy Spirit...JOY UNSPEAKABLE of knowing God and Jesus Christ--of knowing TRUTH--and the warmth of God's divine LOVE! (Mystery of the Ages)

As Jesus taught: "For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel's will save it" (Mark 8:35). Philadelphians will give their all to proclaim the Gospel.

Philadelphians have "a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name" (Revelation 3:8). They are not part of an especially strong church (or a large church by the world's standards). They have kept God's word without watering it down. They have not denied Christ's authority (which is essentially how Strong's defines the word translated as "name").

The Philadelphians accept that "Christ is head of the church" (Ephesians 5:23), and accept authority within the Church:

And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head-Christ" (Ephesians 4:11-15).

As Herbert W. Armstrong wrote:

The government of the kingdom of God is of necessity government from the top down. It cannot be 'government by the consent of those being governed'… Revelation 3:12 indicates that those of the 'Philadelphia era' will be pillars in the Headquarters Church… What I am showing you here is that Christ's gospel of the kingdom actually includes all this knowledge here revealed-even the whole universe will be ruled by us, who, with God the Father and Christ, become the kingdom of God (Mystery of the Ages, pp. 49, 347, 362).

Philadelphians are given a warning: "Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown" (Revelation 3:11). Herbert W. Armstrong wrote that he restored to the Church of God at least 18 truths that the previous era had lost (Mystery of the Ages, p. 251). Philadelphians are the ones who hold to those truths (as well as all other biblical truths)-including governance-and will be able to have a crown and to rule!

Philadelphians have "kept My command to persevere" (Revelation 3:10). Holding fast to Truth, while putting a priority on proclaiming the Gospel, is what sets the Philadelphian Church apart.

Furthermore, consider that back in 2001, in the Living Church News, the Living Church of God published what I (Bob Thiel) wrote were various criteria for Philadelphians in the article What is a True Philadelphian?:

A Philadelphian holds fast to true doctrine, does not deny Christ’s authority, keeps His word, goes through those doors that Christ opens and perseveres to the end. Because the Book of Revelation teaches that there are seven Christian churches (1:11), that the work of the last one is not acceptable (3:14-16), one is protected from the hour of trial (3:10), and that a door was open to (Philadelphia (3:7-8), there must be some Philadelphians left to complete the work of the gospel proclamation in the end times.

Because LCG was NOT keeping His word, etc., it did not meet the Philadelphia criteria, and I had no real choice but to leave that group, despite its claims to be Philadelphian (for more details, please check out Why Bob Thiel Left the Living Church of God). That led to the formation of the Continuing Church of God.

Why Protect the Philadelphians from "The Hour of Trial"?

Referring primarily to Philadelphia Christians, the late evangelist John Ogwyn wrote:

God states clearly: “He will finish the work and cut it short in righteousness” (Romans 9:28). Who will He use to do it? According to Daniel 11:32 it is “the people who know their God [that] shall be strong, and carry out great exploits.” (Ogwyn J. God’s Church Through the Ages. Booklet, p. 58)

Philadelphians are to be involved with the short work, which also includes being persecuted (Matthew 24:9-20), but they will help fulfill Matthew 24:14. This gospel proclamation success, combined with the martyrdom associated with it, will result in the opening of the fifth seal of Revelation, the start of the Great Tribulation, and the King of the North (the "he" in Daniel 11:39) invading the those with the strongest fortresses (which in the 21st century is the USA and its Anglo-Saxon descended allies; see also Anglo - America in Prophecy & the Lost Tribes of Israel).

The faithful Philadelphians will be persecuted for proclaiming the gospel:

9 Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name's sake. (Matthew 24:9).

35 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel's will save it. (Mark 8:35)

29... Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel's, 30 who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time--houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions--and in the age to come, eternal life (Mark 10:29-30).

Consider also this statement from Jesus to the Church of Philadelphia:

10 Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth (Revelation 3:10).

Some Philadelphians will have to persevere persecutions for their testimony (Daniel 11:29-35) and support of proclaiming the gospel (Matthew 24:14), prior to the start of the Great Tribulation (beginning with verse 39 in Daniel 11).

This is 'hour of trial' is the same time Christ warned about in Matthew 24:21:

21 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.

