The Plain Truth about Church Eras


Douglas Becker

    Armstrongists should have quit while they were ahead: They should have just quietly withdrawn all the fabricated church history and simply admitted that the Sabbath keeping churches of God from which the Radio Church of God and later, the Worldwide Church of God, sprang from Gilbert Cranmer who was the acknowledged founder of the Church of God Seventh Day. He came, with others, out of the Great Disappointment of 1844, which was part of the Advent Movement but at the time, was not based in the Sabbath — the Sabbath keeping came afterward.

    But the Armstrongists wanted legitimacy and what better way to establish it than by claiming that their own founder, Herbert Armstrong, was from a direct line of ordained men, reaching back through time to the very Apostles of the Christian church in the First Century A.D.? There is no such chain and no legitimate way of establishing it using history because the facts simply won’t support an unbroken line through the centuries. At best, there seems to be pockets of target Christians in small groups with less than credible history which could be strung together in fiction fantasy fashion to create the illusion of what was needed to establish legitimacy. They were ably helped by plagiarizing a church history from Dugger and Dodd who had plagiarized it from none other than Ellen G. White, who turned out to be something of a nut case. Gilbert Cranmer was not at all impressed by her and her husband who had founded the Seventh Day Adventists and attempted to rule over all the Christian Sabbath keepers in the United States at the time:

     …elder Cranmer then wrote to Battle Creek and requested a decision as to whether they considered him a minister, and as to his right to preach among them. The result of their conclusion in the matter was that they refused him the privilege of preaching to them or for them for the reason that he did not hold the visions of Ellen G. White to be inspired. Mr. Leighton said in our presence that the visions were inspired, that they were better than the Bible because they were warm and fresh from the throne of God, and that anyone who did not accept them as inspiration absolutely would be damned. The visions were made a test of fellowship from that time.

    E.G. White was inspired, but not of God.

    Here is Gilbert Cranmer’s letter published in The Hope of Israel, August 10th, 1863:

    About ten years ago [1853] a Seventh-day Adventist minister, by the name of [Joseph] Bates, came to our town and advocated the whole Law, the gifts of the Spirit, and many other glorious truths. The gifts belonging to the Church, I had believed in for over twenty years. Hence I felt to rejoice, supposing I had found the people I had been so long looking for. He told me that the gifts were realized among them, that they had the gift of prophecy and the gift of healing the sick. But as long as I was with them I never knew of any being healed. I have known them to try but they always failed. In this I was disappointed. I also found the spirit of prophecy, with them, was confined wholly to a woman. By this time I became suspicious that I had gotten on board the wrong ship. I then commenced to giving her visions a thorough investigation.I found they contradicted themselves, and that they contradicted the Bible. My doubts concerning the visions I made known to the brethren. At once they gave me the cold shoulder, and I was held at bay. Not knowing any people I could unite with, I remained with them for years, hoping they would get sick of the visions of E.G. White, and that we could yet walk together in unity of spirit. But instead of rejecting them, as I hoped they would, they only drew the reins the tighter. At last I made up my mind I would not belong to a church that was ruled by a woman any longer. From that time the Bible has been my creed, with Christ at the head of the Church. I started alone, with my Bible in my hand. God has blessed my labors beyond my utmost expectations. We have some eight ministers and some hundreds of members in the state of Michigan. God has manifest His power among us in a wonderful manner.

    Gilbert Cranmer [founder of the Church of God (seventh day)] 

     This is a link to The Journal for the Church of God Timeline 1830 to 1940.

    It should be noted that the Church of God Seventh Day, Denver Conference, does not have nor does it support the theoretical church history in an unbroken line from the time of Jesus Christ on this earth: They know very well that no claim can be made, other than Gilbert Cranmer was the founder of the Church of God Seventh Day, began the Hope of Israelwhich later became the Bible Advocate, which has been around for 150 years or so now. [It should also be noted that while the Armstrongist churches are splintering and dividing, the Church of God Seventh Day is growing and has more members than the largest splinter of the Armstrongist movement today.] They know where they came from. The Armstrongists, on the other hand, don’t seem to want to know that they are heretics with a proven rebellious false prophet that came out of the Church of God Seventh Day with stupid ridiculous disproved ideas as British Israelism and church history — both and either of which completely disavows and overthrows any claim to being a legitimate. For those who are supposedly seeking the truth and even claiming, “Prove us wrong and we will change”, this is supremely ironic. No claim to the truth can be made as Armstrongist leaders, founders and ministers gloss over proof of their deceptions and strive to cover up the lies, particularly so their members cannot gain a foothold on the truth, so they can continue with their salaries, bolster their egos and claim retirement when they feel the time is right.

