SIGNS OF GOD’S TRUE CHURCH!
We live in a world held captive by Satan the devil, which took place nearly 6000 years ago, in the Garden of Eden! Satan the devil, from that time forward, has been the god of this world or age. (2 Cor.4:4) Is it wise to think that he has not gotten into the minds of the majority of our time who claim to be Christians today, considering Scripture says he is the prince of the power of the air? (Eph.2:2)
Haven’t you wondered if everyone that claims to be a Christian, really is a Christian, when you hear their words and witness their actions? What about the Pope? WOW! That is an enormous statement, from the perspective of the majority! But what about the truth? Regardless of various claims, is he really a “Christian”? The answer to this is made clear through this article about the various signs of a true Christian/ Church of God member! Many talk the talk but do not walk the walk!
Christ said you will know them by their fruits—but are the Biblical “good fruits” or Godly fruits recognizable in the vast majority of mankind, even those claiming Christianity?
We need the Bible, which is the only place for right answers, but how can we know we are getting right answers from those supposedly explaining the Bible, if the bulk of professing Christianity is corrupted? We have to look for the appropriate signs that only the Bible reveals, and not trust in man alone! Prove it from the words of the Bible!
Are there really “SIGNS” that would point us to God’s true Church, among all the massive deceptions of the many religions of the time we are living in today? What about all of these scattered, differing and competing groups who call themselves the COG? Are there even “signs” that would identify the true COG among them, in this lukewarm time of Laodicea? Read on for some answers.
(Editorial note; this article has been around for over a decade and been updated by the author/editor from time to time to try and keep it up to date with what is going on in the world and also within the COG. There are some now in the scattered COG realm who want to blend true Christianity with paganized false Christianity, as if all these paganisms have come down to us through true Christianity; thus the true COG. Some get the history right and some do not—but it is your personal responsibility to sift through the subtle deceptions and the negligence of others to get the real truth of it all. It is my hope this article will be helpful. Latest editing or adding updates was 2/21/18)
Many have relaxed their efforts in even reading the Bible and a firm belief in God here in the USA, but of those who haven’t; there are still questions in their minds when searching for where God works today! Where is a church, of all the groups that make that claim, which is really God’s Church? Are we living in an era of time when God’s people have to be alert and watchful of deceptions not only from the world’s religions, but even by COG organizations, various “members” and even some leaders in the ministry? Are these many COG groups (and the number is still growing) really all a part of God’s Church today? Remember, there are those in this time frame of the COG, who claim to be Christians, but as your Bible reveals, they are not by Biblical standards! We are given two examples out of the seven letters to the Church of God thru time we should think about. (Rev.2:9 & 3:9) These noted “impostors” in Scripture are actually agents of Satan the devil; either in ignorance or disguise and began showing up early, especially the era of Smyrna. (synagogue of Satan) However, Paul records they were actually beginning to show themselves as early as in his time. As time came down to the 20th century, much of it is what is termed “Philadelphia”, this synagogue of Satan is recorded again. Logical reasoning would tell us they would be even more prevalent in this era of Laodicea, though possibly not nearly as easy to recognize! We have to be alert to this fact that these subtle deceivers might be going unnoticed by the majority while congregating together, even in the COG! So an obvious question is; does the Church that Christ built, now very scattered, have many “organizations” and corporate entities holding to different beliefs and doctrines, yet all the same body? Does it matter what we believe anymore, as long as we are all together in one group and showing a form of “unity”? Are there multiple Gospels? Did Christ preach about Himself and call it the Gospel? Is Christ divided, as the COG seems to be? These are questions that Paul and others in the writings of the NT answered for us and newly begotten true Christians should WANT to have answers to those questions. That is what this article is designed to do—but does not claim to do so totally, as there will be other question it does not address, so these are just some signs.
Get your bible and let us begin by answering the question about all organizations that claim to be “Christian”. First, what does it mean to be Christian, from a Biblical standpoint and not just what people may claim? First off, one must have and be led by the Holy Spirit, (Rom.8:9 & V.14) therefore becoming a part of the Spiritual organism, one body (Eph.4:4-6) which is the true COG; thus true Christianity. (It is recommended that you look up and read every Scripture given in this article from your own Bible to prove these things for yourself. Some even in the COG realm are a little mixed up on what a true Christian is and they show it by what they say or write. (See article titled Christianity or “Christianity” for more on this subject) I will be using the New King James translation (NKJ) unless otherwise stated, when Scriptures are printed out for you.)
If you will notice in your Bible, Acts 11:22, where we read: “Then news of these things came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they (the recognized leadership/apostles) sent out Barnabas to go as far as Antioch.” Later in this same chapter we read this: V.25 Then Barnabas departed (from Antioch) for Tarsus to seek Saul. 26 And when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for a whole year they (Barnabas & Saul) assembled with the church and taught a great many people. And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.”
