History of RCG/WCG in hindsight.

Or why RCG was at first successful (at propagating the Philadelphia spirit)

while WCG was unsuccessful almost from the start.

This an explanation of what I feel went right with the Radio Church of God (RCG), and then what went wrong with the Worldwide Church of God (WCG), using information from many books and articles, plus my own experiences of being a part of both churches.

It is how I explain to myself why today, I have no church to attend. We all have different experiences and you may see the events in a different light.

In 1958, I became involved with the Radio Church of God, the Plain Truth magazine, and later the World Tomorrow broadcast. It became a major part of my life until late June 1995, when I walked away from "the mess" - or so it seemed to me. Initially it gave so much promise, but in the end, it only gave disappointment - and especially so after Mr Armstrong died.

The RCG was started by Herbert and Loma Armstrong back in 1933.

Mr Armstrong's interest in the Bible started seven years earlier, in 1926, when his wife Loma became convicted that the God of the Bible commands a Saturday Sabbath - not Sunday. This resulted in a very determined study by him of, the Sabbath on Saturday, the proof of God, the errors of The Evolution Theory, the definition of what sin is, and so on. He started out to prove Loma wrong, but in the end, found that she was right.

To quote from The Autobiography (TA1967), page 301 "As this study of the Bible continued, I was forced to come out of the fog of religious Babylon a single doctrine at a time".

As Mr Armstrong (HWA) read material written by others, and felt that it was "right" - he took that as a revelation from God, and included it in the new list of doctrines he was drawing up. Grabbing material that was published by other churches and what was in the public domain, plus the efforts of his own study, allowed him to make quick progress.

The first 20 years was - what I would call - the laying of a foundation.

It was also a very difficult time for Mr and Mrs Armstrong.

The break was made.

Then in 1933 (in my words) Mr and Mrs Armstrong moved away from other churches, and started out on their  own.

Who was God working with?

This point is mostly glossed over by members of RCG and WCG, and it is easy to see why, with HWA becoming more dominant via the broadcast and the magazine, and then Ambassador College.

However, it was not always like that.

From the Autobiography, page 320, "From the time of my conversion Mrs Armstrong has always studied with me. We didn't realize it then, but God was calling us together. We were always a team, working together in unity."

As I see it, in hindsight, when that "unity" started to break down, was when the church started to fall apart.

Mrs Armstrong's "calling" from God, in the form of a vision or impressive dream, came five years before Mr Armstrong took up his own calling and was baptized (page 207 of TA1967).

To me, this is significant.  I read it as God leading the two through Loma. The facts bear this out. As long as Loma's influence was strong, the church grew and the spirit was good, and in her later life, an increase of around 30% each year was common. 

Another big difference.

I have read where sometimes Loma would remind Herbert that "we are a church, not an organization".

In hindsight, I now see this as a statement that was brought out big time in the two churches (RCG and WCG).

Mrs Armstrong's influence was strongest during the RCG era. We were told that one of her favorite Psalms was:

Psa 133:1 KJV  A Song of degrees of David. Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!

Again, to me, this shows that Loma was concerned with the attitude of the people - not how well they were organized.

The Philadelphia church.

As I have read, some saw the 1950's as the "Golden Age" of the church.  Mrs Armstrong's influence was strong, and there was very much a "brother loving" attitude in the group. In other words, it had the Philadelphia spirit.

When I was baptized in 1964, some of the Philadelphia spirit was still there. The members looked after members. When a family was doing it tough in a "third tithe" year, a box of groceries would just "turn up" at the front door. If someone was sick, and the lawn was getting out of control, a team would arrive and do a clean up. Out-grown clothing and garden produce was shared around.

A story I heard comes out of the Big Sandy camping ground during the Feast of Tabernacles in the 1950's. Some members, prior to the Feast, would raise, and then freeze chickens. When it came time to go to the Feast, they would just load the whole freezer onto a trailer. When some of those chickens were cooked for the evening meal, everyone at a loose end was invited. No one was left "alone" or hungry - unless that was their choice at the time.

