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1840: At this date the Pawcatuck Church was built (on High Street , Westerly , Rhode Island ).

 

This church building we found, much by accident (or divine guidance, which seemed to be unusually active this day).  While we were photographing the outside of the building a girl came running across the street and asked us what we were doing.  We explained, and she invited us to go across the street into their church offices and speak with their elder Sr. Pastor, a Rev. Leon R. Lawton, a most wonderful man.  He proceeded to take us into the church building for a photo-tour.  It was fairly large, I would say it could have seated 1,000 people.  The sanctuary was upstairs, while kitchen and function rooms, and class rooms were downstairs.  Hundreds of clear windows were throughout the building, windows of ancient glass.  The building had the date of 1840 on it.  Pastor Lawton said currently there were forty members meeting regularly on the Sabbath, and that he also pastured a group of Jamaican believers who had moved from Boston into the area.  Sadly, they are short of qualified pastors and have to invite pastors of other churches to preach on occasion, and at times they teach doctrine contrary to their beliefs.  These people are lovely people, gentle and kind, and yes, genuine Christian Sabbatarian believers.  Their numbers are down from their heyday of the 1800s, but they’re still alive spiritually.  These buildings are beautiful, and the quality of the woodwork is truly marvelous.  He freely gave of himself and some of the booklets out of their library, whatever we were interested in.



THE ACTIVE THREAD MOVES SOUTH TO NEW JERSEY

1705: In 1705, 2 years before the death of Steven Mumford (and probably while Passover was still observed on the 14th of Nisan), a few members went down to Piscataway , New Jersey , and founded a Church there. They called themselves 'The Church of God , Keeping the Commandments of God in Piscataway New Jersey .' They met in the house of one Benjamin Martin. Edward Dunham was sent back to Westerly , Rhode Island for his ordination with 'the laying on of hands' ceremony. The Piscataway Church of God's beliefs were as follows: 'We believe that unto us there is but one God the Father, and one Lord Jesus Christ who is the Mediator between God and mankind, and that the Holy Ghost is the Spirit of God.' (I.e., they rejected the 'Trinity' doctrine of Catholicism and mainstream Protestantism.) They believed in the Old Testament and New Testament. They believed in the Ten Commandments being written by God, they believed in the 6 principles of Hebrews 6 (i.e., the laying on of hands, healing, the resurrections, the ordinance of baptism, etc.) They believed in the keeping of the Lord's Supper (although it doesn't say how often. This is something we'd like to find out.) They believed in Church Government. And they believed that baptism should be by immersion. These are the basic beliefs of the Church as written down in 1705.

Their first record in their old book is as follows: "The Church of God, Keeping the Commandments of God and the Faith of Jesus Christ, Living in Piscataway and Hopewell, in the province of New Jersey, being assembled with one accord at the house of Benjamin Martin in Piscataway, the 19th day of August, 1705, we did then and with one mind chose our dearly beloved Edward Dunham, who is faithful in the Lord, to be our elder and assistant according to the will of God, whom we did send to New England to be ordained. Who was ordained at the Church meeting in Westerly , Rhode Island by prayer and laying on of hands by their elder William Gibson the 8th of September, 1705." As it was stated earlier "On March 2, 1708 they apparently changed their observance of Passover from the yearly Bible observance of it on the 14th Nisan to a monthly or bimonthly event." This ordination of Edward Dunham occurred 3 years earlier. Piscataway was far enough removed from Rhode Island that they just might have held onto the proper observance of Passover on the 14th of Nisan.  We get the following quote  from “Conscience Taken Captive, A Short History of Seventh Day Baptists”, p. 12, par. 2,

 New Jersey 1705, Piscataway, in northern New Jersey , was the third birthplace of Seventh Day Baptists in America .  [remember they weren’t calling themselves this in 1705, and this congregation probably never did].  In 1705 Deacon Edmund Dunham, a leader in the Baptist church, saw Hezekiah Bonham doing “servile labor” on Sunday.  Thinking it was his Christian responsibility, Dunham reprimanded him for breaking God’s law.  Bonham demanded scriptural proof that the first day was holy by divine authority.  Edmund Dunham accepted the challenge.  He not only searched the Bible himself for proof he assumed must be there but enlisted members of his Bible class to join him in the study.  Out of this study he and 17 others became convinced of the validity of the seventh day Sabbath and began meeting in the Dunham house.  Most continued membership in the Baptist church but the subject was so fundamental that, for the sake of peace, the Sabbathkeepers withdrew.  They entered into a covenant agreement on August 19, 1705.  Edmund Dunham was selected as pastor and sent to Rhode Island where he was ordained at Hopkinton by the Newport church.”

What we see here, and this is by extrapolation of the facts, and obviously the Seventh Day Baptists have interpreted the facts differently, we’re all dealing with the same facts---but we see that these early Sabbath observing “Churches of God, Keeping the Commandments of God and the faith of Jesus Christ” for the most part had such a friendly relationship with their harvest field, the Sunday observing Baptists, that eventually in 1818 they took on the name Seventh Day Baptists---and actually came to consider themselves a part of the Baptist movement, and not the Sabbatarian movement they had originally come from by way of England and France.  This friendly relationship to their harvest field was so strong at times, even in times of the Newport Church of God, that William Hiscox actually pastured the 1st Baptist Church started by John Clarke when they didn’t have a pastor.  From “Conscience Taken Captive”, p. 14, par. 2 we get:

“The Newport Baptist Church , from which the Seventh Day Baptists had separated, was without pastoral leadership in 1694.  The records show that they voted to “place themselves for a time under the ministry of Rev. Mr. William Hiscox of the 7th day Church.”  During much of the 18th century a chapel located on the shore of Green End was shared by several Baptist churches in Newport for their baptismal services.   Elder William Bliss of Newport helped preserve the Baptist witness during the period of British occupation in that city as he visited and encouraged members [obviously Sunday observing Baptist members] of pastorless churches in the area.”  [Elder Bliss was and Elder in the Newport Sabbatarian Church of God during this time.  I believe his gravesite is in the cemetery in Ashaway , Rhode Island .]

