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A Special Pentecost Letter

Copyright © Jules Dervaes

June 6, 1989

Dear Friends,

The PLACE of safety does exist; there is on this earth a physical domain which has been designed to afford protection for the Church. In the end-time, this special site was provided in order to allow true Christians—those who are LIVING the Word of God, not just believing it—to be kept safe from bodily harm so that they may be trained for the soon-coming Kingdom of God. WHERE in the world is it??? The Bible doesn’t reveal the name of the place. But, in its pages you can find out something much more vital than where; you can discover WHO can be “protected”!

One place where the Bible speaks outright on the identity of who is shielded from the danger which engulfs the world is Revelation 3:10. This scripture, which has for many years kept members “glued to their seats” in the Worldwide Church of God, can have several possible explanations. It is part of that message which is ADDRESSED “to the angel of the church in Philadelphia.” If “angel” is interpreted to mean messenger or minister, then that person, indeed, was Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong.

What is important to note in this verse is that the very significant phrase—”keep you from”—can mean in Greek either “keep you from undergoing” OR “keep you through.” Using the former meaning, Revelation 3:10 correctly points out, then, that Mr. Armstrong would not have to undergo “the hour of trial”; for, he would have died before the whole world entered its final test.

A similar, broader interpretation can be arrived at if the “you” is also applied to the entire church body as an historical entity. Then, the message would read that the SIXTH ERA itself would terminate prior to the time when the end of this age would occur. This likewise would be a proper—although, for the WCG, an unpopular—version indicating (as has been proved in a previous letter) that the Philadelphian Church would not be extant when Jesus Christ returns because, earlier, it would have “passed its baton” to the Laodicean Church.

A completely different possibility is translating Revelation 3:10 to mean that this Sixth-Era Church (which the Worldwide Church of God has claimed to be) would be KEPT SAFE THROUGH a time of horrendous destruction and death coming upon our world. Because of our own vested interest, this would easily be the most favored translation. Yet, such a sweet lullaby rendition would only create biblical nightmares.

For instance, would God really promise to protect an entire church at large? Would He provide blanket security to anyone and everyone who managed to keep his church seat warm? Would He bless with protection those who manifested “the herding instinct”?

Furthermore, is “safety in numbers” a concept subscribed to by God? Has He ever advocated GROUP salvation?

The only way to make logical and biblical sense out of the above reading is to interpret the “you” as a SINGULAR pronoun, referring to each person separately. Thus, God’s protection could only be granted to one who individually exhibits those characteristics, who singularly personifies that special attitude, identifiable as Philadelphian. In order to fall under the Revelation 3:10 safeguard, a member of the Body of Christ must PERSONALLY be a Philadelphian. Where the Church, too, is identified as being Philadelphian in its work, it is still the individual that must give an autonomous account of HIS work.

As for the WCG, it does not possess any common or collective Philadelphian attribute which is its own property and which can be distributed to its members. The Church is not a corporation which can disburse Philadelphian profits; its members are not shareholders who can accumulate Philadelphian dividends. The trait of brotherly love cannot be acquired just by belonging to a group—no matter how many years one fraternizes. No one can, THROUGH ASSOCIATION, be Philadelphian. The WCG has neither the power to create this character in any of its followers, nor the power to sustain it in anyone if he were to “lose” it. But, what the Church can do is to serve as a substitute for individual “do-it-yourself” Philadelphian-ism.

As an organization the WCG was able to introduce the team concept. When the Church started to modernize, it began looking and sounding more and more like an American corporation. There was this new image, the image of THE TEAM. And the church members were joining Team Philadelphia.

Although this might have appeared to have been a desirable and admirable viewpoint, there was an insidious danger inherent in such a worldly approach. One aspect that carried extremely grave consequences was that members could now so easily take their seats as spectators—maybe cheerleaders, as well—who could watch from the sidelines the church’s masterful performance and be thrilled with its expertise and with its achievements.

In this age of the specialist, laymen who felt unskilled dared not risk embarrassment by venturing out onto the field staked out by the team professionals. And, because of the disposition of TV viewing among our generation, armchair adherents were opting to enjoy vicariously the “Christian” show.

In due time, there arose from the church’s Pasadena headquarters an infectious rah-rah spirit. When any record was broken in a physical—observable and countable—event (as in the number of pieces of literature mailed out yearly or in the number of phone calls brought in by a telecast), it was as if the Church had won a tremendous, meaningful victory.

Apparently, the spiritual worth of the Church was now being pegged to one or more numerical indexes. Utilizing numbers the WCG had a simple, convenient method to gauge its public success. For, it had set its sights on being a “record-breaking” church.

This was just the sport that team players could enjoy. Here was a physical challenge. To break the record was a real (i.e., visible) goal. Physical plans could be made to physically achieve it; and the physical results could be physically documented. And, this down-to-earth process could generate a lot of enthusiasm and be a great morale booster as it would be verifying the WCG’s progress with impressive statistics. The continuous pursuit of more triumphs would be a good management tool for coaching the team.

(The Los Angeles Lakers coach Pat Riley used the same approach in challenging his team to REPEAT as the NBA champions in 1988 after winning the championship in 1987. That challenge proved effective, as the Lakers put together back-to-back championships and were on their way to becoming known as the team of the 80s.)

Over the years there had occurred this evolution of the Worldwide Church of God. If the Church could be pictured as a person, it would now be a businessman, an executive, a chairman of the board. For recreation, being very athletic, “he” would be a member of a sports club. “His” outlook on life would center on teamwork. For “him,” life would not be worth living outside the organization. “He” would get “his” support from the team; the team would be “his” salvation.

In this regard, the WCG has not been maturing as a church; gradually, it has been degenerating. Its perspective has become distorted and its concepts are exceedingly dangerous. Besides letting pseudo-Philadelphians swell its ranks, the Church’s team philosophy does not represent the Christian life at all. Even if one were an ACTIVE participant in the work of the WCG (distributing the magazines, answering the phones, etc.), one does not—cannot—qualify for the kingdom VIA THE TEAM. The heart of the Christian experience is not team activity!

While it is true that if a person were a Christian then he would share in church activity, the converse statement is NOT true. To believe that if a person joined in church activity then he would be a Christian is to believe a cruel fiction. The organized functions that a church provides are only a vehicle through which a Christian may work in order to activate his (Christ’s) faith, a faith already delivered.

Therefore, the WCG, as an organization which is intent on the fulfillment of its end, is A MEANS, ONLY A MEANS, AND NOTHING BUT A MEANS! It is not AN END in itself; Christ is. The irony of ironies is that those in the center of the Church’s work (with possible exceptions) can really be out on the fringe of Christianity.

To be a Philadelphian Christian is NOT to be part of an organization. (NOR is it to live in a particular era.) It is to love your brother! In his epistles the Apostle John’s message was to “love one another.”

Whoever loves God MUST also love his brother. (1 John 4:21)

It is A COMMAND given to us by God. And it is plain; it is direct. God’s order does NOT say to love the Church, to love its services, to love its activities, to love its comfort.

And, furthermore, it does NOT say for the Church, for the team, for the group to love your brother. The Word of God does say for YOU—YOU! YOU, personally! YOU, directly!—to love your BROTHER!!!

(I will close now and continue this topic in another letter.)

One last thought:

At this very meaningful feast of Pentecost, in such critical times as these, it is imperative that you recall that you were not baptized into any church, that you were not baptized into the Worldwide Church of God. All of you were baptized only into Jesus Christ.

My prayer is that you may come humbly to Jesus and renew your baptismal commitment to HIM. May God guide you and keep you in His care. May you develop the strength and courage to be truly, PERSONALLY, a Philadelphian, standing fast at the close of this age.

Sincerely, in Christian love,

Jules Dervaes

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