Booklets and Articles Index
The History of the Beginning
and Growth of the Worldwide Church of God
By Herbert W. Armstrong
THE BEGINNING AND growth of the Worldwide CHURCH OF GOD is an exciting story of faith under hardship, opposition, persecution. It is a history bringing Jesus' parable of the mustard seed into real life in the turbulent 20th century. This mustard seed was born in the midst of the Great Depression.
What GOD has done through man in this world of Satan, He has always carried out through one man. Even before man, God put one archangel, Lucifer, over all angels on the earth.
When Satan's world had come to a population explosion, with violence, destruction, evils and consequent human suffering, God decided to SAVE all mankind from the agonies of universal sin in a manner understood by FEW. God decided to blot out all human life, except for eight souls, to bring them all back to life in a happier world millennia later, ruled by the Kingdom of God. God chose ONE MAN to keep humanity alive - Noah, and his family.
A few generations later God called ONE MAN, Abraham. Then Isaac, then Jacob,then Joseph.
Four hundred thirty years after Abraham, God chose Moses to lead Abraham's descendants out of Egyptian slavery, into the promised land. God had prepared Moses in advance, as a prince in the pharaoh's palace.
When Moses' job was finished, God chose ONE MAN, Joshua, to lead the Israelites across the Jordan River into their promised land.
The Israelites continually disobeyed God. When they got themselves into trouble, and became a vassal people under neighbor nations, God would raise up ONE MAN to lead them back, upon their repentance.
After this God chose ONE MAN, Samuel, by whom GOD would rule this people. But the people wanted a king like all other nations. God gave them Saul, then David and David's dynasty.
After Solomon's death, the people chose Jeroboam as king - but they had departed from God.
Meanwhile God had sent them prophets, one at a time. Israel became divided. Each kingdom was, in turn, conquered in war and removed from their promised land as slaves.
God was no longer ruling over either of the houses of Israel and Judah. But He did send a colony out of Judah, 70 years after Judah's captivity, to build a second temple, replacing Solomon's temple. And even then, one man, Zerubbabel, was governor and leader.
We come to the time of Jesus, the Christ. Jesus chose 12 to become His first apostles - but ONE MAN, Peter, was unquestionably the leader. Many do not realize this. But if you go through the "four gospels," the book of Acts and epistles of Paul, checking how often Peter is mentioned as leader, there is no doubt.
First notice Matthew 4:18 (Revised Standard Version), "As he [Jesus] walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter and Andrew ..." Peter was not his original name from birth, but Simon. Jesus called him "Peter" - that is, "the Peter," or Pater or leader. This for centuries had been the TITLE of the religious LEADER. The Roman Catholics have adopted the title. In English we use the word pope, but in Rome the people call him Papa. It is also called Pater or Papa. In Rome I have heard crowds of thousands shouting out, when the pope appeared: "Viva Papa! Viva Papa! Viva Papa!" over and over in unison.
In Numbers 22:5, the king of the Moabites "sent messengers therefore unto Balaam the son of Beor to Pethor." Pethor was the center of Babylonian religion on the banks of the Euphrates. It compared to the Vatican today, which is a city but only as the Catholic religious center or capital. This originally was written in Hebrew and in Hebrew the h was not pronounced. Hence, Pethor becomes Pator or Peter - the e being pronounced as a long a.
Peter, then pronounced like Pater, was a long established TITLE, center or headquarters, of religious leadership - not necessarily pagan.
Now notice: The first place in the Bible where Peter is mentioned is Matthew 4:18, quoted above. The second place his name appears is Matthew 10:2, "Now the names of the twelve apostles are these; The first, Simon, who is called Peter (or, who is called "the Peter")."
Notice, "And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona" - that is, Simon the son of Jona, giving his name from birth (Matt. 16:17). "And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter" - or, the Peter. Jesus was here giving him the TITLE OF LEADERSHIP OF apostolic HEAD under Christ.
Continue, verse 19: "And I will give unto thee [Peter] the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou [Peter] shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou [Peter] shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."