One other point that should be made here, and that is that Pastor William Hiscox was non-Torah observant and recognized Sunday observing Christians were believers as well, by the very fact that he preached for the 1st Baptist Church in Newport when they didn’t have a pastor.  Most of the Sabbatarian Church of God believers viewed their Sunday observing Baptist neighbors as genuine brothers in Christ.  Although they themselves were strict Sabbatarians, they were non-sectarian and had not cut themselves off from serving the greater Body of Christ.  These revivals, although growing smaller in number, are by no means dead spiritually, but are genuinely filled with the love of Christ, and continue onward down the path Jesus Christ has laid out for them.  I am indebted to Pastor Lawton for his love and help in freely giving of his time and Church history of the Seventh Day Baptists.

Westward Movement From New Jersey

But the real identity of the “ Church of God , keeping the Commandments of God” went south, first to Piscataway , New Jersey , and then west where eventually many of these migrating members formed into what is now the “Church of God Seventh Day.”  We see this because the Church of God Seventh Day recognize their true identity going all the way back to the Albigensians and Waldensians in France (understanding the prophetic meaning of Revelation 2-3).  Whereas the Churches of God in Rhode Island since 1818 called themselves from that point onward “Seventh Day Baptists”.  The Churches of God in Rhode Island truly carried the torch of the Sabbatarian Churches of God to America from England, and then handed it to those moving westward across America, those who now call themselves “The Church of God Seventh Day.”  From  Conscience Taken Captive”, pp. 17-18, par. 2-3 & 1 resp. we get:

West Virginia and Ohio Migrations, One of the most dramatic examples of Seventh Day Baptist migration occurred in 1789 among members of the Shrewsbury church in northern New Jersey .   [this would be while they still went by the name Church of God ]  Members of the church voted to sell their house of worship and migrate west.  Ten families left by wagon train on a journey which eventually ended in the wilderness of western Virginia .  They were joined by others from Piscataway and the Philadelphia areas so that about 70 people participated in this exodus.  They stopped for a time in Fayette County , Pennsylvania where a church had been established at Woodbridgetown by members from the Piscataway church and local converts among Baptists.  [See, they’re still working their Baptist harvest field for converts!]  From this gateway to the frontier, the exodus moved south up the Monongahela River to Ten Mile Creek.  In 1792 the Salem , West Virginia church was constituted, although the record book treats it as an extension of the Shrewsbury church.  Over the next century more than a dozen churches were located among the hills and runs of West Virginia at places such as Lost Creek (1805), Middle Island (1832), Berea (1870), Greenbrier (1870) and Roanoke (1872).  From this areas of western Virginia (which became the state of West Virginia during the Civil War), a stream of migration crossed the Ohio River into the Old Northwest Territory .  Seventh Day Baptist settlements were made in Ohio at Todd Fork, Mud Run, Mad River and North Hampton where a church was established in 1837.  Other churches followed at Jackson Center (1840), Port Jefferson (1840), Stokes (1842), and Sciota (1842).  From these churches the migration continued across Indiana , Illinois and Iowa .  They moved with others and settled in the Great Plains area.”

So we can see that many of these members, far removed from Rhode Island , carried the torch of identity and doctrine to what developed into the Church of God Seventh Day, headquartered in Stanberry , Missouri .
So we follow the Sabbatarian Churches of God from France , to London , to Newport , Rhode Island , to Westerly , to Piscataway , New Jersey . From Piscataway, the active thread goes to Marion Iowa, and from there it goes to Stanberry , Missouri . From Stanberry , Missouri the thread goes to Oregon where Mrs. Herbert W. Armstrong was convinced by a Mrs. Runcorn, a Sabbath-keeper in Oregon , affiliated with the Church of God Seventh Day out of Stanberry , Missouri , that the 7th Day Sabbath should be observed. [The Church Mrs. Runcorn may have been a member of was called the 'Scravel Hill Church of God', in the Willamette Valley , in Oregon .]

People who often try to say there is no connective thread between the Sabbatarian Churches of God of Rhode Island and the Church of God Seventh Day, and then to the Worldwide Church of God, or the Sabbatarian Churches of God in and around London and the Sabbatarian Waldensians, Cathars and Albigensians in southern France, and later Holland cannot account for a little, but very revealing connective thread provided by a family who has kept good records of their origins, or others who have managed to find those origins.  Such is the case with the Cottrell family, researched by a Church of God Seventh Day historian.  The Cottrells were originally of Albigensian stock, and escaped from the devastating carnage of their people, who, along with them were condemned under the Third Lateran Council.  The Inquisition began in 1233 in southern France , when Pope Gregory IX charged the Dominican order with wiping out Cathari and others (Albigenians and Waldensians) not approved by the State church.  Richard Nickels of the Church of God Seventh Day relied on multiple sources to uncover:

Roswell F. Cottrell.  He descended from a long line of Sabbath-keepers; the Cottrells were an Albigensian family or clan of southwestern France….The Cottrell family of England was descended from John Cottrell the Norman, one of the few survivors of the devastating Albigensian Crusades.  In 1638 (two years after Rhode Island plantation was founded by Roger Williams), Nicholas Cottrell came from England and settled in Rhode Island .