(This was under the leadership of Barnabas, who was sent by the leadership at Jerusalem, in the true COG. Paul, as his name was changed to, was not the leader at this point, but more of a student and an assistant to Barnabas, still in training. The word for “church” here has the meaning of the “called out ones”. Many of these were still unconverted or freshly so but learning truth.)
From the above Scriptures we can determine, among other things, the term “Christian” did not originate at the beginning in Jerusalem, but came later in Antioch under Barnabas while teaching the things of the coming Kingdom of God, contained in the Gospel message of Christ and His doctrines. We find in Strong’s Greek and Hebrew dictionary the simple meaning of a Christian from that verse in Acts 11:26. “#5546 Christianos (khris-tee-an-os'); from 5547; a Christian, i.e. follower of Christ: KJV-- Christian.” Christ had personally called some of them to follow Him and it is the same for all true servants down through time to us today. So in this we see a couple of signs—top down governing and following Christ in His example and His teachings. Those will remain in the true COG and true Christianity today.
Christians, according the Bible then, are those who are followers of Christ—meaning that they strive to live and do what Christ did, by the best of their ability and in following His example—being in obedience to God, His Commandments and diligently supporting or helping with proclaiming the Gospel. The apostle Paul later wrote in 1Cor.11:1 “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.” (KJV) It stands to reason that if someone does not follow the examples of Christ and His teachings throughout the Scriptures and Ten Commandments; those revealed as His doctrines and a way of life laid out for the COG, also having and being guided by the Holy Spirit; if they do not do this they cannot be true Christians! These would actually be signs they are NOT Christians.
Christ clearly taught the keeping of the Commandments (John15:9-10) and that no one can have eternal life without keeping them. (Matt.19:16-19) In Matt.5:17-20, Christ makes it clear that no one can enter the Kingdom of God without this obedience to all the required Laws of God, which are binding on the Church today. Christ and the apostles also kept all the annual Holy Days of God that are listed in the Old Testament, but not in every detail as to the way the Jews had, as their custom. We even find that these are God’s festivals and not mans or the Jews. Lev 23:1-4 V.1 “And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2 "Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: 'The feasts of the LORD, which you shall proclaim to be holy convocations, these are My feasts. 3 'Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, a holy convocation. You shall do no work on it; it is the Sabbath of the LORD in all your dwellings. 4 'These are the feasts of the LORD, holy convocations which you shall proclaim at their appointed times.”
Now that we have established the above, and those few signs, it is a lot easier to narrow down how to look for God’s true Church. Any claim to be “the Church” that does not keep the weekly seventh day Sabbath and all of the annual Sabbaths, plus the Ten Commandments and having Christ as the head, (Top down governing) would not be a part of the Biblical Church of God nor a true Christian. The Church (Spiritual organism) that Jesus built would also be recognizable by one true name—the “Church of God” or “Churches of God”—wherever they assembled together. We can then safely eliminate any “church” organizations without the proper name and those who do not keep the seventh day Sabbath (4th commandment) or the Holy Days listed in Leviticus 23 at their proper times. These are only some signs to look for in recognizing God’s True Church today, but there are others to look for, now in this time, as well. However, that has already ruled out the pope and the Catholic church as being Christian. Near the end of the New Testament, we find a very short epistle or book, called Jude. In the 3rd verse we see this: Jude 3 “Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.” Why would he see the need to do this, if the Church realm was not already being infected with deceivers? The word “faith” comes from NT:4102 in Biblesoft's New Exhaustive Strong's Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. Copyright (c) 1994; pistis (pis'-tis); from NT:3982; persuasion, i.e. credence; moral conviction (of religious truth, or the truthfulness of God or a religious teacher), especially reliance upon Christ for salvation; abstractly, constancy in such profession; by extension, the system of religious (Gospel) truth itself:” This is what the beliefs of the COG were based on at the time of Jude’s writing; looking to Christ, following His example, keeping the commandments and guidelines already given in Scripture.
