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The Plain Truth – May 1980
The Plain Truth – May 1980
Part Four:
A Voice Cries Out Amid Religious Confusion

by Herbert W. Armstrong

How could the world have become so mixed up? Out of this spiritual wilderness, a voice cries out in clarity and power, with the reassuring truth of the world’s only and sure hope!

Editor’s note: We are printing here, serially, the new book by Herbert W. Armstrong with the same title as this article. The book will appear in bookstores later this year.

Chapter 3 Part Two: WHO AND WHAT IS GOD?

THE CHARACTER OF both God the Father and Christ the Son is that of spiritual holiness, righteousness and absolute perfection.

That character might be summed up in the one word LOVE, defined as an out-flowing loving concern. It is the way of giving, serving, helping, sharing, not the “GET” way.

It is the way devoid of coveting, lust and greed, vanity and selfishness, competition, strife, violence and destruction, envy and jealousy, resentment and bitterness.

God’s inherent nature is the way of PEACE, of JUSTICE, MERCY, HAPPINESS and JOY radiating outward toward those He has created!

WHAT and HOW Does God Create?

Since God is Creator, to know Him we need to understand WHAT and HOW He creates – what is His overall PURPOSE.

God’s major PURPOSE is the creation of His very own perfect CHARACTER within His own created living beings.

But did you know that there is something that even GOD – with all His mighty and supreme power cannot do – of Himself by fiat?

God has created many things. The ancient King David mused, “When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars which thou hast ordained” – great, vast in size and distance – works of God’s creation, David then asked, “What is man, that thou art mindful of him?” (Psalm 8:3-4.)

Yes, a hundred thousand people, assembled in the Pasadena Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day, seen from 1,000 or 2,000 feet above, look like tiny insignificant ants – or even smaller insects. WHY should God be mindful of insignificant MAN? In the second chapter of Hebrews this same psalm is quoted, and there God’s Word proceeds to reveal that in MAN God purposes to complete the very highest pinnacle of the perfection of His creation! Yet God cannot do this alone – all by Himself! We were created to have our part in this supreme act of creation.

God’s own perfect and righteous spiritual CHARACTER in MAN is the supreme goal of God – His ultimate PURPOSE! But MAN must have a part in this supreme feat of creation!

This creation of character within created beings requires the existence of MIND within those beings – the capability of thought processes, reasoning, decision making. Of all living things and beings God has created, only two, angels and humans, have that mind-power. It is, therefore, only in angels and humans that God’s perfect spiritual and righteous character may be formed.

On earth God has created the flora – plant forms of life, as well as the fauna – animal forms. Plants, grass, grain, fruits, flowers have life and reproduce themselves. But they do not have brain or mind. They have no possibility of character development.

The fauna have brains, but apart from humans they do not have MINDS. There is not in them the same self-consciousness, thinking and reasoning ability that is in man.

Therefore, of all life forms created on earth out of matter, only humans have the potential of having God’s character created in them. (Incidentally it follows, then, that God’s purpose in creating the fauna and flora on earth is primarily for the benefit of man. Much of both fauna and flora serves as food for man. Some as food for animals. Flowers, vines and grass for beauty and for the enjoyment of man.)

And, as stated, God created angels with mind-power. So it devolves down to the fact that of all separate entities created by God, only two – angels and humans – have the potential of character creation.

The Duality in Creation

But now an important fact in HOW God creates. There is a duality principle involved.

God creates in two stages.

I am reminded, as an analogy in explaining this, of certain furniture stores. Most cities in the United States have a store selling “unfinished furniture” or “furniture in the raw.” Often such furniture is of very fine quality. It is new, fresh from the factory, but it is unfinished – the varnish, polish or paint has not been applied. It is finish-it-yourself furniture.

Few if any have known it, but God created this earth and all planets in this unfinished state.

It was mentioned in chapter 3 that angels were created before even matter. God formed angels with minds, even superior to human minds. They are composed of spirit. But some “appeared” by some process of manifestation to Abraham (Genesis 18), to Mary Magdalene (John 20:12), and before the apostles (Acts 1:10-11) – and they appeared in the form and shape of men. Ordinary angels do not have wings, but the two higher-rank angels, seraphs and cherubs, are revealed as having wings.

It is important to know that angels were created in two stages. The duality principle applied to their creation as it did to the creation of the earth and of man.

Perfect, holy and righteous character, as already explained, is something God Himself cannot automatically create by fiat. (The analogy of unfinished furniture applies.) But God did create angels with mind-power. God also of necessity gave them free moral agency – the right of free choice – the right and ability to think, to reason, to make decisions and conclusions.