Perhaps it should be mentioned that since this has NOT happened yet, and could NOT have happened during the Apostle John's time, this is further proof that the letters to the Churches in Revelation 2 & 3 are prophetic and were NOT simply intended to be contemporary (those who discount the idea of "church eras" need to really mediate and pray about what these verses actually mean).

Additionally, the proclamation of the gospel and the timing of the tribulation is part of what is important about the Churches in Revelation 2 & 3.

Notice some of what the 13th century Roman Catholic Inquisitor Bernard Guidonis claimed he learned from those he persecuted:

Again, they claim that there is a double Antichrist, one spiritual or mystical and the other the real, greater Antichrist... Again, they say that both in the time of persecution by Antichrist and in that of the aforesaid war carnal Christians will be so afflicted that, despairing, they will say, “If Christ were God, he would not permit Christians to suffer so much and such intense evil.” Thus despairing, they will apostacize from the faith and die. But God will hide the elect spiritual individuals so that they cannot be found by Antichrist and his ministers. Then the church will be reduced to the same size as the primitive church when it was first founded. (Bernard Gui: Inquisitor’s Manual, Chapter 5. Translated by David Burr, History Department, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA. 04/09/07 ).

Notice that the idea that there was a 'place of safety' for the Philadelphians (the more spiritually elect), as opposed to the more carnal (Laodiceans) was a belief that some who opposed the Church of Rome had many centuries ago.

Herbert W. Armstrong thought those in the Body of Christ who were part of doing the work were going to be protected from the Great Tribulation. He wrote the following:

Those in the true Body of Christ shall be protected until this tribulation will be over (Rev. 3:10-11)--applying to those faithful in God's Work now going to the world. Rev 12:14; U.S.A. 26:20. But YOU must make your own decision -- and to neglect doing so is to have made the wrong decision! God isn't kidding! This is for real!...The decision in now yours! (Armstrong, Herbert W. The United States and British Commonwealth in Prophecy. 1975; p:60).

And of course he was right--the decision is yours. We all need to heed God's warning to the Laodiceans--"He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches" (Revelation 3:22).

Herbert W. Armstrong authorized a similar statement decades ago,

God will set before us an open door and no man can shut it. God can shut it, and He will when the work is finished and the Philadelphia Church has gone to the place of safety...Philadelphia has little strength to do this great work which God has given it to do...It is the Church of Laodicea who had no vital part in the work of God today even though they live today and are part of the generation which will see Christ return (What is the Laodicean Church? Good News, August 1959, p.12).

The door to proclaim the gospel was opened to the Philadelphia portion of the COG. And in the letters to the seven church of Revelation 2 & 3, it is ONLY the Philadelphians who are promised physical protection from the "hour of trial" that comes upon the whole world. Philadelphian remnant are the most faithful doing God's true work of proclaiming the gospel at the end.

It is so important, that at the time of the Great Tribulation and Day of the Lord, it is only those that are protected, the Philadelphians represented by a woman, that are considered to represent the true church. The other believers at the end are simply considered to be part of "the rest of her offspring":

14 But the woman was given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness to her place, where she is nourished for a time and times and half a time, from the presence of the serpent. 15 So the serpent spewed water out of his mouth like a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away by the flood. 16 But the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed up the flood which the dragon had spewed out of his mouth. 17 And the dragon was enraged with the woman, and he went to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ (Revelation 12:14-17).

Unlike the Philadelphians, the rest of her offspring are not promised protection from "from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth" (Revelation 3:10). And Revelation 12:17 shows that Satan the dragon will make war against them. And that would seem to include those left at the end who are part of the Thyatira, Sardis, and Laodicea Churches.

Another reason that the Philadelphians are subject to being protected is that they relied on truly biblically-based prophetic interpretations.

The reality is that those in Sardis and Laodicea simply do not understand the signs, etc. that Jesus and Daniel wrote of, hence will not know when the Great Tribulation will begin.

