The Great Falling Away

     Before his death, Herbert W. Armstrong appointed Joseph W. Tkach as his successor.  
    On January 16, 1986 he was named Pastor General of the World Wide Church of God.  
    In glowing terms Mr. Tkach memorialized the accomplishments and dedication of his predecessor.  
    "God granted Mr. Armstrong ninety three and a half  years, the last 53 of which were fully immersed in doing the work of God, proclaiming the Gospel of the kingdom of God to a world blinded by the deception of the god of this world, Satan the Devil (Rev 12:9).  Even in the last year of his life, with declining strength, he completed with God's help, his most  powerful and effective book 'Mystery of The Ages'.  This after half a century of articles, letters, booklets, books, sermons and broadcasts, preaching and teaching the truth of God's Word, of His plan for mankind, of the glorious and radiant future that is the ultimate destiny of humanity.

    ... Indeed, as Mr. Armstrong wrote in his final letter to you,  'The greatest work lies yet ahead...'  The greatest tribute we can give Mr. Armstrong is to do the Work we've been called to."

    The Autobiography of H.W.Armstrong  vol.2 letter by J.W. Tkach  pp. 647-648
    Initially, the transition of Church leadership and administration to Mr. Tkach went smooth and comfortably with very little noticeable difference.  
    The nature and look of the Plain Truth Magazine, as well as the World Tomorrow broadcast remained much the same as they had been.  
    From all indications it was "business as usual" at the World Wide Church of God.  
    But that was just the illusion!  
    Behind the scenes something was going terribly wrong.  
    It was a little more then a year later that the first signs of the changes that have since wreaked havoc on the W.W. Church became manifest.  
    A close friend and member of the WWCOG brought me a copy of the March 23, 1987 edition of the "World Wide News" - the  Church's internal news journal which is distributed to members of the congregation for the purpose of keeping them informed of church activities.  
    Something she read in the lead article had surprised her -  
    She brought it to me, because she remembered something I had told her just days after Mr. Armstrong's death.  
    At that time I told her - "Within ten years this Church as it exists today will crumble to the ground, it will not hold to the ideals and truths that Mr. Armstrong had restored."  
    "How can you say that, this is God's True Church", she said at the time.  
    "After all", she argued, "Mr. Armstrong had hand picked Mr. Tkach as his successor -  
    And certainly after his 53 years of Church leadership, had established a precedent in which the Church would undoubtedly continue."  
    But now she was troubled by what she saw happening within.  
    The article that concerned her was titled:  
    "New Understanding of the Meaning of Christ's Broken Body and the Church's Teaching on HEALING".  
    Wherein Mr. Tkach says:
    Brethren, God has led me to see that the Church has misunderstood the concept of what we have called 'physical sin.'"   [W.W.News 3/23/87 pg. 3]
    And so it began -  
    Little by little, precept by precept, with the precision of tumbling dominos -  
    One belief after the other began to fall.  
    In this particular instance, even suggesting that -  
    "Mr. Armstrong himself would have been the first one to change and accept new understanding when God made it clear." [Ibid]
    From what I was told by several loyal church members, the changes were slow and subtle at first, but as time went on they escalated in frequency and severity, until it seemed as if every week another one of the Truths that Mr. Armstrong had restored was done away with.  
    In 1992 the Church published a booklet entitled -  
    "God Is..."  
    It was after reading this booklet that it became clear, the Church had indeed strayed far from the doctrine that had been.  
    This booklet, which attempted to describe the nature of God, did more to confuse than enlighten -  
    Even worse, it was another complete contradiction of the understanding previously held.  
    God, in their description, was no longer as formerly believed, a being that looked as we look, with arms, legs, eyes, etc., in whose image we were created -  
    But rather, that -  
    "humanity is the image of God in the dominion it exercises over the rest of creation";  or -  "in a spiritual sense by possessing intelligence, and the capacity to make moral distinctions". 
    It seemed curious, if not down right ominous, that the references given in this booklet to support both of these newly revised notions of "who or what God is", were from sources outside the Church.  
    The former being "Harper's Bible Commentary on Genesis 1:3-31" and the latter from the book, "ABC's of the Bible" (Readers Digest Association, Inc., 1991, pg.16).  
    So it seemed that the Church's doctrine was no longer being determined from the insight and understanding of a Spirit filled Church leadership, but rather, from the writings and philosophies of theologians and religionists outside the Body of Christ.  
    It was absurd!  
    The brethren were baffled.  
    Yet, few spoke out.  
    According to several Church members, those who did were admonished or even expelled from their congregations.  
    Many became disheartened, and left of their own accord.  
    Others, though disillusioned remained, many hoping that some how the Church would turn back to the simple Truths once held by the entire Church membership, in the peace, joy and unity that is Christ.  
    But it was not to be -  
    In the October, 1994 issue of "Plain Truth" magazine, an article by Mr. Tkach entitled: "A Framework for Christian Celebration", (concerning the Feast of Tabernacles and other Annual Holy Days of God), foreshadowed the severity and magnitude of the changes that were soon to come.  
    In what seemed to be more of an embarrassed apology to  traditional Christendom than a message of spiritual edification to his own flock, Mr. Tkach revealed what he termed, his "matured insight" into why the World Wide Church continued to practice these Holy Days, ending with this summary: 
