Revelation Comes To The Church of God
is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those
things which are written in it; for the time is near. (Revelation 1:3)
are many denominations and independent churches that go by the name Church of
God, so it is necessary to give some distinction as to what is meant by the name
Church of God in this lesson.
Matthew 16:18 Jesus said, “I will build My church.” That church came into
existence on the Day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit descended on the 120
disciples of Jesus gathered in the upper room as described in Acts 2:1–4. That
this church is called the church of God is quite evident in the NT. In Acts
20:28, the Apostle Paul meets with the elders from the church in Ephesus and
gives them this solemn charge: “Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all
the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church
of God which He purchased with His own blood.”
that Paul said it is the Holy Spirit that set the overseers in place in this
church of God, which consistent with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the
Day of Pentecost. Notice also that the church of God was purchased with the
blood of Christ, indicating the church experiences salvation from sin. In the
New Testament the name church of God
appears many times and refers to individual congregations, churches in an area,
and the universal church of all the redeemed.
the Christian Era, the church at large has always been referred to as the church
of God. The name is not the moniker of any particular group, denomination or
fellowship of Christians as distinct from all others. It is appropriate for any
assembly of Christians to take on the biblical name of the church as long as
they respect the true meaning and implications of the name. That group must be
called together by the Holy Spirit; that group must be purchased by the blood of
Christ—saved from sin; and, the group must acknowledge and accept all as
members that have been purchased by the blood of Christ and are led by the Holy
Spirit. Many churches have been organized, calling themselves by the name church
of God, but they do not follow the biblical pattern. Instead, they were
organized by a group of people in opposition to other churches and membership in
their churches is contingent upon applicants being accepted by the church and
their adherence to its rules—not the blood of Christ.
spite of the many failures in trying to be the true biblical church on the part
of many, it is still possible to be an assembly of Christians following the
biblical pattern, accepting all that have been purchased by the blood of Christ
and are led by the Holy Spirit. While this is true, no congregation or group has
the right to claim to be the one and only true church of God in exclusion of all
other real Christians.
religious movement originated around 1880 centering on a holiness paper called The
Gospel Trumpet and its editor, Daniel Warner. The beginnings of this
movement are recorded in a book written by Andrew Byers titled Birth of a
Reformation, the Life and Labors of D. S. Warner. (Available to read on this
addition to the Wesleyan-Holiness teaching of entire sanctification, this
movement also believed that Christians should not be divided into competing
sects, but are to work together to be the one biblical church of God at large.
This movement did not see itself as the true and only church at its inception;
they saw themselves to be a practical expression of the biblical church. This
movement followed the church historic interpretation of the Book of Revelation
and sensed that their present time was of prophetic moment.
than trying to start a new church or another denomination, the message preached
by the movement was that God was calling true Christians out of churches and
denominations that divided God’s people and did not teach all the truth,
meaning salvation consisting of two works of grace styled justification and
sanctification. The movement saw itself as a reformation movement within the
Christian church at large.
movement quickly spread across the United States and within a few decades it had
established itself in many places around the world. The common thread that
united this movement was The Gospel Trumpet paper. It was not considered to be the official
organ of the movement; originally it was owned by D. S. Warner. As Warner aged,
the ownership of the paper was expanded but it was largely under the control of
paper was started in Rome City, IN as the Herald
of Gospel Freedom by Warner and I. W. Loman. While it was privately held,
the paper was issued under the auspices of the Northern Indiana Eldership of the
Church of God. The Herald was merged
with another holiness paper called The
Pilgrim in December 1880. At this time its name was changed to The
Gospel Trumpet. Warner was soon excommunicated from the Eldership and took
the Trumpet with him.
Gospel Trumpet paper actually began
publication on January 1, 1881, published by Warner from Rome, IN. Eventually
the paper was moved to Grand Junction, MI where a camp meeting and other
facilities were established to support the work of the paper. Warner died in
December 1895 and E. E. Byrum became the editor of the paper. The Gospel Trumpet
Company was moved to Moundsville, WV in 1898 and to Anderson, IN, in 1906. The
Gospel Trumpet ceased to be published in 1961 and was replaced by a magazine
called Vital Christianity, which was
published until 1996.
the Gospel Trumpet Company was moved to Anderson, IN, the movement began to take
on an organizational structure and it developed activities that took on a
quasi-denominational nature. This shift in orientation disturbed many people
associated with the movement and over time many ministers and congregations
disassociated themselves from the movement resulting in many unaffiliated groups
all calling themselves the Church of God.
distinctive of the Church of God in whatever movement or group it may be found
is its attraction to the book of Revelation. Prior to editing The
Gospel Trumpet, Warner had written a book titled Bible Proofs of the
Second Work of Grace in which he wrote three chapters devoted to the
prophetic description of the restoration of the biblical church through which
God was to bring His people into unity again. The basis of his argument was
taken from aspects of the restoration of Israel from its Babylonian captivity,
teachings about the church in the New Testament, and Second Blessing theology
prevalent among the Holiness Movement of the time. His argument had little to do
with the Book of Revelation, but the prophetic nature of the argument easily led
him into the church historic interpretation of the Revelation.