The Philadelphia portion of the Church of God, as led by the Continuing Church of God, best understands about:

  1. The identity of the King of the North and the related prophetic sequence in Daniel 11.
  2. The identity of the King of the South and the related prophetic sequence in Daniel 11.
  3. The proper priority of doing the work of public proclamation of the Gospel of the Kingdom.
  4. How proclaining the Gospel of the Kingdom to the world as a witness as called for in Matthew 24:14 truly ties in with the end.
  5. The relevance of Daniel 9:27, which will give us advanced warning about the end.
  6. The proper identity of the 'man of sin' which will give warning about the end.
  7. The relevance and applicability of Habakkuk 2:6-8 which will help us better give the 'Ezekiel warning' to the USA and the Anglo-Saxon descended nations as well as being a clearer indication of the end to flee (see also There is a Place of Safety for the Philadelphians. Why it May Be Petra).
  8. The proper biblical teaching and applicability of the prophesied final Elijah. Those who do not understand this will not understand the proper restoration of "all things" (Matthew 17:11), and thus not realize when it is time to flee (Matthew 24:15-20, Revelation 12:14-17).
  9. The differing persecutions (and other matters) to come in Daniel 7:25, 11:30-39, Matthew 24:9-22, and Revelation 12:14-17. Hence when the prophesied wave of persecution initially hits the Philadelphians primarily, they will not see that the Great Tribulation is about to begin.
  10. The biblical composition of the final ten-king supporters of the Beast. Those who insist on an improper interpretation will not possibly understand when the Great Tribulation will begin until it is too late.

There are other prophetic matters that others do not understand (a further list is in the article The Laodicean Church Era).

Those in the non-Philadelphian organizations need to change quickly and "gather together" with the Philadelphians in the Continuing Church of God, pray to be accounted worthy to escape what is coming (Luke 21:36), and properly change their lives so "it It may be that you will be hidden in the day of the Lord's anger" (Zephaniah 2:3) and the coming Great Tribulation (Matthew 24:21).

The Bible shows that God promises to protect the faithful Philadelphians who “gather together” (Zephaniah 2:1-3; Joel 2:16-17; Jeremiah 4:5-6) from this “hour of trial” (Revelation 3:7-10), but this promise is not made to all Christians (Revelation 12:14-17; cf. Luke 21:36).

Why Is There a Philadelphian Remnant?

The Laodicean Church is the last one mentioned in the book of Revelation (Revelation 3:14-22). As the last, it is the one that will be the most dominant at the time of the end. The word "Laodicea" can be rendered "the people rule", "judgment of the people" or the "people decide." Laodicea is characterized by a rejection of the governance accepted by the Philadelphians--the acceptance of church leaders in accordance with scripture (1 Corinthians 12:28; Ephesians 4:11-16), and by a general lukewarm attitude. Thus governance can be seen as a key distinction between Philadelphia and Laodicea. Laodicea places emphasis on self (of the individuals or the leaders as opposed to proclaiming the whole truth including the Gospel), thus it also waters down the Truth-and so is "rebuked and chastened" and counseled "to buy from Me gold refined in the fire" (Revelation 3:18-19).

Because Laodicea is dominant at the end of the age, Philadelphia cannot be predominant in numbers then. However, a portion of Philadelphia must still exist.

We know this because Jesus told the Philadelphians: "Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth. Behold, I am coming quickly!" (Revelation 3:10-11). The Philadelphians, those of the Philadelphia remnant of the Church of God, are the only ones promised protection! The Philadelphians are "given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness to her place, where she is nourished for a time and times and half a time, from the presence of the serpent" (Revelation 12:14).

Now what does love have to do with the Philadelphia remnant? Notice the following passage:

1 Let brotherly love continue. (Hebrews 13:1)

The Greek word translated as "brotherly love" is the word Philadelphia. So the following would be an accurate rendering:

1 Let Philadelphia continue. (Hebrews 13:1)

The writer of the Book of Hebrews may have been inspired by God to convey two concepts:

  1. That brotherly love needs to continue amongst those who believe that they are Christian.
  2. And perhaps that Philadelphia itself needs to continue, and it can do so, because of its emphasis on love. It is important for all to realize that despite flaws of Christians, that love is what God's way of life and His kingdom are really all about.

A Philadelphia remnant needs to continue until the end of this age. And the Continuing Church of God expects to do that and believes it has proven that it is succeeding.

