Contend earnestly for the faith once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3, NKJV), Let brotherly love (Philadelphia) continue (Hebrews 13:1)…continuing stedfastly in the teaching of the apostles (Acts 2:42 YLT).
The purpose of this document is to list various beliefs of those who are part of the Philadelphia remnant of the Church of God, and most specifically the Continuing Church of God (it is not yet finished). And since Philadelphians are scattered among various organizations/locations, some Philadelphians may not hold all the beliefs in this article, but would agree with the bulk of them (here is link to Articles on various COG groups). Yet those in the Continuing Church of God hold to them all.
The Continuing Church of God was declared and announced on 12/28/12, basically because by that date it was clear that no other COG had the same commitment to Philadelphia era teachings nor enough the “love of the truth.”
Ephesus and Smyrna Era Teachings and Doctrines
The Book of Revelation is a prophetic book, “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants–things which must shortly take place” (Revelation 1:1). Therefore, the letters to the Churches of Revelation 2 & 3 need to be understood in a prophetic context. Also, several elements of those letters HAD to be for the future and not just for the time that John wrote the messages down.
Tracing the history of the Christian church through the seven churches of Revelation 2 & 3 gives strong indications of who the descendants of the true church are today (for more details, please see the article The Churches of Revelation 2 & 3). This tracing provides information that demonstrates that the true Church of God (COG) is neither Protestant nor Eastern Orthodoxnor Roman Catholic, but is truly the church that holds the same beliefs as the original apostles. And while most professing Christian faiths claim to have the faith of Jesus and His original apostles, many do not know what the original apostles or their faithful successors actually believed. The Bible clearly shows that Jesus walks in the midst of these seven churches (Revelation 1:9-13), showing that somehow they represent His church for the church age. The fact that there are seven churches addressed and the number seven suggests completion, combined with the fact that the churches are listed in the same order as they would receive mail in the Roman times, is also consistent with the view that these churches were to represent the true church throughout the ages in a type of sequential order of predominance.
The first two “eras” of the Church of God (and the first two shown in the Book of Revelation) were those of Ephesus and Smyrna and lasted from the day of Pentecost in Acts 2 (c. 31) until about the mid-fifth century (whose followers were sometimes called Nazarenes by outsiders–the Continuing Church of God traces its history through the original Nazarenes of the first through fifth centuries).
Notice the following teachings of early Christianity that historical documents shown were held during the times of the Ephesus and/or Smyrna eras–all of which are accepted by theContinuing Church of God and only a relatively few of which are practiced/taught/still accepted by Roman Catholics, Orthodox, or Protestants though early leaders considered as “saints” by the Catholics also held them):
Baptism of Christians was by immersion and did not include infants.
A Binitarian or Semi-Arian view, that acknowledged the Holy Spirit, was held by the apostolic and post-apostolic true Christian leaders.
Birthdays were not celebrated by early Christians.
Born-Again meant being born at the resurrection, not at the time of conversion, which is when a spiritual begettal occurs.
Celibacy for Bishops/Presbyters/Elders was not a requirement.
Church Governance was properly hierarchical.
Christmas was not observed by any professing Christ prior to the third century, or ever by those holding to early teachings; December 25th did not come from the Bible.
Circumcision, though not required, was long practiced by original Nazarene Christians.
Confession of sins were not made to priests and did not require penance.
Deification of Christians (which begins after the first resurrection) was taught by the early leaders of the Church.
Duties of Elders/Pastors were pastoral and theological, not predominantly sacramental–nor did they dress as many now do.
Easter per se was not observed by the apostolic church.
The Fall (and Spring) Holy Days were observed by true early Christians.
The Father was considered to be God by all early professing Christians.
The True Gospel included the kingdom of God and obedience to the law of God and was so understood by the faithful.
Heaven was not taught to be the reward of Christians.
Holy Spirit was not referred to as God or as a person by any early true Christians.
Hymns were mainly psalms, not praises to Christ.
Idols were taught against, including adoration of the cross.
Immortality of the soul or humans was not taught.
Jesus was considered to be God by the true Christians.
The Kingdom of God was preached.
Leavened Bread was removed from the homes of early Christians when the Jews did the same.
Lent was not observed by the primitive church.
Limbo was not taught by the original church.
Mary was the mother of Jesus, was blessed (Luke 1:28) and called blessed (Luke 1:48), but was not prayed to, etc. by true early Christians.
Military Service was not allowed for true early Christians.
Millenarianism (a literal thousand year reign of Christ on Earth, often called the millennium) was taught by the early Christians.
Monasticism was unheard of in the early Christian church.
Passover was kept annually on the 14th of Nisan by apostolic and second century Christians in Asia Minor.