Also miracles were not uncommon.

It did not last.

At the beginning of the 1960's, things started to change. Slowly at first, but by the time of the death of Loma in April 1967, a downward trend was well underway. After her death, the Work stopped growing at 30% each year, and the spirit of the church changed. About a year after her death, the name of the church was changed from RCG to WCG.

To me, the facts are clear to see. God was always working with Loma Armstrong as the primary member of the team. While her influence was strong, the church grew, and the spirit of the church was very much "brother loving".

However, and I am guessing a bit here, when HWA got more involved with building up Ambassador College, Loma's influence was reduced, and of course, totally gone after her death.

Why did HWA fail?

Of course, many would disagree with even suggesting the above heading.

How could I entertain the idea of calling someone who had a private jet, ran Ambassador College, published millions of magazines, a "failure".


Because religious and physical works do not equate with the spiritual fruits - and more specifically - with doing God's will.

If we are not doing God's will, then all our efforts in religious works are for nothing.

Mat 7:21-23 NET  "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter into the kingdom of heaven — only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. 

Notice the requirement for entering into the Kingdom - to do God's will.

(22)  On that day, many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, didn't we prophesy in your name, and in your name cast out demons and do many powerful deeds?'

A person can fly all over the world in a private jet, meet many heads of government, print millions of magazines, and so on - but if they are not always doing God's will, notice what Christ has to say.

(23)  Then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you. Go away from me, you lawbreakers!'

Not doing God's will means that we are not putting God first, which means we are breaking the spirit of the First Commandment.

Mr Armstrong put many doctrines into the church that were contary to God's spoken instructions.

That - in my view - is not doing God's will.

Where did it all start to go wrong?

On page 299 of TA1967, HWA records that with his conversion and repentance, he started to try and live by "every word in the Bible".

In his defense, this was the position of all the Christian churches at the time, so it is understandable why HWA just took it for granted (as did Ellen G White).

However, there is no command from God to live by "every word in the Bible".

But there is a command to live by the words spoken by God, that are recorded in the Bible.

A subtle difference in wording, but with a huge difference in results.

How and why all of our English Bibles are not "the word of God".

A quick recap (I have covered it in more detail in other articles).

The Old Testament (OT) is not as error prone as NT, it would seem, and only has one language change (Hebrew to English).

On the other hand, the New Testament (NT) seems to have many errors, and has been through two changes of Languages (Aramaic to Greek to English).  As I have read, the NT was first written in Aramaic (a bit like Hebrew), and then when a letter/message turned up in a group with Greek members, someone (not an expert in both languages) would make a translation for them. When the Aramaic original was passed on, the Greek translation was left behind, and so at the next group with Greek members, the process was repeated.

This has resulted with over 3,000 complete Greek NT's in existence - but they are all different. The people making the Greek translation were for the most part, just individuals trying to help out - not a panel of experts.

3,000 Greek New Testaments.

It is just not logical to say that God "inspired" 3,000 Greek NT's that are all different.

Men then pull what they think is the "best" of the Greek together to make an English translation. Again, there is just no way that men starting with something "not inspired" could end up with something "inspired".

Thus - to say that our English Bibles are "the word of God" is incorrect.

Sure - our Bibles do contain the words spoken by God, but it is wrong to say that the whole Bible is "the word of God".

It gets worse.

It is bad enough that we don't have good Aramaic or Greek manuscripts to start with, but men have gone further with the contamination of our English Bibles.

As I see it, the rot started with the Bishop's Bible of 1568. Their reason for making the new translation was not good.

The Bishop's were trying to counter the popularity of the Geneva Bible of 1560. The people liked it because much of it could be understood without ministers (it had lots of notes). The Geneva Bible was a translation from the Hebrew and Greek, and the first to be done by a committee. It was also the first to have chapter and verses, and was the one the pilgrims took with them to the USA.