Definition of Character

At this point let me define holy, righteous, perfect spiritual character:

This perfect spiritual character is the ability of a separately created entity with mind and free moral agency to come to the knowledge of the right as opposed to the wrong, to decide and will to do the right, even against desires or pulls to do the wrong, and finally to overcome pulls toward the wrong until doing the right becomes fixed nature.

But since the right way is simply God’s way – the way of God’s own character and the way of God’s Law – and righteous and perfect spiritual character is GOD’S character, that character must actually come from God, but on the decision and will of the separate entity.

Now consider: In the original creation of the angels, it was impossible for God to build or create this character in them by fiat. That would have made them mere automatons or machines – it would not have been character.

Therefore, the creation of angels could not be completed in the original creation as an act of God. Their finished creation could not be finished – complete – until their own developed character – either righteous or evil – had been formed and instilled within them – by their own volition, decision and will.

God placed them on the earth at the time of its creation (Job 38:4-7). The earth, like the furniture in the raw, was as yet UNFINISHED. It was perfect as far as God had made it. But He intended the angels to put on the final finishing touches – beautifying it – developing its usefulness. The very doing of this was the training ground to develop angelic character. God intended them to work the earth – by utilizing the physical and chemical elements and forces already present in the earth.

In order to regulate them in peaceful harmony and unity, and guide them in character development, God placed over them THE GOVERNMENT OF GOD.

To administer this worldwide GOVERNMENT, God placed a super archangel, named Light-bringer – Lucifer, in Latin – one of the supreme, top-ranking and empowered archangels, who were cherubs. They represented the supreme masterpiece of God’s creative accomplishment, so far as spirit beings directly created was concerned.

This Lucifer had been trained in the administration of the Government of God. He was one of two cherubs whose wings covered the very throne of God. He was perfect in knowledge and in all his ways from the day God created him until iniquity – lawless rebellion – was found in him.

As long as the Government of God was administered on earth, there was earthwide PEACE, happiness, joy and rewarding accomplishment.

We are not told in the Bible how long that was. It might have been millions of years (angels are immortal) or it might have been a very few years.

But Lucifer allowed jealousy and envy against God to turn him to rebellion. He became resentful and bitter. He turned to a spirit of competition instead of obedience and cooperation, and that led to violence and destruction. The LIGHT of God’s truth, which had once filled his mind, turned to utter darkness. He led the angels under him – a third of all created angels – into rebellion with him. In his vanity he tried to exalt himself above God (Isaiah 14:12-15) and led his angels into an invasion of God’s heaven to try to defeat God.

A destruction of wasteness and decay came over the face of the earth (Genesis 1:2), but in six days (Genesis 1:2-26) God renewed the face of the earth (Psalm 104:30).

The GOVERNMENT OF GOD was no longer administered on the earth. Lucifer had been changed into Satan the devil. His angels had become demons. It now remained for a MAN to reject the “GET” way of life Lucifer had introduced and qualify to replace the disqualified Satan by accepting God’s “GIVE” way – the Creator’s way of LOVE – to RESTORE the Government of God to the earth.

Remember, angels were created out of spirit – created immortal. They are now self-existent with eternal life inherent within them. Their turn to vanity, lust and greed, competition, strife and destruction and REBELLION against God and God’s WAY (which is His character) left them filled with total unhappiness, resentment and bitterness, mental torment and anguish – FOREVER!

Angels, as God created them, were superior to man as man now is. The sinning angels knew full well the tragic consequences of their rebellion against the GOVERNMENT OF GOD. They alone were fully responsible for the consequences they now are bearing, and shall bear eternally.

But we shall see that God has something better for man – even for those humans who reject the almost unbelievable, incredible, transcendent potential that is man’s!

Before we come to that, in the following chapter, one more vitally important factor must be covered before we have cleared the air entirely about WHO and WHAT is God.

In the earliest revelation in God’s Word about WHO and WHAT is God, in John 1:1-4, 14, TWO Persons are revealed and only two!

The next earliest revelation the Scriptures give us in time-order of God’s existence is found in Genesis 1 and verse 1, “In the beginning God created the heavens [plural, Revised Standard Version] and the earth.”

In this chapter I have covered the creation and placing on earth of the angels. All that is filled in by other portions of the Scriptures in both Old and New Testaments. Then verse 2 of the first chapter of Genesis in exceeding brevity covers the physical calamity resulting from angelic sin.

There it is stated, in King James language, “And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep.”

