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The Plain Truth – January 1980
The Plain Truth – January 1980

from Herbert W. Armstrong

What is the most universal erroneous and false belief and teaching – that has caused the world’s evils, troubles, sufferings and sorrows?

Fifty-three years ago I said to my wife, “All these churches can’t be wrong!”

Well, could one single denomination of traditional Christianity – whether Protestant or Catholic – be wrong in its teaching on some one point? They do teach differently on many or most points of doctrine and belief, so some, if not most, must definitely be in error on some teachings here and there.

But if some, or most, are mistaken in some beliefs here and there, could it be possible that all of traditional Christianity today could be in error, misled, or deceived unintentionally on some major point of universal belief?

Now perhaps many people do not believe in the existence of a devil any more.

Yet your Bible says the whole world (including its religions) has been deceived by Satan the devil (Revelation 12:9). The inhabitants of the earth have been deceived by him through deceived religion (Revelation 17:2).

But your Bible also says the time is coming when God Almighty shall send an angel from heaven, “and [lay] hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and [bind] him a thousand years, and cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years [shall be] fulfilled” (Revelation 20:1-3).

Just who is this Satan? Where did he come from? Did God create a devil to deceive us? He is a former archangel, who was perfect in all his ways as God created him (Ezekiel 28:15). But he had a mind, and free moral agency with the right of free choice – forming his own decisions – just as God has given you and me and all humans that same free moral agency. Otherwise we could have no character.

This great archangel was named Lucifer, and God set him on the throne of the whole earth to administer the government of God over angels which inhabited the earth prior to the creation of man.

But this powerful Lucifer turned his angels into rebellion against God (II Peter 2:4-6).

But now could it be possible, in such a Satan-deceived world, that ALL denominations of traditional Christianity could be deceived – NOT KNOWING IT – into a WRONG BELIEF on a most important BASIC belief and teaching?

Sounds preposterous – IMPOSSIBLE?

Wait till you see the FACTS of what has happened, straight from the infallible WORD OF GOD HIMSELF! Consider what you never saw, heard of, or understood before! Open your mind to PROVED TRUTH – astonishing though it may be.

It might seem incredulous – yet it is TRUE!

That most widely accepted, universally believed error is the teaching that God is now trying desperately to GET THE WHOLE WORLD SPIRITUALLY “SAVED.” That this, now, is the ONLY day of salvation. That Satan is trying to keep everybody “lost” – and that all who do not accept – receive Christ NOW in our time, will be “LOST” – condemned to an eternity in hellfire. And time is about up – soon it will be too late – soon probation will close.

The sole SOURCE of truth is GOD. He has given us His WORD. In it He tells us whether this, now, is the only day of salvation – or even the time of salvation for all who are willing. He tells us whether those who do not now accept Christ are “lost.”

To understand we must go back to the beginning, and open our eyes to what GOD reveals from that time up until NOW, and even into the future. But our minds must be open or the shocking TRUTH cannot enter.

Jesus said: “No man CAN come to me, except the Father which sent me draw him.” That says all are SHUT OFF – unable to come to Christ, except those whom the Father has predestined to be called NOW!

Is that UNFAIR on God’s part? Are you sure you UNDERSTAND WHY Jesus said that – WHY God cut ALL HUMANITY off from Him and from access to Him, up to now – except the VERY few God has predestined to be called NOW? WHY God “hides Himself” from the world?

It all started with Adam in the Garden of Eden.

Now see if you can understand something perhaps you have never really understood before. What has been overlooked is that in the CHOICE Adam had to make, God required that he choose which tree to REJECT, as well as which to TAKE.

Satan was just around the corner, so to speak, waiting for a chance to tempt Adam into REJECTING God, even as he himself had rejected God, God’s LAW and His WAY – God’s GOVERNMENT – when he was the archangel Lucifer.

If Adam REJECTED God as Creator, and Ruler over the GOVERNMENT OF GOD – as he did – what did God do?

Actually, the tree of LIFE was symbolic of God’s Holy Spirit, but also of God as LORD over the government of God, as source of religion, as revealer of basic knowledge.