I have given English derivations of the title Peter. Its Greek derivation means rock. The word in Matthew 16:18 in original Greek is Petras or Petra, meaning rock.
Peter is first mentioned in John's gospel. It speaks of "Andrew, Simon Peter's brother... first findeth his own brother Simon, and saith unto him, We have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ. And he brought him to Jesus. And when Jesus beheld him, he said, Thou art Simon the son of Jona [John]: thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, A stone" (John 1:40-42). Cephas (pronounced Kaphas) is the Aramaic equivalent of petra in the Greek, meaning a rock or stone. Cephas, then, also is the TITLE, not an original name.
You will find the titles, Peter and Cephas, and the man they represent, Simon, mentioned far more often in the four gospels and Acts than any other apostle. Paul used the title, or name, Peter, but once, in Galatians 1, otherwise always using the title Cephas.
I will mention only a couple more, here. In Acts 5:15 it was even Peter's shadow passing over people that healed them.
Christ chose Peter to first open up the Gospel to gentiles - Acts 10 and 11. Paul wrote, Galatians 1:18-19: "Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days. But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord's brother,!'
Then, Galatians 2:7, "But contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter..."
Yet when Paul went up to Jerusalem from Antioch (Acts 15), to settle the matter of circumcision among gentiles, it was PETER who gave the decision after much dissension (verses 7-12). James, as Jerusalem pastor, as a matter of protocol was chairman of the meeting, so James made Peter's decision official.
There is no doubt, Peter was the LEADER among the apostles - even, as in Acts 15, over Paul. He was Christ's chosen apostle.
Before leaving the subject of Peter, notice Mark 3:16, "And Simon he [Jesus] surnamed Peter." A surname, Webster's Dictionary, is "an added name derived from occupation or circumstance." Jesus had chosen Simon for the "occupation" of chief apostle. Peter - or Pater - had long been the title of a religious head or headquarters.
Since this bears on the relationship in the Church of God today, I dwell a little further on Jesus' choice of His chief apostle.
I quote briefly from the Dictionary of the Bible, edited by James Hastings, revised edition, article "PETER": "Simon, surnamed Peter, has been justly called the Prince of the Apostles... Simon first met Jesus at Bethany beyond the Jordan (John 1:28)... Jesus was there... Jesus 'looked at him,' and he became a disciple from that moment. Jesus seemed to know at once, both what Peter was then, and what with God's help he could become, and He gave him a surname prophetic of the moral and spiritual strength he would eventually demonstrate. 'So you are Simon, the son of John? You shall be called Cephas' (John 1:42). Cephas was the Aramaic equivalent of the Greek petros or petra, which means rock. It is thus given as a descriptive title, and not as a proper name. He was not yet Peter, but only Simon, impulsive and vacillating, and Jesus bestowed upon him the new name before he had earned it so that it might be an incentive to him to realize what Jesus had expected."
In other words, Simon was human He had his faults and weaknesses But his ATTITUDE was right! His heart was in the right place. Even after being under Jesus' teaching 3 1/2 years he denied Jesus three times But Jesus helped him over his faults and weaknesses, and later having received the Holy Spirit, Simon Peter did, indeed, become a solid rock of an apostle.
So - in like manner - does God have to deal with all humans. The great prophet Elijah was "a man subject to like passions as we are" (Jas. 5:17). David was a man after God's own heart, yet he had weaknesses and sinned - but repented and turned from his sins. It has always been thus. It is today. Only one human was perfect - Jesus Christ.
Persecution, Church underground
Soon, in the first century, a great persecution set in against the Church. Before A.D. 60 the churches in Galatia had turned to another gospel (Gal. 1:6-7).
The Gospel message God had sent by Jesus Christ had been suppressed!
The Church was largely scattered, many went "underground" - had to hold meetings on the Sabbath secretly.
By about A.D. 70, the Church of God entered "the lost century." For about a hundred years no trace of the history of the true Church of God could be found. This gave evidence that an organized thorough search had been made to destroy all historic evidence of the existence or activities of God's Church. The curtain had been brought completely down over all records of Church activity.