Pentecost was kept on Sunday by certain Jews and was observed then by professing Christians.
Purgatory was not taught by the original apostolic church.
The Resurrection of the dead was taught by all early Christians
The Sabbath was observed on Saturday by the apostolic and post-apostolic Church.
Salvation was believed to be offered to the chosen now by the early Church, with others being called later, though not all that taught that (or other doctrines) practiced “the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3).
God’s Six Thousand Year Plan for humankind to rule itself was believed by early professors of Christ.
Sunday was not observed by the apostolic and original post-apostolic Christians.
The Ten Commandments were observed by the apostolic and true post-apostolic Christians–and in the order that the Church of God claims they are in.
Tithes and Offerings were given to support the ministry, the churches, the needy, and evangelical travels and proclamation.
Tradition had some impact on the second century Christians, but was never supposed to supercede the Bible.
The Trinity was not a word used to describe the Godhead by the apostolic or second century Christians, though a certain threeness was acknowledged.
Unclean Meats were eaten by the early allegorists, but not by true Christians.
The Virgin Birth was acknowledged by all true ante-Nicene Christians.
The Continuing Church of God also specifically traces its history from the original apostles likePeter, Paul, and John through through their faithful descendants like Polycarp, Polycrates, and certain other known early leaders/bishops in Asia Minor until the early third century, certain known leaders/bishops until around 135 A.D. in Jerusalem, and until around 211 A.D. leaders/bishops in Antioch like Serapion. While Peter played a predominant role among the apostles, after his death, that leadership role would have passed to another apostle (John) and not to an elder who may have lived in Rome.
What are Philadelphia era teachings?
While the Church of God always held to certain beliefs, over time, some truths were lost and the Sardis era of the COG lost many (cf. Revelation 3:1-3).
The following are some truths restored to the Philadelphia era of the COG that Sardis at least partially lost:
1. True Gospel (An article of related interest may include The Gospel of the Kingdom of God was the Emphasis of Jesus and the Early Church.)
2. Purpose of God (An article of related interest may include Deification: Did the Early Church Teach That Christians Would Become God?).
3. God’s Plan through the Holy Days (Several articles of possibly related interest may include Is There “An Annual Worship Calendar” In the Bible?, Passover and the Early Church, and Did Early Christians Observe the Fall Holy Days?)
4. Proper Church Government (Two articles of possibly related interest may includeThe Bible, Polycarp, Herbert W. Armstrong, and Roderick C. Meredith on Church Government and Polycarp’s Letter to the Philippians.)
5. Who and What is God? (An article of related interest may include One God, Two Beings Before the Beginning.)
6. What and Why is Man? (Two articles of possibly related interest may include What is the Meaning of Life? and Did Early Christians Believe that Humans Possessed Immortality?)
7. Spirit in Man (An article of possibly related interest may include Did Early Christians Believe that Humans Possessed Immortality?)
8. Firstfruits In this Age (An article of related interest may include Pentecost: Is it more than Acts 2?)
9. Knowledge of What the Millennium Truly Is (An article of related interest may include Did The Early Church Teach Millenarianism and a 6000 Year Plan?)
10. Truth About the Holy Spirit (An article of related interest may include Did Early Christians Think the Holy Spirit Was A Separate Person in a Trinity?)
11. Christians are Begotten Now (An article of related interest may include Born Again: A Question of Semantics?)
12. Born-Again at the Resurrection (An article of related interest may include Born Again: A Question of Semantics?)
13. Identity of Physical Israel (An article of related interest may include Anglo – America in Prophecy & the Lost Tribes of Israel.)
14. How the Identity of Israel Opens Up Understanding of Bible Prophecy (An article of related interest may include Anglo – America in Prophecy & the Lost Tribes of Israel.)
15. Second and Third Tithes (An article of related interest may include Is Third Tithe Still Valid Today?)
16. Identity of Babylon and Her Daughters (Three articles of possibly related interest may include Europa, the Beast, and Revelation, Which Is Faithful: The Roman Catholic Church or the Genuine Church of God?, and Hope of Salvation: How the Genuine Church of God differ from most Protestants.)
17. Satan has Deceived the Whole World (An article possibly related interest may beThe Day of Atonement–Its Christian Significance.)
18. We Are to Be Separate (Two articles of related interest may include Why Be Concerned About False and Heretical Leaders? and Overview: How Does the Church of God Agree and Disagree with Other Faiths Professing Christ?)