The Cottrell name is found among the earliest Church of God   (later Seventh Day Baptist) people in America .  John Cottrell was a member of the “mother” church in Newport , Rhode Island in 1692.  Nicholas and Dorothy Cottrell were members of the Westerly Church [of God] ( Rhode Island ) in November 1712.

Roswell F. Cottrell, born in New York , was sixth in the line of descent from the original Nicholas Cottrell.  Several Cottrells were Seventh Day Baptist preachers.  Roswell was reared in a Sabbath-keeping family and observed the Sabbath all his life….the Cottrell family left the Seventh Day Baptists because the Cottrells refused to believe in the immortality of the soul.  Original Sabbatarian Baptist ( Church of God ) leaders were outspoken against the doctrine of the immortality of the soul, and were derisively termed “soul sleepers” by their opponents.  But the belief in the immortality of the soul eventually crept into Sabbatarian Baptist teachings through men such as William Davis.

After leaving the Seventh Day Baptists, the Cottrells were known as “Seventh Day Christians”.  A good-sized group of believers was raised up, whose membership were sometimes called “Cottrellites”….But in 1851, through Joseph Bates and Samuel Rhodes, now Sabbath-keepers, Roswell, his brother and his father John accepted Adventist teaching.  Roswell became a leading Adventist minister and writer.

During the debate over a church name, Roswell F. Cottrell stood for “ Church of God ”.  He was not able to attend the Battle Creek Conference of 1860 when the church name was selected, but his article “Making Us a Name,” published in the Review and Herald of March 22, 1860 was counted as support for the group that opposed organizing under the name Seventh Day Adventists.  In the Review of May 3, 1860, he wrote, “I do not believe in popery; neither do I believe in anarchy; but in Bible order, discipline, and government in the Church of God” (Nickels R.C. Six Paper on the History of the Church of God .  Giving & Sharing, Neck City , (MO), 1993, pp. 161-162).

So we find for around 700 years, we have the continuous line of one family,  who were first Albigensian Sabbatarian ( Church of God ), English Sabbatarian Church of God, Rhode Island Sabbatarian Church of God, and then ended up with the Church of God Seventh Day in the Midwest , when they could not continue with what became the Adventist church.  Those that left the Adventists left over change of doctrine and church name, and remained a Sabbatarian Church of God, whose name became The Church of God Seventh Day.  What they briefly say about their history on their website is:

Our beginning… .The Church of God (Seventh Day) grew from the efforts of dedicated advent believers living in Michigan and Iowa in the late 1850’s.  In 1863, the Michigan church began to extend its influence into the eastern and central U.S. through a publication called The Hope of Israel.  This magazine invited fellow Christians to assemble at conferences and campmeetings, and created interest in their distinctive doctrines: the second advent [coming] of Christ and the seventh-day Sabbath.  Through these means, the General Conference of the Church of God (Seventh Day) was organized in 1884 and incorporated in Missouri in 1899.  Its offices were located in Stanberry , Missouri , until 1950, when they were transferred to Denver , Colorado .  Over the years, The Hope of Israel also moved from Michigan to Iowa , then to Missouri .  After several name changes, it is now known as the Bible Advocate.  More than 100 years later, this flagship publication of the Church continues to be published and mailed ten times a year from Denver offices (http://www.cog7.org   ).

 

The Cottrell Family, An Excellent Example

The Cottrell family is an excellent example of how certain tight knit groups of Sabbatarian Church of God believers more or less maintained the same set of beliefs.  And whenever the beliefs of the Sabbatarian Church of God they happened to be attending changed or got watered down, they would then move on, at times fellowshipping amongst themselves.  Certain of the Cottrells thus moved from the Churches of God in Rhode Island to the Midwest, bringing with them their Church of God identity and the doctrinal understandings which had originally come from England , and before that, France .  We find the 7th Day Adventist movement formed out of these of Church of God members who were migrating west from New Jersey and New York , at the time the Cottrells were also moving into the Midwest .  Some of their number along with some of these others developed into the 7th Day Adventist movement, taking on that name, while some of their group, which had become somewhat large (even being called Cottrellites) became part of and founding members of what became the Church of God Seventh Day, which preserved more of the original Sabbatarian Church of God beliefs which had originally come from London via Stephen Mumford.  So we see how the original Sabbatarian Church of God beliefs moved west, almost unchanged, first from France , then to London , then to Rhode Island , then to the Midwest and Stanberry , Missouri .  Around the time of 1925 or 1926 Mrs. Herbert Armstrong met a Mrs. Runcorn, who attended a local Church of God in Oregon that was an affiliate of Church of God Seventh Day, headquartered in Stanberry , Missouri .  She convinced Mrs. Armstrong of the Seventh Day Sabbath.  Six months later Mr. Herbert Armstrong was a baptized member of that church, and then became a pastor in their churches.  So that is how we see that the Sabbatarian Churches of God in the Colony of Rhode Island are truly “our heritage”.  Mr. Herbert Armstrong became a pastor for several years within the Church of God Seventh Day, before he was inspired to start a work of his own.  The following quotes show that process and how it came to take place.