The first attempt to "win back" the people with the Bishop's Bible (1568) was not successful (people did not like it) - so a second attempt was undertaken with King James in charge in 1611. This had updates through to 1769.

The KJV was designed to be popular, not accurate.

The KJV was produced for King James and under his imposed conditions (a king - not a religious leader - in charge of producing a religious book should set off some alarm bells). It was to be based on the Bishop's Bible, and was to retain all the ecclesiastical words. It also tried to draw the best from the Matthew, Geneva, Rheims-Douay, the Great Bible, and especially the English (but not the accuracy) of the Tyndale NT. Besides those current translations, they also used the less than perfect Stephanus Text of 1550, and the current Hebrew.

It was also "doctored" to give the Bishops more authority.

Ordination added (men ordaining men to an office).

The original Aramaic NT has nothing to say about men "ordaining" men to an office within a church.
Since I only have the translation of the Aramaic Bible as a paper copy, I can not do a search on it. However, I can do a search on the 1769 KJV and then look up what the Aramaic has to say.

Mar 3:14 KJV  And he ordained twelve, that they should be with him, ...
Mar 3:14 Aramaic And he chose twelve to be with him and to send them to preach,

Joh 15:16 KJV  Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should ...
Joh 15:16 Aramaic  ... I am the one who has chosen you. And have appointed you ... .

Act 1:22 KJV ... , must one be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection.
Act 1:22 Aramaic ... that he may be a witness of his resurrection.

Act 14:23 KJV  And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed ...
Act 14:23 Aramaic  And they raised up elders in every congregation for them ... .

1Ti 2:7 KJV  Whereunto I am ordained a preacher, and an apostle, ... .
1 Tim 2:7 Aramaic  of which I am constituted a herald and apostle. ...

Tit 1:5 KJV  ..., and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee:
Tit 1:5 Aramaic  ... and establish elders in every city, ... .

As you can see, the translation from the original Aramaic language does not mention the practice of "ordination".

So - men added the concept of "ordination" - borrowed from the Roman Catholics, but going all the way back to Nimrod - into the English KJV Bible.

But that is not all that was changed. There are hundreds of places where the Aramaic originals have been altered by men dropping or adding information.

Congregation or Church?

A simple example where altering just one word, has a great effect.

Tyndale translates Mat 18:17a as:" If he heare not them tell it vnto the congregacion".

The KJV translates Mat 18:17a as:  "And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church":

"Congregation" means the people of the group decide, but "church" has come to mean the ministers decide (giving them powers they were never meant to have).

In the Apostle Paul's day, he knew the Aramaic original was "congregation"  (the called out ones) because in  1 Cor 5:2 NLT he says "  ....  you should remove this man from your fellowship."
And in v4 he says 1Co 5:4 NLT  .... You must call a meeting of the church. ...".
2Co 2:6 NET  This punishment on such an individual by the majority is enough for him,

The KJV is a very corrupt translation.

In my view, the revised KJV of 1769, is one of the most corrupt translations of the English Bible ever made.

Yet, this is the Bible that people - including HWA - used to try to "live by every word".

HWA's mistake.

By not checking out or understanding the history and source of the KJV, HWA was treating human added error as though it was truth (assumed that "ordination" was God's will, when it was not).

The "Titanic hitting the iceberg" moment for the church came when HWA allowed himself to be ordained in 1931. From the The Autobigraphy (1967) - HWA understood that he could preach without being ordained, and he could also baptize people, but for some reason he also wanted a title. Accepting the "the fog of religious Babylon's" version of church government -  the inserted error of ordination - meant the church was doomed to fail, unless there were changes made.

The alternative.

Christ gave some very specific instructions about the structure of the church.