The words without form and void are translated from the Hebrew tohu and bohu, meaning, in English, waste and empty, or in confusion and decay. That describes the devastation resulting from earthwide sin of the angels. This angelic sin is mentioned in II Peter 2:4. Verse 5 describes the destruction by flood coming upon the whole world by antedeluvian sin between the times of Adam and Noah. It was sin covering the whole earth, and the physical destruction by flood covered the whole earth.

The next verse, 6, describes the sins of Sodom and Gomorrha. The physical destruction resulting covered the area of those sins – the Sodom and Gomorrha area.

These three verses refer by implication to the physical chaos that happened to the earth following the earthwide sin of angels.

In Psalm 104:30 we read of God’s renewing of the face of the earth, and here it mentions His Spirit as the POWER of this recreation: “Thou sendest forth thy spirit, they are created; and thou renewest the face of the earth.”

So, verse 2 of Genesis 1 shows this physical devastation resulting from angelic earthwide sin. The entire earth had become covered with oceans. The light of God and God’s righteous ways had, by universal sin, brought darkness to the earth’s surface. Now, completing verse 2 of Genesis 1: “and the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.”

This is the first mention of the Spirit of God in the Bible, and it is here mentioned as the POWER of God by which God, through the “Word” (John 1:1), renewed the face of the earth. He, the Word, “spake and it was done” (Psalm 33:6). The Spirit of God did as the Word, who later became Jesus, commanded. The Spirit of God is the POWER of God, emanating from God and Christ.

A comparison might be made to a man’s breath. The Hebrew word for spirit is ruach, and the Greek word in the New Testament is pneuma. Both mean spirit, but both also mean wind, breath or air. In John 3:8 Jesus compared the Holy Spirit of God to wind, in explaining to Nicodemus how a man must be born of the Holy Spirit of God.

“That which is born of the Spirit is spirit,” He said, (verse 6). Then to explain God’s Spirit, which must enter a person prior to being “born again” as an immortal in God’s Kingdom – God’s very Divine FAMILY – Jesus said, “The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is everyone that is born of the Spirit.”

As breath or air may emanate from a man’s mouth or nose, so the Holy Spirit emanates from God and from Christ.

WHAT, then, is the Holy Spirit? It is the very divine life-begetting Power of God, that imparts divine and immortal life to a repentant and believing Christian, begetting such a person as a child of God. And it is MUCH MORE!

It is the POWER emanating from God by which God creates. It is the LOVE of God which the converted Christian receives from God. It is the FAITH of Christ. It is the Spirit that imparts to the human mind spiritual comprehension. It is the power of God by which the child of God may overcome sin. It is the Spirit by which, on human surrender, repentance, faith and decision, God imparts His CHARACTER to a human.

Praying to the Yahweh, who was the personal God of the Old Testament, David said: “Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; Even there shall thy hand lead me …” (Psalm 139:7-10).

WHO and WHAT is GOD? God is omniscient. God is omnipresent – everywhere present at once! Not in His Person formed like that of a human, but through the Holy Spirit that emanates from the Person of God the Father and also from Christ the Son.

I can, through the sense of sight, see stars millions of light years away – but I cannot act on them. But God can project His Spirit from where He is in Person to any and every point in the vastness of the universe – and more, HE CAN ACT ON ALL SUCH THINGS!

Now once again to Genesis 1:1: “In the beginning God…” This originally was written by Moses as God inspired him. Moses wrote in Hebrew. The Hebrew word translated God is Elohim – a uniplural noun or name. It is the same sort of uniplural word as family, church, group – one family consisting of two or more members – one church composed of many members – one group of several persons.

It is referring to precisely the same “Persons,” making up or composing the one God, as we found in John 1:1 – the Word and God – and each of those TWO Persons is GOD.

IN OTHER WORDS, GOD IS A FAMILY of Persons, composed so far of only the TWO - God the Father and Christ the Son. But IF the Holy Spirit of God dwells in one, and he is being led by God’s Spirit, then (Romans 8:14) he is a begotten son of God. But, at the time of Christ’s return to earth in supreme power and glory to set up the KINGDOM OF GOD, restoring the GOVERNMENT OF GOD abolished by Lucifer, then all being filled and led by God’s Spirit shall become born Sons of God. The GOD FAMILY will then RULE ALL NATIONS with the GOVERNMENT OF GOD RESTORED!

The “Trinity” doctrine limits God to a supposed three Persons. It DESTROYS the very Gospel of Jesus Christ! His Gospel is the good news of the now soon-coming KINGDOM OF GOD – the only hope of this world and its mixed-up mankind!