Here is what Herbert Armstrong said about the Church of God Seventh Day and why he left them (taken from the 1973 edition of his autobiography):  “The only Church I had so far found which “kept the commandments of God, and the testimony of Jesus Christ,” and at the same time bore the NAME of the original true Church, was this almost unknown little Church of God with its small publishing house in Stanberry, Missouri” (Autobiography 1973 ed., page 312).

“….So, as the first step in this test, I wrote up an exposition of some 16 typewritten pages proving clearly, plainly, and beyond contradiction that a certain minor point of doctrine proclaimed by this church, based on an erroneous interpretation of a certain verse of Scripture, was in error.  This was mailed to the Stanberry, Missouri , headquarters to see whether their leaders would confess error and change.  The answer came back from their head man, editor of their paper and president of their “General Conference.”  He was forced to admit, in plain words, that their teaching on this point was false and in error.  But, he explained, he feared that if any attempt was made to correct this false doctrine and publicly confess the truth, many of their members, especially those of older standing and heavy tithe payers, would be unable to accept it.  He feared they would lose confidence in the Church if they found it had been in error on any point.  He said he feared many would withdraw their financial support, and it might divide the Church.  And therefore he felt the Church could do nothing but continue to teach and preach this doctrine which he admitted in writing to be false.  Naturally, this shook my confidence considerably.  This church leader, if not the church itself, was looking to people as the SOURCE of belief, instead of God!  Yet, here was the only Church holding to the one greatest basic truth of the Commandments of God and the faith of Jesus Christ, kept in the NAME of God, and in spite of this and a few other erroneous teachings, nevertheless being closer to the whole truth than any church I had found.  If this was not the true Church of God , then where was it?” (pages 315-316).

“….This Umapine experience was one more in which no fruit could be borne as long as I teamed with one of the ministers of this church, connected with, or springing from the Stanberry, Missouri , political center.  Years later, still in my search for the one true church, still questioning whether this could be that church, still not having found it elsewhere, I asked Mrs. Runcorn (whom Mrs. Armstrong and I looked upon as our “spiritual mother”) if she could point out a single real bonafide convert, brought in from the outside, resulting from the ministry of any of the preachers affiliated with “Stanberry.”  She thought seriously for quite a while.  Then she slowly shook her head.  She knew of none.  I asked several others who had been in the church for years.  Their answers were the same.” (page 385).

….This was the crossroads---the final pivotal, crucial test before the living Christ began opening the doors of mass communication through which GOD’S WORK at last could come to life after centuries of sleeping, and go forth in mighty power to all the world, preparing the way before Christ’s return to earth as Ruler over all nations.  I did not fully realize, then, that this was a crucial turning point in the history of the Church of God .  My wife and I did not leave the Church.  This was God’s Church.  Of that I was not, then, completely sure.  They came closer to Biblical truth than any other---but I was seriously disturbed by their lack of power and accomplishment.  What actually was happening, though we did not understand it then, was that a NEW ERA was dawning in the history of the [Sabbatarian] Church of God .  The words of Christ are quoted in the 2nd and 3rd chapters of Book of Revelation, foretelling the history of God’s Church in seven successive eras, or phases.  [Interestingly, the Stanberry Churches of God believed the same interpretation of Revelation 2 and 3, as apparently the Waldensians did as well.]  Events since that time have revealed [this] was the transition for ‘ Sardis ’ (Rev. 3:1-5) into the beginning of the ‘ Philadelphia era’.  Mrs. Armstrong and I continued to fellowship with these brethren.  I continued to work with them, and with their ministers, as far as that was possible.  The lay brethren continued to look to me for the leadership of getting the Word of God going to the world.  But from all that “all-day wrangle” I was independent of them and their ministers, financially.  From that time I was dependent solely, on God.  We did not ask or solicit financial contributions from any except those who voluntarily became financial co-workers with us.  And that has been the policy ever since.” (page 385).

So that is a description, in Herbert Armstrong’s own words, about why he left the Church of God Seventh Day (headquartered in Stanberry, Missouri ).  It was because of two things, doctrine as well as the fact that he felt the Church of God Seventh Day was not following what should have been its top priority, and that is proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom to the world as a witness.  Herbert Armstrong considered that the Church of God Seventh Day was [the continuation of] the group in Revelation 3:1-10, the representatives of the Sardis era of the Church of God .

Here is a question and answer from the Church of God Seventh Day’s website on Herbert Armstrong.

What connections did the Church of God (Seventh Day) have with Herbert Armstrong?---Herbert W. Armstrong was a licensed minister of the Church of God (Seventh Day) for several years in the 1930’s.  He was personally known by many of the Church’s ministers at that time and worked in cooperation with them.  In the late 1930’s, Mr. Armstrong left the Church to begin his own work, which became known as the Radio Church of God and later the Worldwide Church of God.

 

THE WORLDWIDE CHURCH OF GOD
(AT FIRST ' RADIO CHURCH OF GOD')

In 1927 Mr. and Mrs. Herbert W. Armstrong came into contact with the Church of God Seventh Day in Oregon , when Mrs. Armstrong met a Mrs. Runcorn, a member of the Scravel Hill Church of God in the Willamette Valley of Oregon.  We have already read about that early connection between the Church of God Seventh Day and what became the Worldwide Church of God.