Although Herbert W. Armstrong wrote that he was able to fulfill the first portion of Matthew 24:14-"And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations" (Mystery of the Ages, p. 291)-he appointed other television presenters to take over for him if he died prior to the second portion of the verse, "and then the end will come." He also wrote: "But Christ said to His Philadelphia era Church, that because we have but little strength, He would OPEN THOSE DOORS TO US (Revelation 3:8)" (Letter, Nov. 19, 1976).

Philadelphians need to keep preaching to the world until the end comes, since they will be around until the end comes. Thus, HWA knew that the work of Matthew 24:14 was not finished. It is the highly dedicated in the real Church of God that will finish the final phase of the work before (Matthew 24:14; see also the video Implications of Matthew 24:14) and during (Revelation 11:3-14) the Great Tribulation and Day of the Lord--and the final phase will also involve dealing with the ecumenical religion that will rise up (cf. Revelation 13:4,8; 14:9-13)--and this is what the Continuing Church of God is doing (see also The Final Phase of the Work).

Contrary to those who interpret HWA otherwise, the first half of Matthew 24:14 has not been completely fulfilled. It was only to the Philadelphians, the ones that are specifically promised protection, who were given the open door to proclaim the gospel. Since it is also only the Philadelphians that are promised to be protected from the tribulation, they must still exist at the time of the end. The world still does not really know of the Church of God, but this will change as the result of the work of the Philadelphians. Because the Laodicean work is not acceptable to Jesus, it makes no sense that the Laodiceans will be the ones who complete the work of proclaiming the gospel. Remember, the Laodiceans are condemned for having a work that is different than that of the Philadelphians.

A related sermon is available titled Priority of the Philadelphia Work.

Anyway, once the Philadelphia remnant Church of God gets the gospel to more of the world as a witness, this will upset the Catholics and result in persecutions described in Matthew 24:9-10 and Daniel 11:29-33. The Philadelphians will continue to do that and finally succeed by Matthew 24: 14 and instruct many (Daniel 11:32-33), but be subject to more persecution per Daniel 11:32-35.

Then the Philadelphians will flee to a place of safety in the wilderness (Revelation 12:14-16) and then the end will come (the Beast, the King of the North, will attack the USA/Britain).

Philadelphia Church Purpose Is Love, Which Means Proclaiming the Truth of the Good News

By attempting to heed Jude's admonition "to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 3), the Philadelphian Church will hold fast to the Truth that was restored in that era.

Notice what Herbert W. Armstrong wrote:

The PURPOSE for which Christ built the Church exemplifies its WORK...1) To ANNOUNCE to the world for its witness the coming Kingdom of God...2) To prepare the people to whom God adds to the Church...God has always worked with humans. He has worked with O N E  M A N at a time...The WORK consists of proclaiming the Gospel, by radio, by television, in print (Armstrong HW. JUST WHAT IS THE WORK? PASTOR GENERAL'S REPORT - VOL.3, NO.6 February 6, 1981).

The Philadelphian remnant Church of God will continue to attempt to go through whatever doors are open in order to proclaim the Gospel of the Kingdom as a witness. It will be led by one, but have others also assisting in the process.

Consider also something that the Prophet Daniel wrote:

32 Those who do wickedly against the covenant he shall corrupt with flattery; but the people who know their God shall be strong, and carry out great exploits. 33 And those of the people who understand shall instruct many (Daniel 11:31-33).

What will God's people be instructing many about? God's people will be instructing many about the mystery of iniquity, the mystery of lawlessness (for more details, read the article on the Mystery of Iniquity). This will include teaching aspects of church history that many do not grasp (so studying the booklet Continuing History of the Church of God would be helpful), what the true gospel is (so studying the booklet The Gospel of the Kingdom of God would be helpful), and explaining how to determine where the true Christian church is (so studying the booklet Where is the True Christian Church Today? would be helpful).

Notice an important criteria that Jesus set:

16 You will know them by their fruits (Matthew 7:16).

And what are the fruits?

Jesus also taught,

21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Matthew 6:21)

The Philadelphian Church will also proclaim the Ezekiel warning to the physical descendants of Israel, even if this group does not have as many "talents" as it once had (Matthew 25:15-28).