    Instead of the truth, Armstrongists have fabricated the insane notion of Church Eras, unsupported by any legitimate history, manufacturing and warping ideas out of thin air. The whole silly idea of church Eras comes from their interpretation of Revelation 2 and Revelation 3, and then mapped against dubious unsupported history of obscure groups, some of whom are known never to have kept either the Sabbath or Holydays. There are supposedly seven Eras: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, Laodocea. As opposed to being church Eras, the fact is that these were Gentile churches in Greece on a mail route. The Apostle John apparently wrote the book of Revelation (which was to be the Revelation of Jesus Christ to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass). If we read Revelation and take it for just what it says in the first three chapters, this epistle is written to the seven churches in Asia Minor to show them what was going to happen in their lifetime (which must shortly come to pass). Immediately we have a problem here because this is a book of, shall we say, limited vision, at least in the first three chapters. Indeed, if we look at the history of each of the cities in question, we see that the predictions did indeed come to pass against these cities (more or less). Laodocea was certainly most striking with its decline and fall.

    But Herbert Armstrong and Dr. Herman L. Hoeh determined to make it seem that the Radio Church of God was the one and only true church from which no one could escape if they were to attain salvation, so they “borrowed” plagiarized materials, often copied word for word, to “prove” their legitimacy and make it very uncomfortable for anyone to ever even consider leaving the fold held together by the Great False Prophet. They had a lot to lose if the membership didn’t buy it. Therefore, they libeled and slandered the Church of God Seventh Day saying it was Sardis and had a name that it lived but was dead. If there were any truth to that, we would say that the Living Church of God is Sardis, because it has a name that it is Living, but under Roderick Meredith, it is quite dead, replete with dead works. Next, Armstrong / Hoeh (who was the first to declare Herbert Armstrong an apostle), declared that the Radio Church of God was the favored Philadelphian era. This is the sweet spot of the church eras, for there is nothing bad that Revelation has to say against them except to hold fast to the good things they already have. The truth is a lot more ugly. Then there are those damned (no, we really mean it — damned!) Laodoceans who are rich and increased in goods, think they have need of nothing (seeing as how they have the Sabbath and Holydays), but are poor, blind and naked. If that doesn’t describe the Worldwide Church of God under Herbert Armstrong, we just don’t know what would.

    Evidence for Eras by the Eternal Church of God is a typical Armstrongist foray into the Era argument fray with statements like:

    One of the main traits of true believers is keeping the Ten Commandments. This the Waldenses did, including the seventh-day Sabbath. Some have argued that these people did not keep the Sabbath, but a number of historians document their seventh day observance.

    What they don’t tell you is that “Sabbath” in some cases of the “historians document” refers to Sunday — viewed by Catholics as the Sabbath (having been changed from the Seventh Day by the Catholics because of Easter). Another thing they won’t tell you is that Peter Waldo and his followers never kept the Seventh Day Sabbath and the Holydays, but rather considered themselves good Roman Catholics who were concerned about how secular the Catholic Church had become. If they had bothered to contact the modern day Waldensians, the authors would have found that the Waldensians themselves never kept the Sabbath, in Peter Waldo’s time were Roman Catholics and became Protestants. The “documentation” presented is bogus, misleading and an outright deception — which they cover up by saying “Some have argued that these people did not keep the Sabbath” including the Waldensians themselves. Moreover, some of the 700+ Armstrongist cults even go so far that Sabbath keeping Waldensians kept the Sabbath and the Holydays centuries before Peter Waldo! This is tantamount to insisting that Scientologists were extant during Sir Isaac Newton’s time before L. Ron Hubbard because he was a scientist… or at least a mathematician.

    Where did this scrap come from originally?

    One only need look at Chapter 4 of The Great Controversy between Christ and Satan by Ellen G. White to determine the answer:

    In lands beyond the jurisdiction of Rome there existed for many centuries bodies of Christians who remained almost wholly free from papal corruption. They were surrounded by heathenism and in the lapse of ages were affected by its errors; but they continued to regard the Bible as the only rule of faith and adhered to many of its truths. These Christians believed in the perpetuity of the law of God and observed the Sabbath of the fourth commandment. Churches that held to this faith and practice existed in Central Africa and among the Armenians of Asia.

    But of those who resisted the encroachments of the papal power, the Waldenses stood foremost. In the very land where popery had fixed its seat, there its falsehood and corruption were most steadfastly resisted. For centuries the churches of Piedmont maintained their independence; but the time came at last when Rome insisted upon their submission. After ineffectual struggles against her tyranny, the leaders of these churches reluctantly acknowledged the supremacy of the power to which the whole world seemed to pay homage. There were some, however, who refused to yield to the authority of pope or prelate. They were determined to maintain their allegiance to God and to preserve the purity and simplicity of their faith. A separation took place. Those who adhered to the ancient faith now withdrew; some, forsaking their native Alps, raised the banner of truth in foreign lands; others retreated to the secluded glens and rocky fastnesses of the mountains, and there preserved their freedom to worship God.

    The faith which for centuries was held and taught by the Waldensian Christians was in marked contrast to the false doctrines put forth from Rome. Their religious belief was founded upon the written word of God, the true system of Christianity. But those humble peasants, in their obscure retreats, shut away from the world, and bound to daily toil among their flocks and their vineyards, had not by themselves arrived at the truth in opposition to the dogmas and heresies of the apostate church. Theirs was not a faith newly received. Their religious belief was their inheritance from their fathers. They contended for the faith of the apostolic church,–”the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.” Jude 3. “The church in the wilderness,” and not the proud hierarchy enthroned in the world’s great capital, was the true church of Christ, the guardian of the treasures of truth which God has committed to His people to be given to the world.

    Among the leading causes that had led to the separation of the true church from Rome was the hatred of the latter toward the Bible Sabbath. As foretold by prophecy, the papal power cast down the truth to the ground. The law of God was trampled in the dust, while the traditions and customs of men were exalted. The churches that were under the rule of the papacy were early compelled to honor the Sunday as a holy day. Amid the prevailing error and superstition, many, even of the true people of God, became so bewildered that while they observed the Sabbath, they refrained from labor also on the Sunday. But this did not satisfy the papal leaders. They demanded not only that Sunday be hallowed, but that the Sabbath be profaned; and they denounced in the strongest language those who dared to show it honor. It was only by fleeing from the power of Rome that any could obey God’s law in peace.

    The Waldenses were among the first of the peoples of Europe to obtain a translation of the Holy Scriptures. Hundreds of years before the Reformation they possessed the Bible in manuscript in their native tongue. They had the truth unadulterated, and this rendered them the special objects of hatred and persecution. They declared the Church of Rome to be the apostate Babylon of the Apocalypse, and at the peril of their lives they stood up to resist her corruptions. While, under the pressure of long-continued persecution, some compromised their faith, little by little yielding its distinctive principles, others held fast the truth. Through ages of darkness and apostasy there were Waldenses who denied the supremacy of Rome, who rejected image worship as idolatry, and who kept the true Sabbath. Under the fiercest tempests of opposition they maintained their faith. Though gashed by the Savoyard spear, and scorched by the Romish fagot, they stood unflinchingly for God’s word and His honor.

    There it is: Ellen G. White started the lie, Dugger and Dodd continued it and it was carried along by Herbert Armstrong.

    It is a lie. The Armstrongists have known it is a lie since 1990 when I went to the library on campus at the University of Washington in Seattle and did research on John Trask (you don’t want to know — it’s too embarrassing!) and the Waldensians and sent the information to the Worldwide Church of God which they sidewise acknowledged in their magazine (we know it isn’t true, but we want to believe it anyway!). It’s been two decades and they haven’t changed their tired old deceptions. Others have done the research as well. They know. They just won’t acknowledge it because it destroys their legitimacy, leaving people no particularly good reason to believe a word they say or to stay with them to endure their insane heresies and false prophets.

