Makeup and the Philadelphia Era of the Church of God

By COGwriter

One of the most frequent criticisms I used to receive from some who feel that they are faithful to the truths that God used Herbert W. Armstrong (HWA) to restore to the Philadelphia Era of the Church of God has had to do with makeup. These individuals basically have said that they would not support the end time Philadelphia work because of makeup.

This article will address what HWA taught on make-up and other matters so that any with 'eyes to see' will be able to discern if makeup critics are faithful.

First a few facts:

1) HWA allowed makeup to be worn by women several times when he was alive and part of the Philadelphia Era of the Church of God (and even wore it himself).
2) Even when HWA prohibited makeup, he allowed it for stage performers, as well as in certain non-Western cultures as he deemed it appropriate for the culture.
3) Regarding make-up, HWA stated, “Well, I want to make it plain. And it isn’t something that I am going to study and research more. That’s already been done and this is a decision. And this is final! And it isn’t going to be watered down any further in this Church! Unless it’s over my dead body, let me tell you that" (HWA Sermon, “What God Expects From Us,” Nov. 7, 1981).
4) HWA did research the subject more, but apparently relied on some inaccurate information.
5) HWA died, January 16, 1986.
6) There have been cultural changes in the US and other Western countries.
7) There is no specific scriptural admonition against makeup. Some praised-women during Old Testament times seemed to wear it.
8) Makeup is not one of the truths that HWA claimed God used him to restore to the Philadelphia era of the Church of God.
9) Preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom of God is a fundamental belief of the Philadelphia era of the COG--makeup never was.

It is true that HWA prohibited makeup at various times and for various reasons. It is true that he believed that makeup was a contributor towards vanity. I believe that it is possible that part of the reason that God allowed HWA to take such a tough anti-makeup stand later in life was to ultimately separate some of the real Philadelphians from the judgmental Pharisaical Philadelphia wannabes during this end time (similarly, I also believe God allowed HWA to appoint J. Tkach as his successor to separate non-believers as well as other Laodiceans from the Philadelphians).

It is also true that when HWA grew up, many 'respectable women' would not wear makeup. However, it is also true that many 'respectable women' would not wear silk stockings a long time ago either, yet he finally felt that it was fine for his daughters to wear them.

It is now also true that 'respectable women' in Western societies do wear makeup. And while that was becoming the case during HWA's lifetime, it is even more true since HWA died.

Perhaps I should add that although I am not a fan of piercing ears (for either males or females), ear piercing for male servants is authorized in the Bible (Exodus 21:6; Deuteronomy 15:17) and men in Israel did have earrings (Numbers 31:50) and were not condemned for it. Many in the Bible wore jewelry and were not condemned for it (and God Himself specifically approved jewelry and earrings for women in Ezekiel 16:12, though He also condemned a woman with earrings in Hosea 2:13--however, she was condemned, not for the jewelry, but for forgetting God and going after other lovers).

HWA's 1983 Research and Beyond

In spite of Herbert Armstrong's 1981 statement, HWA did research the subject of makeup again in 1983. And while he again decided against it, he admitted that there really was no specific scripture prohibiting it and that there was confusion in his understanding about one Hebrew word. Notice what HWA wrote:

No specific scripture says, "Though shall not smoke"...many would find it objectionable and obnoxious. And I knew it was harmful to my health in my lungs. Therefore it violated God's law of LOVE toward God and toward man...The same PRINCIPLE applies to make-up...

Job 42:14: Job named one of his daughters "Keren-happuch"...the temporary "doctrinal committee" tried to translate that Hebrew word into the English "eye make-up." They were in error. The same Hebrew word "happuch" is used in Isaiah 54:11 in the sentence "I will build you with stones of turquoise..." (New International Version). A footnote on this Hebrew word says: "The meaning of this word [turquoise] is uncertain." Also the Hebrew word appears in I Chronicles 29:2" (Armstrong Herbert W. Pastor General's Report. July 1, 1983).

HWA never claimed to be a Hebrew scholar (plus to a degree, scholarship into ancient Hebrew has advanced since HWA read the footnote in an NIV Bible) and apparently did not have all the relevant information on the Hebrew in those texts, which is the term pukh.

Actually, pukh is found in five verses of Hebrew Scripture (as taken from the English Standard Version in the following section unless otherwise stated).  According to John Wheeler, there are no differences in the way pukh is spelled in these verses, however, the presence or absence of the definite articles ha- and ba-/va- and the association or lack of association with other words varies. What is truly critical is the entire verbal context in which pukh is used in each verse.  Here are the five:    


(2 Kings 9:30 ESV)  When Jehu came to Jezreel, Jezebel heard of it. And she painted her eyes [Hebrew wattasèm bappukh `ênêha, hyperliterally “and she set / with the pukh / her eyes”] and adorned her head and looked out of the window.


 (Jeremiah 4:30 ESV)  And you, O desolate one, what do you mean that you dress in scarlet, that you adorn yourself with ornaments of gold, that you enlarge your eyes with paint [Hebrew ki tiqre`i (The verb root qara` is being taken here to mean figuratively “to make wide or large (of eyes)”.)  vappukh `enayikh, hyperliterally “that / you enlarge / with the pukh / your eyes”]? In vain you beautify yourself. Your lovers despise you; they seek your life. 


(Isaiah 54:11 ESV)  "O afflicted one, storm-tossed and not comforted, behold, I will set your stones in antimony (Note that the English Standard Version translates pukh as “antimony” whenever the context relates to the setting of stones. Other versions handle the matter differently.) [Hebrew anokhî marbîts bappukh avanayikh, hyperliterally “I / am setting (or, am about to set) / in the pukh / your stones”], and lay your foundations with sapphires.