This little book was written, according to some between 70 & 80 A.D., others give an earlier date by a few years. The three epistles of John, were actually written around 90 A.D. —so just a few years after Jude and before the book of revelation. John also mentions not believing any other doctrine than what they already had at that time. Considering that, they must have had all the doctrines, right approach to Church government, the true Gospel and all Holy Days, understanding of tithing laws, clean and unclean meats, Christ’s second coming and all those doctrines- etc.— all the knowledge of things they, and we today, would need to know in order to teach truth accurately and work out our own salvation. These are the things we would put faith and belief in to enter into the Kingdom of God at the 1st resurrection. This was the “Faith once delivered” that they were and we are also to hold onto. So it should be clear from this that everything written previous to this was considered Biblical truth. But we must remember that there was a counterfeit “church” movement underway already and the history of nearly 2000 years of false “Christianity” –the great counterfeit would take its toll on the true Church as well! Some of these details are in the book of Revelation. Christ Himself prophesied that one would come before the return of Christ, who would restore things that would gradually be lost down through time. History reveals the truth of this happening, for those who have eyes to see. (See Matt.17:11 and Malachi 4:4-6.) This restoring of right knowledge was done, to a large degree through Herbert W Armstrong, during the 20th century and in the sixth era of the one true Church. We can also add to this list of things—more signs—to look for, keeping all of the above in mind as something we would need and be able to see in God’s True Church today, even though it is now in the seventh era of Laodicea and scattered. The faithful who make up the COG body will still have these truths and visible signs, as well as having a more balanced approach with it all. Many others will have adopted a more liberal and lukewarm approach today that will not afford them entrance in the Kingdom without serious repentance. These are things to have in mind when looking for the true COG—but it will not be perfect, as it never really was—only striving for perfect.
The seventh day Sabbath is still an identifying “sign” as Scripture reveals, but it is not the only “sign” to determine God’s true Church/Christianity today, as is indicated above. (Preaching the Gospel is also one of those identifying signs as mentioned, a commission given from Christ to the COG which should be heard and recognized with Scriptural support. The annual Sabbaths and festivals have also now been restored. The book of Ezekiel, chapter 20 reveals that Israel as a nation has received punishment for not keeping these Sabbaths. (See V.11-12, 20 for “sign”) They have gone into captivity in the past and their modern day descendants, America and Britain and others, will also soon suffer the same fate, but physical Israel is not the Church of God today. This article is dealing with signs of the true COG! (Recommended reading — the booklet titled “AMERICA & BRITAIN IN PROPHECY” on our booklets page, written by the Late Raymond McNair.)
There are other signs besides these already mentioned, which we need to be aware of also, to even weed out some of these COG groups that we see have formed and are still forming today. There are many deceivers today who want to be recognized as true ministers of Christ, which are actually Satan’s counterfeits, so we really have to be more alert and watchful today for that, (Luke21:34-36) because some of these claim to be the COG. A LIST OF EVEN MORE SIGNS WILL NOW BE GIVEN FOR YOU, THE READER TO PONDER, AS YOU CONTINUE TO STRIVE TO WALK YOUR CHRISTIAN LIFE IN LAODICEA!
As we have seen already, Christ established the standards for His Church; they come from God, first through O.T. inspired writings then Christ’s teaching to the disciples and then by what the apostles recorded, under inspiration of the Holy Spirit for us in the rest of the New Testament era, completing the Bible. So let us contemplate some of these as we struggle to hold fast what we have been given. This may actually help some in the COG determine where they really are, and even their own conversion status.
We gave some specifics of what comprises a true Christian already and established at least six solid signs of the true Church, (#1, Keep the Commandments, (Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness) #2 assemble on the seventh day Sabbath, #3 keep all of the annual Sabbaths listed in Lev.23 and # 4, go by the name Church of God. It is, #5 a Spiritual organism and one body—not many and a bunch of differing organizations. #6, the true COG will be recognized by zealous efforts to be involved in publicly proclaiming or supporting the public preaching of the true Gospel of the coming Kingdom of God to the world as a witness, by both audible and written material that expounds the Scriptures. (Matt.24:14, and Matt.28:18-20 and of course the Gospel is a prophetic message, thus the true COG/Christianity would also have a better understanding of prophecy as well and would be crying aloud the Ezekiel warning right along with the Gospel!)
We do however find there are more signs today of the true COG; those being a very different way of obeying God than what most other religions regularly teach and practice.
The True COG would, (as #7) practice proper Baptism for true converts, which is by immersion — not sprinkling— as Scripture reveals through the example of John the Baptist (John 3:23) and writings of the apostle Paul, (Rom.6:4) and the example of Phillip baptizing the eunuch. (Acts 8:36-39)
(8) They would all acknowledge that Christ is the head of the Church (Col.1:18) not any man, thus directing His Church based on what His word reveals. (The Government of God comes from the top down, from God to Christ, Christ to the Church; the human level for the benefit of the body, as it is given in 1Cor.11:3, ch.12:28 & Eph. 4:11-16 and other places. This indicates loving authority in the Church of God body, appointment to position by ordination as the normal procedure. This was never done by voting one into office by a few of his fellow peers—however, God has at times directly chosen some individuals for special service without this visible procedure, as found in Scripture. A replacement would rise up when others disqualify themselves or needed a rest, and God’s Church continued right on. Sometimes leaders would be determined and become obvious by their fruits or God would guide others in the congregation to recognize their fruits as being a leader chosen by God.) This applies to all Spirit led individuals, not any one particular COG organizational structure. (Rom.8:14—1Cor.11:3 & ch.12:12, 27) These Spirit led individuals making up the body of Christ—are the Church—as a Spirit led organism, even though scattered today and assembling for worship in various places that still keep the Sabbath and Holy days and have some right form of preaching the Gospel. Even though Laodicea is known by its predominate characteristic of being lukewarm and liberal; not all of the COG is of that nature and the faithful will be recognized by their fruits of steadfastness with truth and Scripture.
