Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Reading PCG's Article, The Mark of the Beast

Back in the January 1995 issue of PCG's recruitment magazine, The Philadelphia Trumpet, Stephen Flurry wrote an article entitled "The Mark of the Beast". It restates HWA's dogma that worshiping on Sunday in the Mark of the Beast. It is available as a reprint article. You can read this article on their website.

Let us see what Stephen Flurry has to say.
Some assume the mark is something people should definitely have since it will enable you to buy and sell; and after all, everyone wants to buy and sell, right? (p. 1.)
Who is Stephen Flurry talking about? The mark of the Beast is always portrayed as a bad thing. This is a straw man argument. This is no such argument.
Mr. Armstrong warned for many decades of the final resurrection of the Roman Empire. After World War II, he boldly proclaimed that Germany would rise again and lead a group of 10 united nations in Europe. For this to be accomplished, communism had to crumble in Eastern Europe. Mr. Armstrong also predicted this. And that is exactly what has happened! Communism has fallen in Eastern Europe and now a group of nations is very quickly pulling together to form a powerful combine economically and militarily. (p. 2.)
This is wrong. It is often asserted that the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 proved that HWA was right and he really did see the future.

This of course is nonsense. Herbert W. Armstrong said that Christ would return within twenty years in his book Mystery of the Ages. (PCG has since deleted those words so someone in there knows HWA spoke nonsense.) How convenient for them to forget this.

Also Herbert W. Armstrong never said the Soviet Union would collapse. He thought it would survive intact until a few years after Christ's return. It shows how biased some many in the COGs are that they so often omit this pertinent detail. This inconvenient truth is just tossed into the memory hole.

It is true that HWA said that some Eastern European states would break away from Moscow's orbit and join the European Empire he said would arise at any moment. But he never talked of the Soviet Union collapsing. He did not teach that. Also he portrayed the rise of the European Empire to be far quicker then what has actually happened. In Mystery of the Ages Christ was supposed to return by 2005 at the most.

So assertions that the fall of the Berlin Wall somehow prove that HWA was right is just complete nonsense spread by people who, for whatever reason, are still in denial that HWA was a false prophet who merely talked out of his own "human reasoning".

We now continue with Stephen Flurry's article.
Those familiar with Mr. Armstrong’s writings, many of which were written in the 1950s and 1960s, know he prophesied of these events! Mr. Armstrong was preaching it at a time when it looked impossible. And now it is happening—precisely as he said. We need to know WHY! (p. 2.)
It is because you want to believe that HWA was right.
The Roman Empire is the greatest war-making power this world has ever known. That proves this beast is not a great religious organization as some people believe. It refers to a great war-making nation. Verses 5-7 show that this evil beast will 1) speak great things, and 2) make war with the saints, or God’s people. (p. 2.)
The "great religious organization" Stephen Flurry here alludes to is the Roman Catholic Church.

Stephen Flurry then cites some obscure book printed in 1836 entitled History of Roman Catholicism. It was published by a publishing firm named S.L. Holbrook. Back then mutual hostility between Protestants and Catholics were far more widespread than is the case today.
Here is a quote from a book titled The History of Roman Catholicism (1836, page 524): ... (p. 4.)
It appears the book is entitled History of Roman Catholicism, not The History of Roman Catholicism as Stephen Flurry here presents it. Such failure to attend to details is merely representative of more severe factual failings in this article.

Here is the full name of this 1836 book:
History of Roman Catholicism: From the Reign of Constantine the Great, A.D. 325, Down to the Present Time Exhibiting a Full and Impartial Detail of the Superstitutions, Corruptions, and Tyranny of the Papal Church
It appears as though this book was never reprinted after 1836. So right now it is only available at a cost of about $130. Why does Stephen Flurry choose to quote from such an obscure and inaccessible book? Wouldn't it be better to quote a book easily accessible to his readers?