Satan tempted Adam through his wife Eve. Adam took of the forbidden tree.

In so doing, he TOOK TO HIMSELF THE KNOWLEDGE OF WHAT IS GOOD AND WHAT IS EVIL! In so doing he rejected God as revealer of that and all basic knowledge, as well as Lord and Ruler in government. He REJECTED God as Giver of ETERNAL LIFE!

In taking of the forbidden tree, he REJECTED the tree symbolic of the HOLY SPIRIT and sovereignty of God. He REJECTED GOD, God’s government, God’s WAY of life.

Then what did God do? God drove him out of the garden and BARRED access to the tree of life lest he take, in sin, and receive eternal life. God cut Adam, and the world which would spring from him, OFF from God and the gift of the Holy Spirit – EXCEPT the infinitesimal few God predestined to be specially called in preparation for the future KINGDOM of God.


Suppose God had NOT cut mankind off from access to His Holy Spirit. Consider what would have happened!

Satan was still on earth’s throne, though disqualified as earthwide ruler. Man would have TAKEN God’s Holy Spirit, the gift of eternal life, without repentance – while being led by Satan, living in sin that would have resulted in an ETERNAL LIFE in total UNHAPPINESS, mental torment, wretchedness, utter hopelessness!

Can you see how it would have been supremely UNFAIR had God allowed man to bring such a fate on himself?

That is WHY God cut mankind off for 6,000 years – until CHRIST could come, REJECT and OVERCOME Satan, take on Himself the penalty of human sins, qualify to RULE in GOD’S LOVE on that throne of the earth, replacing Satan, and putting Satan AWAY from mankind!

God put mankind – all but the few CALLED – in a state cut off from God, but NOT YET JUDGED OR CONDEMNED!

Meanwhile He has called those He chose because they were the ones God felt might REJECT, as Christ had, Satan and His evil ways, ACCEPT the GOVERNMENT OF GOD through faith in Christ, and, as Jesus did, overcome Satan, even though specially tempted by him.

Those of us called now, IF we repent, overcome Satan, this world, and ourselves, shall inherit the KINGDOM OF GOD, and SIT WITH GOD ON HIS THRONE, when we shall then – with Satan gone – undertake to SAVE THE WORLD!

Those from Adam to now who died, not yet being judged, will be resurrected to mortal life in the GREAT WHITE THRONE judgment, and be then, after the millennium, called to repentance and the gift of IMMORTAL LIFE – with no Satan to tempt and oppose them!

Above all, the Creator GOD is creating RIGHTEOUS AND HOLY CHARACTER! That comes from REJECTING the evil WAY, and turning voluntarily to the way of God’s LOVE.

Satan poses as an angel of LIGHT! He deceives the world into accepting HIM as GOD! He deceives into thinking evil is righteousness, and God’s law is evil. He deceives the Christian world into believing that they can gain ETERNAL LIFE through Christ WITHOUT repentance of transgressing God’s law!

Satan deceives the traditional Christian world into believing they can have free access to the “tree of life” – eternal life – salvation – while still in their sins.

Jesus warned first that “many shall come in my name, saying I am Christ, and shall deceive MANY” (Matthew 24:5). He said, through Paul, of these deceived ministers: “For such are FALSE APOSTLES, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles [those sent with the gospel] of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of LIGHT. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed [misrepresent themselves] as the ministers of righteousness …” (II Corinthians 11:13-15).

Actually, the false gospel of the professing Christian world represents that God did NOT bar entrance to the “tree of life” – or eternal salvation. But that humanity may freely go right back into that “tree of LIFE” and gain eternal salvation WHILE CONTINUING IN THEIR SINS – while rejecting and transgressing GOD’S LAW – rejecting GOD’S GOVERNMENT which is based on His law (His way of life).

They do not preach that sin is “the transgression of the law” – God’s SPIRITUAL LAW as summed up in the TEN COMMANDMENTS. Rather they teach falsely that “the law is done away.”