Mat 23:8 NET  But you are not to be called 'Rabbi,' for you have one Teacher and you are all brothers. [Early in the TA1967, HWA records that he was often called "brother"].
Mat 23:11 NET  The greatest among you will be your servant.
Mat 20:25-28 NET  But Jesus called them and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those in high positions use their authority over them [but this is where HWA ended up - being in charge].  (26)  It must not be this way among you! Instead whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant,  (27)  and whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave"

The way many ordained men have behaved, and the way Christ wants his followers to behave, are very different. Embracing ordination was not obeying Christ's instructions.  Individual people are selected for a place in the coming Kingdom of God - not groups of men,churches or organizations.

The negative effect on the work was small to start with, and God continued to work through Loma, but without repentance on such a major issue, I feel that God had no alternative but to eventually withdraw his blessing via church growth. Today, WCG is a scattered, splinted group.

At first, through human effort, and a good attitude on many points, the numbers for WCG went up, but eventually the Philadelphia spirit left the church.

I repeat my question "Why did HWA fail?"

The answer is:  No one taught HWA how to correctly read the English Bible.

Or - to put it another way - HWA believed the lie that the Bible was all "The word of God".

The correct way to read the Bible.

I believe there is a reason why God has allowed men - no doubt often under the influence of Satan - to contaminate our English Bibles with errors.

The Bible has become a test.

Remember the test Jesus faced (recorded in Mat 4).  Satan threw a mixture of truth, lies, and even a bribe at Jesus. Why?  To get him to go against the Father's will.  To fail in his mission.

Why did Jesus pass the test?  Because he put his Father's will before his own.

How can we pass the test when we read the Bible?  Again, by putting God's will before all else.

The words spoken by God (and recorded in the Bible), and the words of God passed on via His prophets, are the words we are to live by.

Let me try and explain it this way.

Satan has seen to it, that for many of the instructions given by God in the Bible, there are alternatives that go against God. It is in our human nature to find "excuses" to disobey God, so this has been an excellent way for Satan to deceive the whole world (Rev 12:9).

Our job is to find God's instructions - and then stick with them.

A few simple examples.

God says to keep the Sabbath (Ex 20:8), but people find the "first day of the week" mentioned in Acts 20:7, and use the words of men to overrule the words of God.

God said to put out leaven so people would remember the day (Deut 16:3) - but men put out leaven because they say it represents sin.  Being reminded of the day, gives us a reason to praise God for His great power.  Being reminded of sin, draws our attention to the weakness of men, and detracts from the praise due to God.

God said that the Passover Lamb was to be killed in the afternoon of the 14th, cooked slowly, and then eaten after sunset, at the start of the 15th (Ex 12:1-11).  The killing of the Passover lamb is not for Christians, but by using some badly translated verses in the NT, men have gone against God's will, and given the name "Passover" to some Christian traditions.

God says to put out the leaven at the start of the 15th (Ex 12:15).  Men say to start putting out leaven weeks before then, and miss the point of Jesus having "living bread" at the Last Supper (at the start of the 14th).

Trying to live by "every word of the Bible", will cause you to fail the test - just as many before us have failed the test.

Instead of trying to use all of our English Bibles as the source of truth, we are to use the words of God - that are recorded in the Bible - but you have to be willing to go searching for them..

Joh 17:17 NET  Set them apart in the truth; your word is truth.

Jer 26:4-5 NET  Tell them that the LORD says, 'You must obey me! You must live according to the way I have instructed you in my laws.  (5)  You must pay attention to the exhortations of my servants the prophets. .... .

Deu 8:3 NET  So he humbled you by making you hungry and then feeding you with unfamiliar manna. He did this to teach you that humankind cannot live by bread alone, but also by everything that comes from the LORD's mouth.

Jesus confirmed that this is what we should do.

Mat 4:4 NET  But he answered, "It is written, 'Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.' "

Yes - we are required to reject every word and/or concept in the Bible where it is at odds with the spoken words of God, and especially the deliberately inserted lies of Satan.

In the world today.

As far as I know, there are no Christian churches in the world today, who are willing to divide the English Bible into truth and error.

That is one of the main reasons why I can not find a group to attend.  Trying to "live by the Bible" means that all the churches end up teaching a mixture of truth and error, and that is not what I want.