(1 Chronicles 29:2 ESV)  So I have provided for the house of my God, so far as I was able, the gold for the things of gold, the silver for the things of silver, and the bronze for the things of bronze, the iron for the things of iron, and wood for the things of wood, besides great quantities of onyx and stones for setting, antimony [KJV glistering stones; Hebrew avnê – pukh or “stones of pukh”), colored stones, all sorts of precious stones and marble. 

(Job 42:14 ESV)  And he called the name of the first daughter Jemimah, and the name of the second Keziah, and the name of the third Keren-happuch [Hebrew qèrèn happukh, literally “the horn of pukh”].


The verses were placed in the above order to provide some hint at how the various uses of pukh are derived. Fundamentally, pukh refers to “antimony, stibium, black paint” and by extension “eye cosmetic” (Cf. the BDB Lexicon (abridged e-Sword edition), Strong’s #H6320).  


A more complete source (The New BDBG Hebrew-Aramaic Lexicon, Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, MA., 1979), p. 806b) defines pukh as “antimony, stibium”, noting that pukh is a “black mineral powder, for increasing brilliance of eyes by darkening edges of lids,” as in 2 Kings 9:30 and Jeremiah 4:30 (and among the Arabs and in ancient Egypt). And we know that in these contexts, pukh is the soft metal antimony, powdered and processed. In two verses pukh clearly refers to “eye shadow” (so to speak).  


Figuratively (in Isaiah 54:11), anokhî marbîts bappukh avanayikh may refer to a dark cement setting off precious stones (but there are other opinions) (ibid., pp. 806b, 656a.). In 1 Chronicles 29:2, avnê – pukh “are perh[aps] stones of brilliant hue of antimony.”


Finally, one is invited to consider that qèrèn happukh in Job 42:14 is rendered as “horn of antimony, i.e. beautifier” (ibid, p. 902a.). In Isaiah 54:11 and 1 Chronicles 29:2, however, the context is not so clear. Most likely, the beauty of the purified metal itself (before it is burnt and ground) is taken as a figure for the beauty of something else. This accounts for why the KJV and the NIV (respectively) translate avnê – pukh in 1 Chronicles 29:2 as “glistering stones” and “turquoise.” Which has long been consistent with eye makeup.


Esther Apparently Was Given Makeup and Thus Would Have Worn It


There are other parts of the Bible to also consider.


Queen Esther was given beauty treatments, that likely included cosmetics such as makeup.


Notice the following related to Esther, the heroinne of the Book of Esther:

3 And let the king appoint officers in all the provinces of his kingdom to gather all the beautiful young virgins to the harem in Susa the capital, under custody of Hegai, the king's eunuch, who is in charge of the women. Let their cosmetics be given them. (Esther 2:3, ESV)


9 And the young woman pleased him and won his favor. And he quickly provided her with her cosmetics and her portion of food, and with seven chosen young women from the king's palace (Esther 2:9 ESV)


Before a girl's turn came to go in to King Xerxes, she had to complete twelve months of beauty treatments prescribed for the women, six months with oil of myrrh and six with perfumes and cosmetics. (Esther 2:12 NIV)

Of course, different translators use different words at times. The following is the NKJV translation of these verses:

3 and let the king appoint officers in all the provinces of his kingdom, that they may gather all the beautiful young virgins to Shushan the citadel, into the women's quarters, under the custody of Hegai the king's eunuch, custodian of the women. And let beauty preparations be given them.

9 Now the young woman pleased him, and she obtained his favor; so he readily gave beauty preparations to her, besides her allowance. Then seven choice maidservants were provided for her from the king's palace, and he moved her and her maidservants to the best place in the house of the women.

12 Each young woman's turn came to go in to King Ahasuerus after she had completed twelve months' preparation, according to the regulations for the women, for thus were the days of their preparation apportioned: six months with oil of myrrh, and six months with perfumes and preparations for beautifying women. (Esther 2:3, 9, 12, NKJV)

Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary agree that cosmetics were given and used as part of the above beauty treatments:

12. Now when every maid's turn was come to go in to king Ahasuerus-A whole year was spent in preparation for the intended honor. Considering that this took place in a palace, the long period prescribed, together with the profusion of costly and fragrant cosmetics employed, was probably required by state etiquette.

While beauty treatments do not always have to mean makeup, the reality is that beauty treatments back in that time included makeup.


Thus, Esther most likely wore makeup.

Isaiah 3:16

Isaiah 3:16 is sometimes cited, out-of-context, as a condemnation of makeup. Let's look at it below:

Moreover the LORD says:

"Because the daughters of Zion are haughty,
And walk with outstretched necks
And wanton eyes,
Walking and mincing as they go,
Making a jingling with their feet,

Perhaps I should add that the expression translated as "wanton eyes" in Isaiah 3:16 is made up of two Hebrew expressions (saqar-wanton and `ayin-eyes ), which while in English might sound like eye makeup, in fact they are not derived from, nor directly related to, the Hebrew word pukh. Here is a definition of the word the NKJV translates as wanton:

saqar (saw-kar'); a primitive root; to ogle, i.e. blink coquettishly (Biblesoft's New Exhaustive Strong's Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. Copyright (c) 1994, Biblesoft and International Bible Translators, Inc.).

Isaiah 3:16 also condemns "jingling with the feet" (NKJV), but, to me at least, that does not sound like Isaiah 3:16 is a condemnation of toenail polish either. Essentially, Isaiah 3:16 seems to be condemning intentional seductive actions--it never condemns makeup.

Now to show the context, it should be noted what the verses that follow Isaiah 3:16 actually state:

17 Therefore the Lord will strike with a scab
The crown of the head of the daughters of Zion,
And the LORD will uncover their secret parts."

18 In that day the Lord will take away the finery:
The jingling anklets, the scarves, and the crescents;
19 The pendants, the bracelets, and the veils;
20 The headdresses, the leg ornaments, and the headbands;
The perfume boxes, the charms, 21 and the rings;
The nose jewels, 22 the festal apparel, and the mantles;
The outer garments, the purses, 23 and the mirrors;
The fine linen, the turbans, and the robes (Isaiah 3:17-23).

Two points:

  1. If God was condemning makeup why was that not listed among the things that God was taking away?
  2. Since God took away scarves, headdresses, rings, nose jewels, festal apparel, outer garments, purses, mirrors, fine linen, turbans, and robes, and those are all specifically considered normal for people in various parts of the Bible, then it does not appear that verse 16 is condemning any specific item of dress or makeup, but an attitude of lust and vanity.

Is that not clear?

More on Hebrew

Of course, everything in ancient languages is not clear and often can be confusing.


Some who look at ancient languages sometimes take a derivative and figurative meaning of a word as having greater importance than a primary and literal meaning. If the Hebrew term ha- is indeed the definite article “the” and not part of the passive form hafukh (“turned”) as based on the verb root hapakh (as some scholars have suggested), then the phrase qèrèn happukh (“the horn of pukh”), though applied as a personal name, refers to the primary and literal meaning of pukh – and to the one major way in which pukh was used. Hebrew can be perplexing at times.


Hopefully some of this may help explain how Herbert Armstrong may have been somewhat confused.  


Furthermore, antimony was used commonly as eye makeup in the ancient Middle East (as it is today) and was highly prized (especially in Egypt). Animal horns also were used commonly to contain various products, including the anointing oil used for cosmetic and sacred purposes. “The horn of pukh”, then, most likely would be an ancient equivalent of a container of eye shadow (or possibly the ray of light that such eye shadow reflects), which the ancient Middle Eastern woman often used in quantities that no typical Western woman would countenance. 


Consider, that for Job to call his third daughter “Keren-happuch”, that this would be roughly equivalent to one of us calling his daughter “Mascara”. This may seem strange to us, but it certainly indicates that Job – like his contemporaries, and like Middle Easterners today – saw nothing wrong of itself with the use of pukh as eye shadow. On the contrary, it was so much a part of Job’s culture that he counted the comparison of his daughter’s beauty to the effects of “eye shadow” as a worthy one. 


I would like to thank John Wheeler for his assistance with the Hebrew above.   


Lest anyone think that this information about the meaning of Job's daughter's name is only our opinion, the following citations should add some additional light on what this means:

H7163 קרן הפּוּך qeren happûk
keh'-ren hap-pook'
From H7161 and H6320; horn of cosmetic; Keren-hap-Puk, one of Job’s daughters: - Keren-happuch. (Meyers, R. e-Sword, Version 7.1.0. Copyright 2000-2004).

H6320 פּוּך pûk
From an unused root meaning to paint; dye (specifically stibium for the eyes): - fair colours, glistering, paint [-ed] (-ing). (Meyers, R. e-Sword, Version 7.1.0. Copyright 2000-2004).

KEREN-HAPPUCH ("a ray of eye paint") i.e. very beautiful eyes or a cosmetic case in the shape of a horn...Job 42:14 (Wigoder G, ed. Illustrated Dictionary and Concordance of the Bible. Sterling Publishing, NY, 2005, p. 553).

OT:7163 Qeren Happuwk (keh'-ren hap-pook'); from OT:7161 and OT:6320; horn of cosmetic; Keren-hap-Puk, one of Job's daughters (Biblesoft's New Exhaustive Strong's Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. Copyright (c) 1994, Biblesoft and International Bible Translators, Inc.).

OT:7161 qeren (keh'-ren); from OT:7160; a horn (as projecting); by implication, a flask, cornet; by resembl. an elephant's tooth (i.e. ivory), a corner (of the altar), a peak (of a mountain), a ray (of light); figuratively, power (Biblesoft's New Exhaustive Strong's Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. Copyright (c) 1994, Biblesoft and International Bible Translators, Inc.).

OT:7160 qaran (kaw-ran'); a primitive root; to push or gore; used only as denominative from OT:7161, to shoot out horns; figuratively, rays (Biblesoft's New Exhaustive Strong's Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. Copyright (c) 1994, Biblesoft and International Bible Translators, Inc.).

OT:6320 puwk (pook); from an unused root meaning to paint; dye (specifically, stibium for the eyes): KJV - fair colours, glistering, paint [-ed] (-ing).(Biblesoft's New Exhaustive Strong's Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. Copyright (c) 1994, Biblesoft and International Bible Translators, Inc.).

Let's look at the writings of another scholar concerning the meaning of Job's daughter's name:

The third Keren-happuch (that is Plenty restored, or A horn of paint), because (says he) God had wiped away the tears which fouled his face, Job 16:16. (from Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible: New Modern Edition, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1991 by Hendrickson Publishers, Inc.).