Stephen Flurry then proceeds to repeat once again his father's doctrine that only PCG members are "Philadelphians" and all those in the other COG groups are "Laodiceans" doomed to be executed by the future European Empire.
A little more background is necessary at this point. The Bible reveals two groups of God’s people extant during the Great Tribulation (the time of Satan’s wrath upon the whole world). Revelation 12:14-17 show that one of these groups is protected during the Tribulation while the other group must experience it. Numerous pieces of Philadelphia Church of God literature prove these two groups to be the Philadelphia and Laodicean churches (Revelation 3:7-22). The Philadelphians are protected (verse 10) while the Laodiceans are punished in the Tribulation (verse 19).

The mark of the beast will be enforced during the Tribulation (Revelation 13:5; notice “forty and two months”—or 3 1/2 years). So those who are beheaded because they reject the mark are none other than the repentant Laodiceans who go into the Tribulation. They lose their lives physically, but will be resurrected to rule with Jesus Christ a thousand years. Revelation 15:1-4 give more details concerning the reward of those repentant Laodiceans who refuse the mark. (p. 3.)
It is often asserted that in the future the Laodiceans are fated to be executed by the European Empire for refusing to observe Sunday. The fear of being killed off in this way is an induced phobia which causes PCG members to be desperate to be sure that this will not happen to them. Consequently they do what PCG's ministers tell them to do because they think they will be executed by the future European Empire if they are out of PCG.
The little horn in [Daniel 7] verse 8 refers to a great religious organization that speaks great things.
He means the Roman Catholic Church. Armstrongites tend to be evasive about this when introducing this doctrine but HWA taught that the final Pope would be able to perform miracles such as summoning fire from the sky and use such miracles to bolster the rise of the future European Empire.

Then comes this fascinating passage. So Stephen Flurry is fulminating about the Catholic Church using the Roman Empire to change Saturday to Sunday. He then makes a statement which appears to be untrue.

Is the highlighted sentence below accurate?
Changing the official day of worship to Sunday was made by Constantine during the Nicean Council of A.D. 325. Here is what he said: “At this meeting the question concerning ... Easter was discussed. ... First of all, it appeared an unworthy thing that in the celebration of this ... feast we should follow the practice of the Jews. ... Let us then have nothing in common with the Jews . ... It has been determined by the common judgment of all, that the ... feast of Easter should be kept on one and the same day.”

In other words, Easter was to be kept on Sunday and the Passover, one of God’s seven annual festivals, was expressly forbidden! (p. 4.)
That severely edited passage was talking about Easter, not Sunday, as is obliquely admitted in the last section of the quote. It is not true that "Changing the official day of worship to Sunday was made by Constantine during the Nicean Council of A.D. 325". They were talking about Easter.

Actually the Council of Nicaea did not even talk about whether or not to worship on Sunday or Saturday at all. It was concerned with two issues: 1) To make a decision concerning the doctrine of Arianism which asserted that Jesus Christ was unworthy of worship and 2) to settle the date for Passover.

There were other decisions made as well but not whether to worship on Sunday or Saturday. That was not even an issue at the Council of Nicaea.

If you don't believe me just look at the canons of the Council of Nicaea for yourself. They do not even talk about whether or not to worship on Sunday or Saturday. That was not at issue in that Council.
Since it was Constantine who enforced Sunday observance in the Roman Empire, we should expect this 1,260-year tribulation period to begin when he made his decree in A.D. 325. And that is exactly what happened. With his decree, those saints who remained faithful to God’s Sabbath command were forced to flee into hiding for fear of their lives. Persecution against these people set in almost immediately. (p. 5.)
It is funny to note that no one seems to know anything about this except Stephen Flurry. If you look at the annals of church history during the fourth and fifth centuries AD there is no mention of any major persecution of Sabbatarian Christians. Because there was no such thing.

Also when did this period of persecution end? 1260 years after A.D. 325 is A.D. 1585. What happened then? This question is always conveniently ignored by those promoting this "church history" dogma. Herman Hoeh in his 1959 booklet, A True History of the True Church, never mentioned anything happening in 1585. And neither does Stephen Flurry. This is because nothing happened in 1585. This dogma is nonsense.
In Revelation 2:16, God warned them to either repent, or be faced with the sword. Most did not repent. So they had to suffer the sword, just as God said. According to A True History of the True Church, over 100,000 of them were martyred. The Pergamos era was virtually wiped out. (p. 5.)
Herman Hoeh just made that figure up. Hoeh cited no sources in making that emotive statement. Actually the Paulicians survived for centuries until around the time of the Byzantine Emperor Alexis in the early 1100s. And Alexis did not exterminate them. Rather it seems he was somehow able to engineer some sort of merger with the Orthodox Church.