When the curtain lifted, in the second century, a church calling itself "Christian" came into focus - but a totally different church. It was the Babylonian mystery religion, then calling itself "Christian," professing to be the true Church. Sunday was being observed early Sunday mornings instead of the Sabbath. Easter was being observed instead of the Passover.
However, a disciple of the apostle John, Polycarp, was contending with Roman bishops for the truth, and later an extremely heated controversy over these questions by Polycrates opposing Roman bishops.
Soon the "Trinity" doctrine was equally violent, and in A.D. 325 the Emperor Constantine of Rome called the Nicene Council and settled the controversies in favor of Sunday, Easter and the "Trinity."
About the middle of the 12th century, a businessman, Peter Waldo, of Lyons, France, rose up against the Roman Church, upholding the doctrines of the Scriptures. Waldo was eminent in learning and a philanthropist - one who practiced Christ's way of GIVING rather than Satan's way of GETTING. His work grew. The pope ordered him and his followers, called Waldenses, exterminated. But Waldo fled.
The Church went underground, meeting secretly. Later Peter Waldo escaped to the mountains of Dauphiny. As the Church grew, its presence was known, and the pope ordered all their property, private and collective, confiscated through the government of France. Some fled to Spain. Peter Waldo continued to preach boldly for the truth. Many Waldenses were tortured and martyred. They form part of the martyred saints mentioned in Revelation 6:9-11.
Fuller accounts of the history of the true Church during these times are available. But now we pick up the story in the present century.
We come to the latter part of the era of the "Sardis Church" (Rev. 3:1-6) and the beginning of the Philadelphia era (Rev. 3:7-13).
The Sardis era of the Church had greatly deteriorated by 1927, when I was converted and first came on the scene, searching for the one true Church of God.
The Philadelphia era was to take on new life, vigor and vitality, restoring truths that had been lost.
Again God raised up one man through whom the living Christ would work. Since God called me and used me in an unusual manner, I deem it proper to outline here essential facts.
I did not know it as a young man, late teens, 20s and into my 30s, but, God was guiding my life from birth.
Some of the things I shall record here have been published either in the Autobiography or in articles in The Plain Truth and Good News - but much has not been previously published.
I was born July 31, 1892, in Des Moines, Iowa, of respected and upright parents of Quaker ancestry. My ancestors had emigrated from England to Pennsylvania with William Penn, a hundred years before the United States became a nation. I have since learned of a foundation which has kept, my ancestry, my father's, and his father's, all the way back to Edward I, king of England. Through the British Royal genealogy this ancestry is traced back to King David of Israel.
Thus I was born of the HOUSE OF DAVID, which has a certain biblical significance. I well remember a grandfather, and a great-uncle, when I was age 3 - both of whom were between 92 and 94. And several uncles and aunts have lived into the 80s and 90s. My mother lived to be 95 1/2.
As a boy and a youth I was normal and average. I was not a leader because my playmates were usually one or two years older than I. I was average in school, but always came up in final exams with near perfect grades.
At age 16, on my first summer vacation job away from Des Moines, my employer aroused the flame of ambition within me, due to work well performed. From that summer I had a burning desire to become a success in life. I did not crave money, but I did crave the satisfaction of accomplishment and true success.
At age 18 I put myself through a home-study course of self-analysis, and a survey of occupations and professions, to avoid ever becoming the proverbial "square peg in a round hole." I had come to realize by then that most people are victims of circumstance. Few ever plan where they belong, where they live, what they do. I wanted to PLAN my life for satisfying achievement.
The test led me into the advertising profession. From infancy I had been brought up in the First Friends Church of Des Moines. But I had never come to have any special religious interest. I had absorbed certain religious ideas or taken for granted beliefs taught me, but I had no burning interest in religion. At 18, launching into a business career, I dropped out of church attendance.
In business, I always chose the job where I would learn the most, as well as throw me into contact with successful men.
I worked hard. I studied diligently, burning "the midnight oil" as the saying went, instead of seeking pleasure and entertainment of evenings.