The Adventists And Their Influence
the debacle of The Great Disappointment, a man by the name of Uriah Smith became
a prominent author in the Adventist movement. His purpose was to give that
movement prophetic justification for its existence.
wrote a book titled Thoughts, Critical and Practical on the Book of
Revelation in which he methodically traces what he believed to be the
history of the Christian Church presented in the Revelation. The Adventists,
particularly with their view on Sabbath keeping, saw themselves as the true
church, and, as such, the Revelation was their history and it gave them
prophetic credibility as the true church in the end time.
was well acquainted with Smith’s writings and became attracted to the
Revelation also seeing in it the history of the Christian Church—the church of
God. This view appeared to support his idea of the restoration of which he wrote
in his book.
began publishing articles in the Trumpet
featuring the Revelation basis for the restoration movement. In time, the
movement saw itself as the modern fulfillment of the end-time prophecies of the
Revelation. Warner died before he could make a complete theological presentation
of his views. Herbert Riggle followed in his steps organizing much of what
Warner had written into several of his own books.
F. G. Smith became the premier teacher of prophecy in the Movement. He served as
missionary, editor of the Trumpet, pastor, and expositor on the Book of
Revelation, writing three major works on the subject: The Revelation
Explained, 1906; The Last Reformation, 1919; and, Prophetic
Lectures on Daniel and the Revelation, 1941. This book is a collection of 8
key lectures that reflect 40 years of teaching by Dr. Smith.
Church Of God’s Fascination With The Revelation.
was the thrill of exploring and bringing to light the meaning of this mysterious
book in the Bible. In tracing the history of the Christian Church through the
Revelation, it came to be believed that the Church of God Movement was the
literal fulfillment of end-time prophecy of the Revelation. The early movement
had an almost post-millennial disposition (not in doctrine) in that it felt that
it would usher in a world-wide revival of holiness and the true church which
shortly would be followed by the return of Christ and the end of time.
the 1920s, some ministers with theological backgrounds began to challenge the
church historic interpretation of the Revelation. Otto Linn, Adam Miller, and
Russell R. Byrum were among the first to suggest alternative explanations for
time, the Movement moved to a more Preterist interpretation of the Revelation
and in the 1930s the seeds of discontent sprouted. In 1933 W. S. Goodnight wrote
Chart Explanations of the Revelation: With the Opening of the Last Seal.
In the 1940s, Goodnight and G. W. Pendleton published a paper called The
Seventh Trumpet dealing with what they believed to be the advancement of
Revelation understanding and the transition of prophetic time into the seventh
and final seal of the Book of Revelation.
Church of God ministers adopted Goodnight’s explanation and in time many
congregations left the Movement centered on Anderson IN and dedicated themselves
to what was called the Seventh Trumpet Message. This movement never organized
itself in the manner of Anderson IN,
the 1960s a minister by the name of Emerson Wilson became prominent in this
fellowship and was the main spokesman for the Seventh Trumpet—or the Seventh
Seal—Church of God understanding of the Book of Revelation at the time. Two
series of his sermons were transcribed into books which represented his
teachings: Parallel Lectures, 1960. These lectures compare the parables
of Jesus concerning the Kingdom of God to the seven churches of Asia in the
Revelation, The Sounding of the
Seven Trumpets, 1963. These were considered definitive lectures on the Book
of Revelation. Much emphasis is placed on the errors of denominations and the
Church of God centered on Anderson IN.
the 1970s Duane Spanogle rose to prominence among some fellowships of the Church
of God preaching essentially the same message as Wilson but with a more
the turn of the 21st Century, much that is called Church of God had been burned
out on the Revelation message for any number of reasons and allowed preaching
the Revelation to fall into the realm of the quaint past.
What The Spirit Says To The Churches
history of Revelation teaching among the Church of God has gone through several
preaching the Revelation called people out of denominations and churches
considered to be the Babylon of the Revelation. Congregations were established
and countless people were brought into a clear experience of holiness under this
teaching. And then there has been hard-fought controversy and much name calling
by opposing sides of various disputes that sought either a new or better
understanding of the Revelation.
spite of all this, Jesus attached a blessing for those that would read, hear,
and keep the sayings of the prophecy. The question remains: What are the real
sayings of this prophecy and what do they mean?
must never come to despise the Revelation or be afraid of it. While there are
different approaches to explaining the Revelation, even in the fellowship of the
Church of God that has so loved this strange book, we must follow the
instructions of Christ as He said to each of the seven churches to which the
Revelation is addressed: “Hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”