 

Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong and The Worldwide Church of God, a snap-shot of the early Church

  First let’s look at the phenomenon that was Mr. Herbert Armstrong. Where most have misjudged him and the Worldwide Church of God (which he began in the early 1930’s and led until his death in 1986) is that most have not taken the long-range historic view of either him nor the Worldwide Church of God.  Looking back into the early Judeo-Christian churches in Asia Minor that existed for the first 300 years of the Church Age, recent history has discovered that the early Church in Asia Minor and as a whole for the first 250 years was basically Jewish in practice of days of worship, as well as racially.  Then came the Greco-Roman church under Constantine in 325AD, banning any and all Jewish practices in the churches that were “allowed to continue” in Asia Minor.  [see http://www.unityinchrist.com/history2/index3.htm for a more comprehensive study of this period of time in early Church history.]  God obviously wanted a “snap-shot” picture of his original early “Churches of God” preserved down through the ages, to our time now.  Amazingly, for whatever reason, that is what has occurred.  [See http://www.unityinchrist.com/history/revivals.htm for a comprehensive study of this history.]  Now, as recent Church historians have discovered, the early Judeo-Christian churches in Asia Minor were decidedly non-Torah observant.  (That term is defined in the study right after this one.)  But how would God preserve a historic snap-shot of these early Judeo-Christian Churches of God that had spread all over Asia Minor from the mother Jerusalem Church, preserving for us a near exact copy?  How would God preserve this copy through all the pressures of the Greco-Roman church under Constantine and later, the Roman Catholic Church?  How would he prevent this snap-shot copy from syncretizing the belief system of this pagan-Gentile church which was annihilating the Judeo-Christian churches in Asia Minor?  Historically, the answer is obvious, looking back.  He would have to make his snap-shot copy Torah-observant, believing the full Ten Commandment Law of God was still in full force for believers.  In a sense, God had to make his snap-shot copy hard-shell to all outside efforts to change it and it’s belief structure.  Looking back through all the different era’s of the Sabbatarian Churches of God shows they resisted successfully all efforts from the outside to force them to syncretize other belief systems.  Now when you look at Herbert Armstrong, along with the Worldwide Church of God, one is forced to take a different view, and cast off the popular view that he was a cult-leader of a legalistic cult-church.  Taking into account that God has amazingly revived the Jewish branch of the Body of Christ within a short historic span of time (1970 to 2005), to where there are close to 500,000 Messianic Jewish believers, this snap-shot of the early Judeo-Christian churches in Asia Minor becomes even more relevant.  We Gentile Christians have been all too guilty of misjudging what we don’t fully understand.  It is God who raises up Gentile Christian and Messianic Jewish churches and denominations, and it is God who preserves them.  And it is God who lets the older “revivals” die out.  So let’s try to view this history you just read, and Mr. Herbert Armstrong and the Worldwide Church of God properly now, through the lens of  their own church history.  Remember, the Church that Jesus will establish during his Millennial Kingdom age will be very much like these Torah-observant Sabbatarian Churches of God, as both Zechariah 14:16-19 and Isaiah 66:23 clearly show us [taken in context with verses 7-22 of Isaiah 66].  God’s full Old Testament law, as magnified by the New Testament, will be in full force as the “Law of the Land” for the whole world, as Jesus reigns from Jerusalem as King of the whole earth (Zechariah 14:9).  In light of all that, we should take a closer look at Herbert W. Armstrong and the Worldwide Church of God that was under his leadership.  But also realize, Romans 14 very clearly spells out the freedoms we all have in Christ, making “days of worship” an optional choice “during the Church Age.”  Careful reading of Romans 14 shows the believer has freedom in Christ to chose whether he or she desires to adhere to the Old Testament version of God’s 10 Commandment law, or the New Testament “law of Christ”, which is basically 9 of the 10 Commandments, with choice of “days of worship” being optional.  During the Millennial Age it will be different, reverting back to Torah-observancy.  That is what the Bible shows us.  Don’t like it, take the matter up with God.  Them’s the facts, folks.  Take it or leave it, doesn’t change them.

Irenaeus (177AD)

 

During the first three hundred years of the Christian Church a pitched battle raged against the heresies of Gnosticism and Adoptionism and those that were spreading them into the congregations.  Many of the early Church leaders after John would start to draw up the battle-lines between the orthodox and heretical.  Polycarp was John’s trained disciple.  He trained a disciple named Irenaeus, another Jewish Christian, who then moved up into the region of Gaul and was a Bishop in what became Lyons in 177-178AD.  He wrote five lengthy books defining the heresies that were attacking the Church.  He was the Christian Church’s first major apologist.  He wrote a number of books, but the most important that survives is the five-volume On the Detection and Overthrow of the So-Called Gnosis, normally referred to by the Latin title Adversus Haereses (Against Heresies).  Book I talks about the Valentinian Gnostics and their predecessors, who go as far back as the magician Simon Magus.  Book II provides rational proof that Valentinianism contains no merit in terms of it’s doctrines.  Book III shows that these doctrines are false by providing evidence from the Gospels.  Book IV consists of Jesus’ sayings, and stresses the unity of the Old Testament and the Gospels.  The final volume, Book V, focuses on more sayings of Jesus plus the letters of Paul the Apostle.  Irenaeus recognized the legitimacy of the church in Rome, which at this time had apparently not become an apostate church yet After 325AD this all changed, but at this time the Judeo-Christian congregations and Gentile Christian congregations existed peacefully, side-by-side, recognizing each other and working with each other.  All the genuine Christian churches were busy fighting these heresies and those who brought them into their congregations.  These heresies had torn into the early Judeo-Christian churches, just as John and Paul had warned, noting especially what Paul said, that when he departed, he said grievous wolves would tear into the flock.  The nature of what become the Catholic Church would all change by the 300s AD.  Irenaeus is claimed by the Catholic Church as one of their early “fathers” to this day.  As stated Irenaeus was a Jewish-Christian, and was a student of Polycarp, who was said to have been tutored and discipled by John the Apostle.  It’s interesting, Irenaeus give us in these five volumes a sort of snap-shot picture of what the early Judeo-Christian, and even Gentile Christian churches believed, which modern apologists might label heretical, sort of proving my point that heretical beliefs should only be those that complicate the simple gospel of Christ, and nothing more. 