Essentially, the above is referring to face paint, or more specifically eye make-up. Notice also:

Keren-Happuch is written this way: קֶ֫רֶן Qof Resh and Khaf (sofit) Qof is a picture of a queen, Resh means head or crown and Khaf means a palm. Keren-Happuch means cosmetic box. (The secret behind Job’s daughters. March 9, 2014)

The Jewish Encyclopedia teaches:

The name Rebekah seems to be derived from a sheep-rope, Peninnah from coral, and Keren-happuch from a box of face-paint. (NAMES (PERSONAL. Jewish Encyclopedia of 1906))

The Septuagint often used literal meanings in Greek when such a meaning existed. So, it translates Keren-happuch as Ἀμαλθείας κέρας (amaltheias keras), meaning "horn of Amaltheia"; a kind of blue eyeshadow,

Now, let us specifically look at what the passage in Job states:

And he called the name of the first Jemimah, the name of the second Keziah, and the name of the third Keren-Happuch. In all the land were found no women so beautiful as the daughters of Job (Job 42:14-15, NKJV).

Notice that Job's daughters were praised for being very beautiful. So beautiful that one apparently had eyes naturally so pretty, that she was named plenty of eye-makeup or a ray of eye paint. If cosmetics were prohibited by God, then it is not likely that Job would have used had a term connoting cosmetics in her name. Interestingly, Job named his second daughter Keziah meaning a peeling from cassia (an aromatic bark), which is a translation of the Hebrew word qetsî`a ( קציע ). In effect, he named his second and third daughters “Perfume” and “Mascara” respectively. They likely wore makeup as well.

History shows that wealthy women in ancient times used make-up. The term puwk is used twice in references to Queen Jezebel in the Old Testament (Jeremiah 4:30 and II Kings 9:30) and the fact is that puwk does mean eye make-up in those passages (and HWA agrees with that--hence the word would have to mean the same thing in Job 42). By letting the Bible interpret itself, the Bible does seem to support the view that puwk as part of Job's daughter's name means eye make-up. The fact that HWA's close advisors at that time probably were also not Hebrew scholars and did not wish to challenge him on that, is unfortunate.

I, and many others, also recall HWA repeatedly stating not to believe him, but believe what is in the Bible. And that is all I did--I personally verified the Hebrew in more than one Hebrew Bible, thus by teaching what I am, I believe I am teaching what HWA would have taught if he really did understand all the facts. However, it should be noted that for a while he did have some who understood at least part of the Hebrew for look at what his Good News magazine stated:

Jezebel was condemned for her wrong motivations and her evil actions rather then her use of eye makeup, per se. On the positive side, one of Job's daughters was named Keren-happuch. Translated from the Hebrew this means "horn of eye-paint" or "horn of cosmetics". The Jewish Bible translates her name as "Mascara".

Christ's and Paul's examples were to respect the outward physical customs of their day...And makeup worn in moderation and good taste can be beneficial to a woman's appearance (Q&A. Good News Magazine, January 1976, p. 13).

Another fact that should be mentioned is that although there exists a footnote in the 1987 version of the NIV Interlinear about the word in Isaiah 54:11 (that version specifically states, "The meaning of the Hebrew for this word is uncertain"), there is no such footnote regarding the words used in either 1 Chronicles 29:2 or Job 42:14--as they are understood by most Hebrew scholars--the confusion that the NIV scholars apparently had here was one of context.

Thus, it appears that the Old Testament does allow for the possibility that makeup was not condemned, but actually endorsed by a servant of God (Job).

21st Century Females

Since HWA died, young women have begun (in great numbers) to have tattoos on various parts of their bodies (which is in direct violation of Leviticus 19:28; see also Tattoos: History and Biblical Teachings), have multiple body piercings, sometimes wear sheer clothing, low-cut blouses, pants with major portions cut out to expose skin, and often to wear low-cut 'hip-hugger' and other similar-styled clothing (see also Pornography: A scourge on society). In modern Western cultures, those behaviors are considered to be something that respectable women try to avoid; non-garish use of makeup is simply not considered to be in that category.

While I feel that the adult females in the COG can handle no makeup restrictions if need be, it is my strong opinion that current COG teenage females and other possible female converts have enough difficulties without adding the no makeup burden (perhaps it should be understood that I have no daughters nor any other teenage female COG relatives)--the situation in Acts 15 seems to apply here:

But some of the sect of the Pharisees who believed rose up, saying, 'It is necessary to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.' Now the apostles and elders came together to consider this matter...Therefore I judge that we should not trouble those from among the Gentiles who are turning to God, But that we write to them to abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from things strangled, and from blood (vss. 5-6,19-20).

Remember that we all wish that teenage COG females will be turning to God (as well as those females called from outside the COGs). What was the result of this decision among the elders of the Church?

And as they went through the cities, they delivered to them the decrees to keep, which were determined by the apostles and elders at Jerusalem. So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and increased in number daily (Acts 16:4-5).

The context of Acts 15 is that the certain physical acts, like circumcision, were, at that time, believed to be unnecessary impediments to conversion. Makeup seems to be in a similar category.

Changing an Apostle's Position?

The fact is that HWA must have considered makeup somewhat of a cultural matter (though with spiritual ramifications), as he changed his position on it several times (many forget the temporary restriction on AC students) while he was alive. In addition, the last time he ruled against it, he allowed makeup to be worn in areas he felt it was appropriate for the culture. He also wore it himself,

Me wear make-up? Never in a million years!...Finally, on promise I could try it later without make-up, I consented to let the make-up man start chalking up my face (Armstrong HW. Autobiography of Herbert W. Armstrong, Volume 2, p. 296).