The “Trinity” doctrine, by contrast, is the doctrine of the great false church called in Revelation 17:5: “Mystery, Babylon the great, the mother of harlots and abominations of the earth.”

By that doctrine, along with others, Satan has DECEIVED all traditional Christianity.

The Trinity Doctrine

The generally accepted teaching of traditional Christianity is that God is a “Trinity” – God in three persons – Father, Son and Holy Spirit (which they call a “Ghost”).

How did this “Trinity” doctrine enter traditional Christianity?

It most emphatically did not come from the Bible. I have quoted Revelation 12:9 saying that all nations have been deceived by Satan the devil. How, then, did the wily Satan introduce this doctrine into “Christianity”?

The history of this question is interesting. It seems incredible that a being like Satan not only could have deceived the whole world, but also “Christianity” – the very religion bearing Christ’s name and supposed to be His true religion. Yet, paradoxically, Satan did!

He did it through his great false church, started A.D. 33 by Simon the Sorcerer, described in the 8th chapter of the book of Acts as the leader of the Babylonian mystery religion. It is recorded in II Kings 17:23-24 that Shalmaneser, King of Assyria, who had invaded and conquered the northern Kingdom – the Kingdom of Israel – moved the people out of their land of Samaria, north of Jerusalem, and moved into that land people of the Babylonish mystery religion from the provinces of Babylon. They were, of course, gentiles. They inhabited this area of northern Palestine in the time of Christ. The Jews of Judea in Christ’s time would have nothing to do with them, calling them contemptuously “dogs.” They still adhered to this pagan Babylonish mystery religion in the first century.

In A.D. 33, two years after Jesus Christ from heaven founded the Church of God on that day of Pentecost, the deacon Philip, who later became an evangelist, went down to Samaria and preached Christ’s Gospel. This Simon the Sorcerer came with the crowd to hear him.

Simon had bewitched the people of that country, and they followed him as their leader in the Babylonian mystery religion “from the least to the greatest, saying, This man is the great power of God” (Acts 8:10).

When the people believed Philip, preaching the Kingdom of God, they were baptized, and this Simon with them.

Then Simon came to the apostles Peter and John, offering money as a bribe, asking them to give him the Holy Spirit. Peter rebuked him strongly. But Simon proclaimed himself a Christian apostle, nevertheless, and called the pagan Babylonian mystery religion “Christianity.” He accepted the doctrine of “grace” for the forgiveness of sin (which the pagan religions had never had), but turned grace into license to disobey God (Jude 4). He aspired to turn his pagan religion, under the name “Christianity,” into a universal religion, to gain thereby the political rule of the world.

Simon, the “Pater” (Peter) of his counterfeit religion, did not accomplish this in his lifetime. But succeeding leaders, with the headquarters moved to Rome, did, later, gain political control over the Roman Empire and its medieval successor, called “The Holy Roman Empire.” This empire is in process of again being resurrected in Europe now!

By the 6th decade of the first century, much of the Middle East had turned from the true Gospel to a counterfeit (Galatians 1:6-7). As late as the 90s, A.D. the apostle John was still living. He wrote the book of Revelation on the Isle of Patmos.

A little later the church started by Simon in A.D. 33 was trying to turn the true Christian Passover (Christ had changed its form from that of Old Testament Israel) into the Babylonian Easter – named after the goddess Astarte or Ishtar (pronounced “Easter”).

After the death of the apostle John, a disciple of his, Polycarp, waged a controversy over the Passover-Easter question with the bishop of Rome, by then leader of the church started by Simon.

Still later, another disciple of Christ’s true Christianity, Polycrates, waged a still hotter controversy over the same Passover-Easter question with a later bishop of Rome. This theological battle was called the Quartodeciman Controversy. Polycrates contended, as Jesus and the original apostles taught, that the Passover should be observed in the new Christian form introduced by Jesus and by the apostle Paul (I Corinthians 11), using unleavened bread and wine instead of sacrificing a lamb, on the eve of the 14th Nisan (first month in the sacred calendar, occurring in the spring). But the Rome church insisted on the pagan Easter, observed on a Sunday.

About the same time another controversy was raging, between a Dr. Arius, of Alexandria, a Christian leader who died A.D. 336, and a Roman bishop, over calling God a “Trinity.” Dr. Arius stoutly opposed the “Trinity” doctrine, and had many followers.

In A.D. 325, the Emperor Constantine called the Nicene Council to settle these controversies. Constantine was not then yet a “Christian,” but as political ruler he assumed control. The Council approved both the Easter doctrine and the Trinity. Constantine, then civil ruler, made it a LAW. But he was not able to make it TRUTH!