Without going into more detail here, the second century writings of Theophilus of Antioch, for example, demonstrate that Christians believed that they were to be born again at the resurrection (Theophilus of Antioch. To Autolycus, Book 2, Chapter XV) and other early writings do demonstrate that there were those who professed Christ after the death of the original apostles that seemed to hold to those “restored truths.” Judeo-Christians of the first few centuries A.D. seemed to understand at least some the identity of physical Israel and tried to get the gospel message to them (e.g. James 1:1).
Basically, Philadelphians, as opposed to others who claim COG ties, truly put their top priority on Philadelphia love by supporting the fulfillment of Matthew 24:14 and related proclamation scriptures, while recognizing that God works through ordained leaders and has tended to have had an evangelist-ranked or higher leader of the Philadelphia era, and still does though only a remnant of that era is around today.
Some Detailed Beliefs
The Continuing Church of God, which attempts to represent the most faithful remnant of the Philadelphia portion of the Church of God, bases its beliefs on the Holy Bible. After the death and resurrection of Jesus, our doctrines, practices, policies and traditions have their roots in the original Jerusalem church (Acts 2, c. 31 A.D.), as well as through the faithful in Antioch & Asia Minor in the first (such as the Apostles Peter, Paul, and John) and second centuries A.D. (such leaders as Polycarp, Thaseas, Serapion, and Polycrates). Many of whose followers went throughout the world establishing congregations through the ages.
Jesus taught that the true church would be a “little flock” (Luke 12:32), hated by the world (Matthew 10:22), and persecuted (Matthew 10:23). He also taught only a few would find the way to eternal life in this age (Matthew 7:14; 20:16). The Apostle Jude indicates that the number of saints was relatively small (Jude 14), while the Apostle Paul called the small group a “remnant” (Romans 11:5).
The Bible further shows that the true church could not remain headquartered in any single continuing city throughout centuries of its history (Hebrews 13:14; cf. Matthew 10:23), hence understanding the truth about the churches of Revelation two and three and how the Church of God itself has continued helps identify the true Church of God in its various locations.
In the 20th century, the Philadelphia era of the true Church (Revelation 3:7-13) was raised up. This “era” was primarily represented by the old Radio Church of God which was renamed the Worldwide Church of God under the leadership of the late Herbert W. Armstrong. While that “era” apparently ended upon his death, a faithful Philadelphia remnant exists that now carries that mantle, and will exist until the end of the church age (cf. Revelation 3:10-11; 12:14-17a). The Continuing Church of God, with its world headquarters in the Five Cities region of California (specifically now, the City of Arroyo Grande), tries to feed the flock around the world in the 21st century.
THE HOLY BIBLE
The Holy Bible is the inspired Word of God. As commonly divided, it is a collection of 66 books, with 39 from the Hebrew scriptures (The Old Testament Canon) and 27 from the Greek Scriptures (The New Testament Canon). Scripture is inspired in thought and word and contains knowledge of what is needed for salvation (2 Timothy 3:15-17; Matthew 4:4; 2 Peter 1:20-21). Scripture is truth (John 17:17) and is infallible and inerrant in its original manuscripts (John 10:35).
GOD IS SPIRIT, GOD IS LOVE
“God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24, NKJV used throughout). God’s ways are higher than those of humankind (Isaiah 55:9).
“God is love” (1 John 4:8,18) (The Ten Commandments Reflect Love, Breaking them is Evil). The Holy Spirit is inherent in the Father and the Son, and emanates from Them throughout the entire universe (1 Kings 8:27; Psalm 139:7; Jeremiah 23:24). God’s entire plan for humankind is based upon love.
The Father and Son comprise the Godhead (Romans 1:20; Colossians 2:9) and work through the Holy Spirit. Scripture shows that God is one eternal divine Family consisting of two, God the Father and the Word, at this time (Genesis 1:26; Ephesians 2:19; 3:14-15; John 1:1,14), with faithful children to be added (Hebrews 2:10-11, 1 John 3:1-2; Ephesians 3:14-15) to become as Jesus Christ (Romans 8:29), who is God (John 1:1-3,14, 20:28-29; Colossians 2:9). The Holy Spirit is not a separate being in the theological sense and is given to those after those who have properly repented and been baptized (Acts 2:38-39). The early original Christians had what has been called a “binitarian” view of the Godhead.
Jesus taught,“My Father is greater than I” (John 14:28) while the Apostle Paul taught “the head of Christ is God” (1 Corinthians 11:3), hence the top authority in the universe is God, the Father. Now “Christ is head of the church” (Ephesians 5:23) and “the Word” (John 1:14), thus no human religious leader is authorized to directly contradict the word of God (cf. Mark 12:13-27; Acts 5:29).
A hierarchical form of governance is taught in the New Testament (1 Corinthians 12:28) and is shown to be best for the Church (Ephesians 4:11-16). The basic order being that under Jesus apostles, then prophets, then evangelists, then pastors, then teachers (Ephesians 4:11).