About 38 years ago, while the Church was still headquartered in Eugene, Oregon, an evangelistic team from southern California was conducting a tent crusade in the neighboring town of Springfield. There was the principal evangelist, and eight or ten young men of college age. These young men cruised about the town during the day, each carrying a Bible, accosting people on the streets, inviting them to the big tent meetings.

Two of them accosted me.

“Does your preacher teach salvation from SIN?” I asked.

“Oh yes, of course,” they answered.

“Well, does he tell them what sin is? What they need to quit doing?”

“Christ died for our sins,” they answered.

“Yes, I know. But what is sin? What have we done that is sin? Can you show me in your Bible there, a plain Bible definition, saying ‘sin …’ and then giving the Bible definition of what sin is?”

“Christ died for our sins,” they replied, now becoming defensive.

“But if I come to your meetings, I want to know if your preacher can show me what the BIBLE defines as sin – what is sin. Would one of you run and bring your preacher, so I may ask him direct?”

By this time quite a little group of curiosity seekers had gathered around us. They urged: “Yes, go bring your preacher – let’s see if he can answer.”

The “great” evangelist came. I asked him the same question.

“Jesus died for our sins,” he replied, just as he had instructed his young men.

He refused to answer, or open his Bible and show us the biblical definition of sin. He and his young men slunk away.

The crowd which had gathered laughed. “When someone knows how to ask the right questions, they can’t answer from the Bible,” one said.

“He could have, but he didn’t dare, because he knew if he read the true Bible definition of sin, it would destroy his whole teaching,” I said. “Would YOU people like to see that Bible definition?”

They would. I was carrying a briefcase from which I took out my Bible. Turning to I John 3:4, I read, “Sin is the transgression of the law.” Then from Romans 7:14, I showed them WHAT law it is sin to transgress – “For we know that the law is spiritual” – that is, a SPIRITUAL law. Romans 7:7: “Is the law sin? [Satan represents that God’s spiritual law – His way of life – is evil, but that its transgression is RIGHT.] God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin [what sin is], but by the law.” WHAT LAW? “… for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.” What law said, “Thou shalt not covet”? THE TEN COMMANDMENTS!

This incident illustrates what I mean. A world-famous evangelist tells his vast audiences that death is uncertain – it may strike you when least expected. Someone somewhere may unexpectedly drop dead before tomorrow morning. What would happen to you if that someone should be YOU? If you don’t come forward and accept Christ tonight, you have no insurance for tomorrow – tomorrow may be too late. So, to the mournful tones of the choir singing “Just as I am” – in my sins – “I come, I come,” the hundreds and even thousands begin the trek down to the “altar.”

The whole teaching of traditional Christianity is that we do not have to REJECT Satan’s way of sin – the self-centered way of this world – that we may crash right back through that impassible BARRIER God put to guard the “tree of life” – that we may TAKE immortal life IN OUR SINS!

Jesus came to save us FROM our sins, not IN them. Repentance is toward GOD, and faith is toward our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We come to God through Christ, but Jesus said plainly: “No man CAN COME to me, except the Father which sent me draw him” (John 6:44). You or I cannot take the initiative. GOD must first call and draw us to Him. We must first REPENT – square ourselves with GOD the FATHER! There is one Lawgiver – GOD THE FATHER. We must first repent – and repentance is GRANTED by God, and TOWARD GOD (Acts 11:18; 20:21).

On the day of Pentecost, at the very founding of the Church, the inspired Peter said: “REPENT, and be baptised [into Christ] … and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). Jesus said: “Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3).

We who were predestined to be called by God the Father NOW, were called for our PART – if only by our heartrending prayers for the Work, our tithes, our encouragement, and whatever is delegated to us to do – were called to this DEFINITE GREAT COMMISSION behind Christ’s apostle whom He uses as His instrument.

But WE have to overcome SATAN even as Jesus did – as well as Satan’s world and the human nature Satan has instilled within us. Those called in the millennium, or in the Great White Throne Judgment, will not have Satan to overcome. On the other hand, WE, if we overcome, shall sit with Christ in His throne at Jerusalem, and be given power to RULE THE NATIONS!

God unfair? NEVER! God is the God of justice to ALL – but to each in His TIME and in His WAY!