By age 23 I had become a publishers' representative, with the advertising representation of the nine principal and dominant bankers' magazines in the nation. I had my own office in Chicago's loop for seven years. I was unusually successful, using methods that were unique, pioneering in opinion surveys.
I had personal contact with presidents and board chairmen of such corporations as Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., J.I. Case, Moline Plow, John Deere & Co., Avery Co. and many others. I attended state and national bankers' conventions. I had personal acquaintance with heads of the nation's largest banks, both Wall Street, New York and Chicago.
I was married at age 25 to Miss Loma Dillon. I was to learn later that God had brought us together, for a marriage to last 50 years, until her death at age 75 1/2.
Loma was much more interested in religion and the Bible. She had been a Methodist, but was also of Quaker ancestry.
Within a week of our marriage my wife was shaken by a dream so unusual she was frightened. She dreamed of being on one of Chicago's busiest intersections. An angel had come down and put his arms around my wife and me, as thousands stopped to see the sight. My wife was struck with fear, knowing I had no special religious interest at the time. The angel in the dream said Jesus was returning in this generation, and He had work for us to do.
When my wife told me of the dream, I was embarrassed. I suggested she tell the dream to the preacher of the church on the next corner, and perhaps he could tell her if it meant anything. I wanted to dismiss it from my mind, at the time.
It was to be nine years before Christ jarred me with a call I could not escape.
But I was eminently successful for a young man, making what, measured by the 1980 dollar value, would be about $175,000 per year while still in my 20s.
All these years of business experience prepared me for Christ's call. I had been energetic. I had learned to THINK about what I was doing, while I was doing it. I had learned to think my way around unusual circumstances - to apply resourcefulness to arising problems. I had learned to deal with men.
In the autumn of 1926, when I was 34, my wife brought to me what at the moment was a terrifying CHALLENGE! I have told of this experience and published it so many times, I will skim through it here. She had begun to keep the seventh-day Sabbath! To me, then, that was "religious fanaticism." Also a sister-in-law challenged me on the theory of evolution. I have published the story repeatedly of the night-and-day research in-depth, trying to prove both of them wrong. The important thing is that in this study Jesus Christ, through His written Word, opened my mind to the PRIME BASIC TRUTHS He wanted me to have in starting me out as His servant.
Basic in God's master plan for His PURPOSE through humans is the restoration of the GOVERNMENT OF GOD! God had established His government on earth through Lucifer and the angels. They had rebelled. God's government was no longer administered on earth.
Every government, even man's government, is based on a foundational LAW or constitution. The LAW of God is the principle and expansion of LOVE. Love is outflowing, the opposite of ingrasping lust, greed, coveting. For humans, it expands into LOVE toward God and LOVE toward fellow man. That, in turn, expands, in principle, into the Ten Commandments. Of the Ten, the Fourth is the test Commandment.
Humans will agree that transgression of any of the other nine is SIN. But men will not accept the Fourth, or admit that its transgression is SIN! There is one, and only one reason for any person to accept and obey the Fourth Commandment - keeping God's Sabbath holy. And that is to express love for and obedience to GOD.
Jesus Christ brought me to Him through a challenge on this Fourth Commandment. God had made a call I first did not recognize through my wife, only days after our marriage. I didn't "get the message" then. He now called me in a manner I could not shrug off, through my wife! He used her in my conversion - in bringing me to Him. And He used her as a partner with me in establishing His growing Work through His Church in the era of this end time!
God's TIME had come! His time for one, of whom John the Baptist was type and forerunner, to prepare the way for Christ's SECOND coming. For one of whom Zerubbabel, in building the second temple at Jerusalem, was type and forerunner, of one through whom Christ would build this era of God's CHURCH - the spiritual TEMPLE to which Christ will come the second time to RULE and RESTORE THE GOVERNMENT OF GOD.
Jesus Christ used this test Commandment of the LAW of His government in order to bring me to Him and into His service!