 

Early eschatological beliefs of the Christian Church as recorded by Irenaeus

 

Irenaeus gives us a vivid snap-shot of early Judeo-Christian eschatological doctrines, which should not surprise ex-members of the Worldwide Church of God.  “Irenaeus identified the Antichrist, another name of the apostate Man of Sin, with Daniel’s Little Horn and John’s Beast of Revelation 13.  He sought to apply other expressions to Antichrist, such as “the abomination of desolation,” mentioned by Christ (Matt. 24:15) and the “king of a most fierce countenance,” in Gabriel’s explanation of the Little Horn of Daniel 8.  But he is not very clear how “the sacrifice and the libation shall be taken away” during the “half-week,” or three and one-half years of Antichrist’s reign.”  Small wonder he wouldn’t understand some of this, as these events are due to occur about 2,000 years later.  Irenaeus is at the early end of the Church age, and we now are at the end of it.  “He also understood that Rome, or some form of the Roman system, would be extant at the time of the 2nd coming of Christ.  Like the other early church fathers, Irenaeus interpreted the three and one-half “times” of the Little Horn of Daniel 7 as three and one-half literal years.  Antichrist’s three and a half years of sitting in the temple are placed immediately before the Second Coming of Christ.” 

 

Early beliefs about the Millennium

 

“Irenaeus declares that the Antichrist’s future three-and-a-half-year reign, when he sits in the temple at Jerusalem, will be terminated by the second advent [2nd coming of Christ], with the resurrection of the just, the destruction of the wicked, and the millennial reign of the righteous.  The general resurrection and judgment follow the descent of the New Jerusalem at the end of the millennial kingdom.”  Well, he got the order a little mixed up, as Revelation 20:11-13 shows the general resurrection taking place, and Revelation 21:1-17, after that event, shows the descent of the New Jerusalem---after the lake of fire, and the new heavens and earth are created.  “Irenaeus calls those “heretics” who maintain that the saved are immediately glorified in the kingdom to come after death, before their resurrection.”---i.e. he does not believe that the spirit-in-man component within humans remains conscious upon death when they rise to God in heaven, but as Ecclesiastes teaches, the spirit of man rises to God, but is unconscious, which is often called the doctrine of “soul sleep”.”  So Irenaeus and the early Church during his lifetime believed that believers were to be brought back to life and made immortal at the time of the 1st Resurrection, spoken of by Paul in 1st Corinthians 15:49-56.  The doctrine of “the immortal soul” was considered Biblically inaccurate and heretical by the early Christian Church, and don’t forget this is a disciple of Polycarp, who was a disciple of John.  So what Irenaeus pens in these five books, these beliefs here, were the doctrinal beliefs of John and the other 11 apostles, as well as those of Paul.  “He avers that the millennial kingdom and the resurrection are actualities, not allegories, the first resurrection introducing this promised kingdom in which the risen saints are described as ruling over the renewed earth during the millennium, between the two resurrections.”  “Irenaeus held to the old Jewish tradition that the first six days of creation week were typical of the first six thousand years of human history, with Antichrist manifesting himself in the sixth period.”---Wow!  No wonder his concepts of what the end-time Roman government, or some form of it, were fuzzy.  He knew he was 1800 years away from that event---“And he expected the millennial kingdom to begin with the second coming of Christ to destroy the wicked and inaugurate, for the righteous, the reign of the kingdom of God during the seventh thousand years, the millennial Sabbath, as signified by the Sabbath of creation week…he applies Biblical and traditional ideas to his descriptions of this earth during the millennium….”  i.e. he’s relying on Old Testament prophecies that describe that millennial period, such as found in Isaiah.  He saw the millennial period bounded by the two resurrections.  You know, I learned most of this information when I first became a member of the Worldwide Church of God, which was under the leadership of Herbert Armstrong at the time.  Now isn’t that a kicker?  Most other Christians and apologists like to paint him as being a fringe cook, a cultist (heretic?).  But here is described the eschatological beliefs of the early Church, and undoubtedly the apostles themselves, as recorded by the first and foremost apologist of the Christian Church.  So we see reflected in what Irenaeus wrote in his five books, as he battles heresies John and Paul also battled, the very same beliefs the early Church of God in Jerusalem believed, which are the same beliefs taught and believed by the Worldwide Church of God under Mr. Armstrong.  So what should we conclude from this?  Secondary beliefs, in such areas as prophecy, soul-sleep verses immortality of the soul, are not to be considered on the list of what makes beliefs orthodox or heretical.  We must go by what Paul taught, and that is simply that anything that complicates the simple gospel of Christ is to be considered heresy.  Personal or denominational beliefs about prophecy or immortal soul verses soul-sleep, even teachings about heaven and hell, all fall within the realm of secondary teachings, and can and do differ amongst the various denominations that make up the body of Christ.  Apologist’s beware, you must not aim your gun-sights on other denominations and groups just because they disagree with you on these secondary items I have just listed.  For years you have hammered at the Worldwide Church of God under Mr. Armstrong’s leadership, calling him a heretic, and you were wrong in doing that.  [Be sure to click onto the Homepage nav button “Why Orthodoxy?” when it appears on the site.  It will reveal a lot about these early battles against those two major heresies that tried to destroy the early Christian Church.]