    "Over the decades, as we have grown in grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior, our tradition of observing the annual festivals has also matured.  Today, we observe the annual festivals in the spirit of Paul's instruction to the Colossians: 'And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him'" [Col 3:17]
    Incredibly, as if he had to justify such worship to mainstreamers; and in a manner worthy of any "spin doctor", Mr. Tkach referred to these annual festivals of worship as merely, "our (the Church's) tradition" -   
    Instead of - the commanded Holy Days of God.  
    Equally shocking was his total misrepresentation of Paul's instruction to the Colossians [Col 3:17], by seeming to imply that Paul was giving license for Christians to do whatever suited their fancy, so long as they -  
    "Did it in the name of Jesus".  
    When in actuality Paul is just saying -  
    That whatever you - as a practicing Christian do (which naturally, must be in accordance with God's Law), do it in gratitude to the Father and in the name of the Son.  
    I suppose this erroneous assumption is also one of the ways in which the Church leadership used faulty reasoning to rationalize all the changes they had made and continued to make.  
    It was about this time that another Church member told me this story:  
    "While at a meeting of the "Spokesman's Club" (a fellowship group in which members take turns giving spoken dissertations on religious topics of their choice), the Minister noticed that he was holding a copy of "Mystery of The Ages".  
    Upon seeing this, the Minister asked this friend if the book had anything to do with the topic he would be addressing that evening.  
    This book was finished by Mr. Armstrong the year of his death, and as quoted earlier in this writing, praised by Mr. Tkach himself as his [Mr. Armstrong's] most powerful and effective work.  
    So you can imagine how taken back this friend must have been by the Minister's candid negativity toward what had just a few years earlier been considered the hallmark of this Church's literature.  
    "You're not going to use that old book for your speech are you?", the Minister asked,  "We don't adhere to most of those beliefs anymore".  
    "But this was written by Mr. Armstrong", rebutted my friend.  
    "In a few years, no one will even know Mr. Armstrong's name, let alone what he believed in", the Minister mumbled under his breath.  
    "I couldn't believe my ears", this friend lamented sadly.  
    As difficult as it was to accept all the doctrinal changes that had been made, it was even harder and more disturbing for him to hear a Minister of the Church, condemn it's former Pastor General in such a disrespectful way.  For even if the new church leadership had been justified in making doctrinal changes, there was certainly no justification for maliciously demeaning their Founder's life time of dedication.  
    For years they had tip-toed around this -  
    Criticizing the message while being careful not to be critical of the Messenger - who was still held in high regard by most of the Church.  
    I suppose, by now it no longer mattered -  
    Tens of thousands had left the Church -  
    The World Tomorrow was being broadcast on fewer and fewer stations.  
    The Church's annual income had dropped to less than half of what it had been.  
    Prime Church properties were being sold off one by one -  
    Subscriptions to the Plain Truth had fallen off radically, there was even talk about charging people a subscription price for the magazine that Herbert Armstrong had so many times said proudly -    "Was free for the asking".  
    Even my friends, finally had enough, and left the Church they had loved and supported.  
    The World Wide Church of God was in a state of total chaos!   
    In the July, 1995 issue of the Plain Truth, from an article titled: "Following His Lead", Joseph W. Tkach makes these remarks in defense of his actions:  
    "By God's grace, he has led me, as pastor general of the World Wide Church of God, to submit to him in ways I never expected or imagined....Despite significant internal criticism, the World Wide Church has chosen over the past several years to follow the lead of Jesus Christ and the apostles through the Scriptures, and change certain of it's major doctrines....In making these changes we answer to our Lord and Savior, and we praise and glorify him for his great salvation in bringing the World Wide Church of God to spiritual  repentance from a history of misinterpretation of his Word and misguided zeal in serving him." 
    Two months later in September of 1995, Mr. Tkach died of cancer.  
    He was succeeded by his son Joseph Tkach, who assumed the office of President of the Church.  
    The Junior Tkach, wasted no time in completing the job that his father had started.  
    Within a few short months after his father's death, Joseph Tkach Jr. issued the final blow to the Church that Mr. Armstrong, as the shepherd of God's "little flock", had so painstakingly raised and nourished for more then half a century.  
    In an article first published in the Winter 1996 issue of Christian Research Journal, titled: "A Church Reborn", Tkach  publicly denounces "in it's entirety", the Church's former doctrine.  
    "Gone are our obsession with a legalistic interpretation of the Old Testament, our belief in British Israelism, and our insistence on our fellowships exclusive relationship with God. Gone are our condemnations of ... traditional Christian celebrations such as Easter and Christmas.  Gone is our long-held view of God as a family...  "My father articulated to the church the scriptural teaching that Christians are under the New Covenant, not the Old. This teaching resulted in our abandoning past requirements that Christians observe the seventh day-Sabbath as "holy time", and that Christians are obligated to observe the annual festivals commanded to  Israel in Leviticus and Deuteronomy..."
    As the article continues Tkach makes a statement that I doubt few if any understand the significance of:
    "All these changes in the space of ten years? Many are now advising us that profound course corrections of this magnitude are without historical precedent, at least since the days of the New Testament church."
    Just think of it -
    "Without precedent since the days of the New Testament Church."  