Since the time of Pentecost in Acts (Acts 2:1-4), ministers have been appointed through the laying on of hands from those who had the Holy Spirit, beginning with the apostles (Acts 9:17; 2 Timothy 1:6) and then through others who had hands laid upon them to be part of the ministry. While Christians should normally obey their spiritual leaders in the Lord (Hebrews 13:7,17), these leaders need to uphold biblical standards (1 Timothy 3:1-12; Hebrews 13:17) and govern as the type of servant Christ would have them be (Matthew 20:25-28).
CHRISTIANS ARE TO ABIDE IN HIS LOVE
Love is what God (John 3:16; 1 John 4:8,18), His commandments (Matthew 22:37-40), and His way of life (James 2:8-11; 1 John 5:3) are all about. Christians keeps His commandments and abide in His love (John 15:9-10; 1 John 2:3-6). “Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked” (1 John 2:3-6). Christians are to “imitate Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). And in addition to keeping the laws of God and practicing the loving way of give, Christians also ought to regularly pray (1 Thessalonians 5:17), study the Bible (Acts 17:11; 2 Timothy 2:15), engage in biblical meditation (Philippians 4:8), and, those who are physically able, sometimes fast (Matthew 6:16-17). Christians are to practice love (Matthew 22:36-40) and be merciful (Luke 6:36).
The reality is that the Bible and its message is a truly one about love–love toward God and love towards others (Mark 12:30-31). Despite flaws that all humans have, always remember that love is truly what is important (1 Corinthians 13:13; see also The Ten Commandments Reflect Love, Breaking them is Evil and What is the Meaning of Life?).
SIN AND THE LAW OF GOD
The Bible teaches,“sin is the transgression of the law” (1 John 3:4, KJV). Jesus kept and taught the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17; Deuteronomy 4:13; 10:4). In the, New Testament through various teachings (e.g. Matthew 5:17-48, 12:12), Jesus fulfilled the prophecy that He “would exalt the law and make it honorable” (Isaiah 42:21). In New Testament times and throughout history, true Christians have striven to obey the law of God, including keeping the Ten Commandments. And this is prophesied to continue into the future, as the Apostle John was inspired to write,“the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus” (Revelation 14:12).
FAITH, REPENTANCE, ACCEPTING OF JESUS, JUSTIFICATION, RECONCILIATION, ANDBAPTISM
Other than being drawn/called by God (John 6:44; Matthew 22:14), the first clear step in becoming a Christian is to hear (which can include reading as opposed to literal hearing) as “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). Then one must believe in Jesus with all one’s heart “the Way” He is taught about in the word of God (Acts 8:36, 24:14). Thus, only those capable of developing faith from understanding the word of God can properly be considered to be baptized as truly Christian (though, young children of at least one Christian parent, however, are designated as “holy” per 1 Corinthians 7:14).
Accepting the message of Jesus leads to “repentance from dead works and of faith toward God” (Hebrews 6:1), baptism “in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38), and the “laying on of hands” (Hebrews 6:2; cf. Acts 8:14-17) so “you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).
Christians are“justified by His blood” (Romans 5:9) and “reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life” (Romans 5:10).
Baptism is with water (cf. John 3:23). The Greek word bapto literally means “cover wholly with fluid.” The full immersion at baptism helps picture our total surrender to God (Romans 6:3-13). The New Testament shows that the Holy Spirit was given to the baptized through the laying on of the hands of Christ’s ministers, such as apostles or elders (Acts 8:17; 9:17; 19:6; 2 Timothy 1:6).
Upon receiving the Holy Spirit, Christians are begotten by God (cf. 1 Peter 1:3; 1 John 5:1), then after a period of spiritual growth/gestation (cf. 2 Peter 3:18), Christians will literally be born again at the resurrection (John 3:5-7) as Christ was (Romans 1:4-5).
THE GODHEAD AND TRUE CHRISTIANS
Christians believe in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Father and the Son comprise the “Godhead” (Romans 1:20; Colossians 2:9). There is one God (Mark 12:29; John 17:11; Corinthians 8:4) with scripture revealing that Godhead is one eternal divine Family originally consisting of two, God the Father and the Word, (Genesis 1:26; Ephesians 2:19; John 1:1,14), with faithful children to be added through begettal by the Holy Spirit (John 17:10-11; Hebrews 2:10-11, 1 John 3:1-2; Ephesians 3:14-15). Jesus (the Word and the Son of God) and the Father are both God. The Holy Spirit emanates from God (1 Kings 8:27; Psalm 139:7; Jeremiah 23:24) and is given to all who repent of their sins and are baptized (Acts 2:38-39). Though not a separate person, the Holy Spirit is the power (Acts 1:8; 2 Timothy 1:6-7) which helps all believers overcome evil (Romans 12:21; Revelation 2:26-27) and will be led to attain eternal life (Philippians 3:12; Romans 6:23). Having the “Spirit of God” “Spirit of Christ” differentiates Christians from non-Christians (Romans 8:9). Many who think that they are Christian, but practice lawlessness, are not Christ’s and do not abide in His love (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 13:24-27; John 15:9-10; 1 John 2:6).