I have confirmed with two former WCG employees (on 11/30/02 and 12/11/02 respectively) that HWA wore makeup pretty much every time he did the telecast, even when makeup restrictions were in place for the Church in general. In addition, he allowed the Young Ambassadors and others to wear it when they were on stage. The reason I was told that he allowed it was because it allowed the stage performers to "look more natural" on stage.

Furthermore, a third formed WCG employee told me on 11/30/02 that probably the primary reason HWA reversed his makeup position in 1981 was due to a particular woman (who is still alive, so I will not mention her name) who did not seem to understand the term "modest use''--she apparently had an entire makeup room at her house and felt that massive amounts of makeup constituted "modest use". So it appears that the principle behind acceptable use of makeup is "love for neighbor" in the sense of using makeup to "look more natural" rather than painting oneself to look unnatural.

Some have stated that since HWA was an apostle, that no non-apostle should be able to change HWA's makeup position. HWA said ("What God Expects From Us", Sermon, 11/7/81) that he would not again change the makeup ruling in his lifetime. Some will argue, correctly, that HWA did not personally mean that it should be changed after his death. But others of us believe that God specifically inspired that statement to be made and recorded so that this was a matter that could have been changed after HWA's death (especially if the Bible supported the change).

Now let's look at the Apostle Paul. He was unmarried and he told people that it was best to remain unmarried (I Corinthians 7:25-26). But, God also inspired him to add that this was "because of the present distress" (vs. 26). Otherwise, it could be argued, based on Paul's writings (vss. 25-40) as many of the Catholics do, that being unmarried is the better state. Furthermore, it could be argued that one who remained unmarried was more faithful to the teachings of the Apostle Paul than those who got married. But Jesus argued in favor of marriage (Matthew 19:4-6).

Of course no one has to get married and no one has to wear makeup. Furthermore, in a sermon, HWA stated that the Apostle Paul's comments in I Corinthians 7 were only an opinion and personal judgment--HWA argued that marriage was better for the individual and the Church. HWA always said that the 'present distress' comment was one of the main reasons that HWA could differ from Paul on this subject--similarly, HWA's comment that makeup would not be changed while he lived is truly in the same line of reasoning.

The most important point is that there is no specific scriptural admonition against makeup (as even HWA himself acknowledged). Some, including HWA, mentioned that the same situation existed regarding smoking, but although that is technically accurate, it is not the same thing. Specifically, smoking always violates the standard of loving one's neighbor, plus it violates the command against sinning against the body (Romans 6:19). It always does. Modest use of makeup is simply not in the same category.

Perhaps I should add that even after HWA wrote against the use of makeup, around 1984 he specifically told Aaron Dean (who told me this 10/23/06) that it was acceptable for one of Aaron Dean's in-laws to wear eyebrow liner as her eyebrows were too sparse to be seen. HWA specifically told Aaron Dean that his real objection was not the use of makeup to look normal, but against the use of excessive makeup to look like some type of a loose woman. And since I believe that was his final belief, and a belief consistent with scripture, I believe that a true COG simply does not have to prohibit the non-garish use of makeup.

Philadelphia Era of the Church of God

Interestingly, it is this makeup issue which I believe is what separates many of those who claim to be Philadelphians. Makeup is one of the biggest issues of the now failed Stedfast Church of God (SCG), the Restored Church of God (RCG), and some other small groups, like the Enduring COG.

Jesus said:

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: 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. 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. 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! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown. 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. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches' (Revelation 3:7-13).

Herbert Armstrong wrote that he restored to the Philadelphia era of the Church of God at least 18 truths that the previous era(s) had lost (Mystery of the Ages, p. 251). Herbert Armstrong gave a sermon titled Mission of the Philadelphia Church Era on December 17, 1983, where he listed the mission and those 18 truths. Makeup not only was not one of them, it was not mentioned in the entire sermon. The sermon begins with:

"Greetings, everybody! 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, at 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.

After listing the restored truths HWA states:

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. This gospel of the kingdom has been restored and shall be preached in all the world for a witness to all nations.

Thus the standards that HWA stated were set for the Philadelphia era of the Church of God is that it would place its top priority on proclaiming the Gospel to the world while retaining those 18 truths.

Jesus said He set before the Philadelphia era an open door. Herbert Armstrong wrote, like the Apostle Paul (II Corinthians 2:12; I Corinthians 16:9), that this door was open to proclaim the gospel (Acts 14:27). Jesus warned this era, "Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown" (Revelation 3:11)--holding fast would seem to be to keep the truths that it had restored. Thus Jesus' comments appear to be consistent with HWA's on this matter (HWA never referred to make-up as a 'restored truth'). Herbert Armstrong wrote that Philadelphians were to be "A TEAM TOGETHER" to "carry out the work of God" (Mystery of the Ages, pp.266). The anti-makeup groups seem to ignore what HWA taught about the Philadelphia era of the Church of God, as they simply do not meet the criteria that HWA set.

There are several anti-makeup Churches of God who claim to believe the 18 truths (though most actually use the list developed by the Tkach administration and do not use the list that Herbert Armstrong gave). Jesus said, "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (Matthew 6:21). And for Philadelphians, that means supporting the public proclamation of Christ's gospel of the kingdom to the world as a witness (Matthew 24:14).

One such argument I received from an anti-makeup COG'r was,

The smaller anti-Makeup groups for the most part don't have the resources or (regretfully) competence to do a worldwide work. They are hard pressed to work their daily jobs and get tapes, holy day related and basic information out to their small flocks. They are striving to hold fast and basically the only Apostle we have had is still leading these groups. And makeup is just one of the doctrines + the restored truths that they are holding onto.