To read the first volume of Herbert W. Armstrong’s autobiography, which describes the early years of the Worldwide Church of God and how it got going, log onto http://www.thetrumpet.com/index.php?page=book&id=1423 .  This link goes to another Torah observant Sabbatarian Church of God’s website.  Although, being a non-Torah observant Sabbatarian Church of God believer, which makes me not believe some of what is on their site, they have accurately reproduced the “Autobiography of Herbert W. Armstrong, Volume I” at that link. 




(Historical note to page 51, "1757:...": Few realize that Satan even tried to wipe out the Church of God in the United States through a bold invasion plan by French General Montcalm, which if successful would have made all of New England from New York City to the top of Maine part of the French Empire, a Catholic empire. Even New Jersey , where the active thread had taken root would not have been safe, being only a short distance from New York and the Hudson . The French, if they had gotten that far, would have intensified their efforts militarily. Fort William Henry is a colonial version of "The Alamo ." It threw a vital six-day delay on Montcalm which caused him to cancel his invasion plans which would have taken him successfully to New York City . Read these quotes taken from a historical flyer printed by The Fort William Henry Historical Society. (Emphasis mine throughout this quote.)

" Fort William Henry was constructed at the southern end of Lake George in 1755 by Major-General William Johnson and a group of colonial volunteers. The British military strategies designed the fort as a key northern defense of the colony of New York . It would also serve as a launching point for future military operations against the threatening French empire to the north. Finally, the fort would guard the portage between the waters of Lake George and the Hudson River to prevent any large scale French invasion. This portage was a vital link in the water route from Montreal to New York City...In August of 1757, the most brilliant French General of the colonial period, the Marquis de Montcalm, sailed up Lake George with a force of 8,000 crack French regulars, a large party of Indian allies, and Canadian volunteers. With the capable assistance of the Chevalier de Levis, Montcalm masterfully deployed his troops and artillery train of 32 pieces. Once their cannons were in siege position, the French expected the fort to surrender rather then engage such an impressive army in battle. When an easy capitulation was not forthcoming, Montcalm initiated a brutal assault with great vigor and much skill. The defending garrison, under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel George Munro, consisted of 2,000 men. In addition, there were numerous women and children from neighboring settlements who sought refuge within the safety of the fort's walls. After a siege of 6 days, Colonel Munro realized that the structure of the fort was near collapse and holding out any longer would be impossible. Yet by withstanding the French onslaught for such an extended period, the British had time to mass troops further south. After Colonel Munro surrendered, Montcalm recognized that any attempts to continue his expedition further south would be futile. The terms of capitulation included a promise of safe passage for the beleaguered English who were able to make the trip to Fort Edward . This greatly mystified and angered the Indians who had accompanied Montcalm from Canada for the sole purpose of securing English scalps. Montcalm, underestimating the ferocity of his Indian allies, had detailed but a small guard of French regulars to escort the garrison to Fort Edward . As the pitiful column of unarmed survivors marched down the military road, the Indians could be restrained no longer. Although the precise number of Englishmen killed during the massacre may never be ascertained, historians agree that it constituted one of the bloodiest pages of colonial American history. Following the massacre, Montcalm razed the fort and covered the charred remains with sand. The site remained untouched until the present project was begun in 1953."

So the next time you attend the Feast of Tabernacles at Saratoga Springs, New York, visit Fort William Henry and remember that the Church of God owes those buried there on the grounds a debt of gratitude for stopping Montcalm. Fort William Henry was our ' Alamo ', defended for us by those who didn't even know the true reason why they were inspired to resist so tenaciously. It was God who inspired this tenaciousness and military foresight in Lieutenant-Colonel Munro, for reasons beyond what he could have realized.

END

HISTORY OF THE CHURCH OF GOD
BIBLE STUDY SERIES

So that is where I sincerely believe the Worldwide Church of God comes from. Currently the Worldwide Church of God now believes it has historic evidence linking it back to the English Separatists of the 1630's, which I believe is a totally inaccurate interpretation of church history.  The Separatists of England (my ancestor was Elder Brewster, so I ought to know a little bit on this subject) were never Sabbath keepers, but observed Sunday as their “sabbath”.  Although the developing Separatist/Puritan movement may have crossed paths and shared common ground on English soil with the Sabbatarian Churches of God, the threads of their origins were never quite the same as the Sabbatarian Churches of God which came from the Lollards evangelistic preaching ministries.  A few stalwart Sabbatarians had obviously “crossed” the Channel from Europe into England in the 1300s.

Judging from the mostly Torah observant doctrinal interpretation each of these revivals shared, which was not part of the new covenant doctrinal beliefs of the Apostolic Church of God from the 50's A.D. to the 300's A.D., these revivals appear to be revivals of Jewish Christians who didn't go along with the major doctrinal decisions made at the Jerusalem council of Acts 15 (and explained by Paul in Romans 14). For some reason God preserved this often persecuted group of Torah observant Sabbatarian Christians as they were harassed from Turkey into Europe, then England and then into the United States. God doesn't always chose to leave the identity of his people, whether national or Apostolic Church of God, in the hands of secular and oftentimes hostile historians.
 
 
Don't forget what I said in the beginning. These Sabbatarian revivals were not numerically large, but very small at best. This is a footnote in Christian history. I believe it is our footnote, but it is merely a footnote at best. But the important thing it shows is that Jesus, for some reason beyond our wisdom, not only allowed but actually participated in the raising up of Sabbatarian revivals from the 3rd Century all the way up to and through Mr. Armstrong and the Worldwide Church of God. As you can see there are huge gaps between revivals of these Torah observant Sabbatarian Christians.  But there is also a connective thread, sometimes historically visible, sometimes not, between one revival and the next.  That thread between the early Sabbatarian Churches of God in Rhode Island was indeed Mrs. Runcorn out in Oregon .  The Cottrell family shows us there were viable connections going all the way from southern France to England to Rhode Island and finally to Stanberry, Missouri. The revivals of these Torah observant Sabbatarian Christians were also numerically small, i.e. each revival was not particularly large in number of members. But they did all share a spiritual/doctrinal/ideological kinship. If there truly are seven era's of these Torah observant Sabbatarian Church of God believers there must also be seven major revivals of the Gentile Christian Church.  If Jesus has used Revelation 2-3 to plot both Sabbatarian Church of God revivals and Sunday observing Gentile Christian revivals, it is most interesting, because we believed we were the Philadelphian era in the Worldwide Church of God. The Calvary Chapel affiliates of Costa Mesa , California believe the spiritually active and alive Gentile Sunday observing Christians of today are the Philadelphian era.  Then under Joe Tkach Sr. God brought the Worldwide Church of God from being a Torah observant Sabbatarian Church of God into being a non-Torah observant Sabbatarian Church of God.  This may seem insignificant to most Christian readers, but it is not really insignificant, for recent highly qualified church historians have uncovered evidence that the early Judeo-Christian churches in Asia Minor for the first 300 years of their existence, after 50AD, were almost all non-Torah observant Sabbatarian Judeo-Christian churches.  So, under Joseph Tkach Sr. the Worldwide Church of God had become---in 1995---the very first non-Torah observant Sabbatarian Church of God in 1700 years!  But very suddenly, Mr. Tkach Sr. died of cancer in that very same year. This same Worldwide Church of God remained a non-Torah observant Sabbatarian Church of God for about five or six years, until Joe Tkach Jr. brought them over to observing Sunday/Christmas/Easter as their “days of worship”.  Are there any non-Torah observant Sabbatarian Churches of God in existence after Worldwide’s change-over to Sunday/Christmas/Easter?  That remains to be seen.  Tens of thousands of non-Torah observant Sabbatarian Church of God members were “squeezed” out of Worldwide because they preferred to keep observing the Sabbath and Holy Days voluntarily, as Romans 14 allows, and as the early Judeo-Christians had for the first 300 years of Church history in Asia Minor .  Where are those tens of thousands?  Scattered to the spiritual four winds, so to speak.  As I said before, it is a very interesting and recent discovery that the early Christian church in Asia Minor for the first 300 years was basically Judeo-Christian, and racially, mostly Jewish, with an estimated 3 million members.  These were all or mostly all non-Torah observant Sabbatarian Judeo-Christians.  (We have already seen that the early Rhode Island Sabbatarian Churches of God recognized Sunday observing Baptists as being genuine believers as well.  But they were Torah observant in the strictness of following the letter of the Old Testament Sabbath Commands.)  So the early Church of God in Jerusalem and Asia Minor was almost totally non-Torah observant for the first 300 years, even though they observed the Sabbath and Holy Days of Leviticus 23, and probably the dietary laws as well, voluntarily.  To read an excellent research study on early church history log onto: http://www.unityinchrist.com/history2/index3.htm.  To read more about what a modern Sabbatarian Church of God is like, continue reading.
 

Prophetic beliefs

"The Worldwide Church of God under the late Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong, and presently the splinter Churches of God that split off from the Worldwide Church of God after 1995, both held and hold basically a Classic Pre-Millennial view of prophecy which include some unique interpretations about the "unsaved dead" not embraced by most Christian denominations. These are the beliefs of three major splinter groups that broke away from the Worldwide Church of God, as well as the "old" Worldwide Church of God under Mr. Armstrong. These are totally secondary to the central gospel of salvation--i.e. one is totally free to believe or disbelieve what is presented, without it affecting one's salvation in the least. The study is merely being presented to show another view on the subject of heaven & hell and the Millennium. CLICK HERE to view the study. You will find it most interesting. You don't have to believe it."

 

In this Sabbatarian Church of God history section you could sort of glean what their doctrines were, and the link above shows what their prophetic beliefs essentially were.  But to gain a more complete understanding of what a Sabbatarian Church of God is like, But to gain a more complete understanding of what a Sabbatarian Church of God is like, what they believe that’s the same, and what’s different, go to the next section.  You will find it fascinating.

 

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