One detail that is not mentioned by Stephen Flurry about Hoeh's booklet also details some of the false reasoning behind HWA and Hoeh's assertion that the Great Tribulation would begin in 1972 and that Christ would return in 1975
Here is a group which observed the Sabbath and rejected the pagan trinity belief! They were severely persecuted for what they believed. A crusade against these people was instituted in Southern France. Once again, many thousands were martyred.

Around the time of A.D. 1,000, it looked as though this era of God’s Church had come to an end. This is significant, because concerning the Thyatira era, God said the last works would be more than the first (Revelation 2:19). (pp. 5-6.)
Now this time Stephen Flurry is not making stuff up. This is clearly a reference to the anti-Albigensian crusade of 1207-1227. But for some strange reason Stephen Flurry does not even bother to note when this crusade occurred. The reason why will be seen very shortly.

Also the Albigensians were not like HWA's followers at all. Rather they believed that Satan was a God, not just a perverted Angel.The word Albigensian is not even mentioned in this article at all even though Stephen Flurry is clearly alluding to them.

He also gives the impression that this mythical Thyatira era seemed to reach its end by A.D. 1000 but only after alluding to the anti-Albigensian Crusade of 1207-1227.

This is very confusing. How on Earth is anyone unacquainted with this topic support to make any sense out of this?

Stephen Flurry then immediately continues with these words:
That is exactly what happened in history. The era was revived during the last half of the 12th century by a man named Peter Waldo. (p. 6.)
And Peter Waldo began preaching in the 1160s, at least forty years before the anti-Albigensian Crusade began.

Now we see why Stephen Flurry was being so confusing about the anti-Albigensian Crusade. He wants to portray this crusade as occurring before Peter Waldo when in fact Waldo started preaching decades before the anti-Albigensian Crusade began in 1207.

Stephen Furry wanted to portray the anti-Albigensian Crusade of 1207-1227 as occurring before the rise of Peter Waldo to make his story more exciting. It is to make Peter Waldo seem even more remarkable by making it seem as though he was reviving a movement that had been ravaged by a crusade. In fact Peter Waldo began to preach back in the 1160s long before the anti-Albigensian crusade began in 1207.
It was around this time that Pope Alexander III made this stunning decree at the Council of Tours in A.D. 1163: “Whereas a damnable heresy has for some time lifted its head in the parts about Toulouse, and already spread infection through Gascony and other provinces, concealing itself like a serpent in its folds; as soon as its followers shall have been discovered, let no man afford them refuge on his estates; neither let there be any communication with them in buying and selling: so that, being deprived of the solace of human conversation, they may be compelled to return from error to wisdom.” (p. 6.)
But Pope Alexander III was not talking about the Waldensians. He was talking about the Albigensians. These words are taken out of context and inaccurately presented as though it is about the Waldensians.

Why does Stephen Flurry say untrue things here? Could it be that his teaching is just simply wrong?