The writer of that should ask himself, why don't they have the resources or competence or faith to try to do a worldwide work? Perhaps it is because God is not blessing them to do so. Remember it is Jesus who taught, "You will know them by their fruits" (Matthew 7:16).

We in the Continuing Church of God have a very small budget and yet reach millions around the world regularly on the internet and the radio. I believe that the work gets done because of God's Spirit (cf. Zechariah 4:6-10), and that as we do possess the Philadelphia mantle (see Herbert W. Armstrong, the Philadelphia Church, & the Mantle) and represent the woman of Revelation 12:14-16--the faithful Philadelphian church doing the end time work. We in the Continuing Church of God have also been the fastest growing COG in the 21st century. We have the fruits that the makeup focused churches have not had.

Pharisees and Vanity

The religious leaders in Jesus' day felt that all needed to follow the traditions of their elders. They also felt that certain physical actions were more important than obeying the Bible.

Anti-makeup COGr's need to meditate on the ramifications of this:

Then the scribes and Pharisees who were from Jerusalem came to Jesus, saying, "Why do Your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread." He answered and said to them, "Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition? For God commanded, saying, 'Honor your father and your mother'; and, 'He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.' But you say, 'Whoever says to his father or mother, "Whatever profit you might have received from me is a gift to God"-- Then he need not honor his father or mother.' Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition. Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying: 'These people draw near to Me with their mouth, And honor Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.' " (Matthew 15:1-9).

Although it was certainly reasonable for the Pharisees to argue with a biblical basis that one should wash one's hands before eating (to eliminate the possibility of accidentally consuming a portion of a bug or some unclean thing) Jesus used this practice to point out the fact that they overlooked more important matters. Jesus also told them, "Blind guides, who strain a gnat and swallow a camel" (Matthew 23:24).

The Apostle Paul also seemed to have had experiences with those more focused on outward appearances than proclaiming the Gospel:

Do you look at things according to the outward appearance?...For we dare not class ourselves or compare ourselves with those who commend themselves. But they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise...for it was to you that we came with the gospel of Christ; Not boasting of things beyond measure, that is, in other men's labors, but having hope, that as your faith is increased, we shall be greatly enlarged by you in our sphere, To preach the gospel in the regions beyond you (II Corinthians 10:7,12,14-16).

The fact is that the anti-makeup individuals and groups seem to be like the Pharisees (Matthew 15:1-9;23:23-24)--they seem to miss the point and are primarily focused on outward appearances. If you are a man who is highly concerned about the makeup issue, please ask yourself, are you female? Did you ever wear makeup? Thus, if you are male, is it truly relevant for you or does this subject simply make you possibly judgmental? Could it be possible that makeup wearing for others is bothering you more than it should?

Jesus condemned the Pharisees repeatedly for their focus on outward appearance (Luke 11:39-45,16:15; Matthew 23:25-30). (For are article of possible interest please read, Are the Laodiceans the Moderns Sadducees and Pharisees?)

Vanity is the problem. That is what HWA wrote:

How many women professing to be God's women in His Church are allowing vanity, the root of sin, to lead them to perverted REASONING to try to justify sin? (Pastor General's Report. July 1, 1983).

Every man at his best state is altogether vanity (Ecclesiastes 1:2; Psalm 39:5-6). Vanity is the problem related to makeup. Sometimes for the wearers, sometimes for the judgmental. If you believe you should not wear makeup, then the Bible says don't (i.e. "whatsoever is not from faith is sin", Romans 14:23).

But if you think that your position on makeup makes you more 'spiritual.' then you should be able to tolerate those who do not agree with you--for the Apostle Paul wrote:

We then who are strong ought to bear with the scruples of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, leading to edification (Romans 15:1-2).

Note that Paul did not say to disassociate yourselves from such people, did not say to not do the work, etc. Actually there were believers he said to disassociate from (the sexually immoral who claim to be Christians, I Corinthians 5:9) and I do not believe that applies to women who wear non-garish amounts of makeup.

Perhaps it should be added here that when the Apostle Paul did discuss appearance for believers, this is what he actually said:

In like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, But, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works (I Timothy 2:9-10).

Note that he was more worried that they may appear wealthy in their appearance than any possible reference to makeup. Actually, his writings state that women should appear like that "which is proper for women professing godliness"--and in today's culture that could certainly be construed to include non-garish use of makeup.

A Twig or a Fundamental Belief?

Makeup is not a restored truth (please read the article on the 18 truths which quotes HWA) nor a fundamental belief of the Church. Compared to getting the gospel out, makeup is a twig issue. During 1/2 the time HWA was in charge of the Philadelphia era of the Church of God (1934-1986), makeup was allowed (1934-1955 and 1974-1981).

Regarding make-up HWA taught "Is this a little thing? Yes, but it’s a great big thing in principle" (HWA sermon First Day of Unleavened Bread, April 16, 1985)--and he is right that the principle of vanity is a big thing. But is makeup a subject that is as important as proclaiming the Gospel?

Not according to HWA as he wrote:

It is true that Baptists, fundamental Methodists, and other Protestant denominations, do teach some things as we do--but they have the branches and twigs of the tree--NOT ONE OF THEM has the real TRUNK of the tree--with its MAIN BRANCHES...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)" (HWA November 19, 1976 letter).

Makeup never was a fundamental belief of the Philadelphia era of the Church of God, as it is not even mentioned in HWA's Fundamentals of Belief, Radio Church of God--nor was it ever a truth that HWA claimed was restored to the Philadelphia portion of the COG.