CHRIST’S GOSPEL OF THE KINGDOM
The Gospel of the Kingdom was the message that Jesus (Mark 1:14; Luke 4:43; Matt 9:35) and His disciples preached (e.g. Acts 19:8; 20:25; 28:23; 28:30-31; 2 Peter 1:10-11). This “good news” includes teaching of repentance, the forgiveness of sins through Christ’s sacrifice/crucifixion, love and God’s way of life, and of the soon-coming Kingdom and government of God (Mark 1:14-15; Acts 2:38-39; 1 Corinthians 1:23; 2:2). Christ’s Gospel of the Kingdom of God must now be preached and it reveals the means by which Christians are to be ruling members of His Kingdom (Matthew 24:14; Acts 8:12; 17:7; 28:30-31; Revelation 2:26-27). “His coming. Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power” (Corinthians 15:23-24).
This “good news” includes the truth that God will ultimately offer salvation to all (Luke 3:6; John 3:16-17; 12:32,47; Isaiah 6:9-11) (What is the Gospel?, The Gospel of the Kingdom of God was the Emphasis of Jesus and the Early Church, and Universal Offer of Salvation: There Are Hundreds of Verses in the Bible Supporting the Doctrine of True Apocatastasis).
We in the Continuing Church of God expect to lead the final phase of the work of God which lasts until Jesus returns.
SALVATION IS BY THE NAME OF JESUS BY GRACE THROUGH FAITH AND HE WILL RETURN
“Jesus Christ of Nazareth…for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:10,12). “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). This is God’s gift by grace through faith in Jesus Christ (Titus 3:5; 2 Corinthians 2:15; Romans 5:10).
God is merciful (Exodus 34:6; Luke 6:36) and wants all to be saved (1 Timothy 2:4), yet because of various difficulties, few will find salvation in this age (Matthew 7:14; Luke 13:23-24; Romans 11:6-7; 2 Corinthians 4:4). Upon repentance and baptism, God justifies repentant Christians from their past sins. Christians then begin an ongoing process of “being saved“ as we grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ (2 Peter 3:18) and having Christ live us (Galatians 2:20). Salvation for those Christians in this age will be complete at the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:50-54); “Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation” (Hebrews 9:28). (Universal Offer of Salvation: There Are Hundreds of Verses in the Bible Supporting the Doctrine of True Apocatastasis and Hope of Salvation: How the Genuine Church of God Differs from Protestantism).
LOVE AND SALVATION FOR ALL RACES AND PEOPLES
Racial hatred is wrong. While there can be racial differences, the Bible does not teach that one race is superior in His eyes to any other. The Bible commands all humankind to love their neighbors as themselves (Leviticus 19:18; Matthew 22:39; Acts 17:24-29). Jesus came to bring joy to all peoples (Luke 2:10). The Bible shows that salvation is now freely offered to both Jews and Gentiles (Acts 10:34-35; Romans 10:12-13; cf. Joel 2:32) and that God intends to save people “of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues” (Revelation 7:9). Christian love should be shown to people of all ethnicities (Romans 13:10; Luke 10:30-37). “Our God is the God of salvation” (Psalm 68:20) “And all flesh shall see the salvation of God” (Luke 3:6).
BIBLICAL NAME OF THE CHURCH
The predominant biblical name of the true Church in the New Testament is “Church of God.” Variants of this expression are clearly stated singular and plural forms in twelve different places in the New Testament (Acts 20:28; 1 Corinthians 1:2; 10:32; 11:16,22; ;15:9; 2 Corinthians 1:1; Galatians 1:13; 1 Thessalonians 2:14; 2 Thessalonians 1:4; 1 Timothy 3:5,15). Throughout Christian history, the true church has normally used a version of the expression “Church of God” (or Church of Christ, cf. Romans 16:16) though often with another term, like a geographic region (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:2) or another word, with it (1 Timothy 3:15). Jesus said that Christians would be kept in His Father’s name (John 17:12), which most often is simply “God” in the New Testament, hence “Church of God.” The most faithful Church of God in the end times in the Book of Revelation is the Philadelphian one, but since only a remnant of that is left, the term Philadelphia remnant Church of God is an appropriate description of the portion of the Church of God that holds fast to Philadelphia era teachings. Since the true Church of God has continued from the time of the original apostles, the name Continuing Church of God helps convey that.
Jesus taught that His followers in the Church Age would be a “little flock” (Luke 12:32), or remnant according to the Apostle Paul (Romans 11:5). The Continuing Church of God traces its history from the Apostolic Church in the Book of Acts (the Ephesian era) to the present through many locations. Interestingly, the Bible shows that the true church could not remain headquartered in any single continuing city throughout centuries of its history (Hebrews 13:14; cf. Matthew 10:23), hence understanding the truth about the churches of Revelation two and three helps identify the true Church of God in its various locations. It is the true Church of God, not a city, that continues until Jesus returns (Matthew 10:23; 16:17-18). For much more detail, please check out The History of Early Christianity page.
THE SABBATH, MILLENNIUM, AND THE HOLY DAYS
The Sabbath is on the seventh day (Genesis 2:2-3; Exodus 20:8-11; Hebrews 4:4,9), The Bible shows that Jesus Christ (Luke 4:16; 6:6; 13:10; Mark 6:2), the original apostles (Acts 17:2; 18:4), and those trying to be faithful in the early Church (Acts 17:2-4) observed God’s commanded Sabbath (Exodus 20:8-11; Hebrews 4:9). Jesus declared that He was the “Lord of the Sabbath” (Mark 2:28); then in that sense, the real “Lord’s day” is the Sabbath which falls on the seventh day of the week. The Sabbath has long been a sign between God and His people (Exodus 31:13). Speaking of the seventh day (Hebrews 4:4), the New Testament teaches that there remains “a Sabbath-rest the people of God” (Hebrews 4:9, NIV). The Sabbath also helps picture the millennial reign of Jesus (Hebrews 4:1-4; 2 Peter 3:8; Revelation 20:4-6).
The Bible teaches that this millennial kingdom will be wonderful (Isaiah 2; 9; 11:1-10; 35:1-9; Ezekiel 34:21-29, Micah 4:1-4; Acts 3:19-21) and that the saints will then reign with Jesus (Revelation 20:4-6). Satan the devil will be banished during this time (Revelation 20:1-6), and it is a time of rest and abundance.
The Sabbath itself is observed weekly from sunset on the day commonly called Friday until sunset on the day commonly called Saturday.
Though at least part of how they observed them changed from how the children of Israel observed them, the early Christians observed the festivals and holy days listed in the Hebrew scriptures in Leviticus 23, but with a New Testament understanding.
Passover helps picture the sacrifice of Jesus Christ who scripture shows who came to be the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). Jesus observed Passover annually (Matthew 26:18; Mark 14:14; Luke 2:41-42; 22:15), died on Passover (Luke 22:15), and was sacrificed for us as “indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us” (1 Corinthians 5:7). Jesus made changes to the Passover including adding the symbols of unleavened bread and wine (Matthew 26:17, 26-28; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26) as well as the cleansing practice of footwashing (John 13:1-17). It is kept annually (cf. Exodus 13:10).
The Days of Unleavened Bread, which come immediately after Passover, picture being cleansed from sin by the acceptance of the sacrifice of Jesus (cf. 2 Peter 1:9-11). They also picture that the leaven of hypocrisy, malice, and wickedness need to be purged (Luke 12:1; 1 Corinthians 5:6-13). The Apostle Paul was inspired to write, “Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (1 Corinthians 5:8).
Pentecost, described in the Hebrew scriptures as “the Feast of Harvest, the firstfruits” (Exodus 23:16), pictures the start of the New Testament Church (Acts 2:1-4). Pentecost also helps picture that Christians are a type of firstfruits of God’s harvest (Romans 8:23; 11:16; 1 Corinthians 15:20-23; James 1:18), though “the laborers are few” (Matthew 9:37-38). “These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These were redeemed from among men, being firstfruits to God and to the Lamb” (Revelation 14:4-5).
The Feast of Trumpets helps picture the blowing of the seven trumpets in the Book of Revelation (Revelation 8,9,11:15-18), including “the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed” (1 Corinthians 15:52) “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first” (1 Thessalonians 4:16). Every seven years, a year of land-rest and debt release begins with this day (Leviticus 25:1-7; Deuteronomy 15:7-11).
The Day of Atonement, called “the Fast” in the New Testament (Acts 27:9), helps show our own weaknesses and need to be closer to God (Isaiah 58:5,11). It also helps picture that Satan has a role in the sins of humankind and that he will be bound for one-thousand years (Revelation 20:1-3; cf. Leviticus 16:20-26; Isaiah 14:12-16).