And that is why - I feel - God will put many of  todays Christians (unless they repent) through the tribulation. Today - just as in Jeremiah's day (Jer 11:8) - the people won't listen.  Maybe, going through the tribulation will help to get their attention?

A Summary of the two churches.

The Radio Church of God.

This was started by Loma and Herbert Armstrong in 1933.  With Loma's influence and understanding, it grew with a Philadelphia (brother loving) spirit.

The Philadelphia Church era is the only one with a promise of protection.

Rev 3:10 NET  Because you have kept my admonition to endure steadfastly, I will also keep you from the hour of testing that is about to come on the whole world to test those who live on the earth.

It reached its peak in the 1950's, then declined and slowly disappeared after the death of Loma in 1967.

The Worldwide Church of God.

This church grew out of RCG, but with a different spirit.

HWA had some doctrines right - such as the Sabbath and Holy Days - and thus the church could be called "hot".  However, because he had never been taught or realised how to read our English Bibles correctly, he put many doctrines into the church that went against the words spoken by God - and thus the church could be called "cold".

When you mix hot and cold - you get lukewarm.  The spirit of Laodicea.

With this mindset, Christ says that he will:   Rev 3:16 NET  So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I am going to vomit you out of my mouth!

I take that to mean that there will be no protection during the tribulation.

It has happened before.

Jer 15:7 NET  The LORD continued, "In every town in the land I will purge them like straw blown away by the wind. I will destroy my people. I will kill off their children. I will do so because they did not change their behavior.

The HWA legacy.

Again - this is my thoughts - and you may see it differently.

HWA did not teach people how to study the Bible for themselves. Anyone speaking up about a church understanding, were removed from the group (if they were not willing to "fall into line" with the church's teachings).

As HWA ordained more and more ministers, the Ivory Tower Syndrome set in. HWA was no longer called "brother", and members who used his first name "Herbert" were considered to be disrespectful. The members were required to look to a man - not to our spiritual High Priest, Jesus Christ.

People who tried to talk about doctrinal problems were ignored. It took a great deal of effort, and many people getting involved, to get the changes to D&R and Pentecost through.

To this day, the remnants of WCG, will not listen to people who want to bring about change. It would seem that they feel that they have all the truth they need.

Rev 3:17 NET  Because you say, "I am rich and have acquired great wealth, and need nothing," but do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked,

When you don't see a need to change, then humans dig their heels in and resist change.

Rev 3:18 NET   take my advice and buy gold from me refined by fire so you can become rich! Buy from me white clothing so you can be clothed and your shameful nakedness will not be exposed, and buy eye salve to put on your eyes so you can see!

[ At this point, it would be a good idea to go to a quiet place and ask God to help you to see the extent of Satan's deception.}

Thinking that everything in the church is OK - when clearly it is not - and not seeing (Rev 3:19b) the need for change, means that change will not come.

Maybe going through the tribulation will help people to at last follow Christ's instructions to the Church that currently has the Laodicean spirit.

Rev 3:20 NET  Listen! I am standing at the door and knocking! If anyone hears my voice and opens the door I will come into his home and share a meal with him, and he with me.

I take v20 to mean that individuals can learn how to read the Bible (and put God and Christ's instructions first), even if the church as a whole can not.

So close - yet so far.

Loma and Herbert Armstrong came so close to putting the church "truly back on the track" and clearing  "the fog of religious Babylon a single doctrine at a time".

Unfortunately, it seems that Herbert failed the test (of how to read the Bible as God intended) and that Satan won the bout.

However, and for this I am thankful, they did start a lot of people looking into their Bibles, and some have gone on to grow in their Biblical understanding.

With the right help from God - we all can.

Bob Orchard June 2018

While this information is made freely available (Mat 10:8b) , and can be printed out, it is done with the understanding that there will only be fair and honest use of the material, and that it will be copied in full with no alterations.