But, preaching the Gospel is for:

...the mission of the Church in this time is to preach the Gospel (good news) of coming KINGDOM OF GOD (with special stress on the warning America and Britain of the prophecies pertaining to them), into all nations as a witness, reaching vast multitudes with power and conviction; to reconcile to God, and to save through Christ, such people as are now called" (Fundamentals of Belief, Radio Church of God as quoted in Early Writings of Herbert W. Armstrong. R. Nickels, editor. Giving & Sharing, Neck City (MO), 1996, p. 31).

The Philadelphia remnant of the Church of God needs to hold to all the fundamental beliefs including preaching the Gospel (see also Statement of Beliefs of the Continuing Church of God).

For some reason, the anti-makeup types that claim to follow the teachings of HWA forget that getting the Gospel out is NOT a 'little thing' or a twig issue--preaching the Gospel (according to HWA) is a fundamental belief, as well as the mission of the Philadelphia era of the Church of God (see also 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?).

Here is some of what HWA once wrote about makeup:

It has been brought to my attention that the question of women using make-up has been rising once again in the Church.

The doctrinal research team I appointed has carefully and thoroughly researched the question and determined definitely that the scriptures we used which appeared to condemn any use of cosmetics whatsoever on the face are, in fact, misleading.

For example, Isaiah 3:16 actually says, 'wanton glances' in Hebrew, not 'eye painting.' Makeup is actually not mentioned at all in Isaiah 3...

No woman in God's Church should ever APPEAR 'painted.' As we relax moderately on this question, women must be cautioned against overuse, bad taste, and that the scriptures admonish women to retain MODESTY...

I do not want to see God's women dressing and grooming so VERY plainly and UNworldly that they appear to be wearing a 'religious uniform.' That is, to set themselves so far off from 'the world' as a whole that they actually APPEAR 'religious' -- and, also, a little ridiculous. And frankly, some of our women DO - they go too far to the extreme in plainness. "Our women must avoid the overdone Hollywood glamour-girl grooming on the one hand, and the plain UN-beautiful eyesore 'religious uniform' appearance on the other. Both men and women should dress in a manner that does not attract special attention because of grooming or appearance too far from the average. And we should take a little pride in our appearance -- not from VANITY, but to be pleasing to others...

If, on a slight relaxing of our policy on make-up, some woman appears too far toward overdoing it, the minister should speak to her privately about it -- kindly -- but still admonishing her" [Armstrong, HW. Ministerial Bulletin, October 23, 1974. Quoted in Who is telling the truth about makeup doctrine changes, Wayne Cole or HWA? Note: I have also seen a photocopy of the original Bulletin article and it agrees with what I posted].

The average women in the 21st century wears makeup. I should add that Jesus blended in so well with the average, that He walked through a crowd that wanted to stone Him (John 10:31-29) and had to be personally identified by Judas (Matthew 26:48).

Although it is reported that HWA objected to his 1974 article, notice that specifically he was mainly objecting to what was added after what he wrote,

In my absence my brief statement [Oct. 1974] appeared with my signature under it. WHAT I NEVER KNEW UNTIL NOW was that, after my signature, Wayne Cole, then director of Pastoral Administration, added a few pages giving the new liberal watered down reasoning, changing the truth of God [Armstrong WA. Worldwide News, November 16, 1981 as quoted in Who is telling the truth about makeup doctrine changes, Wayne Cole or HWA?].

Furthermore, when the change to once allow makeup was made in 1974, RC Meredith told me (01/04/07) that he personally asked HWA about it. HWA not only confirmed that he wanted to allow makeup, HWA specifically stated, "I don't want our women to look like Salvation Army women." Now some will say that HWA "repented" for the 1974 change, and while that may be so, those who claim this for their basis to prohibit makeup now clearly did not know HWA well. According to several I spoke with who knew HWA well, they all and without exception, believe that HWA would have allowed makeup in the 21st century.

SCG once made the following statement in an ad in The Journal:

Not one evangelist today is known to be holding fast to this doctrine of make-up as taught by God’s apostle, especially the very ones trained personally by Mr. Armstrong himself. Most evangelists in God’s Church today say they are holding fast to all doctrines as taught by the apostle. But is this the truth? Not at all! You might say this doctrine is just a small thing. You are right. Mr. Armstrong said the same thing (Berkey, Arlen. Church of God Ministers HELD IN CONTEMPT OF THE SUPREME COURT!. Ad in The Journal. May, 31, 2006).

SCG should realize that perhaps the reason not one evangelist that HWA ordained teaches against make-up is that they all knew HWA and perhaps did understand what HWA really intended. SCG itself later abandoned itself and proved not to be stedfast.

Let me state that SCG was not stedfast and it no longer exists. Furthermore, while makeup was cited as one of the reasons for the formation of the Enduring COG by Charles Bryce, his group has NOT been effective in proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom to the world as a witness (Matthew 24:14) and going into all the world to teach all things Jesus commanded (Matthew 248:19-20)--nor have ANY anti-makeup COGs.


Some anti-makeup types feel that if they are 'independent' that they are faithful to the teachings of HWA. This is absurd. HWA wrote that the first:

...purpose of the Church" was to proclaim "the coming kingdom of God to the world… The 'loner'-the individual Christian' who wants to climb up into the kingdom some other way than by Christ and His way through His Church-is not being trained in Christ's manner of training, to rule and reign with Christ in his kingdom!… The person who says, 'I will get my salvation alone, outside of the Church' is totally deceived" (Mystery of the Ages. 1985, p. 270).