(9) They will know and hold to the fact they have been called of God to repentance and baptism, as seen above (John 6:44-45 & 2Tim.2:25) then been begotten of God by the laying on of hands after baptism—not born again, only begotten, which is with the receiving of the Holy Spirit— then to continue in a repentant attitude being actively led by the Spirit to grow and overcome. (Rom.8:9, 14 & 2 Pet.3:18) All seven letters to the Churches in Rev.2&3 show us that only the “over-comers” will be with Christ in the first resurrection. (See article “REPENTANCE” for more on this subject.) This means they overcome temptations to break the Commandments instead of giving in. They remain faithful. (Rev.17:14)
There are many other points that one could consider as “SIGNS” of a true Christian in our world today, but for many in the COG, these probably should be considered as part of this list;
(10) The faithful Church of God leaders will believe that all Scripture is inspired of God and should not be compromised with, (2Tim.3:16-17) nor would they be knowingly doing so. (All humans make mistakes but they will be corrected as the Spirit leads, in the true COG body.)
(11) Being in the time frame of Laodicea, there will be some that do make compromises with truth for their own agenda, only to prove themselves to be lukewarm at best and may even be disqualified to be the Church or a part of the body—but still claiming they are. They may also have some true COG members, as the COG is so scattered today because of many being confused. When the ministry make binding and loosing decisions that go against the guidelines of Scripture, and are done without all the truth or facts; these would not be legitimate and could cost someone their salvation—but these things are happening today. These may possibly already be “vomited out” (Rev.3:16) in this time frame and become unexpected deceivers, even though they think they are still serving God. (Rev.3;15-17)
Therefore all true Christians should seek to study the Bible daily to know the truth and be able to stay on track, strive to live by it, not twisting or perverting it in any way or knowingly following those who do. (Matt.4:4, Luke 4:4 as quoted by Christ from Deut.8:3)
The last of this list, even though it could be much longer, these points given should be commonly recognized by the truly zealous Christian, a member of the true COG.
(12) The true Church (Spiritual organism) will come to recognize its own members, though not always attending together. When people become more lukewarm organizational adherents than adherents of truth; they have more of the predominate lukewarm spirit and need to repent. We are to obey God rather than men (Acts 4:19& 5:29) in cases where the teachings of men and/or their conduct would conflict with the Word of God. (Not loving a brother or sister, just because they are in another “group” or the local minster has commanded you not to associate with others; to continue on there is being a follower of men and not a truly zealous Christian! This would include new organizational structures and corporate bodies who stray from Scripture in several areas or set out on their own without clear Biblically defined reason. This can and does include some individual members who begin to stray from truth with their own ideas of what the “Church” is. True members should not follow any man or organization or members in their compromises that can clearly be proven as such. Some may have no other choice but to assemble together with a liberal organization, in some areas of the world or even in the USA, because of finances, distance or persecution from other brethren. Remember this passage; Rev 3:12 “Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out:”---(KJV)—which seems to indicate that some may have gone from one place (city, or congregation thru time, or organization today) to another in order to remain in a truly more righteous environment and (or zealous) spirit of obedience to God. (Some are forced out of one organization, congregation or even a city because of an abusive or malicious minister that the leadership of the organization fails to properly deal with. These wrong actions and attitudes are not the workings (Sign) of a true minister of Jesus Christ or the fruits of being led by the Holy Spirit.)
May God bless you in your situation and He will, if you are struggling to hold fast to His truth and avoid any pressure to compromise with truth. However, you may find yourself in various trials for holding fast the truth as time goes on, in some of these more liberal and compromising groups. There is always the chance of some wanting to have their own way, being in rebellion to certain points of truth or ignoring them and still be considered the COG. Some may even go as far as teaching their own interpretation of Scripture, which we are told not to do. These things you will undoubtedly have to learn through time to steer clear of. So we all need to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves to remain being the called, chosen and to become the faithful. We have to faithfully watch the signs and be honest, making sure that our own “Signs” or habits and “Fruits” are the recognizable good fruits of maturing spiritually.
(Editor for TCOGMSO)