From Babylon to Jerusalem
Before Paul went to Rome, error had already entered the fledgling Church. Before John died, genuine disciples were being put out of the Church by false shepherds. The good news of Christ Jesus was first bastardized by teachers coming from Jerusalem who would have converts from the nations become physical Israelites before becoming spiritual Israelites, then the gospel was hybridized by the best thinkers of Hellenistic paganism. After Jerusalem’s revolt against Roman rule in 70 CE, the Church collectively drifted away from being a sect of Judaism as its center moved west into Asia Minor, and south into Egypt. Theology unique to Israel was compromised. Thus, by the 3rd-Century CE, the Church was as spiritually lawless as the ancient nation of Israel was physically lawless during the era of the divided kingdoms. And in the 4th-Century, God sent the Church into spiritual captivity in Babylon, its king that old serpent who has deceived the world (Isa 14:4-21 & Rev 12:9). This captivity was made official at the Council of Nicea (ca 325 CE) when the pagan Roman Emperor Constantine determined what constituted sound doctrine for the Church.
When questioned by Pilate, Jesus said that His kingdom was not of this world. The Church is not an organization of this world. Rather, it is an assembly born of Spirit that has actual life in the heavenly realm. It is an invisible holy nation of kingly priests temporarily bivouacked in tents of flesh. It is the now garmented Body of the Son of Man. Hence, inclusion in this holy nation is not a matter of physical birth, but of spiritual birth followed by baptism, the ritual that corresponds to physical circumcision. Baptism prior to spiritual birth only causes the person to get wet and chilled. And spiritual birth not followed by baptism, which symbolizes the death of the old self and the taking of judgment upon the new creature, leaves the born anew son of God as was a Hebrew male infant of less than eight days age. Therefore, the practice of infant baptism left the Jerusalem above as devoid of spiritual inhabitants as physical Jerusalem was empty during the prophesied seventy years (Jer 29:10 & Dan 9:2). As the physical nation of Israel dwelling in Babylon sought the prosperity of that polis, the Church dwelling in spiritual Babylon sought the peace and prosperity of the lawless world.
Twelve centuries after the Council of Nicea, a remnant of the Church (like the remnant of natural Israel under Sheshbazzar, the prince of Judah — Ezra 1:8) left spiritual Babylon to rebuild the house of God in the Jerusalem above: this remnant was the Swiss Radical Reformers—Anabaptists—who under inspiration of the Holy Spirit fully or partially realized that infant baptism had left the Jerusalem above without inhabitants. These twelve centuries correspond to natural Israel’s seventy years. And the spiritual journey out of Babylon was fraught with peril, for the Protestant Reformers as well as the Roman Church resisted the Radicals’ exodus from Babylon.
When the Anabaptist remnant of the Church crossed the spiritual river Jordan and entered God’s rest can be ascertained by when a faction of these Brethren returned to observing the 7th-day Sabbath. Unfortunately, most of this remnant stopped in the geographical equivalent of western Iraq to build spiritual houses for themselves, but some of this remnant, coming from England and from Germany to America in the 17th-Century, formed 7th-day Baptist fellowships…the remnant of the remnant had not yet spiritually arrived in the Jerusalem above, but was in spiritual Judah.
In the 19th Century, Brethren turned their attention to the return of Christ Jesus. In England, the 8th-day Plymouth Brethren fellowship began to focus (ca 1825) upon Israel’s return to Judea prior to Christ Jesus’ return. In the United States, William Miller, an 8th-day Baptist, thought he had figured out when Jesus would return. By 1843, thousands of 7th and 8th day Baptists were caught up with Advent fever. But Miller was wrong, and the Plymouth Brethren were physically-minded. Nevertheless, the journey toward the Jerusalem above resumed. With the active inclusion of the two concepts, Israel’s return to Judea and the soon-coming return of Christ, the 2nd generational remnant of the remnant reformed into the Seventh Day Adventists, and into the Church of God 7th Day, but no one had yet reached spiritual Jerusalem.