The Feast of Tabernacles, which shows a time of abundance, helps picture the millennial reign (Revelation 20:4-5) of Jesus Christ and His saints on the earth (Zechariah 14; Matthew 9:37-38; 13:1-30; Luke 12:32; John 7:6-14; Acts 17:31; Revelation 5:10, 12:9). This future paradise, following the near total destruction that humanity will have brought upon itself through its activities and the Great Tribulation and Day of the Lord (Matthew 24:21-31), will help show humanity the advantages of God’s way of life. Every seven years, the law is to be read during this festival (Deuteronomy 31:10-13).
The Last Great Day helps picture that all who ever lived will have a real opportunity for salvation (John 7:37-38; Isaiah 52:10,13-15; Luke 3:6)–an opportunity most will accept (John 7:37-39; Romans 11:25-26; Ezekiel 37:11-14; Hebrews 9:27-28). The New Testament name comes from the Apostle John who wrote, “On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” (John 7:37-38).
History provides references that the early followers of Christ, such as Polycarp, observed the Sabbath on the seventh day and the other biblical holy days and festivals.
By observing the days that the Bible enjoins, Christians can come to understand more deeply God’s plan of salvation, and some of the steps taken toward salvation. The biblical festivals show that Christ was truly sacrificed (1 Corinthians 5:7) and Christians are to live without the leaven of hypocrisy, malice, and wickness (Luke 12:1; 1 Corinthians 5:6-13). The biblical festivals also help show that while some are predestined to be called in this Church Age (Ephesians 1:4-12; Acts 2:1-47), there is an age to come (Acts 3:21; Matthew 12:32), and the destiny of all others is to be presented an opportunity for salvation on the Last Great Day (John 7:37-38; 12:47-48; Romans 10:11-21).
TITHES AND OFFERINGS
The Bible teaches that “And all the tithe of the land…is the Lord’s” (Leviticus 27:30). The most faithful Christians followed Jesus’ admonition to tithe (Matthew 23:23) and the Apostle Paul’s to give offerings (1 Corinthians 9:1-14). While in the time of the Old Testament, tithes were given to the Levitical priesthood, in the Church Age, this has changed to those representing Christ’s ministry (cf. Hebrews 7:1-12). Through tithes and offerings, Christians serve God by supporting the preaching of the Gospel (1 Corinthians 9:9), supporting the ministry (1 Timothy 5:17-18), the Church (2 Corinthians 9:6-14), attendance at His festivals (Deuteronomy 14:22-26; Acts 18:21), administrative needs of the Church (1 Corinthians 12:28; 2 Corinthians 9:6-14), and the care of the needy (Deuteronomy 26:12-15; 2 Corinthians 9:6-14; Galatians 2:10).
“And as it is appointed for men to die once” (Hebrews 9:27) “for all have sinned…and the wages of sin is death” (Romans 3:23,6:23).
THREE RESURRECTIONS AND THREE JUDGMENTS
“For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming” (1 Corinthians 15:22-23).
The Bible actually teaches that there are three future resurrections (What Did Early Christians Understand About the Resurrection?). The first for the saints at the time of Jesus’ return (Revelation 20:5-6; John 5:28; 1 Thessalonians 4:16), the second for others (Revelation 20:5a,11-12; cf. Matthew 11:23-24), and the third for the incorrigibly wicked and those who died after the hundred years (Revelation 20:13b-14; John 5:29; Isaiah 65:20).
The Bible teaches at least three judgments and that “Mercy triumphs over judgment” (James 2:13). In this life, Christians are judged (1 Peter 4:17). A second judgment is the Great White Throne judgment (Revelation 20:11-12) which comes after the millennial reign of Jesus and His saints (Revelation 20:4-6), and then the judgment of Death and Hades (Revelation 20:13-14) for those whose names are not written in the Book of Life (Revelation 20:15).
The Bible shows that Jesus became human (Philippians 2:7) so that humans could become His brethren in the family of God (Romans 8:29; Ephesians 3:14-19). Jesus Himself prayed, “And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me” (John 17:22-23). An article of related interested may be Deification: Did the Early Church Teach That Christians Would Become God?
But for Christians called and who endure to the end in this age, they will also be rewarded with important roles in God’s kingdom (John 14:1-3; Revelation 3:21; 20:4-6), which will be based on this earth (Matthew 5:5; Revelation 2:26-27; 5:10; Daniel 2:44).
GREAT TRIBULATION, PROTECTION, DAY OF THE LORD, AND JESUS’ RETURN
Jesus taught, “there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. 22 And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened” (Matthew 24:21-22). The Bible shows that God promises to protect the faithful Philadelphians from this “hour of trial” (Revelation 3:10), but not all Christians (Revelation 12:14-17).