That was first and most important. But more - during that initial six months' in-depth study, Christ made plain to me the NAME of the true Church. He revealed to me the TRUTH about the "lost sheep" of the house of ISRAEL - the modern identity of which is the KEY that unlocked that whole THIRD of the Bible which is PROPHECY for NOW!
More, and also basically, He revealed to me the truth of the existence of angels under Lucifer. This was basically important because it opened my mind to the BACKGROUND making clear God's PURPOSE in creating MAN on the earth. Also He revealed God's annual Holy Days, which depict God's master plan.
Thus Jesus Christ, Head of God's Church, started His servant out with the basic foundation to UNDERSTANDING of Christ's GOSPEL. And further, He revealed that GOSPEL which had not been proclaimed to the world for 18 1/2 centuries.
ALWAYS God, in using MAN, has dealt through ONE MAN at a time. He has not used committees or groups. True, there was more than one apostle used in the founding of God's CHURCH, but one man, PETER, clearly was LEADER.
The Bible is constructed like a jigsaw puzzle. One must pick out a piece here and a piece there, each within the meaning of its context, and then put them together in order to see the WHOLE picture. But, in and during my conversion, Christ revealed to me the basic truths, and it was thereafter easier to accept and build the others around them.
In this conversion process, Jesus put me through the wringer. He squeezed out - cleared my mind - swept it clean of earlier false assumptions - such as going to heaven or hell - immortality of the soul - the false "Trinity" doctrine.
I was started out knowing WHO and WHAT God is - WHAT, and WHY man is - the TRUTH about Israel - WHAT is Christ's true Gospel - the coming Kingdom of God. Those are the BASICS, unknown by ANY religion, or any (other) of the sects and denominations of "Christianity."
HOW WONDERFUL ARE GOD'S WAYS!
I did not seek these basic foundations of TRUTH of my own volition!
Jesus Christ revealed them, while I was trying to prove the very opposite of these precious TRUTHS!
But the living Jesus did sweep my mind CLEAN of false teachings and fables - of so-called "Christianity" - of evolution - of all foundational beliefs.
He was preparing one called and chosen by God, even against that one's will, for an important service in RESTORING THE LAW AND GOVERNMENT OF GOD to earth - even in the comparatively small Worldwide Church of God. He was preparing one whom HE conquered and brought to repentance and faith, for this great END-TIME commission!
Yet, in the earliest days of my Christian life after conversion, the ministers of the then only true Church of God, Sardis, fought me at every turn. Christ led me through continual PERSECUTION and OPPOSITION.
And, much later on - during the decade of the '70s, conspiracies arose within God's Church to DO AWAY WITH these basic truths. During the years 1968 and 1969, and the '70s up to 1977 was overseas much of the time. During 1975 and 1976 I was overseas 300 out of the 365 days of those years - and the two or three years before about 200 to 250 days.
Those "intellectuals" surrounding my son, who was left to administer the Work from Pasadena headquarters, were conspiring to liberalize Church doctrines, to destroy and remove from circulation the articles, booklets, etc., I had written on BASIC TRUTHS. The Church of God was being molded more and more like a liberal Protestant denomination.
Satan never lets up! Church leaders had become DECEIVED! Finally, by 1977, a voluminous project, called the Systematic Theological Project (STP), was prepared in scholarly and systematic "university" style. It was prepared principally by those educated in this world's universities. It was prepared SECRETLY - those involved were warned not to let a word of it leak to me. It was given out to the entire field ministry at the ministers' conference in January, 1977, after I had been given solemn assurances nothing doctrinal would be brought up in the conference.
Later, in 1977, on learning of this conspiracy, I killed the project.
But let me say before leaving this most recent conspiracy, my son, as executive vice president, was surrounded and influenced by a group of' liberal conspirators, all of whom had been receiving a large part or all of their "education" in this world's universities, where the "god" is evolution, and liberalism is the universal approach. Most, if not all, of the infamous STP was produced by one with a background of universities in New York, Washington and Los Angeles, and with a Ph.D. I do not accuse these men of dishonesty - they had been brainwashed by this world's much deceived "higher education" and "scholarship."
Now back to the early days with the "Sardis" era Church.