A few years ago, a friend of mine sent me a copy of Mystery of the Ages. At the time, I was heavily into New Age and eastern religions, having much abandoned my Christian upbringing for the most part (I was exposed to just enough to become immune to it in many ways). I was always interested in Bible prophecy as a youth, but I never read the Bible as an adult, and had never listened to Scripture since I stopped going to church when I was 18. The fact was that I never really learned the full truth of Christianity and what it meant to have Faith. Anyway, after reading some of Herbert Armstrong’s books, I attempted to “fit” his teachings with what I already believed from reading many New Age books. I took Herbert Armstrong’s words as authoritative–never actually reading the Bible myself. Anyway, the books didn’t have much of a lasting impression on me, as I continued believing much pseudo-Christian/New Age teachings.
A couple of years went by, and I eventually started receiving the Philadelphia Trumpet magazine (at my request). After reading the first few, I started throwing them away because they always seemed to depress and scare me. About a year later, the September 11 WTC attacks happened. I was numb for days and was affected on many levels. I also had friends who lost their business and home who were staying with me. Anyway, soon after, the monthly Trumpet arrived as usual. As I read it, I thought I was beginning to make sense of what was happening in the world. I started watching Gerald Flurry’s Key of David show regularly. I plunged into my Bible and started reading, especially prophecy. I obtained some other Armstrong material–like America and Britain in Prophecy (the unabridged version), and many of Flurry’s booklets. I absorbed all of it. I found myself turning to God and away from many of the New Age beliefs I had embraced. It was a great feeling as I started rediscovering my faith and talking to God with my prayers–and God was answering them. I even started going to church again!
However, the more I watched the Key of David and read the monthly Trumpet issues, I started to notice disturbing things. There was always some sort of alluded-to message in the booklets, the magazine, and the TV program, which seemed to imply that “if you’re not a paying member of the Philadelphia Church of God, you aren’t saved and won’t be protected from God’s wrath”! Then I discovered the ESN website and it confirmed a lot of my suspicions. The absolute worst thing the PCG has done is to interpret Bible prophecy as being about the PCG itself! Declaring Herbert to be the “end-time Elijah,”1 and being “he who had the Key of David” seemed ridiculous. Gerald Flurry’s claim that his Malachi’s Message was the “little book” was the most absurd thing I ever read. There were other things too, such as calling themselves the “true church” and that the Philadelphia church era ended with Herbert Armstrong’s death and the disintegration of the WWCG.
Eventually, I stopped believing in Anglo-Israelism and that America and Britain are modern-day Israel, and thus the subject of all end time prophecies for Israel. I looked up many of the Scriptures referenced in Mystery of the Ages2 and discovered that often Herbert Armstrong’s interpretations were derived out of context–and mainly to suit his own personal views. I became depressed, feeling that the source of my new-found strength had betrayed me in some way. But, I didn’t let it stop me. The spark was already there. I continued reading the Bible and other Christian books. I started living less in fear and more in Christ. I have now completely abandoned my satanic beliefs in New Age and eastern philosophy, and have realized that I was deceived in an attempt to lead me from the cross of Christ. It turns out that the Holy Spirit was really the source of my new-found strength–not the PCG! Although God in His infinite wisdom initially reached me through the PCG!
September 11, 2001 was a blessed event for me in that it served as the springboard to lead me into a true life of Christian Faith. After all, that is why we have trials like these. Even though I feel that I have seen their true intentions, the Philadelphia Church of God did initially open my ears to the word of the Lord. PCG does have a general tendency to twist news events to make them fit their view of prophecy, but I am able to see through that. I have never sent the PCG any money, but I am grateful for the initial spark of faith that eventually came out of all this.
I thank you for helping me.
Footnotes by ESN:
1 Herbert Armstrong implied he was the “Elijah to come” in Mystery of the Ages, p. 9-18. PCG says he was the “end-time Elijah.” (“Elijah Has Come Already,” Philadelphia Trumpet, July 1995, by Stephen Flurry.
2 “Mystery of the Ages (a critical review)” by Kelly Marshall and “Mystery of the Ages (a 2nd critical) by William Hohmann (these books are in PDF)