    Their entire doctrine -  
    Totally changed within ten years, as I had told this friend would happen.  
    Never in the History of Christianity has any Church  completely abandoned - let alone condemned, it's own beliefs.  
    Beliefs - so outside the mainstream of traditional standards that they set those who follow them apart from all others that call themselves Christian.  
    The very same beliefs - that we have seen throughout this article, have stood as banners of identity to "True Christians" for the past two thousand years.  
    Now, in the latter days of the Twentieth Century as a new millennium dawns, the Word has again been quelled.  
    Ironically, this time, from within -  
    We have entered a new era in the unfolding of God's plan.  
    The time when the prophet Amos told us -  
    There would be a "Famine of The Word".  
    And Paul -  
    "A Great Apostasy". -  
    When "His Church" - "The Church of God",  
    Would in the "latter days" as Paul had written to Timothy -  
    Turn away from "their Faith", and succumb:  

    "to seducing spirits and the doctrine of devils." 
    The World Wide Church's abandonment of their former beliefs and resulting Famine of the Word constitute the fulfillment of these End Time Prophecies -  
     If not for the gallant effort of a few small off-shoot groups that are still struggling to re-establish themselves, God's Truth has all, but been silenced.  
    Though it went by almost totally unnoticed by the entire world, the most urgent sign of Christ's imminent return -  
    "The Great Falling Away" - is now history.  
    "Tell me, how did you know this would happen", these friends finally asked me?  
    "How", I answered -  
    "It was written in God's Holy Word".  
    You see -  
    Mainstream Churches all teach, but for minor differences, the same counterfeit beliefs.  
    They worship on Sunday -  
    They believe in a Trinity -  
    They have substituted Easter for Passover -  
    They celebrate man made traditions of pagan origin, such as Christmas, instead of God's commanded Holy Days -  
    To site a few.  
    There are hundreds of traditional churches and denominations each with it's own TV and radio show, church literature, net page, evangelizing, etc..  
    One need only to walk out of their house or try to shop in the stores around Christmas time to realize, there is no famine of the word that they're preaching.  
    The World Wide Church of God proclaimed a different message than all others.  
    The Gospel they preached, was the same Gospel preached by the Apostolic Church, and in one incarnation or another, all "True Christians" (as best they knew it), for the past nineteen hundred years.  
    Which, as we have seen, scripture and history, however slanted in it's view, still verifies:

   The 12 Apostles -
    Polycarp and the quartodecimans -  
    The Paulicians of 7th century Armenia -  
    The Bogomils of the Balkins -  
    The Waldensians, the Lollards  
    The Mumfords of Rhode Island -   
    Herbert W. Armstrong and The World Wide Church of God -

    Were all - Guardians of his Word.  
    As are still, the remnant of them, that hold fast to their beliefs. 

    To them -   
    And all who have ears to hear, I say -   
    Take comfort in knowing that the events that have all but in name, destroyed the Church of God are also the surest signs of the nearness of Christ's return.   
    Take heed then -   
    For as Paul forewarned -   
    On the heels of this Great Apostasy, is the Antichrist and the Great Tribulation that he will bring upon the whole Earth.

    Repent then -   
    And turn back to the Lord.   
    For these are the Last Days -   
    The Kingdom of God draws very near.

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The Great Falling Away by Joseph Santora --- ©1998-2002 True Christian Ministries