    Since you won’t acknowledge the truth because you believe that we will just go away and we can’t do anything to make you acknowledge the truth or take accountability, we, at the Painful Truth, have a new challenge for you which you would do well NOT to ignore. Instead of just making sure your congregants don’t bother to question you faux church history, you will have a newer, much bigger concern to address.

    Now it is a case that one of your former ministers, Dennis Diehl, has called you on this and you have found it convenient to ignore him when he talks about the division between the Apostle Paul and Peter and divisions with the other Apostles, especially with John and James opposing them all and Dennis even casting aspersions on Jesus Christ more than suggesting that he was a Myth or rather Mithra. The Apostle Paul doesn’t seem to know about the virgin birth and neither does the Gospel writer Mark. Dennis seems to think that the Apostle Paul actually created Christianity from a whole cloth where it never existed before.

    But what if it is worse than that?

    Perhaps we should take a look at The Forged Origins of the New Testament by Tony Bushby © March 2007:

    In the fourth century, the Roman Emperor Constantine united all religious factions under one composite deity, and ordered the compilation of new and old writings into a uniform collection that became the New Testament.

    The information Tony Bushby provides comes straight from the Roman Catholic Church in the Catholic Encyclopedia. It is widely acknowledged that the Catholic Church preserved the New Testament. What no wants to acknowledge is that apparently the Roman Catholic Church created the New Testament. Here is a partial account of happened in the context of the Council of Nicaea:

    Constantine’s intention at Nicaea was to create an entirely new god for his empire who would unite all religious factions under one deity. Presbyters were asked to debate and decide who their new god would be. Delegates argued among themselves, expressing personal motives for inclusion of particular writings that promoted the finer traits of their own special deity. Throughout the meeting, howling factions were immersed in heated debates, and the names of 53 gods were tabled for  discussion. “As yet, no God had been selected by the council, and so they balloted in order to determine that matter… For one year and five months the balloting lasted…” (God’s Book of Eskra, Prof. S. L. MacGuire’s translation, Salisbury, 1922, chapter xlviii, paragraphs 36, 41).

    At the end of that time, Constantine returned to the gathering to discover that the presbyters had not agreed on a new deity but had balloted down to a shortlist of five prospects: Caesar, Krishna, Mithra, Horus and Zeus (Historia Ecclesiastica, Eusebius, c. 325). Constantine was the ruling spirit at Nicaea and he ultimately decided upon a new god for them. To involve British factions, he ruled that the name of the great Druid god, Hesus, be joined with the Eastern Saviour-god, Krishna (Krishna is Sanskrit for Christ), and thus Hesus Krishna would be the official name of the new Roman god. A vote was taken and it was with a majority show of hands (161 votes to 157) that both divinities became one God. Following longstanding heathen custom, Constantine used the official gathering and the Roman apotheosis decree to legally deify two deities as one, and did so by democratic consent. A new god was proclaimed and “officially” ratified by Constantine (Acta Concilii Nicaeni , 1618). That purely political act of deification effectively and legally placed Hesus and Krishna among the Roman gods as one individual composite. That abstraction lent Earthly existence to amalgamated doctrines for the Empire’s new religion; and because there was no letter “J” in alphabets until around the ninth century, the name subsequently evolved into “Jesus Christ”.

     Constantine instructed his representative, Eusebius to organize the compilation of new writings developed from primary aspects of religious texts: Keep the good and throw out the bad. Fifty copies were prepared. The New Testimonies would thereafter be called the “Word of Roman Savior God”. It’s always good to get your state religion straight and in order. The Roman Catholic Church knew of all of this:

    The Church hierarchy knows the truth about the origin of its Epistles, for Cardinal Bembo (d. 1547), secretary to Pope Leo X (d. 1521), advised his associate, Cardinal Sadoleto, to disregard them, saying “put away these trifles, for such absurdities do not become a man of dignity; they were introduced on the scene later by a sly voice from heaven” (Cardinal Bembo: His Letters and Comments on Pope Leo X, A. L. Collins, London, 1842 reprint).