Of course the real problem with this "church history" dogma is that it is complete nonsense. Armstrongism has no link with the Paulicians or the Waldensians or the Albigensians. In actual fact Armstrongism is an offshoot of the Millerite Adventists of the 1830s-1840s. 
Sunday observance, as Mr. Armstrong thoroughly proved, is the mark of the beast that will be enforced in the near future. Most of the world has willingly accepted this mark for many centuries now. But God’s people still keep the Sabbath. And those saints who have become lukewarm in these last days will be tested on this very command! (p. 7.)
What country on Earth forcibly force people to worship on Sunday? Not the United States. These are just emotive words with no facts behind them.
Sunday, Satan’s mark, goes hand in hand with the popular customs and beliefs of this world: Christmas, Good Friday, Easter, etc. (p. 7.)
Total nonsense. Rather Stephen Flurry is trying to exploit the reader's new found disgust with worshiping on Sunday and use this strong feeling to get the reader to shun Christmas, Easter, birthdays and other mainstream holidays. The effect on these prohibitions is to make one socially isolated from mainstream society. A person in such a position suddenly finds that he can only socially and celebrate festivals only with the group, in this PCG. The purpose of banning Christmas, Easter and birthdays is to make such persons socially dependent on the group.
But Exodus 31:13 also says God sanctifies those who obey the Sabbath. Sanctify means “to set apart for a holy use or purpose.” Just try obeying God’s Sabbath command along with His annual holy days and see if it doesn’t set you apart in this world! It was for breaking the Sabbath that both Israel and Judah went into captivity, anciently (Ezekiel 20:5, 11-13, 17-21). (p. 7.)
When one observes these things he or she becomes set apart by doing those things, not because God made him or her special. That is just a delusion used to make people think that observing such things make them special in a way different from all humanity.

Incidentally this is very similar to what HWA wrote in his booklet, The United States and Britain in Prophecy. Is this plagiarism?
We have already seen how those who refuse the mark of the beast will be martyred. When we put the scriptures together it becomes clear: By holding on to God’s Sabbath commandment you are rejecting the mark of the beast, which is Sunday observance, and all of the pagan, worldly customs that go along with it. (p. 7.)
Normally the mark of the Beast is said to be Sunday observance but here Stephen Flurry exploits this idea to taint all these other mainstream holidays as forbidden by (PCG's) God.
But in verse 14, it says the woman is taken to a safe place. This occurs at the beginning of the Great Tribulation. The Philadelphians will be protected. (p. 8.)
This is a reason why PCG members stay within PCG despite the many problems within it. They are told that if they stay within PCG they will get to go to a place of safety and escape from the troubles of the Great Tribulation. But if they are out of PCG then they will be executed by the future European Empire.

Stephen Flurry ends his article with these words.
There is not much time left to prove where you stand with God. Are you accepting this mark of the beast today? Will you accept it in the Tribulation? Those who do, will be subject to the wrath of God. But for those who reject this evil mark, the greatest possible reward you could ever imagine awaits you! (p. 8.)
Twenty years later we are still waiting for the Great Tribulation to occur. People have had plenty of time to join PCG, see all the things wrong in it and leave PCG in all these twenty years.


  1. Quick question: Where is the Roman Empire today? No cheating! Where is it? We have the United States, China, Russia, a smattering of Arab nations having some ascendancy... but... where are the Romans and their empire? It just seems to me that the Barbarians wiped them out and then went on to settle in the United States (at one point 75% of those in the United States could trace their ancestry back to Germany... and, oh, the Queen of England comes from a German line). So the Armstrongists want to say the Roman Empire is now the Roman Catholic Church? When did that happen? And what countries (besides Vatican City) does the RCC rule over? Where are their invading armies? The Swiss Guards, guarding the Pope?

    I guess the quest of where the Roman Empire is, is not as quick as I had hoped.

    Suggestion: If these Armstrongists are so sure that the Mark of the Beast is all about buying and selling, why don't they promote a new booklet, "The Market of The Beast"?

    These people are as stupid as they are kooks.

  2. When this "information" was originally put together, and was taught as "truths" that were available nowhere else, such material was esoteric. Therefore, it was whispered amongst the few for decades, and never really attracted the attention of those who could subject it to what would be known in the sciences as "peer review". In the absence of second opinions, some simply accepted it at face value, and manipulation entered their lives.

    I've confronted bloggers in the past who have posted all manner of disinformation as fact related to Constantine and the Nicean Council. They seem to know names and locations, but little else of substance, and after one has sent them to Wikipedia and other sources for the actual facts, they become indignant and arrogant, and end up rationalizing the correct information away, not accounting for it, and not modifying their beliefs in any way.

    Walking away from it all following the disappointment of 1975 was in some ways an act of faith. Fortunately, over the decades, much information has filled in the areas where faith was required, and has belied Armstrongism as a total scam in all of its forms.