He also wrote:

What about a single member, 'a joint, or part,' going off by itself - or following a man instead of the Church of God that is in direct continuous succession from the apostolic Church founded by Christ, in A.D.31? He is like a joint or a piece of wood or stone, entirely outside of, and therefore no part of the body of Christ that shall marry Christ! (Armstrong, H. The Incredible Human Potential. 1978. pp.123,124-125).

Independents and others who believe that the Philadelphia era of the Church of God no longer needs to place its priority on proclaiming the Gospel should remember this quote,

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 that no man can shut it, and He will when the work is finished and the Philadelphia Church goes to a place of safety (What is the "Laodicean Church"? Plain Truth. August 1959, p.10).

We have not gone to 'a place of safety' yet, thus the work is NOT finished.

Remember it was Jesus who also said:

I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work" (John 9:4).

It is still 'day' (we are not fleeing), which means we are to do the work as long as we possibly can. Jesus had a few comments for those who felt it was not time to do the work:

Jesus said to them, "My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work. Do you not say, 'There are still four months and then comes the harvest'? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest! And he who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, that both he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together. For in this the saying is true: 'One sows and another reaps.' I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored, and you have entered into their labors." (John 4:34-38).

Jesus also taught, "You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit" (John 15:16). HWA also wrote,

I thank God that he has organized this present work of his so thoroughly that regardless of the outcome of my present illness, the work will continue right on to the Second Coming of Christ (HWA Letter dated 12/23/85).

Thus it seems clear that Herbert W. Armstrong felt that he was the leader of the Philadelphia era, but that if he died prior to the time of the end, that he considered that the Church should continue to preach the gospel to the world!

Laodicea means 'the people decide', 'justice of the people, or something similar. Apparently the works of the Laodiceans are lukewarm because they have decided some things are more important than being part of the major organized effort to get the full Gospel out to the world (Revelation 3:14-16)--some believe the subject is makeup, others 'sacred names', others calendar issues, others Church government, and others, a variety or combination of matters. One anti-makeup individual admitted to me that even if the Philadelphia faithful became totally intolerant of makeup, that anti-makeup critics would probably find some reason to not to support the gospel proclamation efforts--this, sadly, supports my basic belief that the Laodiceans simply reject Philadelphia era governance. He also basically said that the Gospel is still being preached, mainly by the existence of writings from HWA--that of course is NOT close to what HWA ever intended or stated.


The Bible teaches that vanity is a sin. Wearing makeup out of vanity is a sin. I do not wear makeup, and do not require anyone to wear makeup--you can support the work of the Philadelphia remnant of the Church of God and be part of the Continuing Church of God and not endorse make-up. On the other hand, you cannot be a member of the SCG/RCG or other such groups (like Charles Bryce's Emduring COG) and meet the criteria HWA (and Jesus) set for the Philadelphia era of the COG.

It is not a compromise of the truth to not wear makeup and to support the work of Matthew 24:14. It is a compromise of the truth to not support the major effort to proclaim the Gospel to the world because one is against other people wearing makeup. Paul had Timothy circumcised (Acts 16:3) even though it was not necessary (vss. 15:5-11)--could anyone imagine that Timothy would say to Paul that he could not attend church services with uncircumcised males? Of course not!

Did not HWA always try to get the gospel out? HWA always felt that the Gospel needed to be preached (a few comments of his after his heart attack, which have been taken out-of-context, notwithstanding). Isn't that what the Bible teaches?

The anti-makeup proponents tend to emphasize the minor, but ignore the major. And while they do quote HWA on this matter, they miss the fact that HWA indicated it might be changed after he died. They also are not paying close attention to what the Bible actually teaches. It appears that some praised women in Old Testament times, like Queen Esther and Job's daughters, most likely wore make-up.

Many are picking and choosing what to believe that HWA taught without understanding that the priorities are to the word of God--and yes, I know that is what they falsely accuse certain others of (but it was HWA who taught not to believe him, but believe what is taught in the Bible). But most importantly, none of the anti-makeup groups meet the criteria HWA (and Jesus) set for Philadelphia era of the Church of God. And none of them are truly the ones to lead the gospel proclamation efforts that will fulfill Matthew 24:14 and Matthew 28:19-20.

Any who doubt priorities need to review Herbert Armstrong's sermon Mission of the Philadelphia Church Era (or see the related article on the 18 truths).

Back to home page

B. Thiel 2002/2006/2007/2010/2012/2013/2014/2015/2016/2018/2019/2020 0515

P.S. HWA taught we are to use the whole Bible to clarify certain points; similarly one needs to look at the entirety of HWA's writings (as well as his life's work) to put the make-up issue into perspective. I realize that I will probably be falsely accused of being liberal by pointing out scriptural statements and biblical priorities. The fact is that I am not advocating makeup, but simply stating why I feel that the decision to allow females in Western cultures at this time to wear makeup is not without biblical or historical precedent.

Remember it was HWA who wrote:

I do not want to see God's women dressing and grooming so VERY plainly and UNworldly that they appear to be wearing a 'religious uniform.' That is, to set themselves so far off from 'the world' as a whole that they actually APPEAR 'religious' -- and, also, a little ridiculous. And frankly, some of our women DO - they go too far to the extreme in plainness"

Those who suspect I might be a liberal on this matter may wish to meditate on that HWA statement. Because it is even more true now, than when Herbert Armstrong originally wrote it.