In the 20th-Century, an early advertising salesman and self-promoter entered (ca 1927) the Oregon Conference of the Church of God 7th Day, and within seven years, this ad-man was broadcasting on local radio. This ad-man, Herbert Armstrong, moved the remnant that left spiritual Babylon closer to the Jerusalem above, in that he taught disciples to keep the annual Sabbaths as well as the weekly Sabbath. But he remained as physically minded as 19th-Century Plymouth Brethren were. Although he claimed prophetic understanding, he had none—and when he realized in fall 1961 that he had gotten biblical prophecy wrong, he scheduled an “Advanced Prophecy Seminar” at Ambassador College for spring semester 1962.
What Armstrong failed to realize was that the visions of Daniel would remain sealed and secret until the time of the end. He believed, however, that with the development of nuclear weapons humanity had entered the end of the age, and he allowed ministers under him [if he did not directly do so] to teach that the end of age would come in 1975, this date derived from adding 2520 years, plus extra years to the date of the fall of Jerusalem. And as with Miller’s calculation of the date of Christ’s return, Armstrong’s calculations failed to take into account the movement from natural Israel being the holy nation of God to the Church now being that holy nation. Both Miller and Armstrong remained physically minded when they should have thought spiritually.
Spearheading the now four generational remnant of the remnant that left spiritual Babylon, Armstrong might well have reached the Jerusalem above, but because he [as well as the splintered Churches of God that still hold his teachings] never understood spiritual birth, Armstrong could not rebuild the demolished spiritual house of God. And when, in 1962, he had the chance to correct his prophetic misunderstandings, he failed to rein in his son—Armstrong taught the first session of that Advance Prophecy Seminar, saying in his opening presentation that he and the Church had prophecy wrong, that they had to get prophecy right, that all ideas were welcome, that all subjects would be explored. But he taught just that first session. His son, Garner Ted Armstrong, taught the remainder of the seminar, and at the beginning of the second session, Garner Ted said that his father had prophecy right, that his father was just having doubts, that there would be no new understanding. And the assembled senior men of the Worldwide Church of God [formerly, the Radio Church of God] sat on their hands and said nothing for the entire seminar.
From the moment Garner Ted said there would be no new spiritual understanding, the senior Armstrong’s work was over although that work’s greatest period of physical activity lay ahead of it in the late 1960s and early 1970s. On Thursday of the second full week of January 2002, about 12 minutes past 10:00 CST—exactly forty years to the hour and day of when Garner Ted said there would be no new revelation—the work of returning to the Jerusalem above where the spiritual house of God would be rebuilt resumed as a fifth generational remnant of the remnant that left Babylon began, by spiritual compulsion, to reread prophecy.
In May 1962, one man, Ray Dick, a Mennonite convert to Armstrong’s Radio Church of God, as an older Senior student at Ambassador College realized that Armstrong had prophecy wrong, that three and a half years of tribulation would follow when armies surrounding Jerusalem would be swallowed by the split Mount of Olives (Zech 14:2-4 & Rev 12:14-16). He brought his understanding to Al Portune, Dick’s fourth year Bible instructor and one of the men in that Advanced Prophecy Seminar. Portune initially accepted and added to what Ray Dick realized, but when Garner Ted returned to Pasadena on Thursday to teach the last session of the Advance Prophecy Seminar, Garner Ted, with a subdued Portune in tow, told Ray Dick that Dick was advocating heresy and would be disfellowshipped and expelled from Ambassador College if Dick didn’t shut up about what Dick had realized. Ray Dick capitulated, but he didn’t forget what he had realized: for forty years, Dick kept alive the prophetic knowledge needed for the fifth generational remnant to develop typological exegesis, the means by which long sealed and secret prophecies were finally unsealed without the addition of another text.
Since January 2002, the foundations for the rebuilding of the spiritual house of God have been laid with the understanding that spiritual birth occurs when a disciple is drawn from the world by the Father through receipt of His divine Breath [Pneuma ’Agion]. Much work has been done, but even after the house of God has been completed, the walls of the spiritual city must be rebuilt. So more work lies ahead of this fifth generational remnant than behind as the burnt stones that will form the walls of this Jerusalem above have to be recovered from the rubble of the former city—from the holy nation that remains in theological ruin. This is the work that awaits the arrival of another generation of the Church that has left or will soon leave spiritual Babylon, where most of the holy nation lives as prosperous captives.
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"Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright ©2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved."