Having been a baptized member of the Church of God since 1974, I have seen many people come to and leave the Church. They had enthusiastically “joined” the Church, but then something bothered them, and they left. Sometimes, it had bothered them for years. They were unable or unwilling to cope with it, until the opportunity arose which seemed to make their departure legitimate and justified. But it never is.
I have observed entire groups following “their” minister out of the Church when he found fault with the Church’s teachings; this happened in 1974 and 1975 when the Church’s doctrine on Pentecost and on divorce and remarriage was clarified; that happened in 1978 when a high-ranking minister was disfellowshipped, due to inappropriate personal conduct, and when he then started his own church organization to which many flocked; it also happened in 1979 when the Attorney General of the State of California launched his illegal and blatantly unconstitutional attack on the Church, while embracing the support of disgruntled members and ministers; and it happened of course on the largest scale, up until now, after Herbert Armstrong’s death in 1986, when the new leadership dismantled and destroyed everything which we had embraced and proven to be the Truth.
Since then, we have seen further departures from the Church by individuals or entire families. We have also observed many splits amongst church groups, with some of them being justified and required, while others were not. But the Bible predicts that a more or less “organized” falling away from the Truth is still going to occur (Matthew 24:10-12), approximately at the same time when the “Man of Sin” will appear who will sit “as God” in the “Temple of God,” claiming to be God (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4).
Since being in God’s Church, I have witnessed the fulfillment of some prophetic events, but only recently has the fulfillment reached a degree which was unheard of in the past. Judging from the signs of the times, and looking at the parable of the fig tree (Matthew 24:32-33), we know that the time is short; that the Day of Christ’s return is near; but also, that the Great Tribulation is just about upon us.
The unspeakable tragedy in these final hours is that Church members will give up and throw in the towel… even though they should be strengthened in their spirit and lift up their heads with encouragement when they see what is happening all around them (Luke 21:28). The Berlin Wall fell in 1989—so many years ago—but since then, Europe has been uniting, and now, as never before, voices demanding a unified army are getting louder and louder. Such an army is now within reach, and its strong military leader of German or Austrian descent, who is of course alive, will arise and manifest himself very soon.
Ever since President Trump came to power, the relationship between Europe and the USA, which was never that great to begin with, has deteriorated in unique and unparalleled ways, which will ultimately lead to a nuclear war between these two power blocs. Even though the Brexit debacle has been a constant and somewhat tiresome theme in the media for years, the ultimate outcome is predetermined: There will be a Brexit, and the consequence will be a further deterioration between the UK and the EU, which will culminate in a nuclear war between these two powers. All of this is prophesied; it HAS to happen, and it will.
After President Trump came to power, the relationship between the USA and Israel, which was not that friendly under President Obama, improved tremendously, and more and more demands are made for the building of the Third Temple, which some time back would have been unthinkable. Many ascribe a providential role to President Trump, comparing him to King Cyrus who helped the Jews to build the Second Temple. (We believe this too, and so we know that President Trump is not going to be forced out of office through impeachment, but rather, that he will be re-elected in 2020, as he will have to stay in power to fulfill his role of what has been biblically prophesied.) But when the Third Temple is being built and animal sacrifices are being brought again on the Temple Mount, Europe will intervene militarily with the declared goal of bringing peace to the region which will be rocked by turmoil, terrorist attacks, local wars and terrible aggression among Jews and Arabs.
KNOWING all this, why is it that in these critical times, members of the Church of God lose heart and walk away? Why are they forgetting Christ’s admonition to hold fast what they have so that they don’t lose their crown (Revelation 3:11)? Why do they forget that it is because of them—the elect or the chosen ones—that mankind will survive (Matthew 24:22)? But they will of course only be and remain to be part of the elect if they don’t give up and walk away.
Satan does not want anything more than to destroy mankind… and especially the people of God. And he will do everything he can to get to God’s people. He knows our weaknesses. Do we have problems with authority in general and with Church authority in particular? Satan will come in and use that weakness to get us out of the Church. Do we have problems and disagreement with any particular Church teaching or any particular Church practice? Satan will come in to use that disagreement and see to it that it grows in our lives to the point that we leave the Church.
But in walking away from the Church of the living God—which is the body of Christ, the foundation and pillar of Truth (1 Timothy 3:15)—we cut ourselves off from the vine (John 15:1). Whatever the reason for our departure, we will be the branches which will wither away (John 15:6). And even if we don’t leave voluntarily, but keep on harboring disagreements with God’s Church in our lives, losing the love of God and becoming hostile to Him, God can cut us off (Romans 11:22), and He will do so if this becomes a necessity in order to prevent us from sowing discord and causing divisions among brethren (Proverbs 6:19; Romans 16:17).
When Christ returns, He will be asking the fundamental question: Will He really find faith on the earth (Luke 18:8)? Some will have the required faith, but how many? God could not even find ten righteous people in Sodom. We are warned that in these last days, the righteous and faithful people will be disappearing more and more (Psalm 12:1). This must not happen to us. We must not give in to Satan’s evil devices (2 Corinthians 2:11). We must stay close to God and resist Satan, and he will flee from us, while God will lift us up (James 4:7-10). And THEN, we will receive our crown of glory when Christ returns (1 Peter 5:4) … in the very near future.