Satan has deceived the entire world in regard to the very nature of WHO and WHAT God is – as well as of Christ and the Holy Spirit. Also of the GOVERNMENT OF GOD, based on the spiritual LAW OF GOD. And further, of WHAT and WHY man is, what salvation is, how it is received, what is the true Gospel, what and why the Church is and what of the future!

What Is God Like?

The word trinity is not used anywhere in the Bible. I am going to make completely clear, as we proceed, God has not limited Himself to a “Trinity.” The surprising truth, once understood, is the most wonderful revelation the human mind could receive or contain!

The very first idea or teaching about God being a Trinity began in the latter half of the second century – a hundred years after most of the New Testament had been written. The counterfeit Christianity spawned by Simon the Sorcerer was promoting it vigorously along with the pagan Easter. But the true Church of God vigorously resisted it. The controversy became so violent it threatened the peace of the world. The then pagan Emperor Constantine called the Nicene Council to settle it. The Roman supporters greatly outnumbered the persecuted Church of God.

You will find a prophecy of these two churches in the book of Revelation. In the 12th chapter is the prophecy of the true Church of God, greatly persecuted. Jesus called it “the little flock.” In the 17th chapter you will find the prophecy of the counterfeit church – a very great church, named by God “Mystery, Babylon the great, the mother of harlots” (verse 5). She was lined up with and sat astride the political governments. The whole world will gasp in WONDER (verse 8) when this religio-political medieval “Holy Roman Empire” is brought back to life! It is now in the preliminary stages of forming, starting from the Common Market!

There is only one small passage in the King James translation of the Bible that is generally used by “Trinity” adherents to support the “Trinity” doctrine. That is I John 5:7. In this one translation it is worded: “For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.” Those words were added by editors of the Latin Vulgate translation probably in the early 4th century. They do not appear in any of the older Greek manuscripts nor in any of the other English translations. They were added to the Latin Vulgate during the heat of the controversy between Rome and Dr. Arius and God’s people.

Bible commentaries explain that these words were never written in the apostle John’s manuscript or any existing early copies of it. The apostle John nowhere in his three epistles or the Revelation calls Christ the Word. He speaks of “the Father and the Son” (I John 1:3), but never “the Father and the Word,” except in this uninspired verse of I John 5:7.

There was a real reason why the archdeceiver Satan wanted that spurious verse added in the Latin Vulgate. The “Trinity” doctrine completely does away with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. His Gospel is the MESSAGE He brought mankind from God the Father, the good news of the coming KINGDOM OF GOD! That is the ONE thing above all Satan wants to defeat. This will become plain as we proceed.

One world-famous evangelist says: “When I first began to study the Bible years ago, the doctrine of the Trinity was one of the most complex problems I had to encounter. I have never fully resolved it, for it contains an aspect of mystery. Though I do not totally understand it to this day, I accept it as a revelation of God… To explain and illustrate the Trinity is one of the most difficult assignments to a Christian.”

Much is made of the fact that in a number of places in modern translations the masculine pronoun he is used in connection with the Holy Spirit. But not always – sometimes the Holy Spirit is referred to as it. For example, in the passage describing the first coming of the Holy Spirit for the founding of the Church of God on that memorable day of Pentecost.

The Holy Spirit came from heaven, audibly, sounding like a mighty wind, “and it [the Holy Spirit] filled all the house where they were sitting.” Next, the Holy Spirit appeared – WAS VISIBLY SEEN – manifested – “And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it [the Holy Spirit in the form of divided tongues] sat upon each of them” (Acts 2:2-3). In verse 18, Peter is quoting from the prophet Joel: “I will pour out… of my Spirit…” The Holy Spirit, like water or a fluid can be “POURED OUT.” Can you pour out a person from one into another – as from God into those assembled there?

Again in Acts 10:45, “… on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy [Spirit].”

Finally, in briefest summary: God is a FAMILY composed at present of the TWO Persons of John 1:1-4, but with many thousands, already begotten by God’s Spirit, soon to be born into that Divine Family at Christ’s return to earth. Jesus Christ, by His resurrection, was BORN a divine Son of God (Romans 1:4) – the first so born into the God Family (Romans 8:29).

Both God and Christ are composed of Spirit, formed and shaped as a human person, but with eyes like flames of fire and faces bright as the sun full strength!

God is Creator of all that exists. Both God and “The Word” (who became Christ) have existed eternally and before all else. From them emanates the Spirit of God, by which God is omnipresent and omniscient. God the Father is the divine Father of the God Family, into which truly converted Christians shall be born.

But now, WHAT OF MAN?