    The Church admits that the Epistles of Paul are forgeries, saying, ”Even the genuine Epistles were greatly interpolated to lend weight to the personal views of their authors” ( Catholic Encyclopedia, Farley ed., vol. vii, p. 645). Likewise, St Jerome (d. 420) declared that the Acts of the Apostles, the fifth book of the New Testament, was also “falsely written” (“The Letters of Jerome”, Library of the Fathers, Oxford Movement, 1833–45, vol. v, p. 445).

    A copy of the Sinai Bible was discovered in the 19th Century and was verified to have been compiled around 380 A.D. and shows positively that most of the New Testament is a forgery:

    When the New Testament in the Sinai Bible is compared with a modern-day New Testament, a staggering 14,800 editorial alterations can be identified. These amendments can be recognised by a simple comparative exercise that anybody can and should do. Serious study of Christian origins must emanate from the Sinai Bible’s version of the New Testament, not modern editions.

    Of importance is the fact that the Sinaiticus carries three Gospels since rejected: the Shepherd of Hermas (written by two resurrected ghosts, Charinus and Lenthius), the Missive of Barnabas and the Odes of Solomon. Space excludes elaboration on these bizarre writings and also discussion on dilemmas associated with translation variations.

    Modern Bibles are five removes in translation from early editions, and disputes rage between translators over variant interpretations of more than 5,000 ancient words. However, it is what is not written in that old Bible that embarrasses the Church, and this article discusses only a few of those omissions. One  glaring example is subtly revealed in the Encyclopaedia Biblica (Adam & Charles Black, London, 1899, vol. iii, p. 3344), where the Church divulges its knowledge about exclusions in old Bibles, saying: “The remark has long ago and often been made that, like Paul, even the earliest Gospels knew nothing of the miraculous birth of our Saviour”.  That is because there never was a virgin birth.

     The Catholic Church can’t reconcile the New Testament with any kind of certainty:

    Despite a multitude of long-drawn-out self-justifications by Church apologists, there is no unanimity of Christian opinion regarding the non-existence of “resurrection” appearances in ancient Gospel accounts of the story. Not only are those narratives missing in the Sinai Bible, but they are absent in the Alexandrian Bible, the Vatican Bible, the Bezae Bible and an ancient Latin manuscript of Mark, code-named “K” by analysts. They are also lacking in the oldest Armenian version of the New Testament, in sixth-century manuscripts of the Ethiopic version and ninth-century Anglo-Saxon Bibles. However, some 12th century Gospels have the now-known resurrection verses written within asterisks—marks used by scribes to indicate spurious passages in a literary document.

    The Church claims that “the resurrection is the fundamental argument for our Christian belief” (Catholic Encyclopedia, Farley ed., vol. xii, p. 792), yet no supernatural appearance of a resurrected Jesus Christ is recorded in any of the earliest Gospels of Mark available. A resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ is the sine qua non (“without which, nothing”) of Christianity (Catholic Encyclopedia, Farley ed., vol. xii, p. 792), confirmed by words attributed to Paul: “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is in vain” (1 Cor. 5:17). The resurrection verses in today’s Gospels of Mark are universally acknowledged as forgeries and the Church agrees, saying “the conclusion of Mark is admittedly not genuine … almost the entire section is a later compilation” (Encyclopaedia Biblica, vol. ii, p. 1880, vol. iii, pp. 1767, 1781; also, Catholic Encyclopedia, vol. iii, under the heading “The Evidence of its Spuriousness”; Catholic Encyclopedia, Farley ed., vol. iii, pp. 274-9 under heading “Canons”). Undaunted, however, the Church accepted the forgery into its dogma and made it the basis of Christianity.

    There were significant omissions in the book of Luke:

    Modern-day versions of the Gospel of Luke have a staggering 10,000 more words than the same Gospel in the Sinai Bible. Six of those words say of Jesus “and was carried up into heaven”, but this narrative does not appear in any of the oldest Gospels of Luke available today (“Three Early Doctrinal Modifications of the Text of the Gospels”, F. C. Conybeare, The Hibbert Journal, London,  vol. 1, no. 1, Oct 1902, pp. 96-113). Ancient versions do not verify modern-day accounts of an ascension of Jesus Christ, and this falsification clearly indicates an intention to deceive.