It will keep the biblical form of authority within the Church-the same form of governance that will be used in the Kingdom of God. Remember, though: just calling oneself (or one's church) "Philadelphian" does not guarantee that one actually is Philadelphian. Some who claim to be Philadelphian are not.

Why is This Important to Know?

Some say that knowledge of Church eras is unimportant, and believe that it makes no difference in how Christians live or act. Is this the correct attitude? It is not coincidental that many who de-emphasize Church eras also water down key truths restored by Herbert W. Armstrong-in some cases no longer even considering it their top priority to proclaim the full Gospel as a witness. This may help explain such an attitude-but does it excuse it? Seven times (Revelation 2; 3) Jesus warned: "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches" (e.g. Revelation 3:13). Why would He repeatedly say this if these messages were not important?

Jesus promised the Philadelphians more than just physical protection. He also said:

12 He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name (Revelation 3:12).

Who in God's Church does not want to receive these promises?

Those God has called can decide whether or not to accept and teach the truths restored to the Philadelphian Church. It is up to them-but the spiritual and physical costs of not accepting and teaching the Truth appear quite high. A Philadelphian holds fast to true doctrine, does not deny Christ's authority, keeps His word, goes through those doors that Christ opens and perseveres to the end. A Philadelphian hears "what the Spirit says to the churches."


The Philadelphians are promised to be kept from the hour of trial because they kept God's "command to persevere" or as the AV says "kept the word of my patience" (Revelation 3:10). They truly are faithful to the Word of God and are unwilling to compromise even if it results in persecution or ridicule.

If the Philadelphia era of the Church existed while Herbert W. Armstrong was alive, could this possibly mean that the remaining group of the Philadelphia era would be the ones who still believe, teach, and practice what Jude referred to as "the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 3)? (Click here for the article What is a True Philadelphian?) Would this not include the 18 truths that Herbert W. Armstrong restored to the Church of God without adding extrabiblical requirements (here is my in-process article on the 18 Restored Truths)? Would not this Church also have the same priority of proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom to the world?

Would it not believe that the word of God is the most important source of doctrine? That is what we in the Continuing Church of God believe.

I believe that God called Herbert W. Armstrong to raise up the Philadelphia era of the Church of God. I believe that the Laodicean portion of the Church began to develop while he was alive, and now is the predominant era during these end times. I believe that I was called to support the Philadelphia portion of the Church of God and proclaim the whole truth of God as part of the Philadelphia remnant of the Church of God, and now most specifically the Continuing Church of God.

The Bible clearly teaches that there must be a portion of the Philadelphia remnant Church at the end in order to go through the open door to proclaim the gospel, as well as to be physically protected during the Great Tribulation.

Jesus taught that the Philadelphia Church had the open door, that no man (including the death of Herbert W. Armstrong) can shut and that the Philadelphia Church would persevere and hold fast to the truths (Revelation 3:7-12) that it received while restoring additional truths (Matthew 17:11). The Continuing Church of God, despite imperfections, strives to that. Many others once part of the old WCG have become part of what the Bible terms The Church of the Laodiceans as they have different priorities or have picked up odd doctrines that one should not "hold fast" to.

Click here is you would like to see Joyce's Photos of Philadelphia taken in Turkey in 2008.

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B. Thiel, Ph.D. The Philadelphia Church Era. (c) 2006/2007/2008/2010/2011/2012/2013/2014/2015/2016 1224

Links of Interest May Include:

The Churches of Revelation 2 & 3 from 31 A.D. to present
The Ephesus Church Era predominant from 31 A.D. to circa 135 A.D.
The Smyrna Church Era predominant circa 135 A.D. to circa 450 A.D.
The Pergamos Church Era predominant circa 450 A.D. to circa 1050 A.D.
The Thyatira Church Era predominant circa 1050 A.D. to circa 1600 A.D.
The Sardis Church Era predominant circa 1600 A.D. to circa 1933 A.D.
The Philadelphia Church Era predominant circa 1933 A.D. to 1986 A.D. The remnant of which is best represented by the Continuing Church of God.
The Laodicean Church Era predominant circa 1986 A.D. to present

Continuing History of the Church of God This pdf booklet is a historical overview of the true Church of God and some of its main opponents from 31 A.D. to the 21st century.