The final ‘Day of the Lord’ lasts one year (Isaiah 34:8) and precedes the return of Jesus Christ (cf. Joel 2:30-31; Matthew 24:29-31 ) and the establishment of the millennial phase of the Kingdom of God (Revelation 11:15, 20:4; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).
ANTICHRIST IS NOT THE BEAST OF THE SEA
The Bible shows that the final Antichrist is a religious leader as opposed to a primarily political one according to the only verses in scripture that use the expression “Antichrist” (2 John 7, 1 John 2:18, 1 John 2:22, and 1 John 4:3). The Bible specifically teaches “false prophets have gone out into the world…this is the spirit of the Antichrist” (1 John 4:1,3) and that he will suggest that he had the true Christian faith (cf. 1 John 2:18-22).
The final Antichrist is the two-horned Beast of Revelation 13:11-17 who is called “the false prophet” in Revelation 16:13;19:20; 20:10. The other Beast in Revelation 13, the “beast of the sea” of Revelation 13:1-10 is the final King of the North of Daniel 11, and though he will be opposed to Christ, he is “the” Antichrist that the Apostle John warned of (though John does warn against him in multiple scriptures).
NOT OF THIS WORLD
Jesus taught, “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36). John the Baptist taught, “Do violence to no man” (Luke 3:14, KJV). Historically, those of the Church of God have considered military service as wrong for its members. From Revolutionary War times to the Civil War and to present, countries like the United States have tended to have had provisions to exempt Church of God members and congregants from military participation because of conscientious objections. Early Christians did not participate in military warfare nor watch violent sports.
The Apostle Paul taught “we are ambassadors for Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:20; Ephesians 6:20). The Apostle Peter taught that God’s people were “a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out” (1 Peter 2:9). The Bible also teaches that this world has been deceived by Satan the devil (Revelation 12:9) and that God’s people need to be separate from the world (John 15:19; 2 Corinthians 6:14-17; Revelation 18:4). Thus, historically, the Church of God has taught that its members not participate in secular juries and secular politics. However, Christians are expected to listen to (and pray for, 1 Timothy 2:1-3) governmental authorities (1 Peter 2:13-17) and pay their taxes (Matthew 22:17-21), yet if there is a conflict between the laws of men and the laws of God, “We must obey God rather than any human authority” (Acts 5:29, NLT).
Since non-Christians are not part of the faith, they do not ‘fall away’ in the sense that the Apostle Paul wrote about in 2 Thessalonians 2:3, 1 Timothy 4:1 (“depart from the faith”), and other places in scripture. An article of related interest may include The Falling Away: The Bible and WCG Teachings.
The Bible teaches that a biblical marriage is one between a man and a woman (Mark 10:6-9) and is intended to be for life (Matthew 19:3-9; 2 Corinthians 7:39). The New Testament shows that marriage helps picture the relationship between Christ and the Church (Ephesians 5:22-32). God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16) and in the New Testament, divorce is only allowed in very limited circumstances (Matthew 5:31-32, 19:3-9; 1 Corinthians 7).
The Bible also teaches,“Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever?” (2 Corinthians 6:14-16; cf. 7:39), thus the Church normally opposes marriage between true Christians and unbelievers.
The Church’s mission is to proclaim and promote the Christ’s Gospel of the Kingdom of God (Matthew 24:14) and all that implies, including leading the final phase of the work.
1. To preach the Gospel of the Kingdom (Matthew 24:14) and salvation through Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:19-20; Acts 4:10,12; Romans 1:13).
2. To preach the end-time biblical prophetic warnings, including about the coming Great Tribulation, to the descendants of Jacob and others in this age (e.g. Ezekiel 3 and 33; Matthew 24:4-51) as we strive to lead the final phase of the work.
3. To preach Philadelphian love (Revelation 3:7-12; James 2:8; John 13:35; Hebrews 13:1), feed the flock (Matthew 28:19-20), and encourage all to build character through growing in grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18).
4. To be examples (Matthew 5:14-16; 1 Thessalonians 1:7) and witnesses (Matthew 24:14) to the world in general, as well as other Christians.
5. To learn and practice the words and commands of Jesus in all our dealings with others (John 13:35; 15:14).
6. To restore knowledge of more of the truths of original Christianity (Jude 3; Matthew 17:11).
7. To teach that Christians should be led by the Holy Spirit and pursue love, mercy, judgment, faith, justice, and the other gifts of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 13:1-14:1; Matthew 23:23; Galatians 5:22-25).
Address and Other Contact Information
Continuing Church of God
1248 E. Grand Avenue, Suite A
Arroyo Grande, CA 93420