    Today, the Gospel of Luke is the longest of the canonical Gospels because it now includes “The Great Insertion”, an extraordinary 15th-century addition totalling around 8,500 words (Luke 9:51–18:14). The insertion of these forgeries into that Gospel bewilders modern Christian analysts, and of them the Church said: “The character of these passages makes it dangerous to draw inferences” (Catholic Encyclopedia , Pecci ed., vol. ii, p. 407).

    Just as remarkable, the oldest Gospels of Luke omit all verses from 6:45 to 8:26, known in priesthood circles as “The Great Omission”, a total of 1,547 words. In today’s versions, that hole has been “plugged up” with passages plagiarised from other Gospels. Dr Tischendorf found that three paragraphs in newer versions of
    the Gospel of Luke’s version of the Last Supper appeared in the 15th century, but the Church still passes its Gospels off as the unadulterated “word of God” (“Are Our Gospels Genuine or Not?”, op. cit.)

     The Roman Catholic Church covered up this mess as best it could, but also admits it doesn’t know who wrote the books:

    There is something else involved in this scenario and it is recorded in the Catholic Encyclopedia. An appreciation of the clerical mindset arises when the Church itself admits that it does not know who wrote its Gospels and Epistles, confessing that all 27 New Testament writings began life anonymously:

    “It thus appears that the present titles of the Gospels are not traceable to the evangelists themselves … they [the New Testament collection] are supplied with titles which, however ancient, do not go back to the respective authors of those writings.” (Catholic Encyclopedia, Farley ed., vol. vi, pp. 655-6)

    The Church maintains that “the titles of our Gospels were not intended to indicate authorship”, adding that “the headings … were affixed to them” (Catholic  Encyclopedia, Farley ed., vol. i, p. 117, vol. vi, pp. 655, 656). Therefore they are not Gospels written ”according to Matthew, Mark, Luke or John”, as publicly stated. The full force of this confession reveals that there are no genuine apostolic Gospels, and that the Church’s shadowy writings today embody the very ground and pillar of Christian foundations and faith. The consequences are fatal to the pretence of Divine origin of the entire New Testament and expose Christian texts as having no special authority. For centuries, fabricated Gospels bore Church certification of authenticity now confessed to be false, and this provides evidence that Christian writings are wholly fallacious.

    Jesus or Mithra:

    Mithra, one of a trinity, stood on a rock, the emblem of the foundation of his religion, and was anointed with honey. After a last supper with Helios and 11 other companions, Mithra was crucified on a cross, bound in linen, placed in a rock tomb and rose on the third day or around 25 March (the full moon at the spring equinox, a time now called Easter after the Babylonian goddess Ishtar). The fiery destruction of the universe was a major doctrine of Mithraism—a time in which Mithra promised to return in person to Earth and save deserving souls. Devotees of Mithra partook in a sacred communion banquet of bread and wine, a ceremony that paralleled the Christian Eucharist and preceded it by more than four centuries.

    Christianity is an adaptation of Mithraism welded with the Druidic principles of the Culdees, some Egyptian elements (the pre-Christian Book of Revelation was originally called The Mysteries of Osiris and Isis ), Greek philosophy and various aspects of Hinduism.

     Is that really true?

    Heck if I know: I’m not an historian.

    But then, neither are any of the Armstrongists and that includes the erstwhile Dr. Hoeh.

    Who knows?

    But one thing is certain: Instead of spouting off about mythical church eras, those boys in the Cult of Armstrong had very well be getting down to work to prove the authenticity of the New Testament, rather than the authenticity of church eras. Church eras are completely unsupportable, of course, even if the New Testament is true. Nevertheless, you guys have a much bigger problem to resolve when your attendees and potential prospects start asking you about the validity of the New Testament.

    Since you have all indicated that you have no need for my services, you guys are on your own